Taking the train to the Bronx Zoo, Botanical Garden, 1904

Though Metro-North is primarily a commuter railroad, they do frequently offer deals and excursions to attract those that don’t normally commute. However, Metro-North is certainly not the first to advertise various attractions to get people to ride the rails. The New York Central promoted taking the train to the game (before that phrase was trademarked by the MTA!), and even taking the train to visit your institutionalized loved ones. The Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are two other attractions that you can visit by train, and over the years have been advertised by both Metro-North and the New York Central.

One of my most recent eBay acquisitions is a brochure printed by the New York Central in 1904, advertising the Bronx Park – or what we’d know today as the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden. Visiting both was, and still is, easy via the Harlem Line. Although I loved the cover of the brochure, it was also interesting to read about these parks and what they were like over a hundred years ago. Anyways, this was too good to not share… enjoy!




Random little factoids I found interesting:

  • Round trip tickets from Grand Central to Fordham was 25 cents for adults, and 15 cents for children.
  • Entrance to the Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo was free, except for Mondays and Thursdays, where the zoo charged 25 cents admission.
  • You could rent a wheelchair – and someone to push you around in it – for 50 cents.
  • Cameras were not permitted at the zoo.
  • The lion house at the zoo was at that time the most expensive building, at a cost of $150,000.
  • If this brochure had been printed two years later, in 1906, it is possible that you might have seen a photo of Ota Benga – the Congolese pygmy that was on display in the monkey house for a short period of time. (this one boggles my mind)

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Weekly news roundup

While I was looped up on cold medicine today, I somehow came up with the idea that I should do a “news roundup” every week for the site. I’m a voracious reader – of both books and blogs. Many times I encounter articles that I think my readers would likely find interesting, but are not a big enough deal to warrant their own post. Many of the articles I do tweet about, but I also have a lot of readers that don’t have a presence on twitter. Plus, a few of the blogs I read do news roundups similar to this, and I’ve always thought it a cool idea – so I figured I’d try it out. Below you’ll find some of the more noteworthy things that have happened this week in terms of trains.


Rockefeller home Kykuit at the Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show [image credit]

Metro-North Bolsters Winter Arsenal

This week Metro-North has issued a press release regarding their strategies for dealing with the upcoming winter. Added to their “snow fighting arsenal” are “three new jet turbines to blow snow, two new cold-air snow blowing trucks and 150 modern switch heaters.”

MNRCC weighs in on recent MNR accomplishments

The Metro North Railroad Commuter Council has issued a statement regarding some of Metro-North’s recent accomplishments, including the restoration of service on the Port Jervis line, and the new Quiet Car program.

Apple store Grand Central opens

Friday marked the opening of the new Apple store in Grand Central. The MTA has posted a nice video tour of the new store that is definitely worth checking out.

Free coffee at new Metro-North station

The Whole Foods truck will be on hand at Metro-North’s newest station, Fairfield Metro, throughout the month. For commuters there will be free coffee from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. throughout December. Fairfield Metro just opened this past Monday, and if you missed it we toured the station on Tuesday.


6:40 train leaves Southeast station on Monday’s foggy morning

Abbe Raven is watching you on the train

The president of the A&E Network is a Harlem Line rider, and she likes observing passengers on the train. In an interview posted this week, Raven says the train is her “laboratory” and states “I get to see what people who are not in our industry are doing, what apps they’re using, how they’re using technology, what they’re watching on their devices.” [via trainjotting]

New art in Poughkeepsie

A mural by artist Nestor Madalengoitia titled “Welcome to the Hudson Valley” has been recently installed in Poughkeepsie station.

Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

The Holiday Train show is in its 20th year, and the newest historical building to be modeled is the Rockefellers’ home Kykuit. All of the to-scale models in the show have been created using natural parts. Magnolia leaves, pine bark, eucalyptus leaves, plant stems, seed pods, and pistachio shells have all been used in the creation of Kykuit.

