Lighting Up Grand Central – The Centennial Holiday Light Show

Hopefully by now you’ve heard about Grand Central’s Holiday Light Show, one of the final events in this celebratory centennial year. Grand Central has hosted several holiday light shows in the past, but this year’s is most certainly my favorite. Taking over the Terminal’s west windows, LED lights turn each individual window pane into a “pixel” of color. In concert, all of these “pixels” can display colors, letters, and even basic shapes.


Behind the scenes: a Textilene scrim hangs in each window pane, onto which LED lights are projected. The windows on the west wall contain over 350 window panes, so setup was a daunting task. I wasn’t quite sure if walking behind the setup would be visible from below, so I didn’t!

The light show that you see each night, starting at 5 PM and continuing to 11 PM, is a collaboration by several groups. Sponsored by Toshiba, the show was designed by Michiru Tanaka, a lighting designer that has worked with Toshiba on several lighting projects. Bestek Lights brought the concept into the real world with LED light fixtures, and fabricated everything required to hold the lights. All of that work had to abide by landmarks preservation guidelines, as well as safety guidelines, since behind the window panes are walkways used by employees.


Concept rendering of the light show (left), and lighting designer Michiru Tanaka in front of her creation (right, photo by Charles Norfleet).
 
President of Bestek, Van Allen Rice, experiments with different fabrics for the light show (left), and the control setup for the light show (right). Photos via Bestek.

Because the window panels are a major source of light in the main concourse during the day, one of the requirements for the installation was that it could not block the sun. After several trials, it was decided that Textilene scrims would be hung in each window panel. The scrims would allow the LED light to be reflected onto it for the show, but would also allow sunlight to pass through during the day. Below each scrim is a Stagebar 54, a light fixture that contains 54 LED lights in five colors – red, green, blue, amber, and white. A total of 354 of these fixtures were installed to create the grand effect you see in the show.

If you haven’t gotten a chance to see the light show yet, you have until December 26th to check it out (which is definitely worth it). The thirty minute shows run continuously from 5 PM to 11 PM each night. Note that you can see the show from inside the main concourse, as well as from outside the building on Vanderbilt Avenue.

 
  
   
 
  
 

Read More

A Recap of Events: Grand Central’s Centennial

Last Friday the MTA held a celebration for Grand Central’s Centennial, which expectedly turned out to be a widely attended day-long event. One of the main events was a rededication ceremony for the Terminal, held that morning. There were a wide array of speakers at the ceremony, including Mayor Bloomberg, Cynthia Nixon and Caroline Kennedy. Peter Stangl, the first president of Metro-North also spoke, as did Howard Permut, current president of Metro-North.

  
  

The West Point Brass and Percussion Band also performed, which seemed quite appropriate. According to historical accounts of Grand Central’s opening, the first song to ever be played in the Terminal was the Star Spangled Banner, which was not yet our national anthem at that time, on the east balcony. The band’s placement right below the east balcony as they played the song seemed rather appropriate, and probably the closest we’d get to reenacting what happened on February 2nd, 1913, at 12:01 AM. Also a fitting mirror was a presentation of a key to Mr. Permut by members of the Vanderbilt family – similar to the presentation of keys to Terminal Manager Miles Bronson one hundred years ago.

The only unfortunate thing to note is that much of the celebration was focused on the VIPs, as opposed to the lowly commuters that actually use Grand Central. (And for the record, no, running this blog did not qualify me as a VIP – I asked and was rejected. An “actual” member of the “press” granted me a pass in their stead. Thanks Steve!) VIP guests to the event got a special program and booklet, which are visible here:

Rededication ceremony program
Program for the Grand Central rededication.

Long poem in one booklet, short poem on this "Poetry in Motion" poster.
Two poems were written about Grand Central by poet Billy Collins. The long poem was illustrated in one booklet, and the short poem appears on this "Poetry in Motion" poster. The posters were not handed out at the event, but have been sighted on trains.

Booklet spread 1
Booklet spread 2
Booklet spread 3
Booklet spread 4
Booklet spread 5
Booklet spread 6
Booklet spread 7
Booklet spread 8
Booklet spread 9

The text on the inside of the booklet was the longer poem that was read by Billy Collins during the ceremony. The shorter poem, which he also read, appears in the program, and on trains thanks to Poetry in Motion and Arts for Transit.


