Breda, The Type 8 Train Personality

Transit joke of the day: Fly the Honest Skies from the rec.humor.funny newsgroup

Regarding yesterday’s Breda follies, Liz says, You know, I cannot make heads or tails of that post. Liz lives in Australia, where (one assumes) it is the natural behavior of trains to travel on the left-hand side of the tracks. Not so here! (Somebody please tell the MBTA.)

I’ve decided to devote a new entry to Liz’s pointed questions. Real Bostonians may wish to move on now to, say, Bad Transit or the Green Line forum at, in order to see the T discussed with the proper level of obscurity, sarcasm, jargon and expletives. (Real Bostonians are the ones who give directions according to places that no longer exist, such as the Star Market on Comm Ave in Allston, the Arborway stop on the E line, or the entire A line.)

Liz asks, Is there a Boston Public Transport for Dummies book out there?
While there is a Boston for Dummies which can help you locate the tourist hotspots, a full understanding of the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, abbreviated T) can be achieved only through immersion and the purchase of the indispensible Arrow Metro Boston Transit Map.

Liz also asks, What is a Breda train, and how is it different from your average electric train?
More than five long, tragic years ago, the MBTA decided to buy 100 new trolleys from Breda of Italy to run on the Green Line. These trains are variously known as Breda trains, type 8 trains, or just the new Green Line trains. They have low floors to meet the insane requirements of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). You can see a nice photo of one here.

A caterpillar roll, by the way, is a sushi roll in the shape of a caterpillar, with avocado slices for fuzz, octopus suckers for eyes, and little orange antennae.

And what the heck is wrong with Boston trains, anyway?

For the past five long, tragic years, the MBTA has been trying to put the Breda trains into service on the Green Line. The early history of Breda follies has been recorded by Jonathan Belcher and Scott Moore. Over the years, both snow (didn’t anyone think to tell the Italians that it snows here?) and derailments have kept the Breda trains out of service. Every spring they show their shiny faces, derail themselves spectacularly, and go back to the garage. Extensive work was done on the tracks to make the city fit the train, instead of sending out to that nice Japanese company Kinki Sharyo (I’m not making it up) for trains that work, and still the Breda trains won’t run on the tracks.

Yes, the Bredas still derail, but the MBTA is running them this summer anyway. It’s relatively difficult to get news about Breda problems unless you’re on the train when an incident happens. The Metro did report the Hynes derailment; I was surprised to read about it because usually only those T incidents ending in death or dismemberment make the news. (A hint to the population of the South Shore: the wooden ties with long steel rods laid across them are train tracks, not pedestrian walkways or parking lots.)

If you think all this sound ludicrous, like a story of patronage and graft out of old Sicily or some third-world country instead of the day-to-day business of the oldest and fourth-largest public transit system in the US, then let me tell you about the Big Dig…

3 Responses to “Breda, The Type 8 Train Personality”

  1. LizBeeeee! Says:

    Whoa. Thanks — I’m enlightened. And feeling oddly proud of the Brisbane system. The only accidents we’ve had lately were a derailment five years ago (no fatalities) and, erm, a train bumping into a bus at high speeds three weeks ago. And that’s with single-track lines on three routes.

  2. Eric Talbot Says:

    The Breda Cars have once again proven that they are unsafe, as evidenced by the dramatic derailment of
    one of these cars at Northeastern University Stop on the E line on August 23, 2004. I think that T management
    is now going to have to review the engineering flaws of these cars very carefully. In the meantime, the only prudent thing for the MBTA to do is to remove ALL BREDA TYPE 8 CARS from service immediately. For me, this latest derailment is the last straw; I will no longer allow myself to ride on one. These cars have a fundamental design flaw which has not yet been found and understood. Whatever it is, it must be uncovered and remedied before these cars can allowed in service. Imagine the consequences of such a derailment if it had happened at speed on the Riverside Line, especially if took place while another train happpend to be passing it in the opposite direction. Casualties from such a derailment could be very high, AND THEN THE PROVERBIAL SHIT WOULD MOST DEFINITELY HIT THE FAN. Every regulatory agency in state and federal government would be on the T’s case then. Must we wait for a truly horrific calamity before these cars are removed from service? We’ve been very lucky, so far.

  3. Jemima Says:

    Thanks for the heads-up. I wrote a new entry about the derailment. But it’s not enough to avoid the Breda trains themselves; they make the platforms unsafe as well.