Westwood – Route 128 Station, MA (RTE)
Located in the suburb of Westwood, this station was one of the first passenger rail facilities designed to serve travelers arriving by automobile; the current building opened in 2000.
50 University Avenue
Westwood, MA 02090
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 450,301
- Facility Ownership: Amtrak
- Parking Lot Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
- Platform Ownership: Amtrak
- Track Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Located in the Boston suburb of Westwood, this station takes its name from a nearby limited-access highway that circumnavigates the western part of the city. The first section of Route 128 was completed in 1951, and the roadway is considered one of the first “beltways” constructed around a major American city. To capitalize on this new artery and its interchange with I-95, the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad—commonly known as the “New Haven”—decided to construct a facility immediately adjacent to the highway along its Shore Line division that ran between Boston and New York City.
Up to that time, most train stations had been constructed in city centers where they were easily accessed on foot or by public transportation. Completed in 1953 at the direction of New Haven President Frederic C. Dumaine, Route 128 station was one of the first passenger rail facilities specifically constructed to serve travelers arriving by automobile. Its main attraction was a sizeable parking lot used by commuters heading into Boston.
More than 50 years later, Route 128 continues to serve intercity rail passengers and Boston area commuters. Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains and the high-speed Acela Express link South and Back Bay Stations to Washington, D.C. via New York City. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Providence/Stoughton Line connects T.F. Green Airport and downtown Providence, Rhode Island with central Boston.
The current Route 128 station was opened to the public in 2000 and its construction coincided with major improvements to the north end of the Northeast Corridor, including the installation of electric catenaries to power the new high-speed Acela Express. The original station was located slightly to the north, and consisted of two small prefabricated metal structures—said to be adapted from automobile garages—placed on both sides of the tracks. They stood until 1965 when they were replaced with sturdier brick depots, which were in turn demolished once the present structure was completed to the south.
Designed by the firm of Frederic R. Harris, Inc., which specializes in transportation related projects, the modern Route 128 station is composed of intersecting volumes. Approaching from the parking garage, passengers enter a circular lobby that holds the Amtrak ticket counter and self-serve MBTA ticket machines. Throughout the day, the soaring space is brightened by sunlight as it streams through a central skylight. Beyond the lobby is the waiting room, which is contained inside a two-storey rectangular volume that parallels the platforms. Its form is echoed in the façade which is divided up into a grid of rectangles, some of which are metal panels while others are windows.
On both floors, tall bands of glass wrap around the structure, emphasizing its horizontal orientation while also flooding the lofty passenger areas with bright light that bounces off the highly polished floors. At the southeast corner of the waiting room, the whole wall is glass and offers wonderful views of the arriving and departing trains. Reflecting the building’s post-modern aesthetic, the ceiling is crisscrossed by ducts and electrical conduits, and the structural girders are visible, thereby revealing how the building is assembled and how its basic systems function. To access the northbound platform, passengers must take an escalator or stairs to the second floor and then walk across a glass enclosed bridge to reach the other side. The north and south bound platforms are sheltered by wide canopies that protect passengers from inclement weather.
In late 2005, a plan was put forward by two commercial real estate firms to redevelop the 135 acres of land to the southwest of the station. Much of it had been built over with light industrial and warehouse structures after the mid-20th century. The two companies envisioned one of the largest mixed-use, transit oriented communities in the United States, to include 1.75 million square feet of office and lab space, 1.3 million square feet of retail and restaurant space, more than 1,000 residences—mainly apartments and condos—and two hotels. Proximity to Route 128 and the train station were key components of the $1.5 billion concept, and it was believed that many people would be attracted to the area because of the ability to commute into downtown Boston via rail service. Due to the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the project was scaled back, and was under reassessment as of spring 2011.
