Looking back at 2010… a countdown of the most popular

Ah, 2010. You were the first full year that I actually operated this blog. Lots of fun and shenanigans were to be had. I decided to take a look back at what was popular on the site this year, as a wrap-up for 2010…

1. BPGlobal Billboards

The first entry here is not train-related in any way… however it was such a major news story at the time I couldn’t not have some fun with it – though fun is actually a terrible way to describe it, as the Gulf Oil Spill was quite tragic. To me the two standouts in coverage on this was a fake twitter account, BPGlobalPR, and Boston Globe’s The Big Picture. I merged the two into fake billboards, which apparently caught on and made their rounds on the web – and brought around thirty thousand viewers to the site in a single day.

2. Harlem Line Timetables

It is true, I have turned into an eBay whore… collecting just about anything regarding the Harlem Line. Many of the timetables I have can be found on the second most popular part of the site, the Harlem Line Timetables archive. It is desperately needing updating, as I own or have scanned many more timetables than are currently pictured. My goal was always to have a timetable for every year, and for the most part I do have that, from 1930 on up. Look for a major overhaul of this section in 2011!

3. Stupid Warning Signs

Ah, stupid warning signs. One of the most amusing things I’ve made for the site. These popular signs round out the top three most popular things on the site this year. Folks have requested that I turn these into stickers, but if you people start sticking these on trains the MTA PD might actually have a real reason to arrest my ass.

4. The Cutest Train Car in the World

One of the posts I made after returning from Japan featured the Tama Densha railcar of the Wakayama Electric Railway. The railroad is known in offbeat circles around the world due to the fact that they employ a feline Stationmaster (I believe she’s actually been promoted to Vice-President now). Tama the cat was so popular, designer Eiji Mitooka created a train car in her honor. The front of the train has whiskers, the seats inside have cat print. My favorite part of the train? The library full of books for the kids.

5. Centalia, PA – Burning Ghost Town

I’ve always been fascinated with Centralia, ever since I first read about it on the internet many years ago. Since then I’ve visited several times. The story begins in the 1960’s, when a coal seam under the town caught fire. It continues to burn to this day. The land has fissures that belch smoke, and it permanently smells of sulfur. It is a tragic story, as the once bustling small town has been whittled down to less than ten citizens.

The coal under the town that is burning is anthracite – which was popularized in little rhymes about Phoebe Snow in advertisements for the Lackawanna Railroad.

6. The Loneliest Station on the Harlem Line

Although I hadn’t come up with the concept yet, the Harlem Line Panorama project began with Mount Pleasant – which I labeled as the loneliest station on the line. The tiny station in between Hawthorne and Valhalla services the cemeteries in the area, and has very limited service.


The first panorama posted on the site

7. The Harlem Line Panorama Project

If you’re interested in seeing all the panoramas to date, located on a map – this is the place to go. This Google map is the seventh most popular portion of the site, although technically it lies off site and on Google’s servers. However, each placemark contains my favorite panorama from that stop, and a link back to the post on this site.

8. Sadie the Subway Cat

The Transit Museum in Brooklyn has employed a cat or two, mostly in the hopes that they would chase away any subway rats. In this eighth most popular post I recollect my first visit to the Transit Museum and my encounter with Sadie… and my crazy idea to get her a miniature-sized train conductor’s hat. Of course none of that really panned out – and as far as I am aware, Sadie has been quietly retired from the public.

9. The #1 Reason to Ride Metro-North

Back in June I posted these spoof ads for Metro-North and beer. If you are a regular commuter you will notice that in the afternoon, and most especially on Fridays, there are quite a few people drinking beer. The exception to that if you are those people that work at Target in Mount Kisco, you’re drinking it in the morning. But since you can’t drink and drive, and you can certainly drink and ride, Metro-North could always have an amusing new ad campaign.