Billy Collins speaks at the Rededication Ceremony

If you’re not familiar with Collins, he is a New York native that was both New York State Poet Laureate, and Poet Laureate of the United States… which in the poetry world is kind of a big deal. While I’m sure plenty of poems have been written about Grand Central, Collins’ poems may be the most high profile written about our lovely Terminal.


Well, Cornelius Vanderbilt is supposed to be here…

As of right now, I have little to say about the Transit Museum’s show “Grand by Design.” Unfortunately, a hundred years wasn’t quite enough to finish up the exhibition, and it seemed that things were missing. The fact that Cornelius Vanderbilt was not mentioned or pictured seemed like a mistake of monumental proportion. Apparently it turned out that Mr. Vanderbilt was supposed to be on that nice blank spot we’re all pointing to in the photo above. I was also disappointed that there was no mention of William Kissam Vanderbilt either – he was really the only Vanderbilt that had a direct influence on the construction of Grand Central. (If the Vanderbilts are still confusing you, it means you haven’t yet read this.) But in all honesty, I may have just been depressed that Anderson Cooper did not attend the event – he is a Vanderbilt, after all.

USPS Grand Central stamp

Another event that happened on Friday regarded the new United States Postal Service stamp, picturing Grand Central, illustrated by Dan Cosgrove. If you were one of the hundreds of people that failed to get the Grand Central centennial cover and stamp on Friday, you can purchase them directly online. Word was that within fifteen minutes they ran out of envelopes for the stamps. The whole purpose of the event was to get the stamp on the special envelope and get it postmarked… so I feel bad for all the people that waited in that line to get just the stamp, which could be purchased at any post office. If you’re looking to grab the covers with the February 1 date stamp online, the USPS site offers two versions for purchase, one with a color postmark for $21.10, or a regular first day stamp for $20.39.

Back on topic, the entire event was a big birthday bash for Grand Central. And no birthday celebration would be complete without a little music…
 
Sarah Charness played the electric violin, and later Melissa Manchester sang. Manchester also shouted “I love you, gorgeous!” at the sky ceiling, which might be cute, had I not been thinking about this.

…and a little bit of cake…

I hope you all like this photo, I dropped my piece of cake on the floor while taking it. And yes, only the VIPs got delicious cake.

The gorgeous cake was made by Eric Bedoucha of Financier Patisserie – a delicious confection modeled after the Information Booth’s clock. It was supposedly saved for the VIP dinner to be hosted at the Oyster Bar that night… which in itself is another mirror to actual events, as the first VIP dinner happened February 1st 1913 at 8 PM.

That about sums it up for the Centennial. With the ceremony past, I figured I’d leave off with a quick recap of all fifteen articles I wrote about Grand Central over the past hundred days.

Happy Birthday, Grand Central!

Read More

Celebrating Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial: The 100 for 100 Project

Provided you haven’t been living under a rock recently, you may have heard that Grand Central Terminal’s Centennial is fast approaching. While Metro-North will be kicking off celebrations in February, I thought it would be more fun to get the party started now. That’s why I Ride the Harlem Line will be counting down the next 100 days to Grand Central’s Centennial with a historical photo of the Terminal. That’s right – 100 historical photos, posted one per day, for the next 100 days. I like to call it the Grand Central 100 for 100 Project. While there will, of course, be a few iconic photos in the mix that you’ve certainly seen before, I’m hoping that the majority of them you haven’t seen. It is a great way to visually explore the history of the Terminal, and to see Grand Central in a new light.

Grand Central is truly a monument of New York City. Not only is it functionally important – a great example of what a train station should be – it is architecturally significant, and paramount, an important precedent for historical preservation in the United States. Besides all that, Grand Central means a lot to me – and this is one of the few ways a lowly commuter interested in history such as myself can celebrate it. Grand Central, and its Centennial Committee, plan to hold their festivities on the first of February – which seems entirely appropriate – for the committee contains the rich, and the famous. Grand Central unofficially opened on the First of February in 1913 – not to the public, but to the rich and the famous. It was not until the gorgeous Information Booth clock’s hands moved to midnight, commencing the new day of February 2nd, that the Terminal opened to the public. Thus, February 2nd is the day that our project will be counting down to, one photo at a time.


A poster advertising Grand Central Terminal’s opening on February 2nd, 1913.

Our photographic countdown will be comprised of nine different topics, with the photos in each moving in a roughly chronological order. Posting a new photo on the blog every day doesn’t seem to be the best format in which to present these images – thus I’ve decided that the better place to post them all will be on social media. Facebook and Twitter are conducive to sharing – and I want you to share these photos. I want everyone to celebrate Grand Central and its 100th birthday – for it is our monument, not just a pretty building for the privileged.

