Boston Transit Adventures

The Relaxing, Scenic CapeFLYER out to Hyannis (and connecting to Wellfleet on an old Plymouth & Brockton Coach)

Today is the second highlight of my Downeaster to CapeFlyer Trip, riding the CapeFlyer out to Hyannis and connecting to the P & B Bus to Wellfleet.

The day begins with me and my grandmother having an uneventful drive in from Needham on a Sunday Morning, it takes about 20 minutes and we arrive at about 7:42. I can see our train off in the distance as we drive into the station with the wrapped Boston to Cape Cod Bike Car. We walk into South Station and no track is posted 15 minutes before. The CapeFlyer is listed as MBTA to Hyannis, MA (normally only Amtrak trains get the state listed with the final destination). I see the train in the station but this is as bad as Penn Station, without the track officially posted!

We walk into the ClubAcela for coffee, a cinnamon roll and a complementary copy of the New York Times. The agent tells us track 11.

We leave the ClubAcela around 7:50, boarding has already begun but I decide to try and buy tickets before the train. I walk into the MBTA ticket office that has one window open and stand in line behind two other people, also buying CapeFlyer tickets. I buy two for $40 and they are simple, large glossy pieces of paper that look like theater tickets except slightly more flimsy, the backside of them has ads for Cape Cod  destinations. Their clearly preprinted because the agent has to go grab another pad from a drawer. Then its time to head to track 11, the Overnight Northeast Regoinal Train #66 has just arrived across from the Cape Flyer on Track 10, it has a very interesting overpowered consist, two P42 Diesel Locomotives (running back to back), two AEM7 Electric Locomotives pulling the Heritage Baggage Car and 5 coaches. I guess they were doing catenary work somewhere on the corridor or perhaps motive power needed to be moved.

The CapeFlyer train has about 7 total coaches: two single level coaches, one at each end (the front coach is the CapeFlyer Car) plus 5 BiLevels. The train is only half-open for passenger occupancy at the front of the train, 3 coaches and the bike car, classic MBTA. It is also running pull-pull with a locomotive at each end. A F40PHM #1030 at the back and ex-UTA MP36PH-3C #10


The Train:

The BiLevels are normal MBTA Commuter Rail cars with the 3 by 2 seating. Me and my grandmother sat together in a two seater and felt cramped. Luggage storage is an issue since the overhead racks of the BiLevels are extremely small and there aren’t other luggage racks. Instead us and a number of other travelers stacked are luggage up just outside the vestible into the car, blocking the tip-up seats used for wheelchairs. The aisle is also narrow and two and a half hours is a long time to spend in the MBTA seats that are some of the most uncomfortable seats of any commuter rail. They made a big mistake by not ordering their BiLevels with the current norm of 2 by 2 seats. Luckily the BiLevel Cars have nice large windows for the scenery. The special CapeFlyer wrapped coach (that doesn’t include wraps around the windows) is a BTC-1C with small windows, nearly identical to a NJT Comet III, (Metro-North Shoreliner and Amtrak Horizon Coach). Inside through are very few seats, instead at one end are multiple bike racks with plenty of space for bikes. Then are about 10 rows of seats for bikes. At the other end is the CapeFlyer Concession counter, a box and brochure rack, and a wheelchair securement area. The Concession could definitely use some improvement. There isn’t a microwave for hot food, just a couple of coffee makers for coffee. Muffins were the only real breakfast option and they looked saran wrapped and unappetizing. The Concession has a decent beer and bar selection. I bet it does most of its business on the evening trips.

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We are also entertained by Denya LaVine, a fiddle player, she is on the train today to entertain passengers because many aboard are going to the Boston Pops by the Sea Concert (that included a package with a ticket to the festival and passage aboard the CapeFlyer).

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The Ride:

At 8:00 I Hear “Caution, the doors are about to close,” are we on Metra? I see the conductor is wearing a CapeFlyer shirt. We curve out of north station on an eastern track as the catenary ends. We pass between a yard for the Red line and the East side of the Kensington Shops. The red line eventually fully joins us and we leave the other tracks behind.

