Traveling back in time on the Mattapan trolley

The trolleys that rolled out of Worcester’s Pullman-Standard factory in 1944 and 1945 are still rolling, seven decades later, along Boston’s most scenic commute. Traveling from Ashmont Station in Dorchester to Mattapan, they cross through Milton woods frequented by deer, coyotes, and all manner of birds. The 2.6-mile journey, cutting across Cedar Grove Cemetery and running parallel to the colorful murals of the Neponset River Greenway, is over in 10 minutes. The cars of the Mattapan-Ashmont high-speed line — named not for blazing speed, but for the dedicated right-of-way intersected only twice by city streets — have a history that dates back even further than their seven decades of service, says transportation historian Bradley H. Clarke. They were designed early in the Great Depression by the Electric Railway Presidents Conference Committee, a group formed to create trolleys that would serve cities across the nation. Of the 346 PCC cars originally purchased for various Boston lines, 10 are left, all of them plying this route. “They are the oldest cars in the entire MBTA system,” Clarke says.--By Lane Turner/Globe Staff
A trolley passes one of many murals on the Neponset River Greenway, which runs alongside much of the route of the Mattapan High Speed Line. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Deontae McLeod-Annon, 16, and Tina Samson, 17, share a ride. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Toggle switches control various functions on the train, including the ability to drop sand on the rails in slippery conditions. The trolleys have modern safety, communications, and navigation equipment as well. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
People stroll alongside a trolley near the Neponset River in Milton. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
The driver’s view heading west from the Central Station stop. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
The route passes through the Cedar Grove Cemetery. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
James Glass and his daughter Jatena Glass, 5, enjoy a trolley ride. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Trolleys pass near the Central Avenue stop. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Just before 5 a.m., a passenger waits for the first trolley out of Mattapan Square. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Trolley number 3087, the oldest regularly working car in the MBTA system, pulls into Mattapan Station three minutes early to make the first run of the day to Ashmont Station. The first scheduled run is at 5:05 a.m. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Passengers board a trolley at Ashmont Station. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
A trolley passes through the Neponset River Reservation. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
A trolley passes crosses Central Avenue in Milton, one of only two places where the tracks intersect with surface streets. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Just after 5 in the morning, Terry Aarons (right) chats with a friend on the first morning train out of Mattapan Station. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Walkers on the Neponset River Greenway pass under a trolley bridge. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
A trolley crosses a bridge overlooking the Neponset River. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
A trolley leaves Ashmont Station, extending the Red Line to Mattapan Square. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
A trolley passes under Adams Street approaching the Cedar Grove stop. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Boats are anchored in the Neponset River beneath a trolley bridge. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
One of many murals decorates the Neponset River Greenway beneath a passing trolley. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Passengers disembark at Mattapan Station. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Monfreda Pierre-Antoine rides an early-morning trolley. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
A trolley leaves the Central Avenue stop in Milton headed for Mattapan. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
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