Random photos from a weekend full of trains…

I hope everyone had a spectacular weekend… Although I managed to get slightly sunburnt, we certainly had some lovely weather! Maybe you even partook in some of the events for National Train Day in Grand Central? I saw quite a few of you there, apologies to the folks I never got a chance to meet up with and say hi.

My weekend was quite full with Train Day festivities, as well as my first photographic foray to the foreign territory that is the Hudson Line. At Poughkeepsie I achieved the milestone of my 100th Metro-North station photographed. When you think about it, I mostly take pictures of stations, not trains (though stations do look better when there are trains present). But there was certainly an exception to that over the weekend, as I managed to snap quite an array of trains in various places along all three lines. Want to know how my weekend was? It is far easier to show you in photographs than it is in words – so here is a little bit of randomness from the past few days.

  
 
  
 
  
 
  

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The branches of the New Haven Line, in pictures

Yesterday I featured the only outstanding New Haven Line branch station on our Tuesday Tour, Springdale. Now that the branches are complete, I thought it might be nice to post one of my favorite images from each station in a single gallery. It gives you a quick idea of what each branch is like, and a glimpse into the life of a commuter from each station. The locales photographed vary from outstanding examples of historical stations and well-known landmarks, to bare-bones, concrete platforms that are just barely stations. Each branch terminates at a historically-important station, though only one of the three is being used in its original capacity as a passenger station.

The photographs below were taken on eight separate days, ranging from early March to mid-October.

The New Canaan Branch:

The New Canaan branch is the shortest of the three (8.2 miles), and the closest to Grand Central. It is also the only branch that is currently electrified. The branch first came into being when chartered as the New Canaan Railroad in 1866. By 1890 it had become a part of the The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

The awesome: New Canaan station may be the nicest station of all three branches (one could argue that Waterbury is more iconic, however it is no longer in use by the railroad, whereas New Canaan is).
Most underwhelming: Everything other than New Canaan.

 
 
 
 
 

The Danbury Branch:

Of the three New Haven Line branches, the Danbury Branch has the most stations, with a total of seven. Though the line continues further north, Metro-North service terminates at Danbury. The original Danbury station still exists, though it is not used by Metro-North. Service first began here in 1852, and the rail line was known as the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. In the late 1800’s the line was leased to the Housatonic Railroad, and later the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. By 1925 the track was electrified, but due to a poor economic situation, it was de-electrified in 1961.

The awesome: Danbury’s original station, yard, and turntable, now occupied the Danbury Railway Museum. Bethel’s old station is now a bike shop (I never got a photo of it). Cannondale’s old station is also lovely.
Most underwhelming: Without a doubt, Merritt 7. It is the only New Haven Line station without the typical Metro-North station sign, and is probably the most bare-bones station listed here.


 

 
 
 
 
 

The Waterbury Branch:

The Waterbury branch is Metro-North’s easternmost branch, and it diverges from the main line just east of Stratford. Although service terminates in Waterbury, the tracks do continue further north, and are used by the Railroad Museum of New England. Waterbury is located 87.5 miles from Grand Central – making it the furthest from the city in rail miles. The branch was originally chartered in 1845 as the Naugatuck Railroad (named after the river the tracks run alongside), and construction was completed by 1849. It was merged with the The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1906. Today, the branch has a reputation of serving both commuters and many sketchy people.

The awesome: Waterbury’s historical station (no longer used by the railroad) is one of, if not the most iconic structures in the city. The Naugatuck Historical Society is housed in their old station, which is also nice. You can get cool photos of the railroad bridge in Ansonia.
Most underwhelming: Beacon Falls and Ansonia. Oh, and don’t leave your car or any other valuables at Waterbury.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do you have a favorite?