Best Animal Photos of 2011

Buzzfeed has come up with an awesome collection of animal photos from the year. Be sure to check out photo number 14, an adorably cute dog that has recovered after being hit by a train. (The Little Red Riding Cat at number 38 is also pretty awesome)

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The Harlem Line, in panoramas

I’ve spent many months posting various panoramas of the Harlem Line stations. I’m now excited to be able to post the entire Harlem Line, viewed in panoramas. You can watch as the farmland and rural greenery morphs into the suburbs, before changing into the concrete jungle of New York City. If you want to see more photos from each of the stations, just click on the picture. Anybody have a favorite panorama? I think my two favorites are Tenmile River and Harlem-125th Street – the two of them are polar opposites in terms of the scenery visible while taking a ride down New York City’s oldest railroad.

For those who like maps, I place all of my panoramas on a Google map, which you can see below. I also add photos to Panoramio, which provides the photos for Google Earth.

View larger map

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Botanical Garden

I have a little confession to make – as much as I crack jokes about the younger generations of Vanderbilts and their amazing ability to spend their grandfather’s money, I must admit that despite all that some of them really have left their mark on the New York area. Outside of the railroad, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of the Commodore, had positions in all sorts of organizations. He held titles of Vice-President and director, was on the board of a few different hospitals, and was also a finance manager for a church or two. But one particularly noteworthy organization, of which he served as president, was the New York Botanical Garden. Vanderbilt, along with Andrew Carnegie and J. Pierpont Morgan also contributed monetarily to the gardens, which were formed in the 1890’s.


Postcard view of Botanical Garden station

The Botanical Garden station itself is located slightly less than ten miles from Grand Central, and mere steps from the gardens for which it was named. Although commuters do use the station, it is also frequented by tourists going to check out the gardens. Metro-North probably is one of the easiest ways to get to the gardens, and if you had any question about that, there is even a video on youtube that explains how easy it is to get there. The video does highlight the lack of consistency when it comes to the name of the station. All of the platform signs refer to it as “Botanical Garden” but the ticketing machines call it “Botanical Gardens”. I suppose it is not that big of a deal, but for the purpose of this post I am using Botanical Garden, as it is visible as such in my photos.

 
   
 
  
 
  
 
   
 

My longtime readers will recall the crazy idea that I had back in April or May of 2010, to photograph every Harlem Line station, and get at least one panorama photograph at each. I’ve spent the months since then photographing, and then posting a new station every week. Today my goal has finally been completed. Botanical Garden is the last station to be featured in my Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line. Next week I’ll feature a little bonus, a station we all know. After that Tuesday posts will be on hiatus – but as soon as spring weather comes I can assure you that I’ll be out taking more photos.

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Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 2)

Back in November I posted a whole bunch of postcards that I had collected of stations along the Harlem. I had promised a part two, and here it is now… but why stop at just part two? I’ve sort of realized I have quite the boatload of postcards, and I keep acquiring them. One of my rather lofty goals was to be able to collect a postcard for each Harlem railroad station. But I also couldn’t help purchasing alternate designs of the same stations. So although some places I have no postcards for, there are others that I have a bunch. I have far too many of Grand Central, and three or more of stations like Pleasantville, Chappaqua, and Chatham. Needless to say, there will be a part three, and possibly a part four at some time in the future. I do have a request to any of you out there, though. If you happen to have a postcard that I don’t have in my collection here, I would love you so much if you could scan it for me. As much as I’d love to actually have it in my possession, I would love it even more to have it available in my digital gallery!

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

The last four postcards are a little different. They are not Harlem stations per se, but once upon a time you could board a Harlem Division train that went into Massachusetts, across the Boston & Albany’s tracks. Leaving from Grand Central, the train would make stops at 125th Street, White Plains, Brewster, Pawling and Chatham. After a short pause in Chatham, the train would continue to East Chatham and Canaan, before crossing into Massachusetts and making stops at State Line, Richmond, Pittsfield, Cheshire, Adams and North Adams. Most of those stations are long gone, just like the Upper Harlem stations. Amtrak trains still make stops in Pittsfield, though the two stations in the postcards were torn down, which is unfortunate. They were gorgeous in comparison to today’s Pittsfield station. I think the waiting room there looks more like a school cafeteria than part of a train station!

