2.8.08

THE CASE FOR A RAIL PASS.

The O Scale Convention in Worcester referred attendees to several hotels within walking distance of the show hall and of Union Station (provided one was not too burdened with purchases or kit). The Union Station reference is both historic (Boston and Maine, Boston and Albany, and New Haven) and accurate today (the one overworked Amtrak train, and a few MBTA commuter trains). A rail pass good on Amtrak and on the commuter rail systems would offer travelers additional convenience. The idea sounds administratively unwieldy where revenue division is concerned. There still are British rail passes, although with that country's idiosyncratic methods of checking tickets, the operating companies probably make educated guesses of their shares in the revenue (consider my peregrinations in the West Country last year). That the British passes are still on offer suggests it's doable, and less complicated connections between Amtrak and the various commuter train operators enhances the value of the network. Consider Arlington Park or the historic trolleys of Kenosha or the Hamptons or Cape May, all accessible by rail but none of them on Amtrak. So, too, with some Boston area destinations. During the convention, there were a few modellers exploring the system, although the main business is work trips or perhaps a Red Sox game. Selected Worcester line trains call at Yawkey, the Fenway Park station (and a logical candidate for naming rights: the Miller-Coors Station at Fenway).


Trains of the Boston and Albany and New Haven lines call at South Station. I suppose, as is the case in London and Chicago, interconnectivity of suburban lines to permit cross-regional trips is relatively unimportant in the greater scheme of getting the regular riders to work on time. As is not the case in London and Chicago, track assignments are improvised each day with tracks posted for boarding only shortly before departure.


There are regional differences in railroading vocabulary, too. Nobody on the Boston commuter rail system understood "stopover." (They are available on Metra, ask the agent and inform the conductor, and I have some old Boston and Maine timetables that indicated stopovers were available on some classes of tickets). To do some work in Salem and Beverly and then return directly to Boston involves purchasing a separate ticket for each leg of the trip.


This tunnel runs under Salem's Washington Street. It's a made-to-order scene divider for a model railroad. The other end of the tunnel used to lead into a reservation in the middle of Washington Street and thence into a station built in the style of a Norman fortress that straddled the tracks. That end is changed utterly, but I have photographs and plans to work from.


At Beverly, the station remains in use, as a mid- to up-scale restaurant with a penchant for Cajun cooking and extensive wine and beer offerings.

Two suburban lines divide at Beverly. One continues north to Newburyport, and if Massachusetts and New Hampshire can come to some kind of agreement, there might again be passenger trains to Portsmouth. The schedules are set up to provide more frequent service Bostonside of Beverly, without the foolishness of a cluster of trains in fifteen minutes followed by nearly an hour of dead time that reduces the value of the Metra Electric. There's no conscious effort to provide in-to-out connections at Beverly, something that might benefit travelers. The North Atlantic Ocean precludes a Gloucester to Ipswich shortcut on the roads.

The Rockport line, which is more properly called the Gloucester Branch, is eminently modelable as it permits a modeler to build the end of the line into a corner and leave all the staging facilities in plain sight.

This Boston and Maine freight house, along with a funky pillar crane, avoided the attention of Patrick McGinniss's asset strippers, and both will be preserved (if perhaps relocated) in a pending upgrade of the station facilities for commuter rail. And sometimes the choice of exterior colors for a house is easy.


If one is going to build the end-of-the-line facilities into a corner alongside a wall, it's convenient to have a prototype wall to use as background. Rockport's Evans Field is home to Rockport's entry in the Intertown Twilight League and to a Little League program. I may take some modellers license and move that grandstand from the first-base to the third-base line, along the tracks (and, of course, have some spectators looking away from the ball game and at the trains!) Dang, an ETTS moment! I just thought about the view of the Milwaukee Road from the upper-deck, first-base side at County Stadium. Miller Park offers no such views.


The end-of-line destinations (until the early 1950s, there was a Friday-out, Sunday-in sleeping car from New York set out by the State of Maine Express and hauled the long way around from Lowell Junction; in the model railroad world this evolution will be much simpler) are a short walk from the station.


Perhaps we're looking at some future America's Cup or Olympic sailors using the Sandy Bay Yacht Club's Optis. (Their chances will be better if they come to the Lake District of southern Wisconsin and mess about with scows.)

That's play, there's also work. Did Patrick McGinnis inspire the painting of these lobster trap markers?


There's also a retail source of lobsters: buy 'em live and take 'em home, or this store will cook one and crack the shell and let you eat it out back and watch the tide go in.


There were more than a few shore birds making their day trips to Rockport on the trains. It is no accident that the Rockport entry in the Intertown Twilight League is the Townies. There's also a Topsfield Tories. No Danvers Witch-hunters, apparently.

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