Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Harlem-125th Street

If you really want to argue it, you could say that Harlem-125th Street really isn’t a Harlem Line station. Sure, almost every Harlem Line train stops here, but the same goes for Hudson and New Haven Line trains. Thus it is technically a stop on each of those lines. Because of that Harlem-125th is a great train watching locale. Approximately ten minutes from Grand Central, you can watch every Metro-North train heading into and out of the city.

The first station at this site was built in 1874, but was later replaced by a new station elevated on a viaduct in 1897. The station was designed by Morgan O’Brien, architect for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad. Throughout the years the station deteriorated from leaking water and heavy use. In 1993 renovations began, and were finally completed in 1999, six years later.

Although I photographed one of the Arts for Transit pieces, there are actually two at Harlem-125th Street. Visible from the street is a piece by Terry Adkins, titled Harlem Encore. More visible from the platforms is a work by Alison Saar, titled Hear the Lone Whistle Moan. Saar is a California-based artist and has done public art in various cities, including New York, Sacramento and Chicago. The piece consists of three separate figures, each made of bronze. On the southbound platform is a young woman, heading to the city for work, and on the northbound platform is an older man, leaving the city and heading back to his hometown. Near the stairs there is also a smaller bronze figure of a train conductor. The artist describes the title of the piece as follows:

The title, Hear the Lone Whistle Moan, is from a spiritual that uses the train as a metaphor for the passage to heaven. Trains have often been associated by African Americans with escape and the Underground Railroad in particular.












As I’ve said before, I don’t really know what to expect when heading out to a lot of these stations. My enjoyment is to explore and photograph, and Harlem-125th Street was really great in that respect. With all the trains going by there are great pictures to be had, and I really enjoyed Saar’s artwork. Now having seen all the Arts for Transit works on the Harlem Line, Wassaic, Pleasantville and Harlem-125th are my top favorites. I’ll admit I was a little bit afraid going to the station though, as every time I’ve ever gone by on the train I’ve seen many police on the platform. Usually train photography and lots of cops doesn’t turn out too well, but thankfully I wasn’t approached by any of the police. Someday I’ll have to go back to get some photos of the other Arts for Transit piece, but those will be photos for another day…

5 thoughts on “Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Harlem-125th Street

  1. These are great pics. I’ve got a great love of the Harlem station because not only is the train-watching great because of all the trains coming through, there is great people-watching there, too. However, I’m always rushing through so I never really noticed the beauty of the iron work before. I will be sure to take the time to appreciate that the next time I’m there.

    Track 3 has a great view of East 125th Street. Even when I’m riding from GCT, I always try to sit to the right in a middle car of the train, where I’ll get a good view when it stops in Harlem.

    It’s a shame that there’s such a problem with litter there. I was once there early on a Sunday (when the street stairs are closed and you have to go in through the building). There was a homeless man sleeping between the staircases who was almost buried in garbage while he was asleep.

  2. Ah, if only you could call ahead to the Popeye’s Fried Chicken on 125th and have your order meet the train. That would be something special!

  3. Nice pictures! Sometimes if you ask the police in the booth that you like trains and there to take videos and pictures they wouldn’t bother you. Though it depends if a nice guy is on duty or not.

    I totally understand they have to do their job and keep us safe, but sometimes the MTA police or NYPD can be douches with a nasty attitude even when being polite to them and talking to them in a calm manner.

    Just remember photography is totally legal on any platform and as long as you tell them what you’re doing and being polite they cannot do anything.

  4. Love the station house on the street. Sometimes I drive up Park Ave, off the Harlem Drive to visit my friend and of course to avoid the stupid traffic before the Triboro Bridge ramps and I try to take a glimps inside it.

    Love the pictures you provide.

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