Lechmere Viaduct

For nearly a century it’s been carrying trolleys and later Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) between Boston and Cambridge. The Lechmere Viaduct opened in 1912 and today carries the MBTA Green Line from the Science Park station (at far left atop viaduct) in Boston over the Charles River to Cambridge. The “land” on which the Museum of Science sits is actually totally artificial, earth fill surrounded by stone blocks, forming the old Charles River Dam, now replaced in function by a new one closer to the harbor. A spillway runs beneath the museum parking garage, out of sight on the right, and at the left end a now-permanently-open lock with a drawbridge on the adjacent street allows small boats to navigate from the upstream section of the Charles River Basin to the harbor. Among those boats are the tourist “ducks“, amphibious DUKW trucks that run from street to water and back for sightseers. A red one can be seen in front of the museum, through one of the arches.

The viaduct is high, to carry the rails above adjacent streets and to avoid interrupting service when boats need to pass. It seems excessive for what it does, a monumental work of concrete carrying a small light rail line, rather than heavy freights. In fact, for the past century it has only carried trains to one station, as Lechmere is the end of the line.  That’s due to change, with extensions to both Medford and Somerville planned, the first of which is due to be opened by 2015.

For railfans, note that the two articulated cars of this train are two different models, which is fairly common now.  The lead unit is a Kinki Sharyo Type 7, and the second unit is an AnsaldoBreda Type 8. The T8 is a low-floor model, which allows for entering the car without climbing steps.

I like this photo because it shows a large stretch of the viaduct, something you can’t really take in from the other side, and because of the way it leads into the buildings of the city. I don’t normally see the viaduct from this side, and for most of the day it would be heavily shadowed. But I took this last weekend when the overcast sky made for good lighting.

This is looking southwest from North Point Park (opened in 2007), which gives a good view of the viaduct. The photo was taken at f/13, with a 1/250-second exposure (to freeze moving vehicles) at ISO 400 and the lens set to 24mm for a wide view. The image was cropped to about two-thirds the original size to make the viaduct more prominent (removing some open water and part of the Boston skyline). The usual kinds of adjustments were made, lightening some of the more shadowed areas and improving color, contrast and sharpness.

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