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By : Gannopy Urena

8 min read

Did you know there used to be a fifth branch of the Green line? It ran from Watertown Square to Kenmore Square, running through Brighton Center. Due to traffic difficulties and streetcar shortages, the line "temporarily" shut down in 1969. The 57 Bus route was created to retire the line, running almost the same route as the dead branch. Most of the tracks were finally paved over in 2020. 

What has fueled my obsession with this old defunct train line is the fact that so far, this is the only confirmable information about the route I’ve been able to find.

I first heard about this old fifth branch when I had a drink after work and talked to a coworker about my MBTA research. A woman sitting near me at the bar chimed in and asked, “Did you know there used to be an A Line?” I went home and immediately looked it up online and was only able to find a Wikipedia page, a buggy ad ridden website, an 11-year-old r/Boston thread on Reddit, and a reel on the MBTA Instagram page. There aren’t many relevant sources on the Wikipedia page. Every link I tried to click on the Reddit thread was dead. Every source on the buggy old website did not exist online anymore, not even in the Wayback Machine. I suspect the MBTA’s source for their Instagram reel was the Wikipedia page but I haven’t reached out to confirm. I even tried messaging Greg St. Martin on LinkedIn who wrote “Where did the ‘A’ Line go, anyway?” which was published on the Boston Metro website in 2010, so I could read it, but he never got back to me. 

After not being able to find much online, I headed over to the archives in the Watertown Library. I used their microfilm reader to comb through old issues of The Watertown Sun and The Watertown Press. After a couple of hours reading issues from 1960-1970, I found an article with a single mention of the A-line in it. 

I need to know why and how the A-Line shut down so badly. I want the budgets, transcripts of meetings, announcements, something other than dead links and a paragraph on a Wikipedia page. What officially put the nail in the A-Line's coffin? With the current state of the MBTA, it’s more than likely a branch might shut down and mysteriously never open any day now. Boston residents deserve to know their transit history so we can prevent the permanent shutdown of another branch. 

Since I don’t have the time or the resources to uncover this by myself, this is my call to action. If you or anyone you know have relatives who used to ride the A-Line, or have access to archives about the A-Line, or have any more information that I do, please reach out to me on Instagram @gannostream. 

—Gannopy Urena

Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #168 April 2024


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