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.
Admit it, readers – somewhere in the back of your head you were wondering when I’d get around to showing you more railroad-themed postcards. My postcard collecting addiction has been well documented, and roughly every other month I do a new post full of my newly acquired cards. Today’s lineup includes Amenia, one of the abandoned Upper Harlem stations, and Towners, another abandoned station. There are also a few cards of station buildings still around today, like Katonah, Bedford Hills, and Scarsdale.
Again, I must sincerely thank Steve Swirsky for his wonderful contributions to our extensive collection of postcards. The Dover Plains, Towners, and White Plains cards are all from his collection.
When it comes to my home station of Goldens Bridge, I like to think that I am observant to the changes that happen there. I usually notice when, at some point during the day, maintenance workers have been at the station (still repairing that winter damage to the yellow tactile stripping, I see. Perhaps it will be done by this winter?). I usually notice when people plaster the walls with various bits of propaganda. I definitely notice when the drunks kick the windows in, or the degenerate neighborhood youths graffiti up the station. I disgustedly notice the colonies of spiders that have made the station their home, and am mildly amused when they drop onto unsuspecting commuters waiting on the platform (but am less amused when it happens to me).
So when post-it notes began popping up in the evenings at the station, I noticed. They were everywhere. Even if you are not one of the observant riders, you probably noticed. Someone is trying to send a message to another commuter – and I attempted to imagine who was crafting these notes, and for whom they were posted. Beyond the fact that the creator has an English deficiency, I didn’t get too far with my pointless musings. Alright, maybe I was imagining in my head my roommate doing this, before heading to work at whatever gentleman’s club she is now employed. I’m glad whoever came to clean up the post-its had a sense of humor: they got rid of all the grammatically poor and overly sentimental notes, and kept my “fixed that for you” note.
However, if you ask me, we should begin a post-it revolution. Grab a pad, write something amusing, slap it somewhere in the station. We can certainly come up with better and more entertaining notes that at least have appropriately-placed apostrophes. Sure, it leaves more for those cleaning people to pick up (Whenever they actually come to the station, that is. Hell, while they’re at it, they can wash the windows so we don’t have to see crude phallic sketches in the layers of dust!), but it is less work than cleaning up graffiti. And it is somewhat amusing. Or at least I think so. But considering how easily amused I am, I may not be a good judge of that. Seriously though, let’s start a revolution to amuse people while they wait on the platform. Some of you sour-pusses certainly need it – after you finish up your breakfasts of lemons, of course.
Hello readers. I know you’re out there. You send me emails sometimes (and occasionally freak me out, yes, I’m looking at you, person who divulged their fantasies of doing nasty things on trains. Why?!) And I sure as heck know you’re searching in Google. I have mentioned it previously, but the things that people type into search engines are incredibly hilarious. And the things that people type in to find this site, well, needless to say, I question the sanity of my readers sometimes. But there are also times you guys ask me some valid questions, so I figured I’d put together a post combining some real answers along with some real “what the hell?” type moments.
Searching the crazy internet
Some “well-educated” internet searches
If you had to take a guess as to the number one thing that people have been searching for (in google and other search engines), and finding this site, what would it be? If you said Hermon Raju, then you would be totally correct. When I first posted about this “well-educated” Metro-North rider, I refused to mention her name. But since she has not only publicly admitted that the woman in the video was her, tried to hire a PR rep to repair her reputation, and went on record saying that she feels she was “raped by the internet,” I’m pretty much declaring her fair game. All of the terms below wound up bringing people to this site, so I must say, Hermon Raju, thank you for the visitors! Despite how well-educated you think you are, you clearly didn’t have the sense to just keep your mouth shut… not only on the train, but also by making yourself again a news story by searching for a person to “repair your reputation.”
educated girl yelling at conductor
educated woman kicked off train
well-educated train rider
crazy lady arguing with conductor
followup to educated obnoxious woman onthe metro north train
identity of the “well-educated” women who snap on metro-north
lady with an education arguing with train conductor in ny
metro north commuter well educated identity
mta girl well educated metro north
woman arguing on metro north train identified
do you know how well-educated i am, i ride the harlem line
rude woman in metro educated
train rider more educated than you
viral woman arguing with train employee
And for everyone other than Raju that is looking for yet another laugh, rumor has it the conductor in the video was reprimanded for not wearing her hat at the time. Oh, Metro North. Always thinking about the important stuff.
