Revisiting the Moodna Viaduct

Last Sunday was a pretty big milestone for I Ride The Harlem Line – I finally completed the Metro-North Panorama Project… or at least the photography portion of it. I’ve now officially been to every Metro-North station, though it will take several more weeks to share them all with you. Throughout all of my explorations of the Metro-North system, my mind keeps coming back to one place that I really think is my favorite – the Moodna Viaduct.

Last year I posted about the viaduct, so I am not going to rehash its history in this post. But suffice it to say, this centenarian looks as beautiful today as she did when first built. I got a chance to visit the viaduct again last weekend – this time with a lot better of a camera, and a super zoom lens – in the hopes of capturing the beauty of this lovely place. Although the Port Jervis Line is often forgotten by east of Hudson commuters, I don’t think you can deny that this is one of the most gorgeous spots in all of Metro-North.

 
  
 
 
 
  
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Philipse Manor


Aerial view of Philipse Manor station, the Hudson Line, and the Hudson River. [image credit]

Our next stop on the Hudson Line is the kind of station that makes me glad I started this exploratory tour two years ago. While there are certainly some very boring, or at least run-of-the-mill, Metro-North stations (many of which I’ve shown you), this is certainly not one of them. Comprised of a lovely combination of history, art, and of course, trains, Philipse Manor is definitely one of the nicer stations I’ve visited.

Similar to many other stations on the line, Philipse Manor overlooks the picturesque Hudson River. Besides the old New York Central-built station building (now occupied by the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center), the platform is guarded over by a large cast-iron eagle. Astute commuters may notice it bears a strong resemblance to the eagle perched over Grand Central Terminal, and rightly so, for these brothers were two of many stationed over the original Grand Central Depot.

  

1988 photographs of Philipse Manor. In one of the images you can see the platform sign listing the station as “Philipse Manor, North Tarrytown.”

Located 26.5 miles north of Grand Central, Philipse Manor station is situated in the middle of Westchester county, in the village of Sleepy Hollow – formerly known as North Tarrytown. That name change was fairly recent, even in the early Metro-North days there was a platform sign that listed the station as Philipse Manor, North Tarrytown. The station consists of two side platforms surrounding four tracks. The original station building, which overlooks the platforms, is no longer used by the railroad.

 

Though the Philipse Manor station may now be home to the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, artists of all variety seem to frequent the place. The above watercolor of the old station is by Karl Tanner. The lower station sketch by Linda Hejduk is regularly featured in Writers’ Center newsletters.

Over the years so many old depots have been demolished that whenever I hear about a restored historical station, I have to admit, I get a little bit excited. While it is lovely that there are three stations on the Harlem Line that have survived and now house Starbucks, there are a few uses for old train stations that I think fit a bit better – like a library. The old station at Philipse Manor might not be a library, but it is home to the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center. Besides the area being the stomping grounds of the headless horseman of American literary folklore, a historical station seems like a fitting place for artists and writers.


Architectural sketch of Philipse Manor station, created while the station was being restored.

Built circa 1910, Philipse Manor station was constructed into a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. Although one could once enter the station, descend some stairs and exit out of the basement to reach the platform, the lower portion of the station has now been closed off. The arches that provided ingress and egress are still visible on the platform, however. The majority of the station, built in the Tudor revival style, is constructed of rusticated granite, though there is some stucco and wooden trim visible.

Many old stations fall into disrepair over the years, and Philipse Manor was no exception. The station was restored in the early 90′s by Bond Street Architecture, at a cost of around $800,000. Emergency repairs on the roof and stabilization of the building’s frame was completed in 1992, and a full restoration effort began in 1995. The new home of the Writers’ Center opened to the public in 1996. The efforts to restore the station earned the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center the Excellence in Preservation Award in 2005.

   
  
  

Joseph Cavalieri with his Arts for Transit piece, installed at Philipse Manor. [image credit]

A more recent addition to Philipse Manor is visible in the station overpass. Many Hudson Line stations have undergone recent repair work, including renovations to the station overpasses. When the overpass at Philipse Manor was repaired some lovely stained glass was also included, as part of the Arts for Transit program. The piece was designed by local artist Joseph Cavalieri, and is titled North, South and Home. It is comprised of six panels of faceted glass, each measuring 33 by 42 inches. As I am sure @MetroNorthHaiku would appreciate, the text written across the panels is in fact a haiku:

A gentle Hudson
whistle begins my journey
north, and south and home

The piece was fabricated by Willet Hauser Architectural Glass, which made the glass for Scarborough, and several other MTA stations. Many of the recent Arts for Transit pieces installed at Metro-North stations have been in the medium of stained glass, and I think North, South and Home is one of my favorites, along with the piece at Mount Vernon East.

Hopefully you enjoyed touring Philipse Manor as much as I have! There will, of course, be more Hudson Line touring next week. Until then, here are the remainder of the photos I took at Philipse Manor – including a panorama of the station platform and one of the original Grand Central Depot eagles.

 
  
  
 
   
   
 
  
  

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Welcome to Minnesota, and the Hiawatha Line

 
Map of the Hiawatha Line in a horizontal format. The line runs roughly north-south, so everything has been rotated to display the stations this way.

When it comes to travel, I am always a fan of the odd and interesting – generally off the beaten track. After all, one doesn’t normally consider burning towns, sketchy Zimbabwean train stations, or big blocks of ice customary destinations for diversion. So when I recently decided to visit Minneapolis, I had been asked by at least one person why. Had I run out of interesting places to go? No, not really. While I am looking to visit the few states I haven’t yet been to (one of which was Minnesota), I honestly thought that the Minneapolis area sounded interesting. I had made plans to check out the Mall of America (and their rollercoasters!), and of course, to ride the light rail. At the time I didn’t realize how much I would love Minneapolis’ light rail system… and I am totally admitting it here. I love the Hiawatha Line.