  
  


Timetable for Harlem Division service to Massachusetts

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nybge

Photos from the Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

Several weeks ago I got a chance to take my first visit to the New York Botanical Garden to see the Holiday Train Show. For all the folks out there that have any experience with model railroading, you are familiar with the fact that it is a rather expensive hobby. I can only imagine how much the setup at the Botanical Garden took, not only in dollars, but in time as well. The amazing array of recognizable current and historical landmarks is astounding, and created of plant matter. I was quite fascinated with the beautiful textures: the layered leaves and twigs that comprised the roofs, covered bridges made of tree barks, building details made of seeds and acorns, and the thin imitation of glass illuminated from the inside. Current landmarks, such as Grand Central Terminal, stand side by side with recreations of the city’s long-gone masterpieces: from the house of William Kissam Vanderbilt that once stood on Fifth Avenue, to the stunning Pennsylvania Station.

I would definitely consider the Holiday Train Show to be a must-see holiday event. You still have a bit of time to get over to the Botanical Garden and see it, if you haven’t done so already. The show runs until January 9th. If you have the ability to visit on a weekday, I would highly suggest it. The weekend afternoon time I visited was quite busy, and I would have loved to not have to get kicked, or have my camera tugged on, by various small children. You can even purchase your tickets to the show online. And of course, getting to the Botanical Garden is easy on the Harlem Line via Metro North.

  
  
 
   
   
 
  
 
   
 
   
 
 
 
 
   
 

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Holidays on the Harlem Line

Did I ever mention that sometimes I wonder if I picked the wrong profession? I enjoy graphic design but advertisements? For things like Christmas? Bah humbug, I hate Christmas. Well, no, actually I hate being told that I am required to purchase extravagant gifts for a particular person. Honestly, I’d much rather give someone a for no reason other than this reminded me of you present. But yet, here I am, working on last minute ads for Black Friday…

Just this once though, just for my lovely readers, I will pretend that I enjoy the holidays, and fill you in on all the train and holiday related good stuff on the Harlem Line and in the city.

Discounts to see the Christmas Spectacular or Wintuk

In case you missed last week’s Mileposts, those interested in seeing the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, or Cirque du Soleil’s Wintuk can get a discounted ticket thanks to Metro-North. In addition to the discount, you also receive a free roundtrip train ticket to go see the show! When purchasing tickets for these events, use the promo code METRO in order to apply this promotion. For more information, details, restrictions and the like, check out these pages:
Tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Tickets for Wintuk

Discounts on the Nutcracker in White Plains

Another holiday event with discounts is at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. The Nutcracker, performed by the Westchester Ballet Company, will have shows on the 17th, 18th and 19th of December. Coupons are available on Westchester County’s website (after completing a short survey).
For information on purchasing tickets, click here.

Grand Central Holiday Fair

Every Christmas season Vanderbilt Hall is filled with various vendors selling their wares, and this year is no exception. The fair will run until December 24th, and is closed on Thanksgiving. For more information about hours, and a vendor map, check out this event page.

Holiday Train Show in Grand Central

The Transit Museum will again be hosting their Holiday Train show in their annex in Grand Central Terminal. Hours are as follows:
Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 8 :00 PM
Saturday & Sunday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
The show will run until January 17th.


Video from last year’s Holiday Train Show

Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden will be having its annual Holiday Train Show, which starts this Saturday. The garden is easily accessible via the Harlem Line, very close to, you guessed it, Botanical Garden station. The show will run until January 9th. Train and holiday related events will be happening throughout that run – from gingerbread houses to Thomas the Tank Engine visits – so be sure to check the schedule.

Lionel Pop-Up Train Stores

For anybody interested in purchasing some Lionel trains for themselves or friends, Lionel has a few pop up stores in the area. Supposedly these stores will have limited edition products not sold anywhere else. You can find the stores in Manhattan and White Plains:

Lionel New York
1095 Avenue of the Americas (41st St), New York, NY [map]

Lionel at the Westchester Mall
125 Westchester Ave., White Plains, NY [map]

Holiday Events at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center

The presepio is the most popular traditional Christmas decoration in Italy, and the Westchester Italian Cultural Center, not far from Tuckahoe station, will have theirs on display for the season. Events start on November 30th with Christmas Through the Ages, and the opening of the presepio exhibit. The exhibit will continue until January 1st. For more information click here.