Part 1: Construction of Grand Central Terminal
Thursday, October 25th

Part 2: Outside views, and the Changing Urban Landscape
Sunday, November 4th

Part 3: Waiting for the Train
Saturday, November 10th

Part 4: Trains in the Terminal
Sunday, November 18th

Part 5: Famous Faces
Friday, November 30th

Part 6: Around Grand Central
Sunday, December 9th

Part 7: The Main Concourse
Saturday, December 29th

Part 8: Noteworthy Events in the Terminal
Wednesday, January 9th

Part 9: Grand Central Terminal, Restored
Thursday, January 24th

So today, we begin. The first photo, and all subsequent photos, will be posted daily at 11 AM. Make sure to like or subscribe over on Facebook, or follow @mtaHarlemLine or the hashtag #100for100GCT on Twitter to see all the photos. There is also an unofficial countdown clock on the top of this site, which will link to the project photos, and count down to the centennial. We’ll also be celebrating with other Grand Central-themed posts over the span of the next hundred days, and will have something special on Grand Central’s birthday, February 2nd. Let the festivities begin!

Read More

National Train Day – Are you going to be there?

If you are a railfan, most likely you’ve heard about the upcoming National Train Day festivities – provided you aren’t living under a rock or something. In the past, I admit that I’ve made a few cracks about this somewhat recently-established “holiday.” Amtrak declaring a particular day National Train Day almost seems to me as silly as Hallmark declaring a “send your loved-one a card or you don’t really love them” day (which in some circles may also be known as Valentine’s Day). Thankfully, the National Train Day celebration does in fact coincide with a bit of history – namely the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad in the US on May 10th (and as everybody knows, the railroads built this country). But with events to be held in Grand Central Terminal this year, I’m thinking National Train Day is really going to be an awesome event, and certainly worth attending.

In addition to seeing some pretty cool trains (and I’ve heard some interesting rumors…), all the foamers can also foam at Rosario Dawson, whom the Twitterverse has reminded me is totally relevant because she was in some movie about trains (I guess Denzel Washington was already booked, and marginally less foam-worthy). So be sure to mark your calendars for May 12, the Saturday date for National Train Day’s celebration this year. Events will begin at 11 AM and carry on until 4PM. In addition to Ms. Dawson, Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary exhibit train will be making an appearance – chock full of historical memorabilia.

As I know many of you, my devoted readers, will certainly be attending this event, I thought perhaps a get-together should be in order. Anybody want to meet up, grab a meal afterwards, or something of that nature? Drop me a comment, or send me an email at info@iridetheharlemline.com.

Read More

Squash in Grand Central

Hope everybody out there is enjoying this snowy Wednesday… Actually, who am I kidding? I’m sick of the snow, and I think most train riders will agree with me on that one. Let’s take your mind off of that with some photos from the squash tournament in Grand Central. The whole idea of constructing a glass cube for the purpose of playing squash in a railroad station is a bit amusing to me. But at the same time it feels like an appropriate nod to history. The tournament is sponsored by J.P. Morgan, a modern banking company originally named for John Pierpont Morgan. Morgan was a banker, as well as a financier of railroads.

 
  
  
  
 

The Tournament of Champions is held yearly in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall. Although tickets are sold for seats, there is standing room for visitors or commuters waiting for their trains to watch as well.

Read More

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.

Read More

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!)

Read More

Soles4Souls Shoe Donation at Grand Central this Tuesday

Perhaps you have a pair of shoes you’ve never worn collecting dust in your closet. Or a pair that you’ve worn only once, but don’t really like anymore. Or maybe you’d just like to purchase a pair of shoes for a good cause… Either way, be sure to bring a pair of shoes to Grand Central this Tuesday! There will be a collection of shoes in Grand Central on Tuesday in Vanderbilt Hall to benefit Soles4Souls. Soles4Souls is a charity based in Tennessee, and distributes shoes to the needy. The charity has donated more than ten million pairs of shoes to people in more than 125 different countries. So if you have an extra pair of unwanted shoes, take them with you to Grand Central Tuesday – the collection will run from 7am to 5pm. The first 500 people to donate will also get a gift bag, sponsored by various Grand Central retailers. If you’re a fan of Dancing With the Stars, you may enjoy this event even more – professional dancer and two time champion of the show Cheryl Burke will be making appearances throughout the day.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can still donate shoes at other locations. Check out the Soles4Souls website for more information.

