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Beloved MBTA driver, tour guide moving on to new role with the agency

MBTA driver Tim Murphy is a light-rail raconteur, dispensing historical tidbits and witty commentary from North Station to Cleveland Circle and along the Mattapan Line. <b> </b> Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Ryan Collins was on the Green Line Tuesday afternoon when he heard a friendly, familiar voice crackling over the intercom. He decided to share his good fortune.

“He’s back at it again,” the 28-year-old texted a friend.

MBTA drivers aren’t generally a chatty bunch, at least on the job. But Tim Murphy was a light-rail raconteur, dispensing historical tidbits and witty commentary from North Station to Cleveland Circle and along the Mattapan Line.

“My job is pretty straight forward: It’s to get you from point A to point B as safely and as efficiently as possible,” he told riders as his train pulled into Boylston Street station. At 121 years old, it is the oldest subway station in North America, he informed riders.


“If I could teach you a few things, make you smile, brighten your day along the way, that’s just an added bonus.”

Murphy, 40, had built a loyal following over the past two years with his between-stop banter, fun facts, and friendly way, a welcome tonic to the workday grind.

As he approached stops, he thanked his fellow veterans for their service and wished everyone a pleasant day. On Tuesday, he quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“Let us remember to treat each other with dignity, respect, kindness, and love,” he added.

The subway can be a bleak experience, especially in recent weeks, but Murphy hoped his annotated trips brightened his passengers’ days.

“Positivity is contagious. That’s what I believe,” he said. “If I can have an impact on someone’s day if they’ve had a bad day or if I can make their day a little better, that’s the best.”

Sadly for his admirers, Murphy’s driving days are at an end. Saturday was Murphy’s last day before he was promoted to inspector, a role he’s been training for since April. He has been looking forward to the new job, but after six years, he’ll miss driving.


Before he became a train operator, Murphy worked in security. In 2013, he was checking bags near the Boston Marathon finish line when the first bomb went off.

Murphy was not injured, but he was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the bombings. To keep his mind occupied, Murphy began to study the MBTA’s history.

“As a way to keep my mind off of it I started learning the history, you know?” he said. “I was always into history.”

Even after he became a driver, it didn’t occur to him to share his knowledge with his passengers. But on the fourth anniversary of the bombings, Murphy’s train was stopped near Copley Square. He looked down at his watch: 2:49 p.m.

“So I made an announcement. I said, ‘Can I have everybody’s attention? This is going to be tough for me to say, but four years ago, 30 feet above where we are right now, the first of two bombs went off,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘I want to thank everybody for continuing to support our city and, from someone who was there, how much it means to us that you continue to do so.’ ”

Murphy then asked for a moment of silence. Then everyone started clapping.

“I didn’t expect that to happen,” he said.


Inspired, Murphy began including historical facts in his trips, like why the lines are named for colors and how Government Center used to be called Scollay Square Station, where Charlie in the old song “MTA” is trapped forever on the subway.

“Why did Charlie’s wife hand him a sandwich instead of just giving him the five cents he needed to get off the train?” Murphy asks passengers.

Alayna Pineiro, 24, said she appreciated how Murphy went the extra mile.

“I think that’s really special that he’s trying to be creative and come up with something to make everyone stay happy,” she said. “I think he’s a sweetie.”

Robert Blaydes, 57, who lives in Walpole and works at Boston University, said he learned six new facts in a single ride on Murphy’s train.

“When I heard the first announcement and little history lesson it kinda perked my ears up,” he said. “And then as they continued, it was just the most lovely thing. It’s just made the ride so enjoyable.”

On Twitter, sprinkled among the standard complaints about commuting woes, Murphy was singled out for praise.

“Oh my god, the @MBTA makes me insane on a regular basis, but when we get a T operator who has decided to also act as a historical tour guide for the trip, I’m borderline ecstatic,” Jenny Mackintosh tweeted in May. “Green Line (C) 3884 is where the party’s at right now!”

For Murphy, the best part of the job was seeing passengers connect.


“Before I really started doing it, I was looking in my mirror inside the car and everybody was on their phones,” he said. “I started making the announcements and one of the best parts is . . . people will start looking up, start looking around at each other, smiling, putting their phones down. It’s awesome. It’s an awesome feeling to see them start to interact with each other.”

On Saturday, Murphy’s last ride was on the Mattapan line, his favorite for its historic trains, beautiful scenery, and appreciative passengers. This week, he’s been thanking all his passengers on both lines.

“It has been a privilege, folks. This is my last week operating trains,” Murphy announced Tuesday. “I’m an inspector after next week. I want to thank you for being the awesome passengers that you have been for the past six years.”

In the middle of the train, a man smiled to himself, raised his hand over his head, and snapped his fingers in applause.

Lauren Fox can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @bylaurenfox.