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Archive for the ‘Train Stories’ Category

Exploring the 4: Arts for Transit Glasswork in the Bronx, Part 2 Train Photos

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Continuing along on our tour of the 4 line’s Arts for Transit glasswork are five more stations – each with a unique piece of art that adds color to the urban landscape.

183rd Street

Artist: Jose Ortiz

Title: Many Trails

Found in the mezzanine area of the station, the glassword at 183rd Street depicts scenes from the area, both from the past and present. The title of the piece derives from the symbol depicted on the first panel of the piece – it is the Mohican “Many Trails” symbol. The meaning behind the symbol is described as thus:

The design symbolizes the endurance, strength, and hope of a long-suffering, proud, and determined people. The curved shape represents the arms of a man raised in prayer. the circles represent many campfires. The lines represent the many trails taken from the time the Indians left their ancestral homes.

Some of the scenes depicted in the piece are the lands once inhabited by the Siwanoy Nation (a branch of the Mohicans) in the 1600s, the Croton Aqueduct, St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, and the Hall of Fame for Great Americans at Bronx Community College.

  
 
  

176th Street

Artist: Juan Sanchez

Title: Reaching Out For Each Other

Originally designed with shaped bits of colored paper, Sanchez’s artwork features hands reaching out. Although the shapes are simple, they are easily recognizable, and add splashes of brilliant color to the platform and mezzanine areas of the station.

From artwork to faceted glass
Translated from paper to faceted glass – at left, one of Sanchez’s original works, at right, the same art in glass installed at the station.

  
 
   
  
 

Mount Eden Avenue

Artist: Amir Bey

Title: The Procession of Folk #3

At Mount Eden Avenue you’ll find colorful faces rendered in faceted glass on both the platform and lower entrance areas to the station. While the ones on the platform are certainly nice, the lower ones really shine – passing light projects the colors of the glass onto the floor. Each face represents a specific individual, someone known to the artist, and symbolizes the uniqueness of each rider that passes by.

  
   
  

170th Street

Artist: Dina Bursztyn

Title: Views from Above

Next along the line is “Views from Above” – which like Mount Eden Avenue is located on the platform and also downstairs in the station’s entrances. Bursztyn makes a little play on how the stations at the end of the 4 line are all elevated, depicting plants and animals in a similar elevated perspective. The brilliant colors of the faceted glass echo the colors of the sky seen from the elevated platform during sunrises and sunsets.

  
 
   
  

167th Street

Artist: Carol Sun

Title: A Bronx Reflection

Last, but certainly not least, is “A Bronx Reflection” – definitely one of the more beautiful bits of glass on the 4 line, if not the most beautiful. Installed in the station’s lower passageway, twelve colorful panels reflect a vision of growing up in the Bronx. Featuring text in both English and Spanish, the piece depicts animals, plants, schools, shops, and churches – culminating with a view from a window, complete with a steaming mug of coffee. All of these are scenes plucked from the memories of the artist, a Chinese-American artist who grew up in the Bronx, and teaches art to high-schoolers there today.

 
  
   
 
  
   
 

That wraps up the glass art found on the 4 Line… There are plenty of other Arts for Transit pieces along the line, but I’m featuring my favorite medium. While mosaics and other such pieces are certainly lovely, faceted glass has a unique ability to transcend the wall on which it is placed. As the daylight changes and the sun’s rays reflect through the glass, colors are projected onto the platform, providing an ever changing view.

Arts for Transit is a wonderful program, and if you’re interested in some of the other things you might find at various MTA transit stations, they have an app that you can download documenting the various art along the way. Coming this fall, a second edition of the book “Along the Way: MTA Arts for Transit” will be hitting the shelves, which will contain a photo or two of mine as well.

Exploring the 4: Arts for Transit Glasswork in the Bronx Train Photos

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

As has been readily established on this blog, I’m not much of a fan of subways. The subterranean lack of light has never been of much intrigue to me, though I do find some interest in the stations located above ground. Many of New York City’s above-ground subway stations feature attractive stained glass art, through the Arts for Transit program. While I thought it might be interesting to do a post featuring some of the attractive stained glass found on the subway, I ended up with a whole lot more material than I anticipated.

