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.
Brother,— Civil_War_MBTA (@MbtaWar) July 21, 2022
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. pic.twitter.com/eK2OgjhxJK
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.
August 3rd 1863,— Civil_War_MBTA (@MbtaWar) August 3, 2022
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. pic.twitter.com/Ig6BPYBT0y
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.
August 5th 1863,— Civil_War_MBTA (@MbtaWar) August 5, 2022
As the @MBTA shutdown continues to expand, #greenline wagon trains rendezvous with their #orangeline counterparts near Government Center. pic.twitter.com/h8iA7wtXUu
Dearest brother,— LOL MBTA (@lolMBTA) July 29, 2022
We had not heard from you for an eternity. While the news you deliver is tragic, we are rejoicing at the reassurance of your safety and spirit. We are here for you. Mother requests a visit before Christmastime. https://t.co/u4xvnHNwsN
General Baker and Corporal Poftak have failed our brigade and left us vulnerable to loss. We pray for the kindnesses of the locals and a yellow carriage to bring us to salvation. https://t.co/nhaXpeh2Vv— Erik 🇺🇦 (@erik_griswold) July 21, 2022
Today I have been blessed to know that this account exists.— Bondforged Fue (@balsamfue) July 21, 2022
But really, the MBTA is awful. This tweet speaks the truth. https://t.co/G8Y8CMwBWN
. . . https://t.co/ipSjDKUdl6— matthew (@iMatthew_) July 21, 2022
where has this account been all my life?????— wikiwombat (@pepperypig) July 21, 2022
The troops will need to pack supplies and rations for the long delayed trek. Some may perish under the long slow commute aboard shuttle busses. https://t.co/WztK8e4pWQ— Bacon Doughnut (@Mad_men_at_work) August 3, 2022
Glad this account is back in these times https://t.co/hCjSJzrDQc— Sean Philip Cotter (@CotterReporter) August 3, 2022
Shannon Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.