You seriously typed that into a search engine? WTF-worthy searches:
Sometimes when I look at these search keyword lists, I sincerely worry about the people that are inhabiting this planet we call Earth. Apparently the intelligence level of some of the inhabitants is dangerously low. I can’t believe people typed in this stuff:
body of drunk found in wassaic
wetting my panties on the train story
cool lesbian on a train
getting my 6th gun in westchester county
girls doing the cat work with metro north
groping on bus and train vids
japan fuck on a subway train
Questions that people search for:
How do you ride free on metro north?
There are a lot of strategies for riding free on trains. My best suggestion is for you to ride in the sixth car of an eight car train, and to look for the special conductor’s bathrooms. People always try to hide in the regular bathrooms, and not only do they smell, you will most likely have some people bothering you at some point. However, nobody ever looks in the conductor’s bathroom. If you knock on the door a few times, usually the door will pop open with no trouble, and you can hide in there for as long you want. Enjoy the free ride! In case you weren’t sure what a conductor’s bathroom looks like, I have a picture for you.
Ignore the window – it is just there to throw you off
Do you have to pay to ride mta from harlem to grand central?
Not if you follow the steps listed above.
Is it safe at goldens bridge train station?
The good majority of Harlem Line stations are fairly safe. I wouldn’t worry about much at Goldens Bridge – but if you see a guy that looks like Santa Claus hanging around, I’d probably run away. He has been known to show up at the station with no pants on, and is miserably drunk about 99% of the time. Don’t worry – he can barely walk, let alone run!
Does the harlem line have bathrooms in the train?
Provided that no dipshit is hiding in it to get a free ride, yes the trains do have bathrooms.
Do sketchy people board the harlem train line?
Well, it depends on what you mean by sketchy. If your definition of sketchy includes women who push their cats around in baby carriages, then yes, sketchy people do board trains. My personal favorites, however, are the artistic types that sketch people on the train (though I guess they would be sketching people and not sketchy). You can find a few ofthem online, but my favorite is James Napoleon who sketched me one morning a few months ago.
Is being a metro north conductor a shit job?
Difficult question! Conductors certainly get paid more than I do, as well as get a whole lot more vacation and sick days than me. But they also have long hours, and are harassed by people like Hermon Raju. And people that don’t want to pay the fare. And people that are drunk and vomit everywhere. And people that can and will harass them with racial epithets. Do I need to continue? As passengers we merely observe these people. Conductors have to deal with them.
Plus, somebody needs to get your drunk ass home on days like New Years, so conductors are often stuck working holidays. As a public worker, the salaries of conductors are also publicly available on the internet. Inevitably, at least once every year, some media outlet will write a story complaining about how much money conductors make, much of it in overtime. What they fail to realize is that these conductors work every day of the week, and every holiday. They have no days off. Sure, it is by choice, but if (for example) you are trying to pay your kid’s way through college and you’re offered overtime, wouldn’t you take it? Honestly, I think the weekends are probably the only thing that keep me relatively sane – I can’t even begin to imagine working every day nonstop for months.
Other questions & things…
What kind of camera do you use?
Because I post so many photos, this is one of the most common questions I get from people. I’m also asked how I do my panoramas, and why I don’t use a panorama viewer (like this) to present them. Firstly, I don’t use a fancy camera, nor a fish-eye lens. Any distortions are based upon the stitching process (which I use Photoshop for). My main camera is a Fujifilm HS10, and I have a waterproof Fujifilm Z33WP which I carry around in the rain and snow. As for panoramas – photography is a lot about capturing a freeze-frame of something you see with your eyes, and panorama viewers tend to mimic how the eye sees, except with a large vista. I rather like making long and semi-distorted panoramas solely because they are not something you can see with your own eyes as a normal human being.
Where do you get your hats from?
Almost all of my hats come from Boshi Basiik. Susan Nguyen is both wonderful and talented, and has created a few custom hats for me. Not only are they quality made, they are also affordable. And no, this is not a paid advertisement, I just think that Boshi Basiik is that cool.
Why do you like the Harlem Line?
Why is water wet? Why is the sky blue? Why are you asking me silly questions? How could you not be a fan of New York City’s oldest railroad? Maybe I like it because it was the first railroad I was ever a passenger on. I’m not really sure. All I know is that when I started this website, it was about the crazy people I observed, not about the railroad itself. Somewhere along the way I fell in love with the history, and maybe even the saga of the Upper Harlem (even though it didn’t have a happy ending).
I’m not much of a psychic, but I have a really good feeling that there will be a part 5. But until then, enjoy more old postcards from various locations along the Harlem Line. This time we have Brewster, more of Chatham, the abandoned Upper Harlem station of Craryville, a view of Croton Falls, Dover Plains, and Goldens Bridge, the station at Hartsdale, a winter scene at Hawthorne, a train pulling into Pleasantville, a view of the depot in Tuckahoe, the Borden Condensed Milk factory – located next to the tracks in Wassaic, and the old station in White Plains.