  • 8:06 – Pass the JFK/UMass commuter rail platform. The red line curves onto the other track. Lots of people paying with iPhones. The conductor comes and I ask if I can have the tickets back as a receipt. He obliges. We go through area where the Red Lines branches split apart.
  • 8:10 – Along the red line cross a river. Then North Quincy.
  • 8:11 – Wollaston
  • 8:13 – Into the garage (that’s condemned and closed because of structural damage) for Quincy Center
  • 8:15 – Through the garage for Quincy Adams. The conductor starts announcing the various connecting ferries and buses.
  • 8:17 – Pass some tanker cars

We arrive in Braintree, our first stop of the day (and I thought where my relatives might drop us off to avoid driving into Boston, but the Mass Pike was nice and fast on a Saturday morning) at 8:18 for maybe a half dozen passengers. They all board my car as we pass a red line train entering its terminus and a violinists plays. There making announcements that are recorded (well its a computer voice) for the CapeFlyer including about the cafe coach. We leave the T behind and another rail line curves away as we go through trees.

  • 8:23 – Take a siding and slow down
  • 8:25 – Stop on the siding.
  • 8:27 – Bypass Randoph/Holbrook. Single high-level side platform that we come to a stop in on the single track. Don’t know why. It’s your standard modern platform with a grade-crossing at its southern end. We pass some houses before its back to trees, regain speed on good welded rail
  • 8:31 – Two high-level platforms for Montello
  • 8:33 – Brockton in the center of a town with a grade separated high-level platform
  • 8:34 – Back to single track for the junkyard of the day and trees again.
  • 8:38 – Pass a northbound MBTA Commuter train and its back to trees
  • 8:39 – Pass some more backyards and through Campello
  • 8:40 – A nice old station house
  • 8:41 – Slow down to pass Bridgewater Station and we keep going through backyards.
  • 8:43 – Some soccer fields break up the forests.
  • 8:45 – A brickyard
  • 8:48 – Some more freight cars and we slow down.
  • 8:49 – See a track with a sign: “end of Commuter Rail trackage” and slowly enter Middleboro/Lakeview.

At 8:51 we arrive at the high-level platform for Middleboro/Lakeview that is at the same level as the parking lot, the tracks are depressed here. We slowly leave at 8:52.

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  • 8:55 – We leave the good continuos welded rail commuter rail track behind and slowly enter much worse track, passing some fields then trees again.
  • 8:58 – Making better speed than I thought we would.
  • 9:00 – Pass a nice little pond and marshland. I think we’re on jointed track.
  • 9:04 – Some freight cars on a siding. It’s trees interrupted by wetlands. See some locomotives for Mass Coastal. (I wasn’t fast enough for a picture). Then a bit of a freight train on a siding.
  • 9:10 – We continue trough the trees.
  • 9:11 – Wareham and houses
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  • 9:12 – Slowly go through Wareham passing boats and water
  • 9:14 – We go back into the trees
  • 9:15 – Pass what could be an old depot. Here an automated announcement for Buzzards Bay that’s automated to be ready to disembark and alert a crew member if your connecting to the ferry. We pass a water park.
  • 9:17 – “Now arriving Buzzards Bay, Cape Flyer ambassadors are at Buzzards Bay to answer any questions. Thank you for riding the Cape Flyer.”
  • 9:20 – Pass a boat yard into the station and see a windmill towering
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We arrive at Buzzards Bay at 9:21 and I hear the bridgeplate at the mini-high platform (previously here for the tourist railway. There a few buses and a good dozen people boarding. They luckily also open a trip and low platform door. We leave at 9:23 passing 3 connecting buses that look empty.

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We leave for a slow crossing of the canal. Arriving on the Cape at 9:27 to the end of a bike path and onlookers.

