Seeking double-decker trains out of Boston.
August 22, 2012 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Boston commuter rail double-deckers (bilevel trains). Can anyone confirm which routes and/or times are serviced by double-deckers? Neither the MBTA website nor customer service seems to know.

Outbound from North Station would be preferred, but I'll consider South Station departures as well.

Bonus question: which of those trains stop at a good destination for kids (7 & 4yo)? The train itself is the big draw, but if we have to kill an hour or two before the round-trip, I'd love to be near a beach/ice cream/playground/fort/train yard/museum/bookstore/what-have-you. Thanks!
posted by cocoagirl to Travel & Transportation around Boston, MA (14 answers total)
Best answer: I believe that all of the Framingham-Worcester line trains are double decker? Both Wellesley and downtown Natick have nice libraries very close to the train stations, and also ice cream/cafes/parks.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:22 AM on August 22, 2012

(plus the amazing Natick Outdoor Store is right next to the downtown Natick station, if you're at all into outdoor stuff or sports)
posted by oinopaponton at 9:23 AM on August 22, 2012

The Framingham/Worcester line only runs double decker *sometimes*. You might have better luck getting a double decker if you make sure to take a train that goes all the way to Worcester and does not just end at Framingham.
posted by calzone at 9:45 AM on August 22, 2012

The Middleborough/Lakeville line also has the double-deckers, but leaves from South Station.
posted by tenderman kingsaver at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2012

Best answer: Note that the Framingham lines goes out of South Station and Back Bay. I'm not sure all the trains have double-deckers but most of them do.

Also within walking distance of the Downtown Natick station is:

Palettes, which is some sort of walk-in and paint place.

Park St. Ice Cream. Yummy homemade ice cream

Casey's Diner, an original Worcester dining car with some awesome hot dogs and hamburgers. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Bakery on the Common, a decent bakery.

The library, as oinopaponton mentioned, which is a pretty neat combination of new and old, with the "old" library built into the interior of the new library. Hard to explain.

There are at least a couple geocaches downtown, if that's your thing.

A pretty cool looking fire/police station.

There's some history there too, if that's your thing. The old Harwood baseball factory is right across from the station, next to the Outdoor Store.
posted by bondcliff at 9:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I believe only South Station is able to accomodate the double-decker trains because of something about the infrastructure of the two different stations (tunnels or something?). I'm basing that on "I heard it somewhere" and also never having seen a double-decker train at North Station during years of commuting through it.
posted by mskyle at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2012

The Newburyport/Rockport line has double-deckers sometimes, but I have not been able to discern a pattern. Destination on the line: Salem!! Salem has a museum, many ice creams, lots of playgrounds, and a few beaches
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2012

I know the Providence/Stoughton line from South Station (and Back Bay) has them. I live in Providence and was commuting back and forth, mostly during rush hour, but sometimes later in the evening than that as well for the past couple of months -- always double decker.

Providence is awesome and is about an hour and 10 minutes away via the commuter rail.... not a lot around the train station though. The state house is beautiful (but probably not very interesting to young kids) and there is also Providence Place Mall within walking distance of the station.
posted by jorlyfish at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2012

There are two (that's right, TWO) double-decker cars out of North Station for all the lines going north.

Whether you happen to be on one with a double-decker is completely happenstance. Near as I can tell from being acquainted with a few conductors, the conductors kinda grab a train for their particular departure time and route. Sometimes conductors have a discussion about which departure time and/or route gets a particular train moments before it's announced. Once when both the 5:55 pm Reading train and the 5:55 Beverly trains were supposed to leave, the Reading conductor grabbed the only train available. Well, the Reading train had been more or less on time for the last week while the Beverly trained had experienced numerous delays (this was the winter of 2010-2011 with all that terrible snow). The Beverly conductor essentially told the Reading conductor she was taking this train (I know because she told me what went down) and the Reading conductor would have to wait.

Usually the trains leave from the same track each day (for example, the 5:55 pm from North Station to Beverly will usually leave from Track 1 or Track 2), but there seems to be no guarantee which train at which time will have one of TWO double deckers going north. And I think it has to do with how conductors grab trains, but I do not work for the MBCR and cannot say for sure.

But Salem is an awesome stop for kids.

I believe the trains out of South Station have more double-deckers and have had them for awhile longer.
posted by zizzle at 11:20 AM on August 22, 2012

The reason they can't tell you is because they don't know until just before the train departs. You can't plan because they don't do this according to an advance schedule. Conductors sometimes find out 20 minutes before departure that the train they thought they'd be on is being pulled out of service for maintenance.

Agree that Boston--->Providence is probably the most likely line for reliably double-decker service.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:19 PM on August 22, 2012

The Boston-Providence trip is also lovely.
posted by maryr at 1:32 PM on August 22, 2012

For what it's worth, the Needham Heights line to/from South Station usually has double-deckers, esp. during commuter hours. It's not the most scenic of lines until you get past Forest Hills but the terminus spits you out in a walkable city center which is scenic-ish and is near to ice cream shops and restaurants. Also, there is a stop in Roslindale Center which has nice restaurants/shops.
posted by skye.dancer at 1:47 PM on August 22, 2012

HAve also found them on Newburyport/Rockport but it is hard to tell when they're going to be in use. Rockport is a great destination. You can walk from the train station to the downtown, where there are two excellent swimming beaches without a lot of waves, a bunch of restaurants, touristy shops and stuff to look at.
posted by Miko at 7:51 PM on August 22, 2012

Response by poster: We've done Bos > Prov on Amtrak so I'd like to change up the scenery a bit. Thanks for the recs out to Natick. Turns out we're gearing up for a camping trip, too, so we'll check out The Outdoor Store and turn it into a run for head lamps and fuel before treating ourselves to ice cream. And I'll consider Salem in the future. Thanks everyone!
posted by cocoagirl at 3:27 PM on August 23, 2012

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