Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com


The Needham MBTA Commuter Rail Line to Acela Express First Class – The Final 231 miles in 3 hours 35 minutes

This post is the second half of 433 Miles on 3 Coastal Trains Home From Rockland, Maine

To get home the final jaunt down the coast from Boston, the 12:10pm Acela in First Class at the low-bucket $109 price is too tempting to pass up with 4 First Class upgrade coupons I might as well use up. I might have booked a later train and tried to go on a Commuter Rail adventure but evening Yankee tickets entice me to come home in time for the game.

My Day starts with a nice walk with my cousin around Needham. I get some photos of the storage yard just south of the Needham Heights Station(2 Photos)

I return to my cousins house, grab my luggage and walk down to Needham Center(11 Photos) getting there about ten minutes early. While I walk I’m on hold with Amtrak Guest Rewards Priority Line for ten minutes until I finally reach an agent who quickly pulls one of my new electronic upgrade coupons to upgrade my Acela Journey that is in about an. I don’t even have to provide my reservation number because the agent has already pulled my ticket attached to my AGR Number! I had tried calling last night but gave up after 10 minutes on hold on the AGR priority line. In the past I’ve been able to reach an agent in a matter of minutes.

I then head up to the mini-high platform and wait my train. A short time before the display says Inbound Train has left Needham Heights. The trains in ‘push’ mode and I realize that all 4 trains I’ll have ridden by the end of this trip will be in either ‘push’ mode (the Downeaster and my MBTA Commuter Rail Ride) or have two locomotives (Acela Express’s two power cars and the Maine Easter Railroad’s Mid-Coast Limited’s two FL-9s). The two conductors open the two doors of the last two multi-level BTC-4 cars (the oldest in the MBTA’s fleet) I notice one of them is waring a Keolis lanyard, the American concession of SNCF that took over operations from MBCR (a consortium of Veolia and Bombardier) on July 1 of this year.

We stop in Needham Junction at 11:04 at a brick station house.

I pay my $6.25 fare that feels expensive as we pass a golf course with its own grade-crossing. We stop at Hersey at 11:07 that has a single modern platform with modern canopies and nothing else remarkable.

  • 11:08 – Cross 128 through the trees high up.
  • 11:09 – Then it’s a stream

We stop at West Roxbury at 11:11 at its mini-high platform. The single platform station had the remains of a building and a grade-crossing to a parking lot.

It’s a quick trip on the single track trough trees to Highland at 11:13. This is another standard mini-high platform.

We stop at 11:15 at Belleville, another mini-high with a standard low-level platform.


The conductor (at least there are two) is collecting the fares from a large party. She can’t get down in the mini-high platform at the simple Rosendale Village at 11:18, and tries to get back  intercepting a boarding passenger who has a real attitude about her. I simply hear “The train can’t officially leave until I get downstairs” luckily the other conductor does door duty. The stations themselves on the Needham Branch are officially uninteresting.

11:20 – See the end of the Orange Line

We stop at the underground island platform at Forest Hills at 11:21. I didn’t visit this platform when I was doing my whirlwind tours if the MBTA subway. The end of the platform has Stand Behind the Yellow line displays. We stay on the left-hand track as I join the corridor I’ll be zooming down on Acela in less than an hour.

11:24 – Pass Roxbury Crossing Orange Line

We stop in Ruggles at 11:25 on the outbound platform.

It’s a quick trip to Back Bay at 11:28. It’s slow running as the Worcester Line joins us curving into south station, backtracking on this trip makes sense, I can quickly enjoy the ClubAcela.

I arrive in South Station(13 Photos) at 11:34 on track 5, next to an Acela trainset on track 6 that I think will be my train. The Commuter Train on the track across from us has a unique Massachusetts Fallen Heros in the War in Iraq Cab Car. It’s a walk into the station because I’m in the last car and all diesel MBTA trains stop so the diesel locomotive is stopped before the bus overpass.


I pass the Lake Shore Limited that is boarding passengers, all the stops just fit on the LED track monitor.

I head into the station. II try a Quik-Trak Machine to print my recently upgraded ticket that of course doesn’t work because AGR has modified it to process my upgrade. I go up to ClubAcela and get my ticket printed. I grab some pretzels as a snack and a copy of the New York Times to read. At about 11:50, 20 minutes before it’s posted in the station, we are told track 6.

I leisurely board and grab a 1×1 conference table on the left side of the train (the water and passing trains). The crew tucks my ticket above my head. A bunch of people just say Penn Station as their destination (the train stops at 3) prompting the train attendant to fittingly ask “Which one?” Soon they hand out a different snack of crackers pretzels and chili cheese sticks that have some heat.

