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Red Line driver injects humor into his work

Allen Freeman is a Red Line driver who is getting attention for his creative and colorful narration of what’s happening outside as he drives passengers back and forth each day.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Allen Freeman’s voice booms through the crackling loudspeakers like an announcer at a thoroughbred racetrack calling out which horse is in the lead.

“Doors-open-on-the-left-side-of-the-train. Ash-mont. Traaain. Ash-mont!” he says rapidly.

Maybe you’ve heard him before.

Chances are, if you’ve taken the MBTA’s Red Line, you have.

For 11 years, Freeman has been working for the transit agency. But the Boston resident has caught the attention of riders recently with his quirky narrations and announcements as he operates trains traveling between Ashmont and Alewife stations, and along the Braintree branch of the line.

“Ashmont-doors-open-on-the-right-side-of-the-train!” he yelled during a recent trip, his stentorian voice blasting through the speakers positioned above riders’ heads.


Passengers stared quizzically at the speakers, looking amused and skeptical. Their driver sounded like a 1950s disc jockey introducing the next popular song.

“Change-here-for-local-trolley-service-bus-service!” he bellowed. “This train —is — out —of — service!”

In an environment that begs for peace and quiet, personal space, and a quick and painless journey, Freeman’s voice breaks through the squeal of brakes and bustle of commuters. His peppy tone is a fresh alternative to the muffled, monotone announcements typically heard on the trains’ loudspeakers.

“[The job] is repetitious, and goes on and on and on. So you have to have fun with it,” Freeman said in an interview. “You’ve got to.”

Sometimes he speaks too fast, he admits.

“I’ll have to slow down and stuff,” he said.

But he never breaks character.

“It’s my own thing. You can’t mimic anybody. So I do me,” he said.

Riders have had a range of responses to his attempts at livening up the commute.

Passengers have told the 52-year-old that he sounds like an auctioneer, a DJ, and the man who does the voiceovers for movie previews.

One time, at Downtown Crossing, someone came up to the operator’s window when the vehicle came to a stop, and jokingly asked for his autograph, he said.


“I laughed, and he laughed, and then he left,” Freeman said. “A lot of people think it’s really funny.”

Others, however, have demanded that he be quiet, and cut the antics.

“This one guy said, ‘It’s too early,’” Freeman said. “You get some good ones and some bad ones. You have some negative people sometimes. I just laugh it off.”

Sitting on a Red Line train traveling from Alewife to Ashmont station Wednesday, Stacey Dyer held her phone and recorded Freeman, a smile rising from the corner of her mouth.

“It’s hilarious,” Dyer said as the train stopped at Downtown Crossing and she scurried off.

Reached by e-mail later in the day, Dyer told the Globe that she wished “someone recorded my facial expression when I sat down” on the train.

“[It was] a combination of ‘Holy hell, that’s loud!’ along with ‘Well, at least I can hear what he’s saying and it’s his own batch of vocalized flair,’” she said.

Dyer said she might give the sample of Freeman’s voice to her husband, who is a DJ, to “drop” into a future song.

On the same train, bound for Ashmont, Christina Carroll sat playing a game on her phone as Freeman narrated parts of the trip, and made announcements in his distinctive voice at each stop and prior to leaving the stations.

“It adds a little bit of something” to the ride, Carroll said. “I appreciate it when someone actually takes the time and adds a little humor to it. And they tell you what’s going on.”


Freeman likes being a train operator — it shows in his voice. And being the one who lets people know where they’re going is important to him.

As a kid, he said, he and his brother would sit on the Orange Line trains passing through the city and stare curiously at the operators through the cracks in the trains’ doors.

“Who would have known I’d be doing the Red Line?” Freeman said. “All of the sudden here I am.”

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.