If I had to pick the branch that I liked the best, I’d have a difficult time of it. New Canaan is certainly my favorite station, but the rest of the branch is relatively boring. The Danbury branch has the adorably-cute Cannondale, and the old station which is now a museum. The sketchy people of the Waterbury branch make me weary of choosing it as my favorite, despite the fact that I like that little railroad bridge over the Naugatuck river. It is, however, undeniable that Waterbury has the most recognizable old station – though it is debatable whether people actually realize it was once a train station. We can settle this right now, with a poll. Vote for your favorite branch here:
[poll id=”2″]

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Danbury

Over the past few weeks I’ve posted quite a few of the stations on the Waterbury Branch, so I figured I would hop back over to the Danbury Branch. As I’m sure you’ve noticed these station tours don’t go in any particular order, it just based upon which stations I’ve happened to photograph. I’ve started both the Waterbury and Danbury branches, and I still have quite a few stations left to do, especially on the main line. And of course, that is when I hope I’ll get a chance to ride one of the new M-8’s.

Today we’ll take a short visit to the Danbury station, the terminus of Metro-North’s service on the Danbury Branch. Although the tracks continue further north, Metro-North does not operate beyond here, though making stations in Northern Danbury, Brookfield and New Milford has been proposed. Danbury station is located 65 miles from Grand Central, and has a platform that will accommodate three train cars.

Slightly more interesting than the more modern Metro-North station is the original Danbury Union Station, which is now occupied by the Danbury Railway Museum. The station, built in 1903, is known for being in the movie Strangers on a Train. Metro-North stopped using the station in 1993, and in 1994 restoration began. The restoration on the station was completed in October of 1995.

 
  
 
 
  
 
  
 

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Gorgeous rail-side graffiti in Danbury, CT

I have a new favorite bit of graffiti that I absolutely had to post photos of. Although the piece in between Valhalla and North White Plains I mentioned a while back is still my favorite on the Harlem Line, it certainly pales in scope to this graffiti I just discovered along the tracks in Danbury. Well, I shouldn’t say “just discovered” – I had noticed it in the car for quite a long time, probably even a year or more. I kept thinking to myself, one of these days I have to come back with my camera. Over the weekend I did just that. From the road, however, it is impossible to notice how grand this piece really is. It is quite immense, taking up a huge wall. I keep looking back at the pictures I took, thinking that this wall is just so amazingly gorgeous (and one of these photos is currently my desktop background).

The graffiti is located just off of Main Street in Danbury, not far from the Metro-North station, and the Danbury Railway Museum (it is not alongside actual Metro-North Danbury Line tracks). The most noticeable portion is the portion closest to the road, depicting Danbury Police Officer Robert DiNardo, who died of cancer in 2009. However, the wall is extremely long and continues far beyond what is visible from the road. If you ever have the time to check it out, I highly recommend it. The entire wall was a collaborative effort by the DF Crew, who are active in the New York City area. The portrait of DiNardo was done by Jick, who grew up in Danbury and now lives in the Bronx.

 
  
 
   
 
  
   
 
 
   
 
 

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Photos in New Milford, and Christmas Events in CT

On my childhood journeys over the river and through the woods to get to my grandmother’s house, I always passed by the train station in New Milford. I never thought about stopping until more recently, where I snapped a few photos. This Housatonic Railroad station doesn’t get much action, though there have been thoughts to extend the Danbury Branch the three more miles up to New Milford. Then again there have also been suggestions of eliminating the Danbury Branch altogether. Oh wait, never mind.

 
  
 
  
 
  
 

Today the station serves as the New Milford Chamber of Commerce, which hosts various events. The day I was there, there was a book signing and tons of people, so I didn’t go in to take any photos. An upcoming event that may be of interest, however, is the 23rd Annual Hands On Train Display, which will be in the station from December 18th to December 31st, 12 pm to 4 pm daily. The event is free, but is closed on Christmas day.
For more information about the event, click here.

 
Photo Credits: Danbury Railway Museum Newsletter

The Danbury Railway Museum always hosts holiday events, and Christmastime is no exception. Santa’s Railway rides will be running Saturdays December 11 and 18, starting at noon, and Sundays December 5, 12, and 19, starting at 12:30. Trains are every half hour, and run until 3:30. Reserving your tickets in advance is suggested. Admission is $8, which includes the ride, a gift, and of course, a visit with the big man himself, Santa Claus.
For more information, or to reserve tickets, click here.

