HAVERHILL — Commuter rail service on the Haverhill line came to a halt on Friday after police discovered a device that looked like a pressure cooker sitting on the ground in front of a boarding platform at the Bradford train station.
The discovery triggered a flurry of responses from local police, fire, MBTA Transit Police and the MBTA Transit Police Department's Explosive Detection Unit.
MBTA spokesman Joseph Pesaturo provided The Eagle-Tribune with a photograph of the device, which had the appearance of a stainless steel pressure cooker with a lid and black knobs.
MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan said it turned out to be a type of sterilization device and when inspected was found to be empty. It was discovered next to a trash barrel and newspaper vending machines. A robotic device was used to inspect the container, officials said. Pressure cooker were used during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
At the same time police were investigating a vehicle had been left running in the station's parking lot. "Someone inadvertently left their car running," MacMillan said, noting that it was unrelated to the sterilization device that was found.
The roughly two-hour long incident that began around 11 a.m. resulted in Haverhill police blocking off Railroad Avenue, which leads to and from the depot and Skateland, as well as Laurel Avenue, which passes by the tracks for a short distance and connects to South Main Street (Route 125).
It also resulted in delays for commuter rail passengers after the MBTA stopped all train service on the Haverhill line.
MBTA officials said the delay affected one outbound train and one inbound train. Buses replaced the rail service between Lawrence and Haverhill.
For about two hours, no trains were allowed to pass through the Bradford station while authorities tried to figure out if the device posed a danger.
Drivers trying to enter Railroad Avenue to reach Skateland or the train station found the entrance blocked. Police said there were some children roller skating at Skateland and that the building was probably the safest place for them at the time.
By 1 p.m., Haverhill police had reopened Laurel Avenue to traffic, but local and MBTA officials were still on the scene.
Joseph Zappala, whose backyard at 15 Front St. overlooks the tracks, had a fairly good view of the scene, but from a distance.
"I've lived here 42 years and this is probably the most excitement we've had, other than fires and other unfortunate things," Zappala said. "This is kind of surprising."
The first train from Lawrence passed through the Bradford station at 1:13 p.m. after service was returned to normal.