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.

 
  
   
 
  
 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from I Ride the Harlem Line!

St. Patrick's Day Parade Timetable
A special St. Patrick’s Day parade timetable printed by Metro-North in 1996.

When it comes to the worst day to ride Metro-North Railroad, it is usually a tossup between New Year’s and St. Patrick’s Day. Both involve large crowds of people that have imbibed a bit too much. Most years I think St. Patrick’s is the clear winner (or loser, perhaps?), because when it falls on a work day you have a combination between the regular commmuters and the drunks, and it usually isn’t very fun. After all, I’d rather not step over passed out revelers, or in pools of vomit while heading home after a long day at work, thank you very much.

Thankfully, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekend this year, so there will be no clashes between commuters and partiers. Though if you’re feeling brave and looking to go to the parade, Metro-North will be offering extra trains, sans adult beverages. Alas we’re not cool enough to get a special holiday timetable like the one above, but oh well. Either way, we wish all the Irish… and the people pretending to be Irish a happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Vintage Holiday & Winter New York Central Ads

Hopefully all of my readers that celebrate Christmas are enjoying your Christmas Eve… Did I ever mention that I love looking at vintage ads?`Even better are vintage railroad ads. Here is a little collection of holiday and winter ads from the New York Central. Have a great holiday, everybody!

 
  
 

If you liked these ads, check out another set of New York Central vintage ads from World War II that I posted back in June.

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Holiday Trains & Old Holiday Timetables

Looking to take the train for the holiday? Metro-North has you covered with pre-Christmas early getaway trains, Christmas eve, and Christmas day service, as well as New Years trains. Check out the Holiday Service page on the Metro-North website, or the Early Getaway Trains schedule on their Facebook page.

And if you’re in a particularly holiday-cheerful mood, check out some railroad holiday/winter brochures and timetables from my collection…






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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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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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Who’s driving this thing?! What you need to know for Thanksgiving:


Thankfully, Metro-North’s engineers are far from turkeys… they’ll get you where you need to go, without the hassle of traffic.

Hopefully my readers out there are licking their chops in anticipation of a big turkey dinner tomorrow and not calling the Butterball Turkey Hotline to inquire as to the proper method to carve a turkey by chainsaw, or if thawing your turkey with your children in the bathtub is a no-no… If you’re not looking forward to getting stuck in the holiday traffic, there’s always the train…

Metro North’s holiday service begins today at 1PM with a early getaway trains, early service for tomorrow morning for anyone looking to get to the parade, and of course, extra service on Black Friday. All fares will be off-peak. Make sure to have your ticket in advance, no tickets will be sold on board on trains leaving Grand Central on Thanksgiving Day (and no bicycles either!).

Be sure to check out the page on Metro North’s website about Thanksgiving Holiday Service, and enjoy your holiday!

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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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The nightmare that is a holiday-time train ride…

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My usual train car, many people had to stand in the open area by the doors, which made it difficult for others to enter and exit

Oh lord, the train last night was a nightmare. But of course, around holiday time, it always is. There was such difficulty getting onto the train at White Plains, because every seat was filled, and there were already people hanging out and standing by the doors, blocking other people from getting on. The only thing I could think of though, is about the cuts that are supposed to be coming for Metro North, and the MTA as a whole. Many trains will run with fewer cars. It has been a persisting rumor that my train would go from ten cars to eight. It hasn’t happened yet. But with these cuts, I can only imagine that it will end up happening quite soon. And I can’t even begin to imagine how horribly packed we’re going to be on an eight car holiday-time train.

DSC00623
Trains were so full, many people stood in the spaces at the front and back of the train cars

I was accidentally smacked in the ass by another passenger (apparently priming me for my upcoming trip to Japan, where I will be riding the rails. Groping happens so frequently there are special female-only trains). And to my left was a man listening to an ipod, and playing air guitar along with it. In front of me were several belligerent twenty-somethings attempting to light the others on fire with cigarette lighters. And the second I found a seat and yanked out my netbook, another passenger began a conversation with me about it, telling me how cute and light it looked. She wanted to know how much memory it had on it, and I said 1gb. She laughed and said that she has a flash drive that is bigger than that. I debated explaining the difference between memory (ram) and hard drive space, but I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Oh well, that is enough from me. I wish everyone a Happy Holidays! I was supposed to be working today, and I had planned to pass out holiday cards at White Plains to all the other unfortunate people that also had to work on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my tooth is hurting terribly (the dentist accidentally broke a tool in my mouth at an appointment on last week. I thank the coworker that had to say to me, “Oh I hope you didn’t get an infection from that) and I have an emergency pre-holiday dentist appointment, and I will be working from home. Anyways, enjoy the holiday, and I will see you next week!
happyholidays

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Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Holiday Fair 2009

Riding along the Harlem Line this morning and yesterday, I still see a bit of snow all around. So in honor of our first real snowfall this year, I’ve changed the header image of the site to reflect the change in season. Gone are the following leaves, and big fat snowflakes are their replacements. Just to ask in general, but do you find that trains get more delayed in the fall, with the leaves on the track, than in the winter due to snow? I’ve taken the train in some of the biggest snowstorms with no delays. Anyone else have experience with this?

In other news, I am posting up my pictures that I took at the Holiday Fair in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall. Not the highest quality, since they were taken with my cell phone, but you get the idea of what the fair looks like. It is certainly something cool to browse around if you have a minute waiting for your train, or are in Grand Central already. I’m not the most wealthy person on the planet, so a lot of the things are rather high priced for a person like me. But I must admit, last year I had been eyeing this hooded sweatshirt with a cat face and ears, but I couldn’t afford it. Conveniently the people selling the shirt last year are back again this year, and I bought it. What do you think?

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The one thing really cool about the fair is how diverse it is. African art, prints of New York and other New York themed crafts, Christmas ornaments, Dog-themed items (the “Fleas Navidad” Dog bandana cracked me up), gorgeous hand-crafted books, jewelry, clothing, hand-blown glass, and lots of other interesting items. Plus, there may be entertainment as well. When I was there a trio of young women were playing strings, and they were pretty damn good. I filmed a brief portion of their performance, and will be posting that later on this week. For now, enjoy the pictures of the Holiday Fair!

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