Newburyport/Rockport Line

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Newburyport/Rockport Line
MBTA 1009 leads an outbound train over Manchester Draw, May 2014.JPG
An outbound train in Manchester-by-the-Sea in 2014
TypeCommuter Rail
LocaleGreater Boston
TerminiNorth Station
Newburyport or Rockport
Stations12 (Newburyport Line)
14 (Rockport Line)
(7 serve both lines)
Daily ridership14,962 (2018)[1]
OwnerMassachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Operator(s)Keolis North America
Line length36.2 miles (58.3 km) (Newburyport)
35.3 miles (56.8 km) (Rockport)[2]
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Route map

former route to
Portland, Maine
North Hampton
Newburyport Yard
North Beverly
Rockport Yard
Gloucester Draw
over Annisquam River
West Gloucester
Manchester Draw
over Manchester Harbor
Beverly Farms
Prides Crossing
Beverly Depot
Beverly Draw
over Danvers River
Peabody Branch
(freight only)
Salem Tunnel
South Salem
River Works
General Electric
employees only
Saugus Draw
over Saugus River
Haverhill and Lowell lines
Boston Engine Terminal
MBTA employees only
North Station Orange Line (MBTA) Green Line (MBTA) MBTA Commuter Rail Downeaster (train)

The Newburyport/Rockport Line is a branch of the MBTA Commuter Rail system, running northeast from downtown Boston, Massachusetts towards Cape Ann and the Merrimack Valley, serving the North Shore. The first leg serves Chelsea, Lynn, Swampscott, Salem, and Beverly. From there, a northern branch of the line serves Hamilton, Ipswich, Rowley, and Newburyport. The line also branches east from Beverly, serving Manchester, Gloucester, and Rockport. A bicycle coach is offered on the Rockport branch during the summer.[3]


After 22 years terminating at Ipswich, the line was restored to Newburyport in 1998

The Eastern Route main line between Boston and Portsmouth, New Hampshire opened in 1836 as the Eastern Railroad. Ferries were used to transport passengers between the East Boston terminal and Boston proper. The line was extended to Portland, Maine, in 1842 under a track-sharing agreement with the Boston and Maine Railroad.[4] The Gloucester Branch was constructed in 1847, but despite local support, it was not extended to Rockport until November 1861.[5] In 1854, with the opening of the Grand Junction Railroad, the Eastern Railroad acquired direct access to downtown Boston.[4] This access was more convenient than its previous access, which required using the Saugus Branch or the South Reading Branch Railroad.

The Boston & Maine leased the Eastern Railroad in 1884, and in 1893 the new North Union Station became the terminus of the B&M, its subsidiaries the Eastern Railroad and Boston & Lowell Railroad, and the Fitchburg Railroad.

In the 1970s, the B&M's passenger services - which, by that time, were almost exclusively commuter services - began to become financially unviable until the MBTA subsidized, and then acquired, the services. The line beyond Newburyport was abandoned in 1982; however, commuter service had been cut back from Newburyport to Ipswich in 1976.[4] In 1998, service was restored to Newburyport at a cost of $46 million.[6]

In the late 1980s, the MBTA planned to construct a park and ride relief station off Route 107 in Saugus. A $400,000 planning study was funded in February 1988; the proposed $11 million station would have had 1,000 parking spaces and opened in late 1991.[7] The station was not built; instead, a high-level platform and parking garage opened at Lynn in January 1992.[8]

Movable bridges and replacements[edit]

Draw Number 7 shortly before replacement

Owing to its position along the North Shore coastline, the Newburyport/Rockport Line has a large number of river crossings, including movable bridges over the Saugus River and Danvers River on the mainline as well as Days Creek and the Annisquam River on the Rockport Branch. Draw Number 7 over the Mystic River between Somerville and Everett, built in 1877, was the oldest horizontally folding drawbridge in the country[9] until it was replaced by a fixed high-level concrete span on August 26, 1989. The new $34.2 million bridge, which was completed nine months ahead of schedule, eliminated the 5 miles per hour (8.0 km/h) speed restriction on the old bridge.[10][11]

