Counting down the 12 most popular posts of 2011, Part 1

2011 was certainly a whirlwind of a year. The site found itself featured in the New York Times, and I even had a radio interview. There were visits to lots of interesting places: train stations in Quebec, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, and non train related spots like an ice hotel, and the final space shuttle launch. In February we finished up our tour of the Harlem Line, and by May began our tour of the New Haven Line. As we head boldly into the new year, hoping for many new and wonderful adventures, I thought I’d take the time to check out the top 12 things you loved about 2011.

Although not eligible for a spot in our 2011 countdown, as it was posted in 2010, the Panorama Project page was hands-down the most popular page on the site this year. Likely the New York Times article had a lot to do with that. Although we post a new station every Tuesday, the Panorama Project page is still the best way to check out all the stations and lines that have been featured thus far.

Number 12 on our list is The Rebirth of a Train Station: Canaan. While so many towns are content to ignore their railroading history, Canaan is the complete opposite. They are fiercely proud of that history, and when their gorgeous station was the victim of arson several years ago, they vowed to rebuild. In the ensuing years, the old depot has made a huge transformation – no longer is it a fire-ravaged hulk – it is slowly returning to its former grandeur.

Later in the year, we revisited Canaan during their annual Railway Days.

Old postcards have always been a popular subject matter on the site, and over the years there have been six parts (and more to come!) in our Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line series. Part two was the eleventh most popular post on the blog in 2011. You can check out all the other postcard posts with the following links: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Tenth most popular in 2011 was one of our Tuesday Tour stops on the New Haven Line, Pelham. Pelham is one of the old and attractive New Haven Line stations on the opposite side of the border, in New York. I found myself here on the very day that the article featuring the site was published in the New York Times. And the fact that this post was linked to by a few other railroad websites certainly helped with its popularity.

A bit more popular than the postcards are our collections of old photos from the Harlem Line. Like the postcards, there have been many different old photo posts, and for a brief stint I posted many of these photos on Mondays. Part 3 of Even More Monday Morning Old Photos was the ninth most popular post on the blog in 2011. It contained several photos of the line that used to be, when it passed by Millerton and extended all the way up to Chatham.

Everyone must admit that the concept of quiet cars is a great one – however, in practice, it may be a little bit more difficult. You know that although you may encounter some really nice people on the trains, there are also a whole bunch of assholes. They yap on their phones, take up rows of seats with their bags (one morning I saw a woman holding hostage several seats with her large carton of juice). There are many times that I am skeptical that good ideas can work with stupid people.

Before the quiet car program started, Metro North said that conductors would have “Shh Cards” to pass out to loud people to tell them to shut their traps in a nice, passive way. I thought the idea was amusing, and managed to get my hands on some of the cards before the program debuted. And they were a little bit too nice – I was unable to resist making modifications to them… and even printing out a few. The fake shh cards posted under the title of Quiet cars and Shh cards was the eighth most popular on the site in 2011, and the cliffhanger I’ll leave you with until later on this week.

Want to see the remainder of the top 12? Check back later this week to see them, and to find out which post will be crowned number one most popular of 2011.

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Photos from Canaan Railway Days

Some months ago I randomly stumbled upon the old railroad depot in Canaan. Stumbled is really the appropriate word – I wasn’t looking for, nor expecting the station. I suppose one could say the station found me. In the original post I wrote about the station, I mentioned that I knew there had been a fire there, and after seeing fire photos in the internet I had assumed the station would be demolished. How wrong I was!

Apparently I am not the only person fascinated by the old Canaan depot. That original post has been one of the most popular stories on the blog this year. Not to mention that the people I’ve met from Canaan are fiercely proud of their depot, and proud of the railroading history of their town. Perhaps this is why I find them, and this depot so endearing.

The work on the station continues, and has progressed a little bit since the last time I was here. This time I was able to actually see the inside, which I hadn’t been able to do before. And I am not going to lie, seeing a train waiting on the platform right outside makes this place look so much more alive! I was only at the depot for a short time, and didn’t get a chance to partake in all of the activities (there was a parade, and even fireworks one night!), but I did manage to get a few photos…

 
  
  
 
 
  
 
   
 
   
  
    
   
  
 
  
 

As a side note, I noticed that on the depot’s website there is a form for ordering an engraved brick that will be placed at the station. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting one and having them write IRideTheHarlemLine.com on it (assumedly we’re not advanced enough to be placing QR codes on bricks…) Anyone want to contribute? They cost $150.

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The rebirth of a train station: Canaan

When I announced at the beginning of this month that April would be Harlem Railroad Month, I failed to mention that not only was it the New York & Harlem Railroad’s 180th birthday, but this blog’s second birthday. April 10th was the official day, and I let it pass without much thought… but I must say now, Happy Birthday IRideTheHarlemLine!

Back when I first started the blog I think I was a little bit more shy than I am now. Despite any way I might present myself on the internet, I really can be quite shy at times. When people first started recognizing me on the train I think it freaked me out a little bit. But now, I think I’ve been taking it more in stride. I enjoy talking with people, and love to hear their stories about trains. Through talking with various people about trains, I’ve come across two comments that are almost always mentioned to me: Why are you interested in this, and especially history – when nobody in your generation really cares about it! The other one thought I hear a lot is a bit more simple: you’re a girl that likes trains!?

The comment about me being female, well I can’t really say anything about that. But about the history, well, that I can agree. Lots of people in my generation really could care less about history. There are times when I think I really baffle librarians, because they ask me what school I go to, and for what project I need these rail-related books. But having a lack of interest in the past is a significantly different thing than being destructive to history. I, sadly, can display to you a complete disregard of history, and the utter stupidity of some of my generation in one single photograph:

That is Canaan Union Station in Canaan, Connecticut. Until the station was devastated by fire, it was the oldest continually operating station in the United States, built in 1872. In 2001, however, four young boys wandered away from their homes late at night and started the fire. Two of the boys were charged as juveniles and their names were not released. The other two, not much younger than me at the time, were charged as adults and served a few months jail time. All it took were four young boys and a cigarette lighter to destroy a beautiful historical monument…


1953 photo of Canaan Station from Life


Old postcard view of the station

I must admit, that first photograph makes me quite depressed. Thankfully there still are people out there that do in fact care about history (perhaps if you are reading this, you are one of them), and about this station. When I had made a mental list of train stations I wanted to visit in Connecticut, I left off Canaan. And it isn’t that I didn’t know about it – I had seen the photos of the fire! For some reason, in my head I believed that the station would be torn down and eventually forgotten. The happy thing I’ve discovered was that I was completely wrong… which I didn’t find out until I, in a random fluke, just happened to pass by it while in the car with my friend. Though the majority of the station was consumed by the fire, a portion of it did survive, and the remainder was being rebuilt. Although I don’t remember the station before (though my parents tell me that they had taken me there when I was a child), I am pleased that this station is being reborn, and will become beautiful once more…

 
  
 
   
  
   
  
 
  
   
  

If you’re interested in learning more about the station, seeing additional photos of the fire and the rebuilding process, please visit the Connecticut Railroad Historical Association’s site for Canaan Union Station.

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