Metro North Operations Control Center: After Hours

Metro-North released some images of their new Operations Control Center… and looking at those big screens… well, I couldn’t resist. Here’s what goes on in the control center after hours:

In all seriousness, the new control center looks pretty awesome, and it helps get your train to where it has to go on time. Metro North’s facebook page has more info, with a non-photoshopped image.

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WTFopoly: New York City Subway Edition Monopoly Game

I am so eagerly waiting for my WTF subway shirt. But it hasn’t arrived yet. So in order to console myself, (and in my boredom) I created some more amusing subway WTF-ness. Now not only can Metro-North hate me, but NYC Transit (I still love you, I swear!) can hate me too! And maybe even Parker Brothers, who publish the game.

Instead of Community Chest (what the hell is that anyways?), I opted to replace it with the “Service Change.” For pieces, I figured it might be amusing to throw in a delightful subway rat, and even a pigeon in there. If you bought the “extended version” of the game, there would even be a special “limited edition” Sadie the Subway Cat piece. Gotta market that stuff! And everybody loves cats!

As for the properties in the game, and how I determined where each of them belong, I used the 2009 Subway Ridership Facts & Figures. Blue, green, and yellow properties (the highest value) are the top subway stations, system wide. Red represents Manhattan, Orange is Brooklyn, Magenta is Queens, Light Blue is the Bronx, and the top subway stations for each (not counting any stations previously used). The Purple spots are the bottom two stations in the subway system by use. Instead of the four railroads typically used in Monopoly, there are the other MTA entities: Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Bus, and the other half of NYC Transit, the bus system. There are no “utilities” but instead MTA Bridges, and MTA Tunnels.

Oh, and in order for you to get thrown in jail, you are caught with a copy of the master key.

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Metro-North Announces Today M-8 Railcars Will Not Debut on the New Haven Line, as Previously Planned

In a drastic change of plans, today Metro-North has announced that the M-8 railcars will not be debuting on the New Haven Line. The new cars, made by the Kawasaki company, have been arriving a few at a time from Japan ever since December. They were to go into testing on the New Haven Line shortly, and hopefully launched by winter of this year, replacing the aging M-2 cars currently in use there.

New M-8 car, with blue Harlem Line paint scheme

The new M-8 cars which have already arrived will be getting new paint jobs – in a blue scheme, as opposed to the former red – and will be in service instead on the Harlem Line this winter. A factory in Lincoln, Nebraska will be constructing the remainder of the cars ordered, and these will be used on the New Haven Line. The first cars produced in Nebraska will arrive in 2012. When questioned about the change in plans, Dan Brucker, spokesman for Metro-North, said:

The people on the New Haven Line have suffered a long time with slow and late trains. I’m sure they can wait a little longer for their M-8’s. The New Haven Line is our least favorite of the major lines anyways – of course in front of the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis Lines. Do people even know those two exist?

I certainly can’t wait for the M-8’s! That is certainly good news, I won’t even have to go over to the New Haven Line for a chance to ride them!

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When I grow up, I want to be…

At work this week a coworker came in and asked us if we could do him a favor. His daughter’s 2nd grade class had each drawn pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up. He wanted to know if we could scan each drawing for him. Which we did, and had a bit of amusement while doing it. There were the normal jobs that one can imagine gets chosen in these situations: doctors, firemen, police officers. Some kids wanted to be farmers, even a basketball player. My coworker’s daughter wanted to be an artist. One of her friends wanted to be a “flower picker.” But good old Liam here, he wanted to be a Tan Cgotr. Which, thanks to the teacher, translates to Train Conductor.

From the looks of the drawing, this future Metro-North conductor will probably be on that last late-night train out of Grand Central. You know which one I mean, the one that runs local all the way down the Harlem Line, and has plenty of drunks. It looks like Liam here plans on drinking lots of caffeine to keep awake, so much that his eyes are practically popping out of his head. I’m not exactly sure if this is supposed to be a big window on an m7 or something, or the picture is supposed to be the actual train (are those wheels at the bottom?). But apparently Liam imagines serving all the California Raisins and Blueberry people that ride Metro-North.

Drunk or high “artist’s” alternate rendition of Liam’s drawing, starring Salad Fingers.

Anyways, I thank Liam for his wonderful drawing. I would be most happy to purchase Liam’s next child’s fare on Metro North. Perhaps I can introduce him to some cool tan cgotrs.

