A Recap of Events: Grand Central’s Centennial

Last Friday the MTA held a celebration for Grand Central’s Centennial, which expectedly turned out to be a widely attended day-long event. One of the main events was a rededication ceremony for the Terminal, held that morning. There were a wide array of speakers at the ceremony, including Mayor Bloomberg, Cynthia Nixon and Caroline Kennedy. Peter Stangl, the first president of Metro-North also spoke, as did Howard Permut, current president of Metro-North.

  
  

The West Point Brass and Percussion Band also performed, which seemed quite appropriate. According to historical accounts of Grand Central’s opening, the first song to ever be played in the Terminal was the Star Spangled Banner, which was not yet our national anthem at that time, on the east balcony. The band’s placement right below the east balcony as they played the song seemed rather appropriate, and probably the closest we’d get to reenacting what happened on February 2nd, 1913, at 12:01 AM. Also a fitting mirror was a presentation of a key to Mr. Permut by members of the Vanderbilt family – similar to the presentation of keys to Terminal Manager Miles Bronson one hundred years ago.

The only unfortunate thing to note is that much of the celebration was focused on the VIPs, as opposed to the lowly commuters that actually use Grand Central. (And for the record, no, running this blog did not qualify me as a VIP – I asked and was rejected. An “actual” member of the “press” granted me a pass in their stead. Thanks Steve!) VIP guests to the event got a special program and booklet, which are visible here:

Rededication ceremony program
Program for the Grand Central rededication.

Long poem in one booklet, short poem on this "Poetry in Motion" poster.
Two poems were written about Grand Central by poet Billy Collins. The long poem was illustrated in one booklet, and the short poem appears on this "Poetry in Motion" poster. The posters were not handed out at the event, but have been sighted on trains.

Booklet spread 1
Booklet spread 2
Booklet spread 3
Booklet spread 4
Booklet spread 5
Booklet spread 6
Booklet spread 7
Booklet spread 8
Booklet spread 9

The text on the inside of the booklet was the longer poem that was read by Billy Collins during the ceremony. The shorter poem, which he also read, appears in the program, and on trains thanks to Poetry in Motion and Arts for Transit.


Billy Collins speaks at the Rededication Ceremony

If you’re not familiar with Collins, he is a New York native that was both New York State Poet Laureate, and Poet Laureate of the United States… which in the poetry world is kind of a big deal. While I’m sure plenty of poems have been written about Grand Central, Collins’ poems may be the most high profile written about our lovely Terminal.


Well, Cornelius Vanderbilt is supposed to be here…

As of right now, I have little to say about the Transit Museum’s show “Grand by Design.” Unfortunately, a hundred years wasn’t quite enough to finish up the exhibition, and it seemed that things were missing. The fact that Cornelius Vanderbilt was not mentioned or pictured seemed like a mistake of monumental proportion. Apparently it turned out that Mr. Vanderbilt was supposed to be on that nice blank spot we’re all pointing to in the photo above. I was also disappointed that there was no mention of William Kissam Vanderbilt either – he was really the only Vanderbilt that had a direct influence on the construction of Grand Central. (If the Vanderbilts are still confusing you, it means you haven’t yet read this.) But in all honesty, I may have just been depressed that Anderson Cooper did not attend the event – he is a Vanderbilt, after all.

USPS Grand Central stamp

Another event that happened on Friday regarded the new United States Postal Service stamp, picturing Grand Central, illustrated by Dan Cosgrove. If you were one of the hundreds of people that failed to get the Grand Central centennial cover and stamp on Friday, you can purchase them directly online. Word was that within fifteen minutes they ran out of envelopes for the stamps. The whole purpose of the event was to get the stamp on the special envelope and get it postmarked… so I feel bad for all the people that waited in that line to get just the stamp, which could be purchased at any post office. If you’re looking to grab the covers with the February 1 date stamp online, the USPS site offers two versions for purchase, one with a color postmark for $21.10, or a regular first day stamp for $20.39.

Back on topic, the entire event was a big birthday bash for Grand Central. And no birthday celebration would be complete without a little music…
 
Sarah Charness played the electric violin, and later Melissa Manchester sang. Manchester also shouted “I love you, gorgeous!” at the sky ceiling, which might be cute, had I not been thinking about this.

…and a little bit of cake…

I hope you all like this photo, I dropped my piece of cake on the floor while taking it. And yes, only the VIPs got delicious cake.

The gorgeous cake was made by Eric Bedoucha of Financier Patisserie – a delicious confection modeled after the Information Booth’s clock. It was supposedly saved for the VIP dinner to be hosted at the Oyster Bar that night… which in itself is another mirror to actual events, as the first VIP dinner happened February 1st 1913 at 8 PM.