Read More

“Who cares about the facts, as long as I report it first” & Thursday’s Subway Fatality

There is this sentiment in the news today, with the internet and all “competing” with the “real” news. That sentiment is “who cares about the facts, as long as I report it first”. And this sentiment sickens me. Seriously.

I have been having issues with my laptop charger, so I haven’t been on my computer quite as much this week. So I totally missed the other day’s story about the person getting killed by the 6 train at 77th Street. Maybe it was good I missed it. Maybe because the story was complete and utter bullshit. Check out the story on The New York Times‘ website, and read the comments. You will see something drastically different than what the story reports. Why? Because the story was changed as the “real” information came in.

Apparently the original story reported that a young girl was struck by the train. Not only that, witnesses report that the girl was possibly pushed off the platform, as students were horsing around. That is pretty fucked up. A person getting pushed? That is murder on the subway! But hey, guess what, that story was completely false. It is now reported that the person that was struck was not a child, but a forty-eight-year-old woman named Rose M. Mankos. And not only was she NOT pushed, the story now reports that she dropped her bag on the tracks, and JUMPED DOWN TO RETRIEVE IT. That on the other hand is NOT murder. That is complete and utter stupidity. I am so sorry, but that woman got what she deserved. You may call me heartless, but if you jump down on the tracks, you are an idiot.

People, never, never, NEVER go down on those damn tracks. Just don’t do it. Losing something on the tracks does happen. New York City Transit estimates that it happens perhaps twelve to fifteen times per day. If you do lose an item, you need to report it to a police officer or employee. There is an Emergency Response and Track Lubrication Division, and they respond to these events. Once the call is made, a track specialist responds and will retrieve the item. It may not happen instantaneously, and you may have to return later to pick up the item, but at least you will be safe. Life is worth more than whatever stupid possessions you may have dropped. You can buy a new iPod. But your poor family members (whom I am truly sorry for… having to identify that mangled mess of your daughter / sister in the morgue) can’t buy another you.

Note: This post has been edited, because I am a moron and wrote that this happened Friday, when in reality it occurred on Thursday. Talk about criticizing the “media,” hah! It has also been updated to reflect the response I got from NYCTSubwayScoop on Twitter regarding the procedure for retrieving a lost item.

Read More

NY Transit Museum Annex Reopening & New Exhibit: Where New York Began…

If I haven’t said it before, I think it is pretty cool that MTA has been embracing social media, and the various agencies have twitter accounts. There’s MTA, Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, New York City Buses, New York City Subways, MetroCard Promotions, and the NY Transit Museum. The Transit Museum seems to be the newest of the bunch. A little less than a month ago, the museum sent a tweet, giving a little sneak preview of the new exhibit opening in the Annex in Grand Central, which has been closed since January:

How long does it take to make exhibit mounts for 100 ceramic sherds? Our preparators will know soon.

Why exactly were they making exhibit mounts for ceramic sherds? It doesn’t much sound like something transit-related. But in fact, all of the objects on display in the new exhibit do in fact relate to public transit… they were all excavated from under the South Ferry subway station. I’ll let the museum take it from here:

Construction in New York City is always complex, but it raises particular concerns when it cuts through the most archeologically rich section of town. In February 2009 a new South Ferry subway station opened on the southernmost tip of Manhattan, a place where environmental, historical, and commercial interests collide. In order to build the station, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was required to conduct an archeological review and excavation. This provided an extraordinary glimpse into the very place that the modern city has its roots, and the basis of an exciting new exhibit at the New York Transit Museum. Where New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal will be on view at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store from March 18 – July 5, 2010.

In addition to unearthing portions of the city’s early infrastructure, excavations yielded over 65,000 artifacts, including ceramic sherds, shells, coins, tobacco pipes, and architectural materials. These pieces document 400 years of city life and embody the cycle of building, razing, and rebuilding that is a hallmark of New York City. Over 100 of these objects will be on view along with historic maps and photographs, and field images and video of the archeologists at work.

This also marks the grand reopening of the museum’s retail store, which features a dynamic new design, new fixtures and lighting to better showcase the Museum’s unique product mix.

The museum is going to have an opening for members on the 18th, which I will be attending. I’ll be sure to take lots of photographs, and post them up!

Read More