Mount Kisco: Tree Lighting

Not far from Mount Kisco’s train station the town will host its tree lighting ceremony, on Friday December 3rd at 6PM. Cookies and cocoa will be served, and for the young ones there will be visits with Santa Claus afterward.
104 Main Street, Mount Kisco: [map]

Brewster: Tree Lighting & Putnam Chorale Holiday Concert

Christmas events in Brewster will commence at 4:30 on December 4th at the Southeast Museum, down the street from the train station. A holiday ornament-making workshop will be held for children, followed by caroling and the village’s tree lighting.
For more information about that click here.

Afterward, the Putnam Chorale and Brass Quintet will be performing a holiday concert, which is a free event. The show will be held at the United Methodist Church, which again is not far from Brewster station. The concert starts at 7:30 PM.
For more information, go here.

Great Westchester Toy & Train Show

In time for Christmas gift-giving is the largest toy/train show in the northeast – and within easy walking distance from White Plains station. The show will be held on December 12th at the Westchester County Center, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
For more information and a coupon for a dollar off admission, click here.

Annual IRideTheHarlemLine.com Holiday Card

Did I mention I hate cards too? They’re so impersonal sometimes, just grabbing something at Hallmark and running off. I’d much rather somebody draw me a picture, even if it is shitty. And every holiday that is exactly what I do, though I do hope you don’t think my drawing is shitty. Be sure to find me on the train and I’ll be happy to give you one of this year’s card (which is much better than last years). If I don’t see you or you don’t live in the area, you are welcome to email me your mailing address and I will send you one through the mail. (It will even have a Conductor Dog stamp on it!)

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Katonah

By now my little photography adventures have taken me to almost all of the Harlem Line stations (the only outstanding stations are Woodlawn, Williams Bridge, Botanical Garden, Melrose and Tremont. I’ve been warned for my safety at the last two). I’ve done a lot of fun things, and gotten to explore quite a bit. I’ve eaten an italian ice in Hartsdale with @kc2hmv, splashed in the river near Crestwood, and munched on good food in Mount Kisco, Valhalla and Tuckahoe. I’ve seen all the Arts for Transit pieces, and other randomly cute things, like the Commuter Rooster in Scarsdale. But despite all this, when I chatted with @bitchcakesny last night and she asked me my favorite station of all, I couldn’t quite answer.

There are so many good things about some of these stations, how could I pick just one? Wassaic and Pleasantville have my favorite Arts for Transit pieces, and I loved Harlem-125th’s art too, not to mention it was a great spot for photography. Bronxville has a unique station, and the shops surrounding Mount Kisco, Hartsdale and Scarsdale are cute and worth exploring. Chappaqua’s restored station building is a beautiful sight, and I’ve always been fond of Brewster’s old station building. What I was able to do though, is narrow it down by asking myself a question: If I had to be stuck at a single station for the entire day (maybe there was a big fire or something, shutting down Metro-North??), which would it be? And that answer is Katonah.

What makes Katonah special? The area around the station is very cute – full of shops and restaurants for eating good food. I will admit though, the Katonah Museum played a part in the decision. If you don’t mind walking the half mile from the station to this art museum, you really could spend the entire day here viewing art, shopping and eating. And if there was still time left you could hang out in the gazebo not far from the station, or go and visit the library which is two blocks away. Katonah is just another one of the nice places located along the Harlem Line, but one that certainly sticks out in my mind.







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Nature along the Harlem Line: The Muscoot Reservoir & Bridge L-158

I thought it might be fun to do something different this Friday… Tuesdays I visit train stations, but I don’t talk much about what else is around the station. The Harlem Line has plenty of intriguing spots along the route, and many for the nature lover. I do get emails every once and a while asking me questions about doing things – people wondering what is within walking distance of the stations, and what they can get away and do. And for those who, like me, do not drive, or don’t feel like driving, you can definitely take Metro-North to get to interesting spots.

