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Freezing temperatures delay trains, subway, and buses

The cold weather caused delays on the Boston-area commuter rail Thursday morning.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff/Globe Staff

This morning’s bitter cold is being blamed for mechanical failures that caused delays on subways, commuter trains, and on some Boston school buses.

Temperatures were in the single digits across Eastern Massachusetts during the morning commute with Boston dropping down to 8 degrees. Beverly fell to 5 degrees, and in Bedford, it was the smallest single digit, 1 degree.

In Orange, temperatures went into the negative: It was 10 below zero in the Central Massachusetts town this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The wind did not help things, either. Wind chills made Boston’s low feel more like minus 5 degrees, said meteorologist Charlie Foley.


The MBTA reported delays on the Red and Green Lines lasting 15 minutes.

In an e-mail, Scott Farmelant, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, which runs commuter rail service for the MBTA, said that 20 trains were delayed today by weather-related signal problems, with the most common cause being what he called a “code failure’’ that shut down train signals.

“This is a result of extreme cold causing signal systems to malfunction,’’ he wrote, adding that under Federal Railroad Administration rules, trains can only proceed when a conductor walks alongside it until they clear the impacted crossing. “There is no way to preemptively prevent a code failure or gate malfunctions,” he wrote.

He said the cold broke a rail on the Lowell line and a train on the Haverhill line was delayed when a freight train was disabled. At South Station, an MBTA train was forced to push a disabled Amtrak train back into South Station. The Amtrak train mishap caused “significant congestion’’ for all trains using South Station today.

The bitter cold also disrupted the Boston public school’s transportation plans, according to the department’s official Twitter account. “Some of our local school buses had trouble starting in the cold weather and we’re experiencing delays,’’ the department said on Twitter.


Milton’s Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory recorded its coldest temperatures in two years, registering 2 degrees this morning.

In Swampscott, a three-alarm fire destroyed a home on Andrew Road. More than 50 firefighters from the town and surrounding communities encountered frozen hydrants and other water supply problems. No people were hurt and two rabbits were rescued, but a dog and cat were still missing.

At 4:30 a.m., Boston firefighters battled a two-alarm fire in a brick building in the South End with temperatures at 8 degrees.

Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the blaze at 34 Worcester Square extended from the second floor to the third, fourth, and fifth floors containing five apartments. No injuries were reported.

Lauren Dezenski can be reached at