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  • 9:28 – “Next stop Hyannis and let a crew member know and call Enterprise if you wish to rent a car.” This train emphasizes connectivity!
  • 9:29 – An odd little windmill and building.
  • 9:30 – We curve north and follow the canal. Their trees between us and it at times.  The canal continues as we follow it north, under the Bourne Bridge.
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  • 9:37 – The Sagamore Bridge There some locals who took the bus down just to ride the train. We’re in the most crowded car. The canal continues
  • 9:40 – Pass some oil tanks and a transform. We finally curve inland passing Sandwhich, I’m surprised it isn’t a stop.
  • 9:42 – An abandoned rail car on the slow track through Sandwich. Then the former Sandwich station (I think used by the tourist train)
  • 9:44 – We pass some fields and houses. Slowly on track that isn’t good but adequate for a train that only runs in summer on weekends
  • 9:46 – We to through trees with some nice vistas of marshland. I go to the bike car and realize its clearly jointed rail hearing the clicky-clack in the vestibule.
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  • 9:50 – The view is mostly trees but interrupted with more marshland than normal. The speed is slow, it’s class III track and I believe we’re limited to 40 mph.
  • 9:52 – A nice large field, a portion is getting digged out
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  • 9:58 – West Barnstable with an old depot and some historic cars. I’m sitting on the wrong side of the train.
  • 10:00 – Marshland (Cranberry bogs?)
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  • 10:04 – Pass some houses and keep going through the woods. There even unarmed crossings
  • 10:06 – Pass a prison and houses, cars wait for us.
  • 10:08 – Now arriving Hyannis and to speak to a representative for connections to anywhere in the Cape! The automated voice. We keep passing trees and grassland
  • 10:10 – The parking lot of a golf course in the trees and see the course, I see the golf carts.
  • 10:12 – Through trees and under route 6, here dual-carriage ways.
  • 10:13 – 5 minutes outside of Hyannis Station and reminder that we will be departing back to Boston at 7:30 instead of 6:30 because of the concert. An hour late. “Thank you for riding the Flyer” we pass the airport.
  • 10:15 – They tell people in the rear to walk up to the front of the train. We go down to the vestibule.

We stop briefly at 10:17, the conductor telling us to stay in the vestibule. Were passing some cabs cod central railroad cars in the yard including some painted for Marc. If I had more than 24 minutes I would have stayed seated to enjoy the yard views. I believe the brief stop is to set a manually operated switch, we finally arrive at the Hyannis Transportation Center Station at 10:20, at its short high-level platform that can accommodate only one full car and a single door from the adjacent two.

I go into the station and have to deal with the slowest agent at the Plymouth and Brockton ticket window (their a for profit intercity bus company that also serves plenty of commuters selling passes on some routes) to buy two one-way tickets to Wellfleet, no discounts on this bus (like the CapeFlyer for a senior either). I go back outside and decide to walk around to the Cape Cod Central Tourist Railway station that shares the same platform but stops opposite the MBTA Commuter Rail. I notice the train is pulling forward slightly but am walking around the entrance to the Cape Cod Central platform and miss the photos of the CapeFLYER leaving the platform and pulling into the train yard in front of the station where it will layover for the day.



I walk back around and get some more photos of the transportation center plus some of the train yard that is along the bus bays that continue and become parking lots north of the station building. Walking by the yard I notice the ex-LIRR C1s that are painted for the Saratoga and North Creek Railroad, didn’t realize that the Cape Cod Central is also owned by Iowa Pacific Holdings!


We board at 10:40, put our luggage under the bus and have an Asian bus driver who has poor English (first unfirendly and isn’t friendly. He has us put our own luggage under the bus, has us board and then walks through to collect our tickets not saying a word. The bus feels like an old Greyhound with maybe a dozen passengers. It would be possible to get to Wellfleet aboard Cape Cod Regional transit Authority buses but would take nearly 4 hours. Seeing the condition of the Plymouth and Brockton bus Im happy this will be my only ride on it and were taking the ferry back.

We leave at 10:47 and I see a great picture of the MBTA train from the northern end of the train yard at a grade crossing that would have been excellent. We get on Route 6 for the first time today! 43 miles to Provincetown.

  • 11:05 – 5 minutes late we stop at Harwich to let one passenger off at a Park & Ride lot before we get back on Route-6. There is tons of traffic on the single-lane highway. Like yesterday Im on an intercity bus making a milk run.
  • 11:10 – 19 miles to Wellfleet
  • The bus gets off Route 6 again to enter Orleans. Two people are waiting for the CCRTA bus (that takes nearly two hours) wanting to get to Provincetown but don’t get on our bus. Granted the fare is $2 vs. about $10 I imagine. We get back on route 6 and are beyond the end of the highway portion
  • 11:25 – Get to Eastham, the bus driver gets off and goes somewhere.
  • 11:28 – Leave, I hear the bus driver say $5. I don’t know to where. I hear him punching a paper ticket while he drives. That looks like a neat receipt. It is called the Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway because it began as an interurban operation until 1928
  • 11:35 – Stop at North Eastham, some one boards going to Wellfleet for $4. I assume he would have taken CCRTA had it come first. Wellfleet is the next town. We leave at 11:36, 10 minutes late.
  • 11:41 – We hit traffic as we come into Wellfleet were Route 6 becomes one lane and the back-up continues.

Route 6 continues having bad traffic. We finally pull onto Commercial Street off Route 6 and arrive in Downtown Wellfleet at 11:55, 20 minutes late.