The Orange Line

The history of the Orange Line is somewhat complex. The name was based on a section of Washington Street once known as Orange Street. . The first part of the main line opened in 1901. It went from Everett along the then Charlestown Elevated to the Canal Street Incline near North Station. It was carried underground via the Tremont Street Subway which is now part of the Green Line returning above ground near the Pleasant Street Incline which was has been filled in but was near the outbound Boylston station. A short termed link connected it to the Washington Street Elevated, which in 1901 ran from this point via Washington Street to Dudley Square.

Also in 1901, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated opened, branching at Causeway Street which provided an alternate route through downtown Boston along the shoreline to the Washington Street Elevated.

In 1908 the Washington Street tunnel opened allowing the Main Line services to travel rom the Charlestown Elevated, underground via the new portals at the Canal Street Incline, underground, and back up again to meet the Washington Street Elevated and Atlantic Avenue Elevated near Chinatown. Use of the Tremont Street Subway was then returned for streetcar use only. By 1909, the Washington Street Elevated had been extended to Forest Hills. Trains from Washington Street were routed through the new subway, either all the way to Everett, or back around in a loop via both subway and the Atlantic Avenue Elevated. Click on the map below to see the original system.

click below to enlarge map.

At some point the southern connection between South Station and Washington Street was closed breaking the loop. By 1938, the entire Atlantic Avenue Elevated had been closed, leaving the subway as the only route through downtown. This is now the Orange Line between Haymarket and Chinatown stations.

In the 1970's the Boston Transportation Planning review looked at at the line and considered an extension to the beltway Route 128 with a terminal at Reading in the north and Dedham in the south. As a result of the review the Charlestown Elevated which serviced the Charlestown neighborhood north of downtown Boston and the suburb Everett was demolished in 1975. The Haymarket North Extension rerouted the Orange Line through an underwater crossing of the Charles River. Service in Charlestown was replaced with service along the former Boston and Albany tracks under Interstate 93, ultimately to Wellington and Oak Grove in Malden instead of Everett. Until Big Dig this was a major construction effort including the tunnel under the Charles River. Included in the project was a new service center at Wellington. Because none of the heavy subway lines have direct track connections it is necessary to truck cars from one line to Wellington. Just south of the Wellington station the Orange Line crosses over the Mystic river on a fixed bridge. And again the "T" used an existing railroad right of way for the new extension.

In 1972 the proposed construction of Interstate 95 into downtown Boston was cancelled after local protest over the necessary demolition. The land, however, for the Southwest Corridor through Roxbury had already been cleared of buildings. Instead of a highway the Orange Line subway was re-routed into the corridor. By 1987 the Washington Street Elevated was torn down as part of this re-routing, the last of the original elevated portions to be demolished. It should be pointed out that this part of the line became somewhat famous due to a television series on NBC called "St. Elsewhere". There was a very nice shot of a then Orange Line elevated train passing the hospital. Ironically the show outlasted the elevated structure by one year.

Between 30 April and 3 May 1987, the Washington Street Elevated south of the Essex station was closed to allow the line to be tied into the new corridor. On 4 May 1987 the Orange Line was moved to its new track starting at the end of the Washington Street Tunnel and onto the new Southwest Corridor. The new line veered west at the Mass Pike and followed the Pike and former Boston and Albany right of way to the existing MBTA Commuter Rail stop at Back Bay. It then continued along new tracks, partially covered and partially open but depressed, to Forest Hills. As in past practice the right of way is shared with a railroad. In this case it is with the main Northeast Corridor shared by Amtrak's high speed service. For the rider there are a number of places where one can observe the NEC but most stations are enclosed making that impossible as well as the questionable neighborhood where the one station is in the open. Like the north end, Forest Hills is a simple two track station with a double crossove but also has tail tracks..

The final modification was from Big Dig. This involved the aforementioned work in the Green Line E Branch section in and around North Station. It also permitted a far better connection at North Station between the Green and Orange Lines. There is also a connection with the Green Line at the Haymarket station.

At the present time the 120 Orange Line cars will most likely be replaced with class 14 cars. Initial bidding may take place as early as early 2011 with hopes of the first prototype being delivered around 2014. There is talk that the replacement cars will be triple unit non-articulated cars with the middle car being a blind motor. For more information please go to the Red Line Roster. At the present time the class 12 cars have a higher replacement priority over the older class 1 Red Line Pullman Standard 01500 and 01600 cars.


Orange Line in service. Wellington Sation

An outbound Orange Line train enters the Wellington station. Behind is the bridge over the Mystic River. outbwell1
A closer look at the same train getting ready to stop at Wellington. Behind the train is a trainman's room for operators, supervisors and inspectors. outwel2
An inbound Orange Line train enters Wellington. To the left are the Wellington Shops for the Orange Line orangewellin1
A closer look at the same train getting ready to board passengers at Wellington station. orangewellin2

Malden Station. Also elevated and a transfer point to the MBTA commuter line

An inbound Orange Line train approaches the Malden station. orangmalin1
Inbound Orange Line train prepares to stop at Malden to pick up passengers for downtown Boston. orangemaldin
Orange Line inbound, student with IPOD at Malden waiting to board train. orangemalednboy
An outbound Orange Line trains at Malden Station. To the right is the MBTA commuter track. orangemalout

Oak Grove is the northern terminal of the Orange Line. There are no storage tracks; just a double crossover.

An outbound Orange Line train apporaches the crossover at Oak Grove Terminal orangoakxover1
The train is in the process of crossing over from the outbound track to track 2 where it will shortly birth orangoakx2
Now on the station track at Oak Grove the train proceeds to the termianl where it will wait, change ends and then head back to Boston and Forest Hills. orangeoakx3
Orange Line class car 01200 parked at the Oak Grove Terminal. orange1200
An Orange Line train waits at Forest Hill Terminal on the south end of the line. The terminal is covered and below street level. East of the terminal is the busy Amtrak Northeast Corridor. orangeforest
An interior view of an Orange Line 01200 (#12) series car. orangeint


Orange Line (Wellington Carhouse)
Orange Line Fleet (120 cars)


Car type

Built By


Year Built




Cars Active

Cars Out of Service


#12 Main Line









Active Orange Line Fleet : (120 cars operated in married pairs):
01200/01201 through 01318/01319   
Orange Line Work Cars (8 cars)






Flat Car with Crane


1915/27/84 (stored out of service Wellington)


Flat Car

Interstate Car Co.

1922 (stored out of service Wellington)


Flat Car

Interstate Car Co.



Clearance Car




Jet Snow Blower




Crane Car




Flat Car




Flat Car



Additional maintenance of way equipment maintained by automotive maintenance, that can be used on all four rapid transit lines such as tampers, hi-rail equipment, ballast cars, etc. are not included in table above.
 Peak vehicle requirement for Orange Line is 102 cars (17 six-car trains)







Unless otherwise noted all pictures are by Larry Mack and are copyrighted.  These pictures may not be used for other websites and/or commercial purposes without the express approval by the webmaster.  The "T" and subway map are copyrighted and owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and are used on this site with their approval.  This site is  not officially affiliated with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority