If you haven’t heard already, I have a pretty big article in April’s Railfan & Railroad Magazine, featuring my explorations of the railway in Chornobyl’s Exclusion Zone. On April 26th, the 29th anniversary of the Chornobyl Disaster, I’ll be showing my photos from that adventure at Whippany, along with some copies of the magazine. So be sure to check out the April edition of Railfan & Railroad (which if you’re a subscriber, started mailing last week), and come out and visit Whippany for their 50th anniversary, and my showing of photos on Sunday, April 26th!
The only non-railroad photo to make the top 10, New York’s skyline as seen from the opposite side of the river in New Jersey.
Erie-Lackawanna train at Suffern in 1966. Photo by Carl R. Baldwin.
Welcome to Suffern, our first stop on our tour of the Port Jervis Line. As you are no doubt aware, the Port Jervis line is on the west side of the Hudson, its trains do not enter Grand Central, and the service is operated by New Jersey Transit. Suffern is a little bit of an island unto itself, however. Although it is located in New York state, Suffern is for the most part a New Jersey Transit station, and is operated by NJT. Unlike the rest of the Port Jervis Line stations, which are owned by Metro-North, the typical station signage which we are all familiar with is not present here. Although Metro-North keeps some ridership statistics regarding Suffern, it is generally not grouped with the rest of the Port Jervis Line stations for record keeping. But to keep everyone confused, Suffern does appear on Metro-North timetables, and Metro-North’s website does have a station page for Suffern.
As we tour the Port Jervis line, you will notice relatively quickly some of the major differences between service on the east and the west of the Hudson. While almost all east of Hudson stations are high-level platforms, all of the stations on the west are low-level. This arrangement makes things difficult for people in wheelchairs – so all handicapped-accessible stations have a small high-level portion of the platform to facilitate boarding. At first seeing these little platforms is strange, but when a train arrives it makes a bit more sense. However, you will not see one of these mini platforms at Suffern – the closest handicap-accessible stations are Harriman to the north, or Ramsey Route 17 (in New Jersey) to the south (or, as Metro-North suggests, Nanuet – though it is on the Pascack Valley Line, and not the Port Jervis).
Suffern’s old depot, destroyed in 1941
Although Suffern does have a small station building, it is a replacement that was built in 1941 – and not the original Victorian structure that dated to 1887. The current placement of the station is also not where it originally was – the platforms and the replacement station were erected slightly more south than before. A small structure, built in 1908 and used as a Wells Fargo mail depot, sits not far from where the original station was. The building was opened as a small railroad museum in 1998. Located just past the museum is a train yard that New Jersey Transit maintains.
Unlike Metro-North’s other Port Jervis Line stations, Suffern has two tracks. Because the platforms are low-level there is a fence in-between the tracks to deter people from crossing over to the other side that way. The usual destinations for commuters from Suffern are Secaucus and Hoboken. A trip to Hoboken ranges from 45 to 70+ minutes, and a trip to Secaucus 35 to 50+ minutes. Riders can transfer at Secacus to get to Penn Station, or at Hoboken to get to the World Trade Center.
I am a lover of hats… they keep me warm. I have a grand collection of them, plain hats, silly hats with ears, all varieties. Several years ago I made frequent use of a baby blue hat, which had a black unicorn embroidered on the front. Perhaps these hats are what attracts the weirdos to me.
One evening while taking the PATH train to New Jersey, a man attempted to steal the hat off my head while I was walking up the stairs, and he was going down.
Okay, that is fairly tame… and not that odd. The next one? A little more strange. It certainly is one of my favorite stories to tell about weird people I’ve encountered on the train. I was riding Metro North from Brewster station, and a somewhat overweight woman decided to sit next to me.
“You must like unicorns,” she said.
“Umm yeah, I guess…”
“Oh, I bet you’d love this…”
She then proceeded to unbutton her shirt, in order to show me a tattoo right above her breast. Of a unicorn. But it was far more than I wanted to see…