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Grade Crossing Safety: Metro-North’s New Pilot Program

This morning Metro-North announced a new plan to get people’s eyes focused on grade crossings – literally. In a new pilot program, the railroad will be hiring people to wear costumes and protect grade crossings, reminding drivers not to stop on the tracks, or attempt to go around lowered or lowering crossing gates.

Grade crossing incidents have been at the forefront of railroad safety recently, after three high-profile incidents caused major derailments, many injuries, and seven deaths. The three incidents occurred in New York, California, and North Carolina, proving that this is not merely a local problem, but a national problem.

Describing the new pilot program, Metro-North president Joseph Giulietti explained:

Although our program comes up with a solution that is light-hearted, the goal is not to trivialize the problem, or the incidents that have happened at grade crossings. People’s eyes are drawn to things like this – which is the same reason why a fast food place might have a guy dancing around in a hot-dog costume, or a tax prep place might have a lady liberty standing around outside. Sadly, we need to get people’s attention. It seems in our world full of the distractions of loud music, cell phones and other electronic devices, ringing bells, flashing lights, moving gates, pavement markings, and plenty of signage simply does not get anyone’s attention. Even several high-profile grade crossing incidents, and increased police presence at crossings has not stopped drivers from waiting on the tracks, or driving around lowered gates to beat the train.

I find myself agreeing the concept of distracted driving – some have mentioned that Ellen Brody, the woman who caused the Valhalla crash that killed six people, may not have been familiar with the crossing and intersection because of a crash on the Taconic and a detour that evening. Meanwhile, Deborah Molodofsky, who has mentioned she was familiar with the grade crossing in Chappaqua where she had a “close call,” still waited on the railroad tracks and was surprised when the gates came down around her car. Even afterward, she was quoted as saying “I did everything right and I still got caught” – completely oblivious to the fact that she did nothing right – one should never stop on railroad tracks – apparently Ms. Molodofsky never noticed the signs that say as much on the many times she passed that crossing.

Adding to Mr. Giulietti’s comments, Metro-North spokesperson Marjorie Anders said:

On our New Haven main Line, where there are no grade crossings, there are still many incidents with overheight vehicles striking the bridges that carry the tracks. On the Hudson Line, one of our 100+ year-old historical stations had a gorgeous pedestrian walkway into the station – it was completely destroyed by a dump truck striking it. This is clearly a complex problem that will not just have one solution. But if we only look at the grade crossings themselves, we’re missing an important part of the equation – driver distraction.

Anders’ point is a good one – even the NTSB has spent a good amount of time talking about driver distraction in transportation recently, holding a round-table discussion called “Disconnect from Deadly Distractions,” which was live-tweeted by the NTSB’s twitter account.

Note: The Hudson Line station Ms. Anders mentioned where the pedestrian crossing was destroyed was Ardsley-on-Hudson.

President Giulietti made sure to add one more note on the subject:

If for some reason you do happen to get stuck on the railroad tracks, each crossing has a sign with a telephone number and a description of the location. If you call that number and report a vehicle stuck, we can halt trains on the line and prevent a dangerous incident from occurring.

We were lucky enough to capture a video of one of the new hirees working on the Harlem Line, at the Cleveland Street crossing in Valhalla. The town of Mount Pleasant has recently revealed that they would like to close this crossing, to the detriment of the people that live in the neighborhood just over the tracks.

Hopefully such measures will capture the attention of the many drivers that make poor decisions around railroad tracks every day.

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Ardsley-on-Hudson


Two early Metro-North Hudson Line timetables, and a local New York Central timetable listing the station as Ardsley – just to confuse you.

Today’s tour of the Hudson Line takes us just about 22 miles north of Grand Central to Ardsley-on-Hudson station, a place of a bit of confusion. Ardsley-on-Hudson, located in Irvington, should not be confused with actual village of Ardsley, which is located a few miles east and had its own station on the long-gone Putnam Division. As you can see above, many Ardsley-on-Hudson timetables were printed with just “Ardsley” which doesn’t really help much with the confusion. Thankfully, Metro-North has been fairly consistent with printing the full “Ardsley-on-Hudson” on station signs and in timetables for the past few years.


Above: 1896 drawing of the Ardsley Casino clubhouse. Below: 1899 photo of the clubhouse grounds, and a postcard showing the yacht landing, train station, and clubhouse. The aesthetic of the train station matches the buildings for the Casino. Postcard from the collection of Steve Swirsky.

In regards to the train station, the name Ardsley derives from the Ardsley Casino, which opened at this location in 1896. The “on-Hudson” portion was tacked on because of its geographic location on the river, and to differentiate it from the village of Ardsley. To confuse you more, the Casino wasn’t a casino, but more of a club for the rich to play golf. While the Casino built a dock for their rich members to sail up to in their yachts, not all of the membership was quite as fortunate to own one – thus a train station was constructed. The train station building mirrored the Tudor revival architecture style of the Casino’s nearby clubhouse. The two buildings stood in close proximity until 1936 when the clubhouse was torn down. As the only surviving remnant of the club that once stood here, the station building does look a little bit out of place aesthetically, and has a unique look compared to other Hudson Line stations.

Though the Ardsley Casino no longer exists, the more informal Ardsley Country Club, can be named as its sucessor. The Casino merged with the nearby Racquet and Swimming Club in 1935, shortly before the old clubhouse was torn down and took that name.


Pedestrian bridge that connected the Hudson House apartments to the train station, which was destroyed in 2010. Photo by John Reidy.
 
Aerial views of Ardsley-on-Hudson. The one on the left is from 2004, the one on the right from 2010, shortly after the pedestrian bridge was destroyed. Note the differences in the station itself – the station was upgraded in the time between both photos.

After the Casino was torn down, it was replaced with the Hudson House Apartments. At one time there was a pedestrian bridge that connected the apartments directly to the train station. Unfortunately, the bridge was destroyed in 2010 when a sanitation driver crashed his dump truck into it. The historical bridge was never rebuilt.

 
Construction at Ardsley-on-Hudson station in 2005 and 2006. Photos by Henry C.

CSX at Ardsley-on-Hudson. Photo by Michael Foley.

Though the original station building still exists, it is not used for any railroad functions. It is now the home of the Ardsley-on-Hudson post office, and contains rows of post office boxes. The original fireplaces built in the station are still there, but not used. You may not be able to buy your ticket here, but there still is a small area that one could probably use to wait for a train, and some bathrooms.

Like many of Metro-North’s Hudson Line stations, Ardsley-on-Hudson underwent considerable improvements in the past few years. Ardsley-on-Hudson had its turn in 2005 and 2006, when a new overpass was built, as well as new platforms. Canopies were added to much of the platform to protect riders from the elements, which are visible in the aerial shot above. Ticket Vending Machines were installed in the new overpass.

All in all, Ardsley-on-Hudson is a pretty nice station. It has a bit of history, and being right on the Hudson River always looks nice. From the station you can see the Tappan Zee Bridge to the north, and just barely make out the George Washington Bridge in the far south on a clear day. If you ever find yourself on the Hudson Line, Ardsley-on-Hudson would always be an interesting station to check out!

 
   
 
   
  
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
  
 
  
 

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