10. M8 Cars Will Not Debut on the New Haven Line

Ah, April Fools Day… I couldn’t resist making a fake post about the new M8’s. Shattering the dreams of many New Haven Line riders, I posted that the red trains would be repainted blue and running instead on the Harlem Line by the end of the year. I even made up some fake quotes and attributed them to Dan Brucker – which probably doesn’t place me very high on his list of awesome bloggers.

So that is it! The ten most popular things on the blog in 2010. Happy New Year everyone!

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Vintage Holiday & Winter New York Central Ads

Hopefully all of my readers that celebrate Christmas are enjoying your Christmas Eve… Did I ever mention that I love looking at vintage ads?`Even better are vintage railroad ads. Here is a little collection of holiday and winter ads from the New York Central. Have a great holiday, everybody!

 
  
 

If you liked these ads, check out another set of New York Central vintage ads from World War II that I posted back in June.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay – Poet & Harlem Division Rider

As riders of the train, every day we share our commute with advertisements – there are ads on the platforms, and ads in the train cars themselves. Some of the ads are interesting and well designed, and others may be lacking in that department. Over the summer I recall seeing one specific ad for Columbia County tourism. It had a picture of a young boy looking through a paper towel tube, and it urged you to visit Columbia county. No offense to the designer, but I don’t exactly know how that would lure me to visiting you – my (hypothetical) kid can look through paper towel tubes all he wants at home, thank you very much.

Columbia County is a nice rural portion of New York, and a delightful change of pace from the city life – and there is more to do than look through paper towel tubes. The Harlem Line, and several other rail lines once ran through here, but that has disappeared. Copake Lake and the Taconic State Park are both interesting nature related venues, and the county has a rich history worth exploring. The home of the eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren, is located in Columbia county, and is open to visitors. Though probably less known than the former president, Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay also made her home in Columbia county, and portions of it are open to the public. Last weekend, on the way home from Vermont, I made a stop at her former home, which is called Steepletop.


Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in 1892 in Rockland, Maine. From a young age she was exposed to classic literature by her mother, and began to write on her own. By the time she had entered Vassar College at 21, she had already won several awards for her poetry. After graduation from Vassar, Millay moved to New York City and lived in Greenwich Village. Her book of poetry titled Second April was published in 1921, and includes one of my favorite poems of hers:

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

As much as I’d love to say that Millay wrote this poem about the Harlem Division, it was only in 1925, and after Second April was published, that she and her husband moved to Austerlitz, NY. Her home was not far from the Harlem Division’s Hillsdale Station, and she did actually ride the trains from there: a famous Harlem Division rider. Millay spent the later years of her life in Austerlitz until her death in 1950. She, along with her mother, husband, sister, and brother-in-law are buried on the property. Although the home is occasionally open for tours (and is designated a National Historic Landmark), the poetry trail which leads to her grave, is always open to the public, and where all photos below are from.

 
   
  
  
 
  
   
 
   
 
   

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A trip to the city to promote Winnebago Man

I effing love the Winnebago Man. I have loved that video on YouTube forever. And I clearly remember laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. At my work we happen to get a lot of freelancers coming in and out, and we have a bonding ritual here in our little studio (nicknamed “The Cave”), out of view of the other suit-and-tie employees… we must watch Winnebago Man (and the Alabama Leprechaun video). The origins of the video clip are a little bit interesting for a web-designer working for a marketing team. Viral videos, and viral marketing, more specifically, are the buzzwords of the day. But it is certainly not a term I’ve heard used before the internet was widespread. But yet, Winnebago Man’s origins are from the days of VHS tape (originally filmed in 1988), passed around amongst friends, and beyond, which could arguably classify it as a pre-YouTube viral video.

So when I heard that there would be a documentary based on the Winnebago Man, I was ecstatic. I followed the updates on Twitter… and when I heard they were looking for people to help promote on the street team, I signed up along with my friend. Last night we took the train to the city after passing out some cards in the White Plains area to promote the film. Although we were focused on leaving them at restaurants and the like, people seemed to be really curious what we were doing. Which is totally opposite to what I would have imagined. Those people standing on the street corners attempting to hand you papers, they are damn obnoxious. And most people won’t take them… the ones that do often throw them away not far down the street. So when people off the street walk up to you and want to see what you’ve got, that surprised me. Any extra flyers we had were posted on poles or other places around for people to see.

