Sunday’s big snowstorm prompted the MBTA to take its Mattapan High Speed trolleys out of service for two days this week. The vintage, orange Presidential Conference Cars (PCCs) were the only rolling stock in the T’s inventory that stopped rolling during the snow event— a precaution that state transit officials say is necessitated whenever heavy snowfall comes to town.
“The type of car- the PCC- on the high speed line are low to the ground, but they also have engines that are exposed,” said the state’s Secretary of Transportation Jeff Mullan.
“At a certain height of snow, it gets pulled into the engine and you have mechanical failure.”
Mullan says that other T trolleys — like the ones that service the Green Line— do not have the same vulnerability and ran without incident throughout the storm.
“We decided early on that the High-Speed line would be shut down and replaced with buses,” said Mullan, who said past experience with heavy snow has informed the shut-down decision.
The service suspension was announced by Gov. Deval Patrick during a press conference featuring Mullan and the governor, which was held around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Both Patrick and Mullan live in Milton and are very familiar with the Mattapan trolleys.
“The good part is that the High-Speed Line merits specific attention from the governor,” Mullan said. “It’s a big part of our operations. We don’t consider them to be antiques. They are critically important.”
Mullan was on hand on Tuesday as MBTA crews worked to remove snow and ice from the tracks in Milton and Dorchester in preparation for the trolleys’ return on Tuesday evening and even posted photos and video of the effort on the Mass DOT website.
The MBTA uses a modified vehicle with a jet engine attached to it to clear the tracks, a job that takes about four hours to complete, Mullan said.
“The jet blows heat and air on the tracks. It’s not a snowblower exactly, but it acts almost like one,” he said.
The fleet of 11 PCC trolleys has been in service on the Mattapan line since 1929. The MBTA restored service on the line by Tuesday at 4:45 p.m., according to spokesperson Lydia Rivera.