That about sums it up for the Centennial. With the ceremony past, I figured I’d leave off with a quick recap of all fifteen articles I wrote about Grand Central over the past hundred days.

Happy Birthday, Grand Central!

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Happy Holidays from iRideTheHarlemLine.com!

holidays
The front of our 2012 holiday card

Happy holidays to all our readers, and a very Merry Christmas for those who celebrate it! For those that are into history, be sure to check out this post of holiday Harlem Line timetables, and this groovy Penn Central holiday suburban schedule. Penn Central may be despised by many, but they certainly put out some interesting timetables.

Despite the holiday, today is of course Tuesday, and our final Hudson Line Tuesday tour will be posted, though likely later on this afternoon.

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Celebrating Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial: The 100 for 100 Project

Provided you haven’t been living under a rock recently, you may have heard that Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial is fast approaching. While Metro-North will be kicking off celebrations in February, I thought it would be more fun to get the party started now. That’s why I Ride the Harlem Line will be counting down the next 100 days to Grand Central’s Centennial with a historical photo of the Terminal. That’s right – 100 historical photos, posted one per day, for the next 100 days. I like to call it the Grand Central 100 for 100 Project. While there will, of course, be a few iconic photos in the mix that you’ve certainly seen before, I’m hoping that the majority of them you haven’t seen. It is a great way to visually explore the history of the Terminal, and to see Grand Central in a new light.

Grand Central is truly a monument of New York City. Not only is it functionally important – a great example of what a train station should be – it is architecturally significant, and paramount, an important precedent for historical preservation in the United States. Besides all that, Grand Central means a lot to me – and this is one of the few ways a lowly commuter interested in history such as myself can celebrate it. Grand Central, and its Centennial Committee, plan to hold their festivities on the first of February – which seems entirely appropriate – for the committee contains the rich, and the famous. Grand Central unofficially opened on the First of February in 1913 – not to the public, but to the rich and the famous. It was not until the gorgeous Information Booth clock’s hands moved to midnight, commencing the new day of February 2nd, that the Terminal opened to the public. Thus, February 2nd is the day that our project will be counting down to, one photo at a time.


A poster advertising Grand Central Terminal’s opening on February 2nd, 1913.

Our photographic countdown will be comprised of nine different topics, with the photos in each moving in a roughly chronological order. Posting a new photo on the blog every day doesn’t seem to be the best format in which to present these images – thus I’ve decided that the better place to post them all will be on social media. Facebook and Twitter are conducive to sharing – and I want you to share these photos. I want everyone to celebrate Grand Central and its 100th birthday – for it is our monument, not just a pretty building for the privileged.

Part 1: Construction of Grand Central Terminal
Thursday, October 25th

Part 2: Outside views, and the Changing Urban Landscape
Sunday, November 4th

Part 3: Waiting for the Train
Saturday, November 10th

Part 4: Trains in the Terminal
Sunday, November 18th

Part 5: Famous Faces
Friday, November 30th

Part 6: Around Grand Central
Sunday, December 9th

Part 7: The Main Concourse
Saturday, December 29th

Part 8: Noteworthy Events in the Terminal
Wednesday, January 9th

Part 9: Grand Central Terminal, Restored
Thursday, January 24th

So today, we begin. The first photo, and all subsequent photos, will be posted daily at 11 AM. Make sure to like or subscribe over on Facebook, or follow @mtaHarlemLine or the hashtag #100for100GCT on Twitter to see all the photos. There is also an unofficial countdown clock on the top of this site, which will link to the project photos, and count down to the centennial. We’ll also be celebrating with other Grand Central-themed posts over the span of the next hundred days, and will have something special on Grand Central’s birthday, February 2nd. Let the festivities begin!

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National Train Day – Are you going to be there?

If you are a railfan, most likely you’ve heard about the upcoming National Train Day festivities – provided you aren’t living under a rock or something. In the past, I admit that I’ve made a few cracks about this somewhat recently-established “holiday.” Amtrak declaring a particular day National Train Day almost seems to me as silly as Hallmark declaring a “send your loved-one a card or you don’t really love them” day (which in some circles may also be known as Valentine’s Day). Thankfully, the National Train Day celebration does in fact coincide with a bit of history – namely the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the US on May 10th (and as everybody knows, the railroads built this country). But with events to be held in Grand Central Terminal this year, I’m thinking National Train Day is really going to be an awesome event, and certainly worth attending.

In addition to seeing some pretty cool trains (and I’ve heard some interesting rumors…), all the foamers can also foam at Rosario Dawson, whom the Twitterverse has reminded me is totally relevant because she was in some movie about trains (I guess Denzel Washington was already booked, and marginally less foam-worthy). So be sure to mark your calendars for May 12, the Saturday date for National Train Day’s celebration this year. Events will begin at 11 AM and carry on until 4PM. In addition to Ms. Dawson, Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary exhibit train will be making an appearance – chock full of historical memorabilia.

