At the time of this writing, I live within sight of Winchester Center. If I open my front door, I can see the southern end of the station and if you’re on the west side of a train you might see my apartment in the distance. Therefore, I’m a bit too familiar with it as even a couple of weeks in I can tell when trains are coming inbound or outbound and can tell a Downeaster apart from a Commuter Rail train by vibrations alone.
Winchester Center in general is a bit of an anomaly in the Commuter Rail system, sitting on an elevated structure going through the center of town, looking more at home on Metro-North’s New Haven Line or the LIRR than for any Boston-area line. Even for the atypical former Boston & Lowell, Winchester’s central location is a bit of an outlier because it doesn’t bypass the center of town. These elements help create what could be one of the most charming and interesting Commuter Rail stations but it currently suffers for a few reasons.
Getting off a train at Winchester Center, you are emptied onto a platform which has seen better days with a lot of cracking paint. Your means of exit is a pair of long and winding ramps to the street which also have seen better days and are a miniature version of an old stadium concourse. The northern half of ramps exit right into the town center, the southern half exit into town parking lots (one on each side of the station). The reverse is true when boarding and to be honest for a cute and charming town such as Winchester the station which sets up the entire center of town can be a bit better.
For what it’s worth, Winchester Center is a good station for spotting the Downeaster (or any trains) and if the $5.50 of a Zone 1 fare is a bit scary the 134 runs once an hour to/from Wellington or North Woburn. If it was gussied up and looked like its surroundings I would be compelled to give a much nicer rating.
Station: Winchester Center
Rating (1-10): 5 for the station (but 9 for the surroundings)
Ridership: Lots of locals living within walking distance of the station with some people driving from elsewhere in Winchester and nearby towns (Stoneham and eastern Lexington mainly).
Pros: Regardless of condition, it adds to Winchester’s charm in a manner similar to, say, Wakefield and there is a ton by the station to visit. Bonus points for the Winchester Chamber of Commerce using their offices as a waiting room during rush hour in the colder months.
Cons: The station needs a renovation. Badly. The fact that the smaller Wedgemere right down the road got a renovation but not Winchester’s larger station is a bit odd. There also should be some ticket machines on the platform (as with all stations) and possibly modify some ramps to stairs and add an elevator. A mini-high should be a must but with Wedgemere just having gotten a mini-high and ADA letting Winchester Center off the hook this may be a harder sell.
Nearby and Noteworthy: Too many great things to count. Seriously. But to pare this down to a few:
Book Ends: Because independent bookstores in this day and age sadly are becoming a rare breed and this little shop is a thriving part of the community.
Black Horse Tavern: Top 5 of meals I’ve ever had. By far. Worth the trip and every penny (and I recommend the Cheggy Burger and the wings).
Winchester Wine & Spirits: I urge you to drink responsibly but my is this page huge and classy and right now they have an entire shelf of pumpkin beer which might have a post-Halloween run on it soon. No ice cider though.