Though we won’t be going as in-depth as my previous tours of Metro-North stations, I did think it would be fun to tour some of the above-ground sections of the NYC subway, focusing on the glass art found at various stations. When trains went back underground – I bailed – and when the art wasn’t glass in the windows or windscreens, I skipped it.

We’ll start our exploration on the 4 Line. If you’re interested in joining up via Metro-North, board a Bronx-bound 4 train to Woodlawn from Grand Central or Harlem-125th Street. We’ll be starting at Woodlawn – the end of the line – and working our way down.

Woodlawn

Artist: Josie Gonzalez Albright

Title: Children at Play

Situated at the very end of the 4 line in the Bronx, Woodlawn’s Arts for Transit piece is located below platform level by the entrance turnstiles. Surrounded by bold colors, children created from faceted glass play across multiple panels. The panels were designed by Josie Gonzalez Albright, a local painter that frequently depicts people in their everyday surroundings. The work was especially inspired by the abundance of park area that surrounds the station.

The subway station itself is most noteworthy for being a connection from Harlem to the Woodlawn Cemetery, the final resting place of icons like Miles Davis. It is also the absolute end of the 4 Line – the tracks end here with yellow bumping blocks.

 
  
  
 

Mosholu Parkway

Artist: Corinne Grondahl

Title: Metromorphosis / Birth of a Station

Bronx textile artist Corinne Grondahl’s bold Arts for Transit piece can be found at Mosholu Parkway station, on both sides of the platform. The work focuses on the passage of time, and changes over time, a concept derived from the original meaning of the word mosholu.

From the Algonquin language, mosholu refers to smooth stones, created by rivers flowing over rocks, and was first used to describe the nearby creek now known as Tibbetts Brook. Grondahl’s colorful swirls of reds and blues are displayed across fourteen fused glass panels, which are a part of the windscreens on both sides of the platform.
Corinne Grondahl
Artist Corinne Grondahl with her Arts for Transit work, photo by nyperson

 
  
   
 
 

Kingsbridge Road

Artist: Mario M. Muller

Title: Urban Motif

From afar one may see the laminated glass panels at Kingsbridge Road and think they depict simple silhouettes, but up close viewing reveals that the simple silhouettes are in fact made of elaborate, colorful brushstrokes. Designed by New York artist that now lives and works in LA, Mario M. Muller, Urban Motif shows the crowds that typically surround the station over the passage of time through both silhouettes and shadows.

 
  
 

Fordham Road

Artist: Moses Ros

Title: Patriasana / Wholesomeland

Bronx artist and architect Moses Ros is behind Fordham Road’s colorful Arts for Transit piece, located in the windows of the station’s mezzanine. Made of faceted and laminated glass arranged in between panels of regular windows, the piece allows you to see Fordham Road’s bustle, side by side with Ros’ artistic renditions of the wares one can purchase on the street.

 
  
  
 
 

That wraps up today’s exploration of the 4 line, next week we’ll be back with some photos of the attractive Arts for Transit pieces at 183rd Street, 176th Street, Mount Eden, 170th Street and 167th Street.

Above-Ground on the “Underground” – Berlin’s U3 Train Photos

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Last week’s post featured photos from the Oberbaum Bridge as an introduction to Berlin’s above-ground “Underground” stations. This time we’re taking a look at some more of these above-ground stations, with a focus on the U3 Line. If I had to pick my favorite U-Bahn line, the U3 would probably be it. Not only does it include some of the system’s oldest stations, it has a great mix of beautifully designed underground stations and tree-lined above-ground stations.

Trains are plentiful in the German city of Berlin, with the both the S-Bahn, and the U-Bahn, along with all the other longer distance trains that pass through. There is a general misconception that the S-Bahn is all above-ground, and the U-Bahn all underground (after all, the U does stand for untergrund), but despite that moniker, the U-Bahn has plenty of stations that catch the rays of the sun.

Map of the U3 Line
Map of the U3 Line, showing the above and below ground stations.

