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History and Facts:

Trackless trolleys are considered the perfect hybrid between bus and trolley.  It has the durabililty and acceleration of a motorbus with the zero-emissions capability of a trolley.

The MBTA formerly had the fifth most extensive trackless trolley (a.k.a. trolleybus) network in the United States. (Click the link to view all of the trackless trolley routes.)  ACF-Brills and Pullmans ruled the trackless trolley network, which practically ruled Dorchester, Somerville and Cambridge from 1951 all the way until 1963, when the last trackless trolleys in Revere and Somerville were quickly replaced by diesel buses and the wires were taken down.

But that didn't stop trackless trolley service completely.  Service still exists in Cambridge, Watertown and Belmont.  Currently, the only other cities known to have some sort of trackless trolley service are: San Francisco (the most extensive network); Dayton, Ohio; Philadelphia and Seattle (dual-mode diesel-electric).

Trackless trolleys are stored at North Cambridge, at the corner of Cameron Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue.  On Sundays and select weekdays, diesel buses replace the trolleybuses.


4101-4128   Neoplan USA/Skoda Trolleybus (currently being delivered in 2004; all 4000-4049 will be retired in 2004)
1101-1132   Neoplan USA/Skoda Dual Mode Trolley Bus (for the Silver Line)

Trackless trolleys then

In 1951, many of the former "Type 5" trolleys were rapidly replaced by the PCC trolley car.  Rather than replace the routes with even more PCCs, several routes had their tracks removed and an extra wire added.

Pullman 8531 sits at Havard Station, waiting for passengers to head back to Watertown Square. 


Trackless Trolleys today

4015 awaits for its next run.

Prototype AN440LF-trackless trolley at the Skoda factory in Plzen, Czech Republic.

Unnumbered Neoplan trackless trolley at the Neoplan Manufacturing Facility in Lamar, CO.

Trackless Trolley 4101 in testing in Dayton, OH.  4101-4128 has left doors.

From the North Cambridge Car Barn at Cameron & Mass Ave, the trackless trolleys shares its route with Route 77 (Arlington Heights), Route 83 (Rindge Avenue), and Route 96 (Medford Square), as well as the Red Line and Commuter Rail at Porter Square.

At Cambridge Common, the trackless trolley enters the long Harvard Square bus tunnel; Route 71 (Watertown Sq) and 73 (Waverley Sq) pick up passengers bound for Watertown and Belmont at the lower level.  Route 72 (Huron Avenue) drops off its passengers and flies through the tunnel, makes the loop around Bennett Street, and descends again to pick up passengers from the upper level.

Route 71 and 73 ascend from the tunnel and make a sharp right turn onto Mt. Auburn Street.  After passing the Mount Auburn Hospital and Memorial Dr/Fresh Pond Parkway, Routes 71 and 73 meet up with Route 72 at Aberdeen Street.  At Star Market, the two routes diverge at the Korean War Veterans Bridge, which marks the border between Cambridge, Watertown and Belmont.

Route 71 bears left at the bridge, and crosses the line into Watertown.  The trackless trolley passes through several shops until it reaches Watertown Square.  It's much less a square as it is a crossroads of several streets: Galen St, Main St, Watertown St, Arsenal St, Pleasant St, North Beacon St, and Charles River Rd all meet here.  The bus continues a short distance on Galen before ending at the bus island, for connections with diesel buses over the bridge and on Main St.

Route 73 bears right at the bridge onto Belmont Street.  Although Route 73 is still in Cambridge, it soon enters Belmont a short time later.  At Benton Square, there is a small turnaround - this marks the split between Belmont St and Trapelo Rd.  The trolley bears sharply right onto Trapelo Road and continues past small shops before ending at Waverley Sq, where bus 554 (Waverley-Downtown) and the Fitchburg commuter rail wait for passengers.

Route 72 is quite different from the other two routes - it is signed as "72 Huron" but its terminus is actually at the intersection of Aberdeen Avenue and Mt Auburn Street; it boards on the upper bus level at Harvard Station instead of the lower level; and runs in a completely residential area.

Starting at Harvard station's upper level, the trackless trolley leaves the bus tunnel (under a giant sign that reads "No Trucks, Low Clearance, 12' 0") and bears left onto Mass Ave before bearing onto Garden Street.  Route 72 then meets up with Concord Avenue and travels about 3/4 miles to make the left turn onto Huron Avenue.  After crossing the Fresh Pond Parkway after approximately one mile, the bus bears left onto Aberdeen Avenue.

Trackless Trolleys future

The Silver Line began on July 20, 2002, with 17 Neoplan USA 60 foot CNG buses.  In 2004, the MBTA will receive 32 additional 60 foot buses, with dual mode (diesel/trackless trolley) engines for use to Logan Airport.  The Silver Line currently runs down Washington St in the former Orange Line elevated territory.  The entire project  - using a tunnel between New England Medical Center and the World Trade Center, and then all the way to the Airport, and finally with a connection at the Green Line station at Boylston - will be complete in approximately 2006.  For more information, go to (there is a movie there that tells you all about the Silver Line).