Woburn, MA (WOB)
The station, whose asymmetrical Victorian-inspired design includes a clock tower and polychrome brickwork, serves Amtrak, commuter rail, local buses and the Logan Airport shuttle.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2021): 5,897
- Facility Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
- Parking Lot Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
- Platform Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
- Track Ownership: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
The Woburn station is referred to as the Anderson Regional Transportation Center (ARTC), and serves not only Amtrak, but also Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) commuter rail, local bus lines, and the Logan Airport shuttle. In the fall, Amtrak’s Downeaster offers riders a dazzling show as the leaves outside the windows turn colors and produce a fleeting mosaic of rich oranges, yellows, golds and reds. On portions of the journey, the train advocacy group TrainRiders/Northeast runs a host program in which volunteers assist customers on-board by doling out useful advice about the train and the stations and towns along the route.
The ARTC opened in 2001 in preparation for the commencement of the Downeaster Service in December of that year. Although Woburn already hosted a commuter rail stop, the ARTC allows all regional and local transportation services to meet at one point and therefore promotes intermodal journeys. The station’s proximity to two interstate highways, coupled with ample parking, encourages travelers to leave their cars at the station and take advantage of rail transportation to access Boston’s core.
The 34-acre facility was planned as one piece of a larger redevelopment project built on a 75-acre Superfund parcel. Once considered one of the nation’s top-ten toxic waste sites, the land has been treated according to Environmental Protection Agency standards and capped to control pollution and facilitate new use. The National Development Company envisions the station as the centerpiece of a larger transportation-oriented neighborhood to include 1.3 million square feet of office, hotel, and retail space. In conjunction with the opening of the ARTC, a new highway exit was constructed and part of the retail and office component opened.
In designing the ARTC, Baker/Wohl Architects of Boston referenced the motifs and design features of the region’s historic train stations, such as a prominent clock tower and a deep eave supported by curving brackets that protects travelers from inclement weather while they wait outdoors for the train to arrive. The two story structure is dominated by a steep, gabled roof; at the second floor, it is broken by a long shed dormer that allows ample light into the office space located above the ground floor passenger areas.
Another gable fronted dormer tops the shed dormer; along with the tower, it helps to create an asymmetrical, picturesque composition typical of many Victorian-era depots. Other nods to Victorian design include the dark red and buff brick laid in a checkered pattern in the ground floor bays, as well as the use of red shingles to create bands of parallel lines that enliven the roof, the majority of which is laid in grey shingles. The siding on the shed dormer is painted a light pink and trimmed in dark green, a scheme continued on the brackets and the clock tower. All of these colorful design choices, especially the brickwork, are reminiscent of the polychromy popularized by architects such as Boston’s Henry Hobson Richardson. To the side of the clock tower, a pedestrian bridge provides access to the far tracks.
Inside, the waiting room at the eastern end is filled with light that streams in from the tripartite windows. Continuing through the large waiting room, an impressive atrium opens up to the floor above, and is encircled by a mezzanine that provides access to the upstairs offices and conference room. The exposed trusses that support the steep roof crown the atrium and show the roof’s method of construction. The ticket office, restrooms and a few retail spaces are located on the ground floor at the edges of the atrium.
The cost of the $10 million facility was split among the MBTA, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (Highway Division), and the Port Authority of Massachusetts. In addition, the MBTA spent $7 million to improve the tracks in the vicinity of the station. The transportation center takes its name from Jimmy Anderson, a young boy who died from leukemia. Through the efforts of Anderson’s parents and other townspeople, the presence of toxic pollution—the result of heavy industrial land uses—was highlighted, as well as its effects on residents’ health. Their fight became the subject of the book and subsequent 1996 movie, A Civil Action.
Prior to the colonization of the Massachusetts area by European settlers, the eastern portion of the state was populated mainly by the Wampanoag Native Americans; in fact, their name translates as “eastern people.” Wampanoag is a general term that encompasses a number of smaller groups, all of whom were united by their languages which were part of the Algonquian family. The groups were semi-sedentary, as different village sites were occupied during the year depending upon the season and the availability of food through hunting, fishing, harvesting, or planting. The Wampanoag encountered the Pilgrims in 1620, and thus had some of the earliest contact with Europeans.