As I know many of you, my devoted readers, will certainly be attending this event, I thought perhaps a get-together should be in order. Anybody want to meet up, grab a meal afterwards, or something of that nature? Drop me a comment, or send me an email at info@iridetheharlemline.com.

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We’re having a birthday party… and you’re invited!

April 10th will be I Ride the Harlem Line’s third birthday… Back when I posted about Mamaroneck I mentioned having a get-together at the Club Car when it opens. Well, according to The Loop, it is open! What better than to combine both things into one event? Although it sounds a bit strange to have a birthday party for I Ride the Harlem Line at an old New Haven Line station, but hey, we all appreciate history and a good train station, no matter where it is!

I would love to see you there! Unless I win the Mega Millions tonight, I unfortunately can’t buy you all food, so you’ll have to bring some money (sorry!). If you’re thinking about coming, either comment or shoot me an email (info@iridetheharlemline.com) so I at least have a rough idea of how many people will be showing up.

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Another side of Grand Central, views during Summer Streets

In two short years our lovely Grand Central Terminal will be celebrating her centennial. In the years that we’ve known her, she has relatively few undiscovered secrets – countless books, documentaries, and articles have told her stories to anyone curious enough. Sure, media outlets always present these as grand, never-before-heard secrets, but for the railfans, we know (and have discussed their veracity endlessly). One can be so caught up in the immense grandeur of the monument designed by Reed, Stem, Warren, Wetmore, and Wilgus (one must never forget Wilgus) that some of the most obvious details are completely overlooked. Perhaps overlooked is not the correct word – as on a normal day one cannot really get a proper look of the exterior of this grand structure. In fact, a closer look is completely blocked by the roadway that diverts traffic around the station – one of the details that won Reed and Stem the contest for design of the station in the first place. Unless you’ve taken the roadway around the station, chances are you’ve not gotten a chance to see up-close the eight-and-a-half foot tall likeness of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Nor have you gotten a good, full-frontal view of the massive sculpture on the front facade (the enormous scale of which is practically imperceptible from the ground). But there are days in which these views are open for all to explore, and to photograph. They may call them Summer Streets, but to me, they are a great time to view Grand Central.

If you are familiar with the concept of Summer Streets, the most typical image that probably comes to mind is a bicycle. For three Saturdays, usually in August, seven miles of street are temporarily closed off to cars – allowing bicyclists, skaters, and pedestrians to stroll to their heart’s content. Although the scene is dominated by the bicyclists, you will definitely see a few photographers (like me!) capturing the view sans the ubiquitous automobile. You can get up close and personal with the Commodore and a perched eagle, and roam around the exterior to see the New York Central (now the Helmsley) Building, which was once viewable behind Grand Central – until it was eclipsed by the Pan Am (now MetLife) Building in 1963.

Both the eagle and the Vanderbilt statue predate the Terminal, but have both returned to stand watch. The cast-iron eagle, with a thirteen-foot wingspan, once perched above Grand Central Depot, the predecessor to today’s Terminal. In the late 90’s the bird was discovered in Bronxville, eventually donated to the MTA, and returned to its historical home. The statue of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was designed by Ernst Plassman in 1869, and was relocated to its current home in 1913, when the Terminal was completed. The 35-story building at 230 Park Avenue, originally the New York Central Building, was designed by Warren and Wetmore and completed in 1928.

 
  
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
  
 
  
 
   

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Metro-North Shutdown to begin Saturday, 12PM

As you have most likely heard, the MTA will begin shutting down services tomorrow at noon in preparation for the hurricane. Metro-North will be included in this shut-down, and it is probably best to get the information straight from the horse’s mouth at the site MN has set up regarding the subject: http://www.mta.info/mnr/html/mnr_shutdown.html

These are the last trains that will be running tomorrow before the shutdown, as posted on Metro-North’s site:

Harlem Line:

11:48 AM train from Grand Central to Southeast arriving at 1:18 PM.
11:55 AM train from Grand Central to North White Plains arriving at 12:43 PM.
11:34 AM train from Southeast to Grand Central arriving at 12:56 PM.
12:08 PM train from North White Plains to Grand Central arriving at 1:03 PM.

Wassaic Branch:

1:21 PM train from Southeast to Wassaic arriving at 2:05 PM.
10:26 AM train from Wassaic to Southeast arriving at 11:06 AM.

Hudson Line:

11:45 AM train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie arriving at 1:35 PM.
12:20 PM train from Grand Central to Croton-Harmon arriving at 1:28 PM.
11:40 AM train from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central arriving at 1:21 PM.
12:00 PM train from Croton-Harmon to Grand Central arriving at 1:07 PM.