As I mentioned, there are many nature-related locales on the Harlem Line. Some of the obvious ones are the Botanical Garden and the Appalachian Trail, but there are many lesser-known spots. Pawling has the Pawling Nature Reserve, which is not far from the Appalachian Trail. At the end of the line in Wassaic is the trailhead for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail which follows the old route the Harlem Line once took further north. Lower Westchester has the Bronx River Parkway Reservation which is more than 13 miles long and stretches from Valhalla to Bronxville – and passes by North White Plains, White Plains, Hartsdale, Scarsdale, Crestwood and Tuckahoe stations.

One of the lesser-known spots is near and dear to my heart, situated in Goldens Bridge and not far from my house. In the evenings it is here that I make laughable attempts at running off the past nine years I spent sitting on my ass in front of a computer. In all seriousness though, it is beautiful and quiet little spot that few people other than fisherman and neighborhood residents (and some deer, swans and bullfrogs) know about. The trails are not extensive, but they surround the beautiful reservoir and provide access to various fishing spots. I went one step beyond that and purchased a boat for use on the reservoir as well (boat use is heavily regulated, this is NYC’s drinking water, after all). However, the most noteworthy part of this “Public Access” DEP area is the old railroad bridge.


I created this map based on my own explorations of the area. Maps are actually fun to make. :P

I’ve mentioned Bridge L-158 a few times before. It is one of the few remaining vestiges of the branch of the Harlem Line that ran from Goldens Bridge to Lake Mahopac, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was originally built in 1883 over Rondout Creek near Kingston, NY, but was moved in 1904 by the New York Central Railroad to Goldens Bridge. Although the original bridge carried two tracks, the Mahopac branch was a single track line and when the bridge was reconstructed the width was shortened for a single track.





If you’re interested in visiting this part of the Harlem Line, it is within walking distance of Goldens Bridge station. Although it is rarely enforced, you do need an access permit to use the land for recreational use. But access permits are easy to get – you can register for one online and print it out immediately. If you’re interested in fishing or boating, you’ll need additional permits, so I advise checking the DEP’s site. People fish in the reservoir all year long, as the Muscoot is one of the reservoirs in which ice fishing is permitted. Although it is a lot smaller than some of the other nature spots around it is at least worth visiting to see the historic bridge. There are some times where it gets so quiet, except for the crunching leaves under the foot of a squirrel or deer, that you forget that you’re not that far from the city… only until you hear a train go by, yanking you back to reality.

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Holidays on the Harlem Line, Thanksgiving Schedules

The holiday season is fast approaching, and many interesting holiday themed events will be happening along the Harlem Line. The Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show opens tomorrow, which is accessible via Metro-North’s Botanical Garden station. Grand Central’s Holiday Gift Fair, located in Vanderbilt hall, opens on Monday. Starting on Wednesday the Transit Museum’s Annex in Grand Central will host their Holiday Train Show (please note that this will be closed on Thanksgiving). And of course, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be held on Thursday. Of course, Metro-North has come up with some new holiday schedules, including additional trains, to help you get to these events.

Thanksgiving Metro-North Schedules

Thanksgiving Eve 11/25 extra early getaway trains will be offered, beginning at 1 PM. Because of decreased ridership in the PM peak, some trains will be combined or eliminated.

Thanksgiving Day 11/26
Operating on a holiday schedule with extra AM inbound service for those of you going to the Macy’s Parade. There will also be lots of late morning/early afternoon outbound service, and plenty of inbound evening service to get you back home.

Day after Thanksgiving 11/27
operating on a “Saturday” schedule with extra service during the AM and PM peak time periods.

For the most up to date schedule information, consult the schedule search on Metro-North’s website. Information for the Harlem Line’s Wassaic branch can be found here.

Regarding events, I’m trying to come up with a nice schedule of all varieties of events accessible by the Harlem Line. These events will be listed on the right side of the site. If you know of an event that I should mention, please contact me!

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