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.
[cetsEmbedGmap src=http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=201855341830642549339.000490912cdb96bd7414e&ll=41.58258,-73.418884&spn=1.756506,2.622986&t=h&z=9 width=553 height=740 marginwidth=0 marginheight=0 frameborder=0 scrolling=no]
Of all the places I’ve been on this little tour of the Harlem Line, it is funny that I have not yet featured the one station I spend the majority of my time at. As of the first of this month, I have been living in and commuting from Goldens Bridge for two years (I’ve been commuting regularly on the Harlem Line slightly longer, though from Brewster station). Besides some of my crazy neighbors, it is a fairly nice area, albeit a little quiet.
Goldens Bridge station in the 1920’s
Over the years that the railroad has been servicing the area, much has changed in Goldens Bridge, and it was probably not as quiet as it now feels. In the early 1900’s the Muscoot Reservoir was created, flooding areas in the town that people had formerly lived. Some of these people had their entire houses moved to other locations. The construction of Interstate 684 in the late 1960’s also changed the landscape of the hamlet significantly, and the two dangerous grade crossings that were in the town have been removed. The station building that was in Goldens Bridge was on the east side of the track, roughly located where the southbound entrance to the Interstate now is.
A train at Goldens Bridge
The busy station of yesteryear is a stark contrast to what the station is now. It was from Goldens Bridge that the Mahopac branch diverged from the main line, a once-popular service which was discontinued in 1959. The station had a turntable as well as a water tower -northbound steam trains would take on water here and be set until they reached Millerton. By 1902 the New York Central had two tracks all the way up to Goldens Bridge until 1909 when the line was two-tracked up to Brewster.
For all the changes the area has gone through over the years, it does slightly amuse me that the current station is sandwiched between the concrete and asphalt of the highway on the east side, and a little bit of wilderness surrounding the reservoir to the west (if you’re interested about visiting that little bit of wilderness, I’ve posted about it before). But it is that Interstate that brings many people to the station, the parking lot is always filled with commuters from New York and Connecticut… and plenty of folks for me to people-watch…
Several months ago I wrote about some of the names of the towns located along the Harlem Line, and how they have evolved over the years. Many of the names were taken from the families that owned the land, or perhaps donated it for the railroad to use, and the name had a possessive. For example, Brewster was known as Brewster’s after former land owners James and Walter Brewster. “Golden’s Bridge” was always a particular enigma, as the majority of use has evolved beyond the apostrophe (town signage does not use it, and the railroad stopped using it in 2003 on public timetables), yet the area’s fire department still uses the apostrophe, as does Google maps. There, however, is one remaining station that still bears the apostrophe of yesteryear, and that station is Purdy’s.
According to Louis Grogan’s book, The Coming of the New York & Harlem Railroad, the name Purdy’s comes from landowner Daniel Pardieus. How exactly the name evolved into Purdy’s is not certain – yet the same scenario exists for Goldens Bridge (the namesake in question may have been named Golding, Goulding, or even Colden). I wasn’t able to determine whether the area was called that prior to the railroad – and it might be yet another example where a hamlet/village takes its name from the station (Brewster is a good example of this. Brewster is part of the town of Southeast – though more people are familiar with the former than the latter. This played a part in the renaming of Brewster North, a railroad invented name, to Southeast, the actual town’s name). The land for the station was donated to the railroad by Isaac, grandson of Daniel, in 1844. It certainly isn’t the most noteworthy of stations, but on a rather cloudy day I took a visit and snapped a few photos.
As none of those photos were incredibly brilliant, I felt I would be cheating if I didn’t at least give you all a bonus to look at. And so, here is one of the former Harlem Line stations: Copake Falls. This former station is located in the town of Copake, in Columbia County, and approximately 22 miles north of the current end of track in Wassaic. To one side of the former station is the Taconic State Park, and to the other side is a portion of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. For the past twenty-eight years it has housed the Depot Deli. Interestingly, the owner told me that when he purchased the land the deed included a clause specifying that if passenger service was ever restored on the line he would provide a space for waiting travelers. Considering that the last passenger train ran through in 1972, and the tracks were removed in the 80’s, it is doubtful that would ever happen.
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-158a 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.
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.
My name is Emily, though I am known by many who ride the train simply as Cat Girl, for the hats I customarily wear during the winter time. I am a graphic designer, a former Metro North commuter and lifelong Harlem Line rider. This site is a collection of my usually train-related thoughts, observations, photographs, and travels, as well as my never-ending hunt for intriguing historical artifacts.