We leave on time at 12:10. I decide it’s too early in the day for a real drink, but a beer with my lunch feels appropriate so I order one.

At 12:15 I’m back in Back Bay at the same platform. We leave at 12:16.

I’m not going to keep track of skipped stops on this trip. I have work to do!

We get to Route 128 at 12:24 and the car fills up a bit more. The conductor messes up her announcement and says 20 minutes to New Haven before correcting herself. I’m ask if I want to order some lunch now or later. Layers get the menus above their seats. I decide to try the lasagna since the main meet is a pork that doesn’t sous great.

It comes as we enter Rhode Island, 2 states done, 2 more to go, its relatively simply but surprisingly decent and filling.


We stop in Providence, Rhode Island at 12:45 and first class fills up a bit

I see T.F. Green Airport and the glimpse of Naragansett Bay.

We seem to be going slower than usual through the high speed section. An Acela zooms by us I see a truck on a third track and we regain speed.

  • 1:02 – I’m eating my dessert as we go through Kingston, the rest of my tray is collected. The desert strawberry parfait that’s surprisingly decent.
  • 1:12 – The curve of Westerly Station and the first grade-crossing as we enter Stonington Connecticut.
  • 1:15 – Stoneman’s Island grade-crossing and then another one to a marina. Our speed as dropped as I enjoy more coastal views, now of the Long Island sound.
  • 1:19 – Bypass Mystic and over the first swing bridge.
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  • 1:21 – See the historic Noank Station.
  • 1:27 – Over the Thames, slowly towards New London. I see some kids playing in a trestle near the water.
  • 1:29 – Skip New London, slowing down to do so
  • 1:35 – Sunbathers on the beach, the last view of the Long Island Sound.
  • 1:43 – Skip Old Saybrook
  • 1:46 – Pass Shoreline East
  • 2:03 – The announcement for New Haven where we will begin our long slog down the New Haven
  • 2:07 – Passing New Haven State Street the next train displays and new information panels are finally on there.

We stop in New Haven-Union Station at 2:10 and the new signs are all still blank! We leave at 2:13.

I hear the high pitched wine of the tilt system that’s still on after Metro-North finally began allowing it stating in February 2014.

At 2:43 the attendant comes through with a tray of candies saying candy time. Don’t think these are Amtrak issued but are an attempt by my okay if not almost robotic attendants for a bigger tip. I do grab a peppermint patty.

Its a crawl down the New Haven Line. We get the announcement for Stamford to use the doors at both ends of the car that will open to a high-level platform.

We arrive in Stamford at 3:00 across from a Boston-bound Northeast Regional train with an ACS-64

  • 3:06 – We get an announcement from our train cleanliness representative to hand over any trash a she comes through the aisles. This is a unique en-route cleaner that rides only between Stamford and New York so the train is clean for those going south to Washington.
  • 3:12 – I’m not fully paying attention but we clearly cross the river and pass Port Chester. I’m back inside New York State!
  • 3:14 – I feel us switching towards the tracks for the Hell Gate Bridge.
  • 3:21 – Slowly go through New Rochelle towards the Hell Bridge Line and switch off Metro-North
  • 3:24 – It’s slow, over the Hutchinson River
  • 3:27 – It’s through the East Bronx of industry and over the Bronx River
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  • 3:30 – A yard full of green NYC Garbage cars as we rise up for the Hell Gate.
  • 3:33 – It’s the nice scenic crossing of the Hell Gate and looking down on the sewage treatment plant
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  • 3:34 – We enter Queens on the viaduct over Astoria.
  • 3:36 – Join the Long Island Rail Rail road, then past Sunnyside Yards.

Were in the East River Tunnels at 3:40. I pack my computer up and put in back in my backpack.

We arrive on track 11 at 3:45, on time. I get off, tip my attendant at the door. I grab a few platform photos near the NJT 7th Avenue Concourse end of the station.
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I go up the staircase to the exit concourse guarded by a cop. I head up to the Main Gate where boarding has just started and see that TSA has invaded Penn Station with random security inspections at the gate. No exit concourse trick for passengers today (although no one’s stopping you from using the NJT concourse).

I head up to the A Train and head home. I leave the house a little earlier than I might so I get on the bus to Yankee Stadium (generally I walk there) with my free transfer from the subway.

I’ll conclude with a the view from my Upper Deck Saturday Seats (with an occasional night game thrown in so the Yankees can charge more for the package)