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Lots of photos from Danbury Railway Day

Saturday’s Danbury Railway Day was a great event, and had perfect weather… hopefully you were all able to make it! I know I saw a few people I knew there :D I spent the day taking far too many pictures (and possibly getting in the way of Eric’s photos), and hanging out at the members picnic that was held afterward (for which I made railroad cupcakes).

I’m a member of both the Danbury museum, and the Transit Museum in the city… and spending a day at the museum in Danbury you get to see how different these two places are. Unlike the Transit Museum, where employees are on the MTA’s payroll, everyone at the museum in Danbury is a volunteer. They don’t have nearly the funds of what the Transit Museum has, but they make up for it with their tenacity and sheer devotion. Some of those volunteers spend their every weekend, if not more, working there – restoring the old trains in the railyard, or even giving talks on Wednesday evenings.

I know I am so bad at processing photos (which is why I still have Japan and Canada photos I haven’t posted yet), and I am so anal about it. It takes me just about forever. But I worked hard Sunday to get all of these ready. Out of the hundreds of photos I took on Saturday, I narrowed it down to around 40 of the best… I did take some video as well, but that will have to be for another day! If you didn’t get the chance to make it to Danbury Railway Day, the museum is still open during normal hours, and is a great place to visit.


















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4th Annual Danbury Railway Day is this Saturday

Although I mention the Transit Museum in Brooklyn a bit more often, I am also a member of the Danbury Railway Museum. I just figured I’d let you all know that this Saturday there will be a great event that is definitely worth checking out if you are in the area. And even if you really aren’t that close, you can always take the New Haven Line’s Danbury branch to Danbury station.


Like this, except no snow, and more fun… I am in desperate need of taking better photos at this place!

This Satuday the 14th will be Danbury Railway Day at the museum. Festivities will start at 10am until 5pm, followed by a picnic for museum members. Admission is $8, or $7 for members, and children under 3 are free. Plus, if you print out this page, you can get a dollar off that admission price. Admission includes regular access to the museum and the museum’s great railyard, plus free rides on the turntable and caboose (usually rides are an additional fee). There will also be special tours of the Pennsylvania Railroad railway post office car, which is celebrating its 100th birthday, and other additional attractions for children (coloring, temporary tattoos, etc…)

You can find more information about the event on the Danbury Railway Museum web site. It is sure to be a great event, and I hope to see you all there!

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Conversations With My Neighbor: Fireman for the New York Central

It has been my opinion for quite a while that my house ought to be a reality TV show. Not far from Goldens Bridge train station, we roommates met via Craigslist. We currently have three people in the house, but in the past have had four. And one dog. Her name is Kaylee, and she weighs almost as much as me. Correction, she weighs nearly what I weighed before I got a job that provided me enough money for my junk food and Coca-cola addiction. The fourth roommate, and there have been two, has always been the smelly one – whether it be from not washing, or from smoking a million packs a day. The first two formed a band that frequently makes noise in our basement, which if you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably heard about. They are also dating off and on. If I had a dollar for every time they broke up and she moved out, only for her to move back in not soon after, I’d be rich. They are currently together, but by the time the next train arrives in Goldens Bridge, who knows…

In a strange coincidence during one of those breakups, the two got into a fight outside. He threw a CD at her, but was off the mark and it flew into the neighbor’s yard. And they forgot about it. Several days later the neighbor shows up, CD in hand, returning what they must have “lost”. In the chatter that followed during this encounter, my roommate discovered that the neighbor once worked for the railroad, back when they still used steam on the Harlem Line. When my roommate told me about it, I knew I had to speak to this man. And so, one afternoon while walking the dog, I spotted him outside on the porch and said hello.


