Timetables on the Pascack Valley Line

I’ve been joking around recently that the next time someone asks me why I like the Harlem Division/Line, I am going to answer that “I am a girl, and I like the color blue.” Because clearly female railfans choose their favorites based upon color! If that were the truth, then my second favorite line would have to be the Pascack Valley, as the color for that line is purple. Much to my chagrin, none of Metro-North’s printed timetables for the line are actually printed in purple (so I had to make a fake one – which is below). New Jersey Transit, however, does print timetables for the Pascack Valley line, and they are purple! Since we’re now touring the Pascack Valley line (and I not-so-secretly love old railroad timetables), I figured it would be appropriate to check out some of the printed materials that have been used over the years.

A few of the older timetables you’ll notice use the name New Jersey and New York Railroad, which was used up until the Erie-Lackawanna merger. You’ll notice that the one EL timetable I’m posting from 1969 does actually use the name Pascack Valley. Most of the timetables I have for show are more current, from both the New Jersey Transit and Metro-North. I’m sorry to have to say it, but the NJT timetables are quite a bit nicer, and actually purple. Metro-North has always been all about trying to cram as much junk onto the front of their timetables as possible… which is not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing. The newest east-of-Hudson timetables have a horrible and cheap-looking drop shadow, at least the west-of-Hudson timetable missed out on that crappy treatment!

Can’t we just go back in time to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s when timetables were beautiful and actually looked like this?


Early timetables from what is now known as the Pascack Valley Line. From the collection of (the awesome) Otto Vondrak.


New Jersey Transit’s timetables for the Pascack Valley line feature the color purple, and a pine tree, both of which represent the line. Although Metro-North also uses the color purple to represent the line, they do not make use of the pine tree image.


Current NJ Transit timetable for the Pascack Valley Line, and two older Metro-North timetables.


Metro-North does not print a separate timetable for the Pascack Valley line – it is combined with the Port Jervis Line and colored orange. I wanted a purple Pascack Valley timetable though, so I faked it!

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And on, to Port Jervis

For the past two years, just about every Tuesday we’ve explored a new Metro-North station. For the most part, these have been stations that you may have heard of before, but perhaps never visited. Most regular commuters are familiar with the three main Metro-North lines that terminate in Grand Central: the Harlem Line, the New Haven Line, and the Hudson Line. However, Metro-North owns the stations and funds the operation for two other lines, on the west of the Hudson River. It is there that we will now point our attention, starting with the Port Jervis Line.


Map of the west-of-Hudson lines, including the former Erie main line that was abandoned in favor of the freight Graham Line.

Though us commuters on the east side of the Hudson don’t purposely try to forget our fellows over on the west, it is at times easy to ignore them. One pretty big reason is that their trains don’t run into Grand Central. Another reason is that the service is operated by New Jersey Transit. Although the stations are owned by Metro-North, and the railcars usually say Metro-North on the outside, the conductor you give your ticket to is a NJ Transit employee (and you probably bought that ticket from a NJ Transit TVM). The lines may end in New York state, but they begin in New Jersey.


Ridership diagram of the west-of-Hudson lines, based on the number of rides to and from each station in an average week. Larger station names designate more rides.

However, one event in the past year has unfortunately brought news of the west-of-Hudson lines to the forefront. Last August’s impending Hurricane Irene led to an unprecedented shutdown of the entire MTA system, and although this helped significantly in mitigating damages, there were some places where it was unavoidable. After the storm had passed and the damage was surveyed, Metro-North was likely the worst hit, compared with the other MTA agencies. Although there was flooding at stations along the Harlem and Hudson Lines, it was the Port Jervis that bore the brunt of the storm’s fury. Service on the line was suspended indefinitely as washouts completely destroyed the track in some places, and entire parking lots were flooded. Photos of the damage became front page news – the Port Jervis Line had our attention – but for all the wrong reasons.


Selection of photographs showing the damage on the Port Jervis Line after Hurricane Irene. All photos from the MTA.

Aside from all that, the Port Jervis Line isn’t that bad a place. It is some of the most rural country on all of Metro-North’s territory, and riding a train through it all can be quite beautiful. My favorite part of the line, the Moodna Viaduct, I featured on the site several months ago. Most of the stations really aren’t much to write home about, but there are several former stations – like Middletown, and Port Jervis – which I also plan on showing you all.


1969 Port Jervis main line timetable, which includes the line’s original passenger stations, until that part of the line was abandoned in the 80’s. From the collection of Michael Jensen.

Before we begin the tour next Tuesday with Suffern, I thought it would be good to mention a little bit of back story regarding the line. As I mentioned previously, none of the current stations (with perhaps the exception of Tuxedo) are really noteworthy – part of this is because the route the Port Jervis line now follows was not the original route for passengers. The original Erie main-line diverted west just after Harriman, and passed through Monroe, Chester, and Goshen, before meeting back up with what is the current line just after Middletown.


Aerial view of the Erie main line running through the town of Goshen. This portion of the rail line was removed in the 80’s.

The route the trains now follow was called the Graham Line, and was used mostly for freight. Instead of having to maintain two sets of tracks in roughly the same geographical area, a portion of the main line was abandoned in favor of the better-maintained Graham Line. This also meant abandoning several historical passenger stations (like the beautiful Erie depot in Middletown, now a library), and building new, relatively utilitarian, facilities on the former freight line. And instead of running right through the center of several towns, trains run on a more circuitous route outside of heavily populated areas.


Other various area timetables, including the current combined Port Jervis and Pascack Valley timetable.

Since I have all of the Port Jervis stations photographed, I thought it might be nice to actually travel the line in order, starting with Suffern (which is really more of a New Jersey Transit station, though in New York state). Look for the Tuesday Tour of the Port Jervis Line, starting next week.

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Last Night’s Hudson Line Delays & Pointless MTA Alerts

Whenever there are delays, MTA never really says all that much. Trains last night were delayed on the Hudson Line, due to “police activity” near Peekskill. Apparently the “police activity” was due to a man getting hit and killed by a passing Penn Station-bound Amtrak train at around 5:56 PM. The man was identified as 71-year-old Steven Paige.

Peekskill Fire Chief John Pappas, apparently a very astute man, had this to say:
“You get hit by a train, it’s never good.”
Somehow I think we were all aware of that.

Pappas goes on to say that they were not aware whether the man was a commuter, but he was not wearing a suit or tie. He was clearly not a Metro North rider, as we all know suits and ties are required for all commuters that ride the train.

You can find more information about that incident here and here.

I’m not subscribed to MTA Alerts for the Hudson Line, but anyone who is, was an alert sent out about this last night? Because this is what I imagine the alerts were made for… reporting delays in service that might be… well, important to commuters. Instead all I find that I am getting are “alerts” informing me that I can take the train to see the Yankees game. I just looked at my old text messages, of the 8 I still have in my inbox, 7 of them were related to taking the train to the game. No offense MTA, but I’d like to know about train delays… and taking trains to the game? I get bombarded with signs for it every day at the train station. I’m well aware of it… and I’m sure all of your other regular commuters, the ones that are probably signed up for these alerts, probably are as well.

A possible alternate service for commuters, Rail Bandit actually announced yesterday that they have added Metro North to their list of Rail lines. Rail Bandit has real-time service and delay alerts, in addition to schedules, all on your cell phone. I’ve not used it, but Rail Bandit looks like it could be quite useful for people in the New York area, as there are also live updates for the Long Island Rail Road, PATH, New Jersey Transit, and other railroads across the country.

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