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With problems mounting, the ‘Civil War MBTA’ account 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 another nightmarish incident on the MBTA unfolded, as an Orange Line train crossing a bridge to Assembly Station caught fire and sent terrified passengers crawling out windows.

He figured “it kind of seemed like an opportune time” to pick up his phone and once again wage a tongue-in-cheek online battle 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.

With problems continuing to pile up at the T, including the temporary closures of the Orange Line and a portion of the Green Line 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, the day the train caught fire.

People quickly noticed his return, and his followers rejoiced. 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.

Some frustrated passengers were discovering Estabrook’s humor for the first time, declaring the account a “new favorite” and calling it “priceless.”

Estabrook, a longtime “history buff,” said he stopped tweeting two years ago because he wasn’t taking the train during the pandemic. With so much serious news going on, he didn’t “want to clutter people’s Twitter feeds.”

But as the MBTA endured one incident after the next, people started tagging him to weigh in with 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, he suggested the “absurdity” of it might play a role.

“It makes people laugh,” he said. “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 MBTA announced the Orange Line would be shutting down for a month — a disruption that will impact Estabrook personally — he was compelled to post again.

“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.

Estabrook said the news that the MBTA will close 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 post 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 @shannonlarson98.