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With problems mounting, the ‘Civil War MBTA’ account has returned to Twitter to address rider frustrations

“The [Orange Line] fire kind of seemed like an opportune time” to reemerge, said Brian Estabrook, whose account has built a local following.

Brian Estabrook in 2019.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Brian Estabrook watched last month as yet another nightmarish incident on the MBTA unfolded, when an Orange Line train crossing a bridge to Assembly Station caught fire and sent terrified passengers crawling out of windows.

It was then that he figured “it kind of seemed like an opportune time” to pick up his phone, and once again wage a tongue-in-cheek battle online against the beleaguered transit agency.

After a two-year hiatus, Estabrook’s popular Twitter account, Civil_War_MBTA, which fires off missives in the style of a Civil War solider writing diary entries and sending letters home, has reemerged.

Now, with problems continuing to pile up at the T recently, including the temporary closures of both the Orange Line and a portion of the Green Line beginning later this month, Estabrook doesn’t plan on putting down his digital ink and quill.


“Brother, Hope is forever elusive. I soddenly write from the riverbank. Our @MBTA #orangeline train has caught fire. Windows were shattered. We jumped in the river to escape. Tell mother and father I will not be home for supper,” the 30-year-old Malden resident tweeted on July 21, when the train caught fire.

People quickly noticed that he’d suddenly resurfaced, with followers rejoicing his return. The tweet, which included a picture of soldiers staring at a fire on a bridge as a train passed by, was shared more than 300 times.

For some frustrated passengers, they were discovering Estabrook’s humorous account for the first time, quickly declaring it a “new favorite” or calling it “priceless.”

Estabrook, who described himself as a longtime “history buff,” said he stopped tweeting two years ago because he had not been taking the train during the pandemic. Other more serious events were also ongoing and he didn’t “want to clutter people’s Twitter feeds.”


But during that time one alarming incident after the next plagued the T, and people started tagging him to weigh in with some type of a lighthearted response.

“I think one person said, ‘We’ve lost him to the hills of Gettysburg,’ or something like that, which I thought was very funny,” Estabrook said.

While Estabrook doesn’t entirely understand why the account seems to resonate with people so much, he suggested the “absurdity” of it might play a role.

“It makes people laugh,” Estabrook added. “I‘m really humbled by the fact that people keep thinking it’s funny, even after two years off.”

For a short time after the train fire he went silent again. But when the T announced Wednesday that the Orange Line would be shutting down for a month — a disruption that will impact Estabrook personally — he was compelled to launch the app for a second time.

“August 3rd 1863, Morale is low. Under the direction of @MBTA command. Shuttle buses are moving into position in preparation for the #OrangeLine railroad shutdown. This catastrophe is does not go unexpected. Onward we March to Forest Hills,” @MbtaWar tweeted on Wednesday.

Estabrook said the news Friday that the MBTA is closing part of the Green Line extension between Government Center and Union Square for four weeks wasn’t surprising. But at least he’ll have something to tweet about.


“I’m grateful they’re giving me so much material to work with,” he said.

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.