New Haven Line:

12:07 PM train from Grand Central to New Haven arriving at 1:54 PM.
12:10 PM train from Grand Central to Stamford arriving at 1:17 PM.
12:03 PM train from Stamford to Grand Central arriving at 1:09 PM.
11:56 AM train from New Haven to Grand Central arriving at 12:43 PM
11:30 AM and 11:56 AM trains from New Haven, which will make all stops to Grand Central.

New Canaan Branch:

12:57 PM train from Stamford to New Canaan arriving at 1:14 PM.
12:27 PM train from New Canaan to Stamford arriving at 12:43 PM.

Danbury Branch:

12:11 PM train from South Norwalk to Danbury arriving at 1:02 PM.
10:43 AM train from Danbury to South Norwalk arriving at 11:31 AM.

Waterbury Branch:

11:34 AM train from Bridgeport to Waterbury arriving at 12:37 PM.
10:19 AM train from Waterbury to Bridgeport arriving at 11:12 AM.

We all know the flaws in our train system, and there will undoubtedly be issues with service. The catenary wire system on the New Haven Line will cause the usual problems, with wires falling down. The Harlem Line always suffers from downed trees, especially on the northern portion of the line. Flooding is also frequent around the Pleasantville and Chappaqua area. Places along the Hudson Line are also prone to flooding. Any and all of these things could happen, and when service is restored is dependent on that.

Enjoy the weekend, and be sure to sleep late on Sunday. Don’t feel guilty about it – just say Mayor Bloomberg suggested it (which he did in today’s press conference).

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Squash in Grand Central

Hope everybody out there is enjoying this snowy Wednesday… Actually, who am I kidding? I’m sick of the snow, and I think most train riders will agree with me on that one. Let’s take your mind off of that with some photos from the squash tournament in Grand Central. The whole idea of constructing a glass cube for the purpose of playing squash in a railroad station is a bit amusing to me. But at the same time it feels like an appropriate nod to history. The tournament is sponsored by J.P. Morgan, a modern banking company originally named for John Pierpont Morgan. Morgan was a banker, as well as a financier of railroads.

 
  
  
  
 

The Tournament of Champions is held yearly in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall. Although tickets are sold for seats, there is standing room for visitors or commuters waiting for their trains to watch as well.

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Photos in New Milford, and Christmas Events in CT

On my childhood journeys over the river and through the woods to get to my grandmother’s house, I always passed by the train station in New Milford. I never thought about stopping until more recently, where I snapped a few photos. This Housatonic Railroad station doesn’t get much action, though there have been thoughts to extend the Danbury Branch the three more miles up to New Milford. Then again there have also been suggestions of eliminating the Danbury Branch altogether. Oh wait, never mind.

 
  
 
  
 
  
 

Today the station serves as the New Milford Chamber of Commerce, which hosts various events. The day I was there, there was a book signing and tons of people, so I didn’t go in to take any photos. An upcoming event that may be of interest, however, is the 23rd Annual Hands On Train Display, which will be in the station from December 18th to December 31st, 12 pm to 4 pm daily. The event is free, but is closed on Christmas day.
For more information about the event, click here.

 
Photo Credits: Danbury Railway Museum Newsletter

The Danbury Railway Museum always hosts holiday events, and Christmastime is no exception. Santa’s Railway rides will be running Saturdays December 11 and 18, starting at noon, and Sundays December 5, 12, and 19, starting at 12:30. Trains are every half hour, and run until 3:30. Reserving your tickets in advance is suggested. Admission is $8, which includes the ride, a gift, and of course, a visit with the big man himself, Santa Claus.
For more information, or to reserve tickets, click here.

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Who’s driving this thing?! What you need to know for Thanksgiving:


Thankfully, Metro-North’s engineers are far from turkeys… they’ll get you where you need to go, without the hassle of traffic.

Hopefully my readers out there are licking their chops in anticipation of a big turkey dinner tomorrow and not calling the Butterball Turkey Hotline to inquire as to the proper method to carve a turkey by chainsaw, or if thawing your turkey with your children in the bathtub is a no-no… If you’re not looking forward to getting stuck in the holiday traffic, there’s always the train…

Metro North’s holiday service begins today at 1PM with a early getaway trains, early service for tomorrow morning for anyone looking to get to the parade, and of course, extra service on Black Friday. All fares will be off-peak. Make sure to have your ticket in advance, no tickets will be sold on board on trains leaving Grand Central on Thanksgiving Day (and no bicycles either!).

Be sure to check out the page on Metro North’s website about Thanksgiving Holiday Service, and enjoy your holiday!

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