Located only 11 miles northwest of Boston, Woburn is one of the nation’s oldest towns. It was formed by settlers from Charlestown, the first capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1640, a small group moved into the region north of Charlestown and called their settlement Charlestown Village; two years later it was incorporated as a distinct township and renamed Woburn. The name is said to have been chosen to commemorate Woburn, England, the hometown of one of the settlement’s patrons. The tract originally granted to Woburn also encompassed the later towns of Winchester, Burlington, and parts of Stoneham and Wilmington, all of which broke away from Woburn over the following two centuries.
The key challenge for early residents was to clear the land and prepare it for agriculture, a task made difficult by the landscape which was dotted with glacial ponds and swamps, as well as stands of dense forest including oak, maple, and pine. Since the Massachusetts Bay Colony was an organization founded on the religious principles of the early Puritans, the first permanent structures erected in Woburn were a meeting house and a dwelling for the minister who would oversee the spiritual life of the community. Each inhabitant was given two lots that included one for a house in the village and another further out to be cleared and planted. As in many New England towns, a Common was laid out and became the center of town around which the principle social and civic institutions were constructed.
Located close to Boston, Woburn witnessed and took part in the events of the Revolutionary War. The town remained primarily agricultural well into the beginning of the 19th century when the digging of the Middlesex Canal favored Woburn by running just west of its center. The waterway was backed by a group of merchants and shippers in Boston, New England’s primary port, and at Lowell, a town northwest of Woburn located at the confluence of the Merrimack and Concord Rivers. By connecting to the Merrimack River Valley, markets in northeastern Massachusetts and south central New Hampshire would be opened up to Boston merchants.
In 1794, Woburn native Loammi Baldwin, a carpenter and cabinet maker known for his mathematical knowledge, worked with British canal engineer William Weston to survey the route; a canal seemed the best option based on the success of similar efforts in Europe, particularly in Britain and France. Baldwin, largely self-taught, became chief engineer, designing locks and aqueducts and adapting construction techniques based on his budget and available materials. Through this pioneering work, Baldwin is considered the “Father of American Engineering,” and his accomplishment spurred on several subsequent efforts, famously including the Erie Canal.
With the canal came a parallel infrastructure to support it such as taverns, landings, mills, and other structures that animated its length. Woburn had fostered small tanning and leather businesses during the 18th century, but the opening of the canal in 1803 provided the spark that set the industries on fire. Suddenly, tanbark and other goods needed in the tanning process could be easy shipped to Woburn and within a few decades the town was known for its leather goods, especially shoes.
Although the leather and shoe industries grew throughout the century, the canal could not outlive its competitor: the railroad. The Boston and Lowell Railroad (B&L) was chartered by the state legislature in 1830, and the first trip between the towns—at one hour and 17 minutes—occurred in May 1835. Initial fares were $1 for first class passenger service and 75 cents for a second class ticket. Interestingly, Loammi Baldwin’s son, James Fowle Baldwin, helped survey the rail line much as his father had done for the canal. The B&L closely paralleled the canal bed and shipped construction materials along the waterway. With its completion, the railroad allowed for faster transportation of needed raw materials to Woburn’s manufacturers, as well as the shipping of shoes to Boston and beyond. Whereas the canal iced over in winter and halted trade, the railroad consistently ran all the year round.
When it first opened, the B&L was located east of Woburn Center. The railroad bypassed many existing towns that feared the smoke and noise of the steam engines and the possibility of fire from flying embers. Soon enough, Woburn merchants realized the error of their ways and petitioned the B&L for a branch line into the town proper, which opened in 1844; it was later built northward to reconnect with the B&L main line, thus forming a loop. Towards the end of the century, the B&L was leased by the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M), which through a calculated campaign of acquisition and consolidation, purchased and leased numerous regional short lines and competitors to become the dominant passenger and freight railroad in the far Northeast.
From an 1865 photograph, the first depot was a rather simple, one-story wood frame structure with a gabled roof. Covered in clapboard, it featured modest decoration such as door surrounds with plain pediments in the Greek Revival style. It was located south of the Common at Main and High Streets, and served the community from 1844 until 1867 when it was replaced by a brick structure that stood on the same site until 1886.
The third depot was built in 1886 on Pleasant Street across from the public library. Also constructed of brick, the one-story building, larger than its predecessor, featured a steeply pitched roof with a gabled dormer on the façade opposite the tracks. The composition was punctuated by a clock tower capped by a dramatic pyramidal roof with a decorative finial. A porte-cochere allowed passengers to be dropped off while protected from the elements; they could then proceed to enter the station or walk outside under a deep awning that circled the building and was supported by large, curved brackets.