The U3 Line starts at Nollendorfplatz station, which has trains running not only above ground, but above street level on a viaduct (the station serves four lines, so some do in fact operate underground). The above-ground portion of the station is known for its glass dome, a replica of the original that was destroyed in the war. Continuing on, the next noteworthy station is Wittenbergplatz, which operates underground, but has an attractive station house above. The station itself opened in 1902, making it one of the oldest U-Bahn stations, but the above-ground entrance was completed several years later in 1913.

The U3 line operates underground until it reaches Podbielskiallee station – the final six stations on the line are all above ground. Dahlem-Dorf station, originally constructed in 1913, is modeled after an old German thatch-roofed farmhouse – not at all what you’d expect for a subway station. The station has caught fire not once, but twice, and was most recently restored in 2013. Beyond that is the equally attractive Thielplatz, with a charming brick station house, featuring a decorative clock.

  
 
  

A historical look at the U3 line. Many of the stations along the line were impacted by war. Photographs from the Berlin U-Bahn Archive and the German Federal Archive.

Toward the end of the line is the amusingly-named Onkel Toms Hütte station. The name is a literal German translation of book title “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. As the story goes, a local owner of a beer garden named Tom constructed huts for patrons to enjoy. Apparently these little “Tom’s cabins” reminded people of the book, and entered the local lore. Though the beer garden is long gone, the name lives on through this U-Bahn station.

Anyway, here is a selection of photographs of the U3′s above-ground stations. Come back next week to check out the next part – a journey to some of the more attractive underground stops.

 
  
 
  
   
  
  
  
 
  

Riding Berlin’s U1 Line: The Oberbaumbrücke Train History Photos

Friday, June 13th, 2014

I’ve always said that my primary interest in railroads is not necessarily the machine that is a train, but instead the way railroad systems change over time, and how they influence the people and locations around them – or even how places influence the rails. For those with similar interests, the city of Berlin is a great case study. As I’m sure everyone is familiar, Germany and the city of Berlin were partitioned after World War II into areas occupied by the French, British, Americans, and Soviets. The Soviet portion became the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, and the three other sectors the Federal Republic of Germany, better known as West Germany. In Berlin, a transit system that once spanned the entire city became truncated by this political divide. With the construction of the Berlin wall, starting in 1961, the city became truly divided.

Bernauer Straße
Ghost station: The U-Bahn station Bernauer Straße was closed after the construction of the Berlin Wall. Here you can see the entrance to the station, blocked by the wall. The station was reopened after the reunification of Germany. Photo taken August 27, 1962 by Allhails.

The citywide network of trains in Berlin struggled to conform to the divisions forced upon it by politics. In some instances, stations were completely closed, and lines were truncated as to not operate in the opposite sector. In other situations, lines were able to operate across the border, albeit with restrictions. The U8 line, for example, started in West Germany, but traversed a portion of East German territory before returning to the west. Although the train was permitted to pass through East Germany, they were not permitted to stop at the stations there. Shrouded in darkness and heavily guarded, these shuttered stations became colloquially known as “ghost stations.” In a unique situation, Friedrichstraße railway station, located in East German territory, was open to citizens from both sides of the border, though the station was divided into isolated sections for each.

U-Bahn U1 Map
Map showing the history of the U1 line, and the Berlin Wall.

It seems appropriate that our first photographic foray into Germany focuses on the first line of the U-Bahn, the U1. The U in U-Bahn stands for Untergrund, but there are many instances where the lines are anything but. One place that seems to epitomize the “not underground” Underground is the Oberbaumbrücke, or Oberbaum Bridge. First opened in 1896, the bridge carried pedestrians, cars, and eventually trains over the River Spree. The first train ran from Stralauer Tor, a station established on the viaduct, to Potsdamer Platz. Eventually the line was extended to Knie (now known as Ernst-Reuter-Platz) in the west, and Warschauer Brücke (now Warschauer Straße) in the east.

1895 bridge construction photo
1985 construction photo of the Oberbaum Bridge. Photo by German photographer Hermann Oskar Rückwardt.

