Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Beacon

Thus far on our tour of the Hudson Line, we’ve visited some very attractive stations. The unfortunate reality is that not every station can be that beautiful. This week’s station, Beacon, and next week’s station, Croton-Harmon, are probably two of the least attractive stations on the Hudson Line. Beacon – which has been listed on timetables as both Fishkill and Dutchess Junction in the past – is 59 miles from Grand Central, and is on the northern, un-electrified portion of the Hudson Line. Just south of Beacon station is Metro-North’s non-revenue Beacon Line, which continues east towards the Harlem Line and Southeast.

Admittedly, part of Beacon’s sketchiness factor is the horrible underpass where unsavory persons leave disgusting “surprises.” I honestly can’t think of a single Metro-North underpass that isn’t a somewhat frightening place. Thankfully, Beacon does have a few things going for it that are actually cool. First of all, there is a little coffee shop actually on the platform. While little establishments are quite common in old station buildings, it is extremely rare to see one on the platform. Probably the coolest thing you’ll notice at the station itself is the old wooden platform, and the old New York Central milemarker right next to it.

Outside of the station, there are a couple of interesting places worth checking out. Beacon station just happens to be right next to the waterfront, where on Sundays a farmer’s market is held. Several ferries are available from the waterfront area as well, one of which is primarily for commuters. You can also catch a boat for a Bannerman Castle tour, which I highly recommend. If you’re into art, Dia Beacon is definitely worth going to, and Metro-North does offer getaway packages (they do for the previously mentioned Bannerman Castle tour as well).

That pretty much sums up our quick visit to Beacon today. As I mentioned before, next week we’ll be visiting Croton-Harmon!

 
   
 
  
 
   
 
 
  
   
 
  
   
 

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Breakneck Ridge


Penn Central locomotive passes by Breakneck Ridge in 1971.

Though Metro-North is primarily a commuter railroad, there are a few station stops throughout the system that break that mold. Mount Pleasant is a limited-service station on the Harlem Line, adjacent to several cemeteries. In addition, there are three other limited-service stations that are primarily for hikers: Appalachian Trail, Manitou, and the subject of today’s tour – Breakneck Ridge. Located 55 miles from Grand Central, Breakneck Ridge lies in the un-electrified territory of the Hudson Line. Similar to Appalachian Trail, no weekday trains stop here – but on weekends and holidays two trains in either direction make stops.


20th Century Limited passes by Bannerman Castle, just north of Breakneck Ridge

Although the name Breakneck Ridge might be a bit off-putting, the hike does offer beautiful views of the Hudson. Located just north of the station is Bannerman Castle, which only adds to the scenery. To the south is one of several tunnels on the Hudson Line – the aptly named Breakneck tunnel. Both of those landmarks may overshadow the actual Breakneck Ridge station, for there is not much here at all. The northbound side, meant for disembarking passengers, consists of only a small wooden platform. The southbound side is a bit more interesting, as it contains a small pedestrian overpass. From there you can look out and see the Hudson, or descend the stairs to another wooden platform from where you can board a train and be whisked back to the city.


Landmark numero uno – Passing through the Breakneck Tunnel, just south of Breakneck Ridge station. 1993 photograph by Jim Kleeman on Flickr.


One of my favorite photographs by Frank English, former Metro-North photographer, taken just north of Breakneck Ridge in order to capture Bannerman Castle.

Though not really part of the station, just beyond the overpass to the southbound platform is a small lookout. It is from here that you will get a lovely view – without having to exert yourself in hiking the ridge. Pollepel Island, home to the aforementioned Bannerman Castle, is in plain view from here, as well as the river and Storm King mountain. Much of the Hudson Line itself is quite picturesque, but the area surrounding Breakneck Ridge station is especially so. The views are certainly worth the visit, even if you aren’t planning on riding the train.

  
 
 
  
 
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
   
 

Read More

Photos of Bannerman Castle: the crumbling castle in the Hudson River

Despite my professed love for the Harlem Line, I do in fact visit quite a few other locations and post photos… and today’s collection is no exception. Unfortunately for my dear Harlem, this time I cheated on him with his little brother, the Hudson. If you’ve ever been on the upper portion of Metro North’s Hudson Line you may have noticed a castle on an island in the Hudson. In fact you may have seen the collapse of the castle on your train ride past the island… Metro-North workers were the first to report the collapse of the castle last December to the trust that is attempting to restore the castle.

Although most people today know the island simply as Bannerman’s Island, the true name is Pollepel Island. Scottish immigrant and New York businessman Francis Bannerman purchased the island in 1900. By 1901 a castle for his business and residence had been built on the island for his family.

Francis Bannerman VI, better known as Frank, began collecting scrap at the harbor to sell as a young boy. As he got older, and after the Civil War, he began purchasing military surplus from government auctions and amassed quite the collection of ammunition – which he formed into a business called “Bannerman’s” in 1865. As having so much ammunition in the heart of Brooklyn began to be a safety issue, the island was a perfect location for his business.

Today, the island is a part of the Hudson Highlands State Park. Unfortunately, it is not quite the jewel it once was. Besides the two collapses in the past year, the castle was ravaged by fire in 1969. Many portions of the castle became covered in vines over time, which amusingly might be helping to hold the structure together. The Bannerman Castle Trust is attempting to preserve and restore the castle, but are desperately in need of funding. As we wait the castle will continue to crumble, and perhaps be lost forever: with little money to spend they’ve chosen to attempt to restore the residence first, since it is in better condition than the castle itself.

If you’re interested in learning more about the castle, taking a tour, or donating to the Bannerman Castle Trust, be sure to check out their website here: bannermancastle.org.

  
 
 
   
 
   
  
 
  
 
 
  
  

Read More