The B&M began to shutter passenger services across New England in the late 1950s and in 1965 Woburn’s third station was demolished to make room for a new courthouse. The branch line from Winchester to Woburn Center remained active until MBTA commuter service ended in 1981; the line was abandoned the next year. In the mid-2000s, the Woburn Redevelopment Authority proposed that the former railroad right-of-way be turned into a greenway to accommodate bicyclists and walkers. Working with a group of landscape architects, residents envision a path planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers that will help promote new economic development and housing projects on the former industrial lands that once lined the tracks.
The impact of the railroad can be seen through numbers. An 1848 description of Woburn listed 70 or 80 houses and 4 tanneries. Roughly 300,000 pairs of shoes were constructed and shipped throughout the region. By 1865, partly as a result of increased demand for shoes due to the Civil War, the number of tanneries had grown to 21. The leather and shoe industries fostered other businesses, such as chemical, glue, and artisan tool manufacturing. The leather and shoe industries barely survived the Great Depression and changes in their business models, but along with the chemical manufacturers, they would leave a legacy of groundwater and soil pollution that the city is presently working to resolve.
Immigrants arriving in Boston made their way to Woburn to work in its factories and workshops. As the number of businesses grew, so too did the town’s prosperity. Residents strove to improve the physical and social fabric of their town and perhaps the greatest monument to this new spirit of civic improvement was the Woburn Library. The municipal library first opened in 1856 at the generosity of J.B. Winn, but did not gain its own building until 1879. Again, the Winn family was involved: J.B.’s son left the town $140,000 to be used to fund a new library, one that would be “an architectural ornament to the town.”
A design competition was won by Henry Hobson Richardson, a Harvard graduate who had studied architecture at the famed Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. In time, his oeuvre became known as “Richardsonian Romanesque”—characterized by squat, compact buildings usually constructed with unfinished stone in dark red, tan, brown, and gray hues. The asymmetrical compositions were often pierced by deep-set, round arches reminiscent of Medieval Romanesque structures found in Europe; polychrome decoration was also a common feature.
Richardson was finishing up Trinity Church on Boston’s Copley Square as he began work on the library. The Woburn building is an asymmetrical composition dominated by a 78 foot tower that abuts an entrance porch that shelters a settee and a commemorative plaque dedicated to the Winns. The façade, constructed of rusticated red sandstone laid in random ashlar, is accented with light gray stone trim. It features a central three storey gable and an octagonal room set off on the eastern end. The $100,000 building contained rooms that housed a gallery of the Winns’ paintings, reading room, book stacks with 24 alcoves, and a museum exhibition area. Luxurious stone carvings, rich woods, and homey fireplaces created a warm and welcoming atmosphere to foster learning. The lucky residents of Woburn still use this National Historic Landmark as their main library.
In addition to the library, townspeople took pleasure in the beauty of nearby Horn Pond and Mt. Towanda. The pond supported sand and gravel operations, and for many decades was a source of ice. A branch of the B&L skirted the pond and serviced the ice houses along the shore; in operation during the winter from the 1850s-1910s, the freight line carried the large, frozen slabs of water to Boston. The pond also hosted a public beach, and along the water’s edge remain marshes of red maple and cattails, as well as stands of trees much like those that dotted the landscape in the early days of settlement. The varied areas around the pond allow for everything from quiet contemplation to family celebrations and sports activities. A hike up 287 foot Mt. Towanda affords gorgeous views down to Boston’s skyline, and with careful observation, the remains of an old ski slope can be detected.
The Woburn Common remains the center of community life; overseen by the imposing portico of City Hall, its beautifully landscaped grounds contain many monuments to the men and women who fell in battle defending the nation. In 1869, a Civil War Memorial was erected at its center, setting a precedent in which subsequent wars and conflicts have also been commemorated in marble and bronze. The Common remains busy throughout the year, especially in late November as the residents hold the “Festival on the Common” to promote local service and civil organizations working in the community. The event includes singing on the steps of City Hall, food vendors, and hayrides in horse-drawn carriages. As night falls and the air grows frosty, the countdown begins for the annual holiday tree lighting and the highly anticipated visit by Santa Claus.
The Downeaster is financed primarily through funds made available by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.
Station Building (with waiting room)
- ATM available
- Quik-Trak kiosks
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- Vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible platform
- Accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- Accessible waiting room
- Accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- High platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift
Station Waiting Room Hours
Ticket Office Hours
Passenger Assistance Hours
Checked Baggage Service
Quik-Track Kiosk Hours