MCR: What Is The Potential? (Part I)

Mass Coastal runs three crew starts a day: MC2 originates out of So. Yarmouth and primarily moves MSW from Yarmouth (Cape Cod) to the Covanta SEMASS waste-to-energy plant in Rochester. MC1 originates in Rochester, returning the empties to So. Yarmouth, and also servies the Upper Cape Regional Transfer Station on Joint Base Cape Cod (Falmouth) transporting C&D for out-of-state disposal via CSX. MC3 serves a mix of customers in Taunton, New Bedford and Fall River.


Cape Lines (contracted with Mass DOT)

  • South Middleboro – team track (minimal business)
  • Rochester – Covanta SEMASS waste to energy plant
  • Rochester – Costello Dismantling (scrap)
  • Rochester – MBTA maintenance and service facility
  • Falmouth – Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC), facility with eight active state and national military commands
  • Falmouth – Cavossa Construction & Demolition Debris transload
  • Sagamore – Gallo Construction transload including fly ash from Canal Electric
  • Sandwich – Mirrant Canal Electric power plant. Receives ammonia.
  • Yarmouth – Yarmouth-Barnstable Regional Transfer Station (MSW to SEMASS)

Dean Street Line, Taunton (contracted with Mass DOT)

  • Dean St. – Ventura Grain
  • Wier Jct. – Gallo Construction (salt)
  • Wier Jct. – Northeast Refrigeration (cold storage)

New Bedford Line (owned by MBTA; freight rights owned by MCR)

  • NBIP – Parallel Products [proposed] recycling transfer station
  • Sid Wainer & Sons (frozen food)
  • New Bedford Maritime Terminal( fish)

Watuppa Line, Westport (operated by BCL; connects to New Bedford Line)

  • Lansing Building Products
  • Colonial Wholesale Beverage
  • Dartmouth Building Supply
  • Mid-City Scrap

Fall River Line (owned by MBTA; freight rights owned by MCR)

  • East Freetown – Excel Recycling (formerly Millis Industries) scrap
  • Somerset Jct. – Ashland Specialty Ingredients
  • Somerset Jct. – Shell oil property (becoming wind power port)
  • Fall River – Wharf St. Yard:
  • Fall River – Line State Pier Co (Public Warehouse)
  • Fall River – Atlantic Shipping (covered hoppers)
  • Fall River – Borden & Remington Corp Chemical plant (tank cars)
  • Fall River – Dana Transport (acid tank cars/ covered hoppers)

Fall River – Gold Medal Bakery


A sluggish Class I connection out of Southeastern Massachusetts makes out-region shipping a hard sell. After delivery by Mass Coastal to CSX at Middleboro or Taunton (Cotley), CSX B726 local takes cars overnight to Attleboro, hands them off to B725 local to arrive Framingham the following morning. The cars then sit for the day before Q437 brings them overnight to Selkirk NY, where they are switched overnight and on the main line by the third morning. Each of these steps involves a switching cost of crew and facilities, and car costs.

Recent history: a win, a loss, and a (inherited) forfeit

The economy of southeastern Massachusetts has changed dramatically since the 1980s, mostly characterized as decline. Only in the last decade have the once-bustling industrial cities of New Bedford, Fall River, and others begun to show signs of rebirth. The Commonwealth has invested heavily in rebuilding the rail lines that had been allowed to degrade by disinvestment. Some former rail shippers are returning, but many gave up on rail long ago, and are essentially unaware that there may be a viable rail option.

MCR has resumed previously lost business from several substantial shippers. One example is the large Gold Medal Bakery production bakery south of Fall River. In 1980 Conrail brought 120 cars of flour to the facility, which has since expanded.

In 2016 Stop & Shop opened a 150-acre, 1.3 million sq-ft highly automated distribution center in Freetown MA, serving over 400 supermarket locations throughout southern New England. The single facility replaced the company’s two rail-served distribution centers in Readville MA and New Haven CT. The Freetown DC is very close to a spur formerly used by Polaroid and Algonquin Gas, but no siding has been built. If rail had the same market share of produce and grocery shipments as they did in 1980, this distribution center would receive more than 3,000 cars a year making it one of the largest customers in New England.

Of the nearly 1,000 lumber and building material loads that manifested in the region in 1980, Mid-Cape Lumber in South Dennis got 450 cars per year until the bridge at Bass River failed, and BCL chose not to repair it. In the intervening 40 years, Mid-Cape Lumber has endured and expanded dramatically, absorbing other lumber yards to serve the always-burgeoning Cape Cod homebuilding market. (The derelict Bass River Bridge span and abutments were removed in 2010, and the ROW now carries the Cape Cod Rail Trail over the river on an attractive pedestrian bridge – Ed.)

South Dennis MA

The Bass River rail bridge being dismantled in 2010. The bridge was built in 1865 by the Cape Cod Central Railroad along its 18.7-mile line between Yarmouth and Orleans. {Jonathan Mayo, The Poet’s Blog,}

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Associate Editor; Consultant for Rail Planning & Development
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Christopher has 15 years of railroad experience, starting as a Conductor on Cape Cod and 15 years of public policy advocacy and outreach work. Christopher is Executive Director of Vermont Rail Action Network, communicating the vision of better trains to elected and government officials, community leaders and the public. Christopher is a consultant for freight and passenger planning and development projects including operating planning, federal grant applications, marketing, and public outreach.