The Shawmut Peninsula, upon which Boston is situated, was inhabited by American Indians as early as 7,500 years before European settlers arrived. The first settlement on the peninsula, begun by William Blaxton in 1625, was called Trimountaine due to the presence of three hills (only an abbreviated Beacon Hill remains today). In 1630, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony signed an agreement with the English Crown and a fleet under the direction of John Winthrop sailed to North America, arriving in Boston by way of Salem and Charlestown. Trimountaine was renamed Boston on September 7, 1630 in honor of the town of Boston, Lincolnshire, from which many of the original settlers came.
Within the first few years of settlement, there was a demand for additional land for agriculture and grazing. The coastal communities also feared attack from hostile American Indian groups, and so in the fall of 1635 the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided to establish two new towns—Concord and Dedham—about ten miles west of Boston. They would provide the needed space for growth as well as act as a buffer against antagonistic neighbors. Dedham was first known as “Contentment,” a word still found on the city’s official seal, but within a year it was changed in honor of the English town of Dedham, Essex from whence many of the early proprietors had come.
Situated between the Charles and Neponset Rivers, the Dedham settlement encompassed more than two hundred square miles of land that included dense forests, swamps, and bogs. For purposes of defense and health, the village was established on a plateau that ensured good sightlines for monitoring the area. The focal point of town life—the meeting house—was built in 1637, and by 1664, about 100 houses had been constructed near the center of town where the courthouse stands today. Other settlers built their homes further afield in locales such as West Dedham, later known as Westwood, where the oldest standing building is the Joseph Colburn house, originally erected in 1680.
As in all frontier communities, the first residents faced the challenge of preparing the lands for agriculture; with much effort, the rocky soil produced staple foods such as corn. Within a year of settlement, the residents of Dedham advocated for the construction of a mill along the Charles River. Ultimately, the river was determined to be too slow to support a mill, so town leaders began to consider a water link between the Charles and Neponset, which were separated by a drop of almost 50 feet that would be sufficient to produce water power for more than one mill. In 1639, the citizens of Dedham undertook the digging of a canal 0.75 miles in length to connect the Charles with East Brook, a tributary of the Neponset. Known as “Mother Brook,” the watercourse is regarded as the first canal constructed in the United States for industrial purposes.
The population of West Dedham grew so that in 1736 a separate parish was established to administer to area families. It was known as “Clapboard Trees,” probably due to nearby stands of timber used to fashion clapboard. Dedham continued to develop as an agricultural community with mills lining the shores of Mother Brook. As the century progressed, Boston grew to be the largest settlement in the American Colonies and remained so until the 1760s. It also became a hub of revolutionary activity, and many Dedham men participated in the skirmishes that opened the war between the colonies and Great Britain. After independence, Dedham became the shire town for Norfolk County, and a courthouse was constructed.
Towards the end of the 18th century, Dedham became an important stopping point on newly established turnpikes that ran through the interior of Connecticut and linked Boston with Providence. Taverns and inns were built along the roadside and became important social centers where news from other towns and regions was disseminated. New England was the first area in the country to industrialize, thanks to its quick flowing rivers and numerous ports. To better move goods, regional leaders became vocal proponents of the new railroads, and Dedham became a mid-sized railroad center served by various lines that allowed for the quick movement of freight and products from the factories along Mother Brook. In 1845, Dedham’s manufacturers employed more than 650 people making an assortment of goods including wool and cotton textiles, dyes, tin ware, cabinetry, and marbled paper.
Incorporated in 1831, the Boston and Providence Railroad (B&P) began construction the next year, and by summer 1835 had opened the line between its namesake cities. Although Dedham was not to be on the main line, city officials and businessmen managed to convince the railroad to lay a branch line from Readville to Dedham, and the first train ran over the tracks in December 1834. For the first few years, horses were employed to draw the carriages over the rails, but they were soon replaced with steam locomotives. A ride between Dedham and Boston in 1851 cost a quarter. In 1849, Dedham was connected to Blackstone, Massachusetts via the 26 mile long Norfolk County Railroad; it was later connected to the B&P.