And best of all, we met some interesting people on this little adventure. A restaurant host that wanted extra flyers to hand out to friends. Some great artists in the Union Square area (whom I gave my little IRideTheHarlemLine card, I hope they email me, I’d love to post some of their subway related art/photography on here). And even people that saw the flyer and recognized Jack Rebney, having seen the video.

It was a great little adventure last night… except for the nasty lady who took off her shoes and socks on the train, but I’m trying to forget that part. If you happen to be in the city though, you should definitely check out Winnebago Man. It comes out tomorrow.

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Friday’s From the Historical Archive: Wartime Magazine Advertisements

I don’t want to be an ass in saying this comment, but really, I wonder how trains function in the United States. Commuter trains and subways, like the ones in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and other places across the country make sense to me. They are practical, and they don’t take too long. By the time I was twenty, I had been to the city a million times, all by train. We never drove. Driving took probably around the same time as the train, and you didn’t have to worry about parking, and tolls, and traffic. Taking the train is not too expensive, as well. It just makes sense. I can count the number of times I have gone to the city by car on one hand. And the first time was when I was twenty.

But how does Amtrak work? I’ve only been on Amtrak twice, going to Florida and back with my grandmother that has a minor phobia of planes. I’ve thought of taking the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, but that is only because I like trains, and I think it would be cool to ride what was once known as “The Water Level Route.” But other than having a phobia of planes, and being a railfan, why would I want to take Amtrak? Searching up prices, I can get a round trip flight to Orlando for July 4th for $193. That ride takes two and a half hours. Or, with Amtrak, I could ride for twenty-two hours, and pay a whopping $423. Why would anyone want to pay more than double for a trip that takes more than seven times as long? In Japan I took the bullet train to Kyoto, which in terms of time and price is very close to flying. Close enough to compete, anyways. But then that just goes back to the usual argument that the US wanted their Interstate System, while other countries, especially Japan, concentrated on rail.

That sort of demonstrates my mind-set when I think about trains. There are some times when I read about their history, that I am completely and utterly baffled by how important they once were. Rail was the way that products and people were transported. And during World War II, trains were an integral part of the war effort. The New York Central operated personnel trains, mail trains, equipment freight, and even hospital trains. An average of two million troops per month were transported over the NY Central system during WW2. I always love looking at old advertisements, so today I have a collection of old New York Central magazine advertisements from the war years. Each advertisement depicts a different scene or use for the wartime trains: from riding the 20th Century Limited, to troop trains, to the fully equipped surgery suite on an army hospital train.



It is interesting to note that part of the reason why we have the Interstate System today can be attributed to the war. President Eisenhower pushed for the Interstate System, especially after experiencing the German autobahn while he served in World War II. He had also been associated with the Transcontinental Motor Convoy which drove from Washington DC to San Francisco, and took sixty-two days. That sort of puts it in perspective, how roads in between cities were back then. Today if you drove non-stop and managed to avoid traffic, you could drive that in two days. Sixty-two days, no wonder why people took the train!

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Advertising on the train: Marks Paneth & Shron

Every single day we go through, we are bombarded by advertisements. On the television, billboards, and even on our commutes. All Metro-North stations and trains have plenty of advertisements themselves. And on some of the newer trains, they are even testing video boards for advertisements. I have yet to see one of those. But before you know it, I’m sure all the trains will have them. The MTA needs the money.

But I think compared to a lot of other advertisements, Metro-North train ads end up getting looked at a lot longer than most other advertisements. Which, if you are an advertiser, might be a good thing. Take a billboard, for example. You drive by it, or walk by it, and there is only a small finite amount of time where you are actually looking at it. On a Metro-North train, it is impossible to not see an ad. You are essentially sitting in a tin can for an allotted period of time, probably around a half hour, possibly more. You are looking forward, and the ads are just there. Subway ads are sort of there, but you really can go through an entire ride ignoring those, as they are smaller, thinner, and higher up. If an ad is good, there is a good chance a possible consumer is going to look at it, and for a long time. Longer than the few split seconds that some ads get. I’m sitting here for a half an hour. I need something to do.