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Pigeon Trapping in White Plains & Video of Pigeon Riding the Train

Apparently Metro-North has gotten fed up with the pigeon problem in White Plains. Maybe they were embarrassed by the fact that people were videotaping, and blogging about it. Or maybe they were getting a little pissed off that birds that have pea-sized brains were outsmarting them. Either way, last week I noticed something new at the station. Pigeon traps. With all the snow I didn’t really get a chance to post anything about the traps. But I did happen to get into a conversation in the waiting room with a woman about them. Really, the pigeons aren’t harming anything. In fact they are eating the crumbs off the floor, which is more than what some of the cleaning people manage. Their antics are amusing, and Metro-North could probably be spending money worrying about other things, rather than purchasing pigeon traps to put throughout the station. Even if they had the traps on hand, someone had to place them, and that takes time. Time that could have been spent doing other things. Like cleaning the bathrooms? Or going after the annoying people that smoke in the waiting room, or beg for dollars? I’d prefer the pigeons over those.

Now, remember whose blog you are reading. Obviously, I had to put up a sign about this. Someday I may use my talents for the good of man-kind. Today? Not so much.

Here are higher resolution images so you can see all the text:

So far I haven’t seen any pigeons dumb enough to get caught. Traps are located behind the benches in the waiting room, and on top of the ticket machines by the window. Truly the question is, what happens to the pigeons if they are in fact caught? Taking them outside the station and letting them go would do little, they’d probably come right back in. Do they get sent up the river to pigeon prison? Are they gassed by employees in a dark, back room? Your guess is as good as mine. In a few weeks the problem will work itself out anyways, traps or no traps. The weather will be warmer, and the pigeons wont need to be inside. They aren’t dumb. They come inside because of the cold. Hell, I know a lot of crazy people that do that too!

As an unrelated bonus, I figured I would include some amusing video I saw on YouTube, of a pigeon riding public transit. The pigeon’s name is apparently Henry Goodfeathers. Looks like the video was filmed somewhere on the subways of Toronto.

More polite than a lot of human subway passengers

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New York & Harlem Railroad’s Pigeon-handling strategies

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’ve become pretty engrossed in this whole researching and finding old railroad related stuff. I’ve apparently been referred to as a “closeted railfan” (and the “mascot of the Harlem Line”, but that is a different story). Honestly I have never thought of myself as a railfan. Railfans seem to have all this information tucked away in their brains about types of trains and how they function, and could probably tell you the model of whatever locomotive they’re looking at and a good portion of information about it too. I don’t know much about trains other than what I’ve visually observed. In fact sometimes I am a bit shy to post some of my train photography online, because all the railfans always identify their pictures with all that info they know. I am just sort of like, here is a picture. It is a train. The train says Metro-North on it, and I saw it at White Plains station. And thus ends my description of said train. I will admit that I like riding on trains, though I think for the most part it is more that I like watching people on trains. Or getting to know people on trains. I’ve met a lot of nice people on trains. And a lot of crazy ones too. But if you’ve been here before, you don’t need me to tell you that.

However, all this digging in the history books I’m doing may be enough to warrant the title of “railfan”. I assure you, I was not this way before I started writing this blog (nor did I take anything I said seriously at that point, but that too is another story). So I suppose this is my confession to the world. This is me coming out of the closet, if you will. I guess… well… I guess I am a railfan. Okay, I said it.

One thing that I did feel like sharing though, were some interesting postcard images that I encountered in my research. It is interesting to note that pigeons are such a nuisance today, and they certainly were a nuisance back in the late 1800’s for the New York and Harlem Railroad. Some things never change. Here is a postcard from Copake, which back in the day was part of the “Upper Harlem Line”. The Harlem Line no longer extends that far up.

I imagine the photographer there was attempting to get a picture of the station, when all of a sudden that one pigeon jumped up in the foreground. I do believe that is a historic example of what is known today as a photobomb.

One of the things you may not have known, however, is that when it started, the New York and Harlem Railroad operated streetcars in Manhattan. And some of these were in fact pulled by horses. A failed, not often talked about, alternate method was also tried, using specially-bred larger pigeons (of which were plentiful in the city). Here is a never before seen photograph of prototype streetcar #00, being pulled by one of the aforementioned large pigeons.

Pigeon-cars, as they were called never really seemed to “take off” in the city. I think the whole oversized bird thing turned off quite a few people. Plus the temperament of horses was a bit better than the birds. The pigeons’ downfall was an early outbreak of the Avian Flu, which led the city into a complete panic, and many helpless pigeons were “purged” for the sake of humanity. The year after an early version of the Swine Flu struck, leading New Yorkers to endeavor to purge another species, but the pigeons never came back into favor. It does seem that the larger variety of pigeon was driven to extinction, as we are familiar today only with their smaller brethren.

Well, I suppose that is it for today’s history lesson. It is at this time I must admit to you all that back in the day when I was a struggling graphic designer, I always figured that if I failed at design, I could always work in the photography department at the Weekly World News. I was quite heartbroken when they ceased print production in 2007, which led me to seek out “a regular job”.

