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…