Monday, May 31, 2010

Boston South Station

South Station is a jewel of a train station. It's beautiful in it's own right, but especially so when considered in contrast to either of Boston's other two intercity stations: Back Bay's subterranean brutalism, or North Station's unadorned utilitarianism.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, looking at Amtrak's materials, more promotional photographs are seemingly shot at South Station than at any other station in the system.

South Station is bow- shaped with two wings. Stairs and escalators descend to the T subway station of the same name serving the Red and Silver Lines, at the middle of the bow, creating a smooth flow of foot traffic.

A new, naturally-lit concourse area was created some years ago by building a glass ceiling over the area between the two wings of the building. Cafe tables occupy the central part of the concourse, which also holds a newsstand, an Au Bon Pain, and a bookstore. The concourse almost has a sidewalk cafe feel to it, albeit, a sidewalk where a few hundred people periodically stream by.

Other take out eateries occupy one wing of the station. The ticket counter, and Amtrak's Club Acela for first-class passengers occupies the other wing.

I'm particularly fond of the Club Acela. It offers an opportunity to use a bathroom not nearly so crowded, or filthy as the one for coach, business, and commuter passengers. It is also in the most attractive part of the station. The attractively adorned ceiling in Club Acela is original to the station. It also affords a great people watching opportunity, perched as it is on the second floor looking out over the concourse.

The one thing that South Station lacks that would really improve it would be a full-service restaurant. There is a bar, Clarke's, which I would appreciate and make use of, but it is usually closed when I am at South Station.

A concise history of South Station can be found here:
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Dover Transportatin Center

Dover Transportation Center, recently built for Amtrak's Downeaster service, is a small contemporary looking building that nonetheless evokes the look of classic Boston and Maine Railroad Stations common to this region. Dover has one combination low-level and high-level platform for the single-track serving the station. There is a wheelchair ramp up to the high-level portion of the platform.

Dover Transportation Center is served only by Amtrak Downeaster trains. The Downeaster service operates trains between North Station in Boston and Portland, making several stops along the way in New Hampshire and Maine's seacoast region. The cafe car on Downeaster trains serves regional foods adding such items as Maine's Shipyard Ale and Gearyaks to Sam Adams Boston Lager, which is also available on Northeast Corridor trains, and soups such clam chowder and lobster bisque.
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Children's Museum of New Hampshire

The Children's Museum of New Hampshire moved to it's current location on the Cocheco River in Dover two years ago, having previously been the Children's Museum of Portsmouth for twenty-five years.

The whole facility has a much newer look to it compared to the previous location's more worn and homemade appearance. Several exhibits have been carried over including the post office window, the Music Matrix, and the Greek restaurant. Gone is the space shuttle cockpit. The much loved yellow submarine, great for climbing on and hiding in it's nooks and crannies, has been replaced with a more submarine-like yellow submarine without places to climb or hide.

The museum exhibit area is a single, open room with a ramp rising to a second level loft.

There is a lunch room with a vending machine, and a gift shop on site, but eating out will require going to one of the many restaurants nearby.

www.childrens-museum.org6 Washington Street Dover, NH 03820
(603) 436-3853
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Boston North Station

Boston North Station is a very new, and purely utilitarian train station. It sits at ground level, under TD Bank (Boston) Gardens arena. Adjacent to the North Station is a T Station of the same name served by T Orange and Green Line trains.

North Station is served by MBTA Commuter Rail and Amtrak Downeaster trains that serve destinations in New Hampshire and Maine.

North Station has a digital train information board that plays pre-recorded flipping sounds as the information on the board is updating.

If you are hungry or thirsty, and in a hurry, North Station is a good place to be with several quick-service food options. There's a Dunkin Donuts, where you can get your coffee "regula" (cream and sugar). There's a McDonald's, a convenience store selling snacks and bottled drinks, an ice cream stand, and even a bar (Maker's Mark Crossing).

North Station has plenty of seating, but many people there can be seen standing as they wait to see which platform their train will be departing from.

When a game or other event is being held in the arena, traffic in and out of the station can get congested.

Someone at North Station has a sense of humor: there are signs on the ceiling that read "Danger Do Not Stand on the Ceiling."

Trains departing North Station cross the Charles River with views of the Boston Museum of Science and Cambridge to the West before proceeding on lines built by the former Boston and Maine Railroad.
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Melrose-Cedar Park

Inspired by Metro Venture ( blogger Emily HaHa (recently profiled in WashPo - link forthcoming), I've decided to start writing about train stations much the way she's been writing about D.C. Metro stations, and bus routes.

Not a train station, just a stop on the MBTA Commuter Rail Haverhill line. Melrose-Cedar Park has low level, canopied platforms, and metered parking, adjacent to the eponymous Cedar Park on West Emerson Street in Melrose. A few blocks away from the central business district along Main Street, there is, nonetheless a convenience store, bakery, coffee shop, pizza takeout, and a few other businesses within a block of this stop.
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