The Beverly Drawbridge spanning the Danvers River was replaced in 2017. The abutments of the approach spans were repaired, followed by a 21-day service shutdown from July 17 to August 13, 2017, for the complete replacement of the swing bridge section.[12][8] The MBTA Board approved the $16.2 million contract in February 2016; work will last from March 2016 to December 2017.[13] The line was shut down on weekends from July 8 through August 27, 2017, for the installation of Positive Train Control equipment in order to meet a 2020 federal deadline; four of those weekends overlapped with the already planned service curtailments for drawbridge work.[14][8]

The Gloucester Drawbridge over the Annisquam River consists of a steel drawbridge and western approach span with a timber trestle for the eastern approach. It was built in 1911, modified in 1932, and substantially repaired in 1984-85. It will be completely replaced with a modern box beam bridge on steel piles.[15] By February 2016, bidding was planned to begin by June for the four-year, then-$34 million project, though funding had not been allotted.[16] The MBTA Board approved a $56.9 million contract in October 2017; funding is split between federal and state funds. The 44-month project will require 10 weekend shutdowns of the branch.[17]

South Salem[edit]

In February 2001, the MBTA began two parallel planning processes for the North Shore region: a Draft Environment Impact Statement for the Blue Line Extension (DEIS), and a Major Investment Study (MIS) for other projects primarily north of Salem. The MIS, released in 2004, identified a number of possible improvements to the Newburyport/Rockport Line, including upgrades to current stations, grade crossing eliminations, signal system improvements, increased frequencies, a second Salem tunnel, a branch line to Danvers, and new stations at Revere and South Salem.[18] A South Salem station would serve Salem State University, the North Shore Medical Center, and residential areas south of downtown Salem - some of which were served by the pre-1987 station, but only by the 455 and 459 buses thereafter. The station was estimated to cost $12.2 to $13.8 million, with a single island platform serving the line's two tracks, and would draw about 600 daily riders.[18] Two possible locations were considered: one with access from Laurel Street and the platform running to the north, and one with access from Ocean Avenue and the platform running to the south.[19][20]

None of the projects in the DEIS or MIS was actually built due to lack of funding, except for parking structures at Salem and Beverly which were mandated as Big Dig mitigation. In January 2015, Salem mayor Kim Driscoll indicated her support for a South Salem station in her State of the City address.[21] A feasibility study, released in March 2016, analyzed four possible station locations, including three sites near the MIS locations plus one at Jefferson Avenue to the south. The station would have two side platforms and cost between $15 million and $20 million depending on the site.[22] The study received mixed reactions from Salem residents, including concerns about construction, lights, and trains idling near a residential area but also hope for improved transit accessibility and higher property values.[23][24]

As of November 2016, a site off Canal Street near Lauren Street was considered the preferred alternative. Part or all of an adjacent industrial property could be purchased to provide pedestrian access and possibly a small parking lot on the west side of the tracks, improving access to the nearby North Shore Medical Center.[25][26]

Station listing[edit]

State Milepost[2] City Station Connections and notes
MA 0.0 Boston Handicapped/disabled access North Station Downeaster
MBTA Bus: 4
MBTA Commuter Rail: Fitchburg Line, Lowell Line, Haverhill Line
MBTA Subway: Orange Line, Green Line
4.6 Chelsea Chelsea MBTA Bus: 112, 114
Station will be moved and made accessible in 2019.
9.9 Lynn River Works No weekend service; for River Works employees only
11.5 Handicapped/disabled access Central Square - Lynn MBTA Bus: 426, 426W, 429, 431, 435, 436, 439, 441, 442, 455, 456, 459
12.8 Swampscott Handicapped/disabled access Swampscott MBTA Bus: 441, 442, 455, 459
16.8 Salem Handicapped/disabled access Salem MBTA Bus: 450, 450W, 451, 455, 456, 459, 465
18.3 Beverly Handicapped/disabled access Beverly Depot CATA: Beverly Shuttle
MBTA Bus: 451

Newburyport Branch[edit]

State Milepost[2] City Station Connections and notes
MA 20.8 Beverly Handicapped/disabled access North Beverly MBTA Bus: 451
22.7 Hamilton Handicapped/disabled access Hamilton/Wenham
27.6 Ipswich Handicapped/disabled access Ipswich CATA: Purple Line (seasonal)
31.2 Rowley Handicapped/disabled access Rowley
36.2 Newburyport Handicapped/disabled access Newburyport MVRTA: 54

Rockport Branch[edit]

State Milepost[2] City Station Connections and notes
MA 19.8 Beverly Handicapped/disabled access Montserrat
22.2 Prides Crossing
22.9 Handicapped/disabled access Beverly Farms
25.4 Manchester-by-the-Sea Handicapped/disabled access Manchester
29.6 Gloucester Handicapped/disabled access West Gloucester CATA: Purple Line
30.6 Harbor Closed station; was open from 1977 to 1985
31.6 Handicapped/disabled access Gloucester CATA: Red Line, Orange Line, Yellow Line, Green Line, Blue Line, Purple Line
35.3 Rockport Handicapped/disabled access Rockport CATA: Red Line, Green Line, Blue Line



  1. ^ "Commuter Rail Ridership Counts" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. January 28, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Ridership and Service Statistics" (PDF) (14th ed.). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. 2014.
  3. ^ MBTA. "MBTA Bike Train" (PDF). Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b c T. Zabek (1 January 2010). "Eastern Division". Remnants of the Boston & Maine Railroad. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  5. ^ Hurd, Duane Hamilton (1888). History of Essex County, Massachusetts: with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men, Volume 2, Part 1. J. W. Lewis & Co.
  6. ^ Dodge, John (October 1998). "The railroad returns to Newburyport". Trains. 57 (10): 48.
  7. ^ Howe, Peter J. (18 February 1988). "MBTA OK'S FUNDS FOR SAUGUS STUDY REPORT WILL EVALUATE IMPACT, PREPARE DESIGNS: [THIRD Edition]". Boston Globe – via ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  8. ^ a b c Belcher, Jonathan (26 December 2015). "Changes to Transit Service in the MBTA district 1964-2015" (PDF). NETransit. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Mystic River Drawbridge No. 7, Spanning Mystic River at Boston & Maine Railroad Eastern Route, Somerville, Middlesex County, MA". Historic American Engineering Record (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division). December 1988.
  10. ^ Coughlin, William (25 August 1989). "Swing-Bridge Operators Drawing Down Curtain". Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 December 2014 – via Proquest Historical Newspapers.
  11. ^ Ackerman, Jerry (28 August 1989). "MBTA MULLS ASKING STATE FOR $6M:". Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 December 2014 – via Proquest Historical Newspapers.
  12. ^ Jessen, Klark (24 March 2015). "Beverly: Drawbridge Project Community Meeting April 1" (Press release). Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  13. ^ Oemig, Jennie (10 February 2016). "Contractor named for Beverly drawbridge project". Wicked Local Beverly. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  14. ^ "Commuter Rail Positive Train Control (PTC): Update and Communications Plan for Suspension of Weekend Service" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. March 27, 2017. p. 6.
  15. ^ "Gloucester Drawbridge Replacement". Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  16. ^ Lamont, Ray (23 February 2016). "'We need to get going on this': MBTA bridge plans to be outlined Tuesday night". Gloucester Times. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Contract H62CN03: Replacement of Gloucester Drawbridge over the Annisquam River" (PDF). Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. October 16, 2017.
  18. ^ a b PB/DMJM+HARRIS, Joint Venture (March 2004). "Chapter 3: Project Definition & Assessment" (PDF). Draft North Shore Transit Improvements Project-MIS. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  19. ^ PB/DMJM+HARRIS, Joint Venture (March 2004). "Figure 3-7: South Salem Station (North Option)" (PDF). Draft North Shore Transit Improvements Project-MIS. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  20. ^ PB/DMJM+HARRIS, Joint Venture (March 2004). "Figure 3-8: South Salem Station (South Option)" (PDF). Draft North Shore Transit Improvements Project-MIS. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
  21. ^ "Our view: New commuter rail stop is worth exploring". The Salem News. 11 January 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  22. ^ "Conceptual Design Presentation: Public Meeting" (PDF). City of Salem. 22 March 2016.
  23. ^ Luca, Dustin (March 2016). "City to unveil plans for South Salem train stop". The Salem News. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  24. ^ Forman, Ethan (March 2016). "South Salem stop gets bumpy first ride". The Salem News. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  25. ^ "South Salem Stop: Conceptual Design Update" (PDF). The Salem Partnership. November 14, 2016.
  26. ^ Luca, Dustin (November 14, 2016). "New train stop hinges on land access". The Salem News. Retrieved November 25, 2016.

External links[edit]

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