Just by facing forward, you are going to see a bunch of ads. It is inevitable. You will see them.

Most days I ride the same train, in the morning or the evening. And I sit in the same car both rides. So often times I see many of these ads quite frequently. There are some that I like, and some that I hate. But some of my favorites are the ones that take into account the location and audience of the sign. Whoever designed them understood that they can possibly be looked at for longer periods of time. Because like I said, sometimes I need something to do.

My current favorite ads that are in rotation on Metro-North trains are some ads for Marks Paneth & Shron. I’m not a big city businessman, so I am hardly the target audience, but the concept was intriguing. Each poster has a puzzle. That puzzle gives me something interesting to do while I commute to work. I get the idea of the ad at first glance, yes. But there is the added intrigue of completing a puzzle, if I happen to look at the poster longer than that initial split second.

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Two of the Marks Paneth & Shron ads

Another favorite poster of mine were advertising a book, by Dean Koontz I believe. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of it. The ad had a photo of a book, and a phone number that you could text with your cell phone. When you texted the number, it would periodically send you story excerpts of the story to read on your phone. Personally, I think this is an awesome idea. It advertises your product, it gives people something to do on the train, and it transcends this sort of boundary between the physical world, and the virtual. Japan is a bit more advanced in connecting their ads to online information and websites. Many ads there have QR codes, which is a type of barcode, but it can hold much more data than the UPC codes we are used to on our products. Use your camera phone and take a picture of the code in the ad, and you are automatically forwarded to the ad’s website in your phone’s web browser. Maybe we’ll see that here at some point in the future.


Example of what is called a “design qr code” that I made. If you had a QR reader on your phone, like Japanese cell phones do, you would be forwarded to MTA’s new website (mta.info)

Anyone else have ads that they really enjoy? Other than the Sweet Million ads? (I know a lot of people find my blog searching for pictures of those ads online. They are pretty damn cute. Yay, kitties and puppies!)

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Living it up on the Subway, & Westchester’s Ads Amuse Me

Some people can’t stand riding on the subway… the massive crowds, the oppressively hot temperature, the noise, the rats… There’s a lot of potential stuff to dislike. However, some people like the trains so much that they ride them continuously. For eleven days. Apparently that is what happened with a thirteen-year-old boy named Francisco Hernandez Jr, a story that was published yesterday in the NY Daily News. Francisco was missing from his home for eleven days. And he was found at the Stillwell Avenue subway station, after “losing track of time” and riding the F, D and 1 trains. Did I mention he did this for ELEVEN DAYS? He also survived that entire time by eating junk food he bought with the ten dollars in his pocket. Where the heck can you purchase ANY food in the city for under one dollar per day?? Plus, the kid isn’t dumb. He didn’t want to be found, so he removed the battery from his cell phone so he couldn’t be tracked or called. Next time you ride the subway though, and you’re thinking how much you hate it, imagine living there.

In other news, the ads that Westchester County does for the train and bus stations make me laugh. They are so remarkably corny. Maybe the messages that they are trying to get across are valid: Feces and Phosphorus aren’t really that great in our reservoirs, but “Scoop the Poop” and “Don’t ‘P’ on Your Lawn” coupled with the incredibly lame people they have pictured, always makes me laugh.
For example, here is the Phosphorus poster:

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Really, can you take that man seriously? Just look at the expression on his face! It looks like someone forgot to heed the previous ad, didn’t scoop their dog’s poop, and he stepped in it. While wearing new shoes. And he’s about to cry.