Postcard of the bridge, circa 1910
Postcard showing the Oberbaum Bridge and the original Stralauer Tor station, circa 1910.

Warschauer brücke station, 1932
Looking out toward the bridge from Warschauer Brücke station, 1932. Photo via the Bundesarchiv.

The route of the line has stayed fairly consistent over the years, though Potsdamer Platz, Zoologischer Garten, and Ernst-Reuter-Platz are now part of the U2 line. Stralauer Tor station, which was on the bridge viaduct, was damaged during World War II and never rebuilt. After the partition of Germany, the Oberbaum Bridge connected the American sector with the Soviet sector, and the bridge became a border checkpoint, allowing West German pedestrians to cross. Beyond the border was Warschauer Brücke, the only station on the line located in East Berlin. For the duration that the Berlin Wall stood, the station was closed, truncating the line at the border. It was reopened in 1995 under the name of Warschauer Straße.

Progression of the Berlin Wall
Progression of the Berlin Wall, alongside the Oberbaum Bridge – Photo at left taken December, 1964 by Allhails. Photo at right from 1984 by WhitePrince.

The Oberbaum Bridge, 1993
The Oberbaum Bridge in rough shape in 1993. Photo by Roehrensee.

The Oberbaum Bridge itself is quite a beautiful bit of architecture, and is a fairly photogenic landmark. The name literally translates to “Upper tree bridge” in English, a reference to a previous wooden bridge that stood nearby. Despite being heavily damaged at multiple points through history, it was never completely demolished. During World War II the Nazis bombed the center of the bridge to prevent the Soviet army from crossing. Though the East Germans made minimal repairs to the the bridge after the war (at least enough for pedestrians to cross), it was not truly restored to its original grandeur until after the German reunification. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the steel center portion of the bridge, while the rest was restored much as it looked originally. The bridge was reopened for cars and pedestrians in 1994, and subway traffic in 1995.

Anyway, here is a collection of some photos of the U-Bahn and the Oberbaum Bridge. Over the next few weeks we’ll be visiting some more interesting spots in Berlin, including a few more “not underground” Underground stations.

The Oberbaum Bridge, Berlin
  
 
  
   
 
  
 

Taking a ride on Chernobyl’s “Radioactive Railroad” Train Photos

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Over the past few months I’ve been working on a big project in secret… and today is finally the day that I get to present it to all of you. Most of you are aware that I was recently in Ukraine, but the real intent of my visit was to see the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. For many years I’ve wanted to write an article about the railroad that ran through the Exclusion Zone, half of which is now abandoned. I have finally fulfilled that goal.

Built by the Soviet military in 1927, the line connected the city of Ovruch in the west, to Chernihiv in the east, crossing the Pripyat, Dneiper, and Desna Rivers, and traversing a small portion of Belarus. The territory between the two cities was not especially valuable, nor heavily populated – yet railroad access could be useful from a military perspective, as railroads were considered the cheapest way to transport both soldiers and equipment.

Were it not for a chance event, the Ovruch to Chernihiv line could be operating in obscurity to this day. The chance event I’m mentioning, of course, is the Chernobyl disaster. This little rail line played a part in where the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic’s very first nuclear power pant would be built. Around sixteen sites were investigated as potential candidates, and one about 100 kilometers north of Kyiv fit the bill perfectly – it had a rail line with reliable train service, it had the nearby Pripyat River as a natural water source, and it had a lot of infertile land that could be taken over and turned into a cooling pond for the reactor.

If you’d like to read the entire story, which I’ve titled “Radioactive Railroad” – head over to the special site that I built, which can be found here:

RadioactiveRailroad.com

Here’s just a preview of some of the things you’ll find there – an abandoned city, a graveyard of trains too contaminated to use, a city rebuilt for the refugees of the disaster, and a little piece of the abandoned rail line that still operates…

The story of the radioactive railroad

The story of the radioactive railroad

The story of the radioactive railroad

The story of the radioactive railroad

The story of the radioactive railroad

Read the full story: RadioactiveRailroad.com