Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Graffiti Train

Dave Brigham:

Trains have become a big part of my life in recent years. My son, who just turned 9, has loved subway trains for a few years now. Of late, he's started getting into commuter rail trains and Amtrak trains. The two of us have taken countless trips on Boston's MBTA system, photos from which I've posted in these pages (see August 30, 2010 "Going Underground" and November 4, 2010 "Can You Ever Get Enough of Train Tracks?").

I love our journeys, because I get to see parts of the Greater Boston area you can't see from side roads and highways. A jaunt through the tunnels of the Green Line is a trip back in time. You travel through tunnels that are more than 100 years old, and see evidence of tracks that have been discontinued, and trains that no longer work. The Red Line parallels Route 93 South out of Boston, offering views of the Backside of Dorchester. Take the Orange Line north out of Boston and you get to see the underside of an assortment of highways and ramps, and get close up to the Boston Sand & Gravel company, and the various freight and commuter tracks that abound.

Recently, after a trip to the fabulous Ward Maps store in Cambridge, where I bought some nice MBTA-themed birthday gifts for my son, I had a bit of time on my hands before picking up my daughter from preschool. So I decided to venture across Cambridge to seek out some spots to take pictures in neighboring Somerville.

I spent a few years living in the one-time auto theft capital of America, and had cruised around aimlessly many years ago. I headed to the Inner Belt area, where I knew there were a bunch of warehouses, auto body shops, factories and train tracks (I learned while writing this piece, that the area is named for a planned six-lane, limited-access highway that would have run through parts of Somerville, Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, but that was shot down in the early '70s after protests by neighbors and then-Gov. Francis Sargent's moratorium on highway construction inside Route 128.).

I found some interesting sites in the Inner Belt, but nothing that really grabbed my eye. So I drove on. Soon, I found myself on New Washington Street. Just after passing a Brazilian restaurant called Cafe Belo, I spied a few box cars by the side of the road.

Box cars #1

I found it odd that they were just sitting there, in plain sight, covered in rust and graffiti.

Box cars #3

As I walked around snapping pictures, I realized that these old cars were functioning as an outdoor office or rest area of sorts.

Somerville Box Car

Box cars #2

Because these box cars are so close to the road, and in an exposed area near the above-mentioned restaurant and a recently opened dog park, I doubt they're providing shelter for homeless people. It's more likely that the trash I saw was put there by workers from the MBTA, which owns the cars. I conducted a Google map search of New Washington Street, and when I clicked on "street view," saw two different cars in the same spot where I took these pictures. So obviously the MBTA moves cars around and uses this area as a holding spot.

I suspect next time I swing by, I'll find two different photo subjects.

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