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Here is a bonus closeup

Another ad I’ve been seeing a bunch recently on the train is this one about talking to your children about alcohol. They’ve just taken a stock photo of a young girl, telling us that she will have her first drink at age 14. I always wonder about people that are in ads like this one. For example, the woman in the genital herpes commercial that has to say, “I have genital herpes!” How desperate did that actress have to be in order to take that job? Does she get recognized as the “genital herpes lady”? Well, at least that was her decision to be in that commercial. Unfortunately this child had no choice. She was whored out as a stock photo child by her parents. Will friends at school recognize her as the “future alcoholic” from the ad? Perhaps my brain is just messed up from going through mountains of stock photography at work… It does get depressing when you start seeing these stock children all over and you recognize them!
sarah_first_drink

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The embarrassment of being in this advertisement may actually lead little Sarah to a life of alcoholism…

Plus this girl looks a lot like the poor Child Abuse flyer kid.
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She’s an alcoholic and was abused when she was younger!

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Trains & Subway Attacked by Sweet Cuteness

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The New York Lottery has come up with this new game: Sweet Million. They’ve been advertising like crazy in trains and stations, but I don’t think I really mind. The kitties and puppies and bunnies are so cuuute! The bunny poster is up in my Metro North train, and apparently the Times Square subway station is covered everywhere with ads for it. Large posters on the walls, backlit posters, ads covering the stairs, and ads wrapped around pillars… most of which are in the vicinity of the S train / Shuttle to Grand Central.

It may be the “easiest way to win a million with a dollar” but with 1:3,838,380 odds, “easy” is still pretty damn hard. Hell even I considered purchasing one of these tickets… and I usually think of the lottery as a tax for the stupid people. I am very well aware how ads influence me.

Anyways, enjoy some cuteness. And uhh… maybe buy a lotto ticket. If you do win a million, split it with me?

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This week in White Plains… Updated Signboards & Show Cars

Good morning from White Plains station.

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Hooray, this week the signboards around White Plains station have been updated. A minor but nice improvement, much cleaner type that is a lot easier to read. The speed of the scroll has been increased a bit, though now I would have to say it is probably a little bit too fast.

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The outdoor signage has been changed so the train destination is much larger. Hopefully this will help with all the idiots wondering where the trains are going, but considering a lot of the people I see around here, probably not.

Earlier in the week we were also treated with (or subjected to some more interesting advertising) of a new 2010 car, which I believe was the 2010 Buick LaCrosse.
2010lacrosserear
People around the station were passing out reusable black bags with the car logo on it, which will be rather great when I have to go grocery shopping this weekend. :D In the parking lot an actual car was parked there, and you were encouraged to open the doors and take a look inside.
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Some people checking out the car

As far as some of the advertising campaigns we get around here, this one was rather cool… or at least different from the norm. Though I don’t know about the name LaCrosse. Because when I see it, I certainly think of something different.
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Government’s $5 Million Marriage Promotion Campaign @ Goldens Bridge

Hello everyone, and good evening from White Plains station. I’m back from vacation now… Returning back to the north is a bit depressing, as the temperature is steadily going down, and the nights are growing longer and longer. Before long the train conductors will be breaking out their flashlights…

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Shortly before I went away, I happened to notice the above ad at Goldens Bridge station. I did think it was a bit odd. Along the bottom of the ad it said that it was paid for by the government. After doing more research, it seems that the government has paid five million dollars for this junk.

Immediately when I saw the ad, I thought to myself that this ad was not promoting happy marriage… The government is using taxpayer money to promote heterosexual marriage. Irrelevant of whether a person accepts the notion of gay marriage or not, I really don’t think the government should be spending the money in this way. So what if it comes out to a penny a person? That is a remarkably stupid way of justifying anything. Five million dollars is a LOT of money.

nhmrcad
Another ad from the campaign. Ads like this have been posted on public transportation across the country.

Anyone else have any constructive thoughts about this? I say constructive because I really don’t need to be flamed by religious nuts talking about how gays are going to hell, etc. There are so many more constructive things that people could be attacking instead of gay marriage. Seriously, I think the entire human race is obsessed with the fact that they know what is “best” for every other person on the planet, and forcing their beliefs on others.

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