The man on the left is my neighbor, John

My neighbor certainly has an intresting viewpoint in regards to the history of the Harlem line. He witnessed the final years of steam on the line, and the trains that replaced them. He was a Fireman, while that position still existed, anyway. He told me he’d put water in the boiler in the engine in Goldens Bridge that would run to Mahopac, and then on break, would walk to his house, have a sandwich and tend to the plants in his garden. It was one of the many jobs he had over the years, including working in Chatham, Dover Plains, Brewster and Goldens Bridge. Occasional winters were spent working on the Maybrook Line in Danbury and Hopewell Junction. Besides seeing the end of steam, he witnessed the transition from the New York Central to Penn Central, Conrail, and Metro North, until finally retiring in 1991.


The above photos of his are of the Empire State Express no. 999, taken in Chatham in 1952

We always thought we’d lose the passengers. We never thought we’d lose the freight…

John motions to his wife, telling me how she hates how he always says this. It is hard for him to understand the state of matters today, shipping everything by truck. Trains were so much more efficient, he says. Watching the news every morning, the traffic reports show cameras of the traffic on every bridge going into the city, with traffic backed up for miles… and plenty of box trucks in wait. He muses about how everything has changed. Everything today is technology based…

“It was boring…” he said of being an engineer today. He turns to look at me with his weathered face, but his light blue eyes are still bright. He tells me that having good eyes was essential for working on the railroad. When starting out he had to undergo various vision tests, to have the vision to see a signal light from a mile away. To see in fog, and to see through your peripheral vision. It baffled him to see people working for Metro North, people that wore glasses. Because now, you didn’t need to see signals outside, everything was in the cab. Having perfect vision isn’t a necessity as it once was. Although hiring a more diverse workforce, in both gender and color, was a new thing, seeing the people wearing glasses seemed like it was harder to get used to for him.

He refers to himself as an “old timer” and says that most of the people he worked with weren’t really interested in his stories. I think he finds it amusing that someone is so interested in them, especially a young female. But that is hardly the first time I’ve heard that before. Some of the things he told me were not stories in their entirety, but quick smatterings of thoughts and memories. Comparing distractions of cell phones today, to people he recalled watching baseball games on portable televisions long ago. People that would throw rocks and bottles at the train, and how he once got a “face full of glass” – an event he didn’t care much to elaborate on. Stories he heard from the “old timers” of his day, of bootleggers during prohibition, and people that smuggled out Canadian ale on the trains. And when I asked about uniforms, he told me of others on cleaner trains that wore suits to work, suits with inner pockets where flasks could be hidden.


More photos from my neighbor’s collection

For 43 years my neighbor worked for the railroad, though he mentioned another family member that had a record, close to 50 years of service to the rail. His daughter and son both work for Metro North, in North White Plains, and over on the Hudson Line. Despite living next door, I don’t see the man much. He spends part of his time at a house upstate, and when he happens to be in Goldens Bridge, he often sits outside, on the porch hidden by bushes. But every time I walk by, mostly on the way to or from the train station, I look over to see if he is hidden behind those plants. Because even though our conversations have been few, they’ve always been most interesting.

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My Visit to the Danbury Railway Museum

Despite living rather close to Danbury, I had never visited the Danbury Railway Museum. Today I decided to change that, and went exploring to the museum. It was quite an incredible day, the temperature really warmed up compared to last week. And the sky was amazingly blue, and quite beautiful.

The inside of the museum was not too bad, though it felt more geared towards children. There were a lot of model railways, with buttons you could press to operate. I did like their collection of uniforms and conductor hats. I must admit though, the fun part of a trip to any train museum are the trains themselves. I spent a lot more time out and exploring the trains and the rail yard, than I did inside. The fact that a young child of about four kept following me and pulling on my pant leg inside probably played a bit in that decision as well.

If you’re interested in finding out more information about the museum, or taking a visit, you can get to their site by clicking here. Looks like they are in desperate need of a new website though, as it totally looks like a circa-1997 geocities website! The museum is definitely worth the visit though, and I’ll certainly have to go back after April. They do run trains on which you can ride, but they don’t do so during the winter, apparently.

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