In 1888, the B&P was leased by the Old Colony Railroad, a regional system with a focus on southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Only 5 years later, it in turn was leased by the New Haven, which became the dominant regional freight and passenger line in southern New England, controlling the prime inland and coastal routes between Boston and New York City. By the 1920s, the New Haven had more than 2,000 miles in its portfolio and it was estimated that it carried 10 percent of American passenger rail traffic. The right-of-way along the coast was known as the “Shore Line” to distinguish it from the main line that passed through Springfield, Massachusetts. With the lease of the Old Colony, the New Haven incorporated the B&P trackage into the Shore Line.
At the turn of the 20th century, small scale industry began to decline in the face of larger manufacturing facilities. With its ample rail links and open spaces, Dedham transitioned into a suburban community for those who could afford the daily commute into central Boston. As early as the 1870s, agricultural fields and dairy farms were subdivided and populated by handsome houses. Westwood decided to incorporate in 1897, and it was the last town to be born out of the original Dedham land grant.
One of the best known estates in Dedham belonged to Albert Nickerson, a businessman whose uncle and father had been intimately involved with the running of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, a major transcontinental network whose lines stretched from Chicago through the Southwest and on to California. Himself a director of the ATSF, Nickerson also invested in textile mills and other businesses, and gave generously to the town of Dedham.
In 1886, work began on the construction of a $450,000 house perched on a rocky ledge overlooking the Charles River. Known informally as “Nickerson’s Castle,” it was designed by the famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and completed after his death by the successor firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge. Featuring rough-hewn granite walls, the building was accented by numerous towers and crowned by an immensely steep hipped roof. Interior spaces were adorned with precious woods and fine marble. The family sold the property in 1921, and it is now used by the Noble and Greenough School.
In 1895, the Chelsea Keramic Art Works moved to Dedham from Chelsea, and renamed itself Dedham Pottery. Run by the Robertson family, it took inspiration from the contemporary Arts and Crafts movement that had originated in Great Britain in the last decades of the 19th century. In the face of increased mass-production of everyday objects, Arts and Crafts practitioners such as the Robertsons emphasized hand-made goods that were true to their materials and demonstrated artisans’ skills.
Hugh Robertson found great success with apple green and ox-blood red glazes, but it was white crackleware that made Dedham Pottery financially successful. Modeled after Chinese pieces, crackleware had a smooth glaze that appeared to be “cracked” into hundreds of pieces, displaying a pattern much like a spider web. The artisans at Dedham Pottery embellished each piece with freehand decoration in shades of deep blue, and popular patterns included repeating animals and plants. The company went out of business in 1943, and today its pieces are highly-sought after collectors’ items; true Dedham crackleware bears a painted trademark that incorporates a rabbit. The Dedham Historical Society retains a large and varied collection of the pottery, along with other fine examples of colonial era furniture and goods.
Today, Dedham remains a sought-after suburb, and many residents enjoy its proximity to the Blue Hills Reservation, a more than 7,000 acre nature preserve and recreational area that includes parts of Dedham, Quincy, Milton and Randolph. Named after the Blue Hills that surround Boston, the land was purchased in 1893 for use by the public, and permitted activities include camping and mountain biking. The reservation also hosts the Blue Hill Observatory, a small castle-like structure located atop Great Blue Hill, the Boston area’s highest point. Since 1885, researchers have made daily weather observations, thus producing one of North America’s most complete climate records. Groundbreaking research on atmospheric radiation, clouds, and rainfall patterns greatly influenced the development of meteorology and atmospheric science, and today the site is a National Historic Landmark. The observatory’s influence continues through its science programs, designed to help students better understand the workings of the weather.
Amtrak provides ticketing services at this station, but does not provide baggage services. The Route 128 station is served by an average of 40 daily trains.
- 25 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 2150 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- High Platform
- Parking Attendant
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift