Some of you may have been wondering why the last month and a half has been silent here at (T)he Adventure. There are two big reasons why:

1: At the end of June, my wonderful job had a bunch of end of FY12 cuts which included me. They made the decision AFTER I spent $110 on an Inner Express pass. This also leads into…

2: I’ve started grad school which has made wanting to write about my travels a little hard. I’ve been traveling just that putting words to screen has been hard with greater concerns.

That said, the one upside to not working is being able to get content for the future and the huge perk save for the street-running portion of the E branch of the Green Line is Bowdoin, an enigma wrapped in a riddle under the guise of a subway station. Bowdoin is so special, it gets nights and weekends off! It also has a confusing name for non- locals; as a kid I pronounced this “Bow-doin” not knowing about the silent “O”.

If you’re coming from the North, Bowdoin can be a bit of a challenge to find. It’s lone entrance and (T) globe face southbound and are in fact easier to see from outside Government Center one station away. The entrance itself is a brutalist shaft that is easy to mistake from something else given the surroundings on the east side of Cambridge Street. Going underground, save for the CharlieCard machines and the new faregates Bowdoin looks much as it did in the 70’s and even in comparision to Government Center it looks very drab and dated and lacks fun artifacts like the Scollay signs or the PCC/LRV murals.

The actual platform is Bowdoin’s saving grace. A product of a different time, it is an island that from the faregates gets wider in part because a turning loop is right past the station. It also is uneven in terms of length with the inbound side being about 50′ feet shorter than the Outbound side and unable to platform an entire 6 -car train. As a result, this is the one place the “open door” buttons on newer Blue Line trains can be used and with OPTO now standard it might be a good idea to have these be standard from here on out for future Red and Orange Line stock.

Plans are being made to close Bowdoin when Government Center is renovated with a new entrance being built between there and Bowdoin. A byproduct of this would hopefully be an extention under Cambridge Street to a new terminal under Charles/MGH connecting it to the Red Line. Frankly, that would be a better terminal than the current part-time timewarp of tentitiveness. Still, go see Bowdoin while you can!

Station: Bowdoin
Rating (1-10): 4

Ridership: I’ve used Bowdoin twice, recently I boarded with five other people (all of whom tourists) and the other time it was three others. Most riders work in the area with a smattering Blue Line riders headed towards the MGH complex.

Pros: The general…uniqueness of the station. And maybe some of the timewarp aspects.

Cons: Why did they just stop here decades ago? They should’ve just tunneled beyond Joy Street (across from the Whole Foods) and have had a Charles superstation ready 80
years sooner.

Nearby and Noteworthy: Calling Bowdoin truly pointless would be an insult to The Red Hat which has been around since the heyday of Bowdoin Square. Everything else is either somewhat closer to Park Street (see The 21st Amendment and 122 Bowdoin Street, where JFK lived before becoming president), Government Center or Charles/MGH. Otherwise, it’s slim pickings outside of the Department of Labor and half their offices are closer to Haymarket.


5 thoughts on “Bowdoin

  1. A little-known fact about Bowdoin is that it was not always a terminal station. When it opened in May 1916 the tunnel extended further west to a portal at South Russell Street. By 1917 one could board cars for East Boston and Chelsea (they looped here) as well as for Roxbury Crossing, the South End, and Cambridge. Those trolleys used the crossover at Scollay Under to head back west, often resulting in delays to East Boston/Chelsea service. Ultimately, the El decided to just run one through line (Harvard-Jeffries Point) from points west of Bowdoin. The service from the east was unchanged. The conversion of the Blue Line from streetcars to subway trains in 1924 saw the end of service beyond Bowdoin. Local streetcar service in the West End was gone pretty soon after that. Work trains towing Blue Line trains to Harvard for maintenance would use the portal at S. Russell until 1952, when the Blue Line finally got its own yard and shops. Now you have phantom tracks that branch off from the loop that lead to nowhere.

  2. I love Bowdoin! How dare you give just a 4/10! 😛 In regards to the “why did they stop here”, well… It was a trolley tunnel, where they could either loop, or continue west, through a portal and then down Cambridge St. When they converted to heavy rail rapid transit, they didn’t want them operating on the streets, of course, so they just kept turning them. They kept the portal and tracks over the Longfellow, however, and they would “tow” the rolling stock to the Red Line (connection on Kendall side) and then to the Red Line yard near Harvard Square for any repairs or significant inspections/work. Once the Orient Heights yard was complete, it was obsolete. Eventually the portal was sealed, leaving just some tail tracks. So, way back when they originally built the trolley tunnel, there was really no need to continue the tunnel at all. 🙂

  3. Bowdoin is the only MBTA station (Silver Line excluded, but that doesn’t count) I haven’t visited. I’ve always thought it seemed rather pointless, and the MBTA seems to realize that. The only reason I want to go is because I want to try out the “open door” buttons, though I don’t entirely know how they work. Maybe some weekday before 6:15 PM…

    • The door open buttons are not that hard: Train stops, the LED circle around it lights up, you hit the button, that door opens. Good idea for any future fleet too.

      As for me, the stations I have left to visit (as in leaving fare control and exploring the area) are as follows: Wood Island, Orient Heights, Suffolk Downs, Beachmont, Savin Hill, Quincy Center, Quincy Adams, Jackson Square, and Green Street. Impressive bunch there.

  4. I recently visited Bowdoin, and saw that, while not “artifacts” per se, there were some pictures on the walls of Boston and Cambridge in the 1800’s. For me, it was interesting seeing what the city looked like back then, before they filled up the Back Bay and the city was surrounded by water.

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