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About the Lexington Branch

PAGE UPDATED:  AUGUST 30, 2012

This 1902 photo from the Walker Transportation Collection shows a Boston-bound passenger train at Arlington Depot.

The 10-mile Minuteman Bikeway was constructed in 1992 over the former Boston & Maine Railroad Lexington Branch. The Lexington Branch was built in 1846 between West Cambridge and Lexington, Massachusetts, passing through Arlington along the way. In 1873, the line was extended further west to the towns of Bedford and Concord.

Click here to download a 1923 B&M schedule of trains on the Lexington and Reformatory Branches. Mileage between stations is also shown. (PDF file format; 180 kb; 11" x 17")

The branch was an important transportation asset. The railway's connection with Boston prompted social and economic development in the small agricultural communities it served. At the peak of service, two dozen passenger trains and two local freight trains, carrying mail, milk and goods, operated over the Lexington Branch each day.

By the fall of 1958, passenger service on the Lexington Branch had dwindled to a single daily round trip. In December 1976, the B&M sold all of its Boston-area commuter rail assets to the state-run Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Just weeks later, on January 10, 1977, the MBTA elected to terminate passenger service on the branch after a severe snow and ice storm stranded a train at Bedford Depot.

The last freight train operated on January 31, 1981, when the Lexington Branch was embargoed to enable building of the MBTA's new Alewife Red Line Station at West Cambridge. "Rail-banking" of the line was pursued in the 1980s by the state in order to convert the corridor into a rail-trail. In 1991, the Lexington Branch was formally rail-banked; construction of the Minuteman Bikeway started the next year.

Only two railroad stations along the line remain today: those at Lexington and Bedford. Today, Lexington Station is owned by the Lexington Historical Society. Bedford Depot is owned by Bedford and is rented out as office space.

Click here for a chronology and photos of Bedford's local railroad history.

Read the unique history of the narrow-gauge Billerica & Bedford Railroad.