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White Plains: The Game – Dress Up the Crazy Coat Guy!

If you’ve ever been to the White Plains train station a few times, it is highly likely that at some point you’ve encountered the guy that I’ve dubbed “The Crazy Coat Guy”. He’s a fixture of the station, and has been around long before I started commuting through the city of White Plains. He talks to himself, and he’s loud. Depending on the weather, he hangs out in the upstairs and downstairs waiting areas. He has some questionable taste in jewelry, and has been seen wearing big earrings up both sides of his ears. His taste in accessories isn’t much better, as he’s begun a love affair with womens’ purses. He has the craziest haircut, though due to the cold we haven’t seen it for a while. And now, it isn’t all that strange to be wearing a coat due to the temperatures. But come back in July on the hottest day of the year, and you’ll still see him wearing that coat, stalking around the station, and talking to himself.

Without the Coat Guy, I don’t think White Plains would be the same. But seriously, don’t you think he wears some of the craziest stuff? Wouldn’t it be awesome to dress him up yourself, in something more normal? Or something even more crazy? Guess what, now you can! You can dress up the Crazy Coat Guy in this spectacular flash game that I wasted quite a few hours of my life on! Every piece of clothing in the game (with the exception of the shirt) is something that I’ve actually seen him wear in real life (yes, even that leprechaun hat). So what are you waiting for? Get in there and dress up the Coat Guy! And when you’re done, click the button that says “Go Out” to see him stand on the platform!

A few of my spectacular creations…

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Me and the Pigeons: Dreaming of the Rainbow Over Mount Kisco

I just happened to be looking through my photos on my cell phone, and I came across one that I had forgotten about. It is above. There had been a storm raging that day, but on the ride home it had begun to clear up. I snapped that photo when we were at Mount Kisco station. I was sitting near the door, and the train conductor, Guy, said to me, “come out and look here,” as he was standing on the platform. I ducked out of the train for about two seconds to gaze at it. Then engineer was wondering if he could go, and the conductor in the back, Dave, was like, “Wait, I think they’re looking at the rainbow. Isn’t that nice?” The whole thing took a matter of seconds, and my recollection of the dialogue is probably pretty off, but I smile when I remember that time. And really, I wish it was a nice day with a rainbow outside, instead of the cold and the snow.

I know a lot of people would agree with me. And a few of my avian friends. That would be the pigeons in White Plains. They of course are sick of the cold, and have begun hiding inside the station again. Apparently a recent addition in the past few weeks to the station were spikes added to the inside windows, a former popular spot for the pigeons. Now the pigeons have taken to some other spots, one being the ticket kiosks. I bet the machinery keeps those nice and toasty for the birds. I work for FUJIFILM, and we have photo printing kiosks in places like Walmart and RiteAid. And I’ve heard horror stories from techs that have to go out to service those machines, and have found animals that have made homes inside the machines because of the warmth. I can only imagine, and feel sorry for the poor chap that is going to have to service or clean those ticket machines at some point in the future.

I even have video, hooray!

I was amused though, on the MTA’s new site, they have a list of Frequently Asked Questions. One of which is how they are working to deter pigeons from roosting inside trains and stations. Their answer?

To address the problem of pigeons in our stations, we are testing a new system that drives away pigeons by sending a harmless, low-voltage electric shock through wires installed in areas where they perch.

Yeah, I wonder how that is working out for them… zap.

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Goldens Bridge Vandalism Update, Plus Funny Waldo Poster Voicemail

Alright, let me just say it now, but I love it when people from the MTA read my blog. Alright, alright, I don’t really know if anyone from there or Metro-North read my blog. What I do know, is that a lot of people found my blog the past few days, specifically searching for a phrase. And what phrase is that, do you ask? Goldens Bridge vandalism, and Goldens Bridge graffiti.

The other thing that I know is that today somebody was busy over at Goldens Bridge. Replacing every broken pane of glass, and covering over all of the graffiti. Now that graffiti had been there a few days shy of a month. Though exactly a week after posting embarrasing (for the MTA) photos of the destruction, it is now fixed. What service! Of course it is possible that nobody important read this blog at all, but I prefer to believe my delusions of grandeur.

Unfortunately, I now have no further excuse for putting up crazy posters in the train station. I have nothing ugly to cover up! Maybe some day, the posters will come back. But until then, enjoy a little sound clip. Somebody did in fact call the telephone number on one of the Waldo posters, and left me a message. Perhaps that whole “Operation Cover Up Graffiti & Broken Glass” was not as much of a failure as I thought it to be.

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