Admittedly, from railroading point of view, a light rail system like the Hiawatha Line isn’t the most interesting thing to watch. But Minneapolis is big into public art, and obviously their fairly new rail system would be no exception to that. I think it is the blend of rail infrastructure and aesthetic beauty that has captured my interest. Everything about the system, right down to the bricks on the platform, seems designed to be visually pleasing. It is amazing how simple things, like a few colored windows, or the aforementioned bricks arranged into colorful patterns, make such a great impact! But not everything would fall into the category of “little things” – in some instances the station artwork is huge. Downtown East – Metrodome station, for example, has towering patterned arches that dwarf the station itself. The piece evokes the image of the historical Stone Arch Bridge, only a few blocks away. Trains, art, and nods to history? No wonder why I love this place!

The next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing many of the photos I took while riding the Hiawatha Line. I managed to get to more than half of the stations, and a few of the attractions located near the train. An awesome thing to note is that there are actually self-guided city tours designed around the Hiawatha Line, which I made use of on my first day wandering around. Along with an audio device, the tour gives you a pass to ride the rails all day, allowing you to roam and disembark wherever you desire. The tours even work if you are in Minneapolis for just a short time, like an airport layover, since the airport is well-connected to the train line.

So here’s a short photographic intro to the Hiawatha Line… many more photos to come!


Typical area of operation for the Hiawatha Line. Much of the trackage runs parallel to streets, including Hiawatha Avenue, from which the line’s name derives. Other portions of the line, especially at the south end in Bloomington, are at the center of divided highways. The line is just over 12 miles, yet by my count has 39 grade crossings (FYI, the Harlem Line has fewer grade crossings, and is 82 miles long!).

   
 

Typical view of the inside of a Hiawatha Line train car, which are produced by Bombardier. Most times two car trains are the norm, but special events (like Twins games) will warrant trains with additional cars.

 

Typical ticket machine on the Hiawatha Line. Machines are programmed to work in four different languages: English, Spanish, Somali, and Hmong.

  

Platform views on the Hiawatha Line. An important part of the system is the low-level platforms, which match up with trains with very low floors. The gap is almost non-existant as well, allowing people in wheelchairs to board trains without assistance.

 

Another important feature of the system is the public art. Most stations have some sort of artistic flair, if not obvious works of art, like the above arches at Downtown East – Metrodome station.

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Old Greenwich

Located slightly more than 31 miles from Grand Central is today’s current stop on our tour of the New Haven Line, Old Greenwich. While touring Metro-North’s stations, we’ve encountered a couple places that have changed names over the many years the railroad has been around. Unionville, for example, was what Hawthorne was once called. Katonah was once called Whitlockville. Up until 1931, Old Greenwich was known as Sound Beach. I personally think that Sound Beach sounds a lot nicer, but perhaps the word “Greenwich” in there bestows a certain level of elevated status for its residents.


Old Greenwich station in 1946

Although we’re really here to check out the Metro-North operations here (with trains almost every half hour, taking about an hour to reach the city), the most interesting part of Old Greenwich is the station building. The stick-style building was built in 1892, and was moved to its current location in 1895. If you remember our visit to Cos Cob, you’ll notice the similarity between the two buildings. Using the same building design at multiple stations was a cost-saving measure.

 
  
 
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Springdale


Photo of Springdale station, April 1933

Faithful readers, our tour of the New Haven Line is heading into the final stretch. We’ve featured about three-quarters of all New Haven Line stations, including Metro-North’s newest station. I figured that today would be a great day to finally finish up the branch line stations, with the only outstanding station from the New Canaan Branch: Springdale. Springdale is a section of Stamford, and the station is one of three located in that city. It is situated in between Glenbrook and Talmadge Hill, and like those stations, is relatively unremarkable and fairly run-of-the-mill in terms of train stations. New Canaan is clearly the gem on this branch.
Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line:
New Canaan Branch:


Springdale station, June 1966. Although this older station had a canopy, it was taken down when newer, high-level platforms were constructed. The station was renovated in 2010, and a canopy installed, protecting commuters from the elements.

Springdale is about 37 miles from Grand Central, and has an average travel time of just under an hour during peak periods. During off-peak hours a transfer at Stamford is most likely necessary, increasing travel time to around an hour and a half. The station doesn’t have much in terms of amenities (there are no TVMs, for example), but it does have a brand new 400-foot canopy that was built in 2010, at a cost of around a million dollars. The canopy does quite a bit to make the station look more substantial and attractive, something that fellow branch line stations Glenbrook and Talmadge Hill lack (Glenbrook, however, seems to be next in line to get an upgrade).

 
 
  
 
   
  
 
  
  

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Glenbrook


Glenbrook station, 1935

If there was ever to be a competition for the most seemingly mundane station on the New Haven Line, the station our tour visits today, Glenbrook, would be high on the list of contenders (likely along with Ansonia). Glenbrook is along the New Canaan Branch, just north of Stamford, and about 35 miles from Grand Central. The four-car platform is wedged between two grade crossings, and faces the backs of several buildings. Besides the bus stop style shelters on the platform, there is no canopy, and no protection from the elements. Like the rest of the stations along the branch (with the exception of New Canaan) there are no ticket vending machines at Glenbrook. The only other things one can actually find on the platform are the typical station trash bins, a few wire benches, and a newspaper vending machine that looks like it is never filled.


Mural at Glenbrook Station

Beneath the unremarkable exterior of this small railroad station, however, is a story. Most of the building backs the platform faces are just grey concrete – a few of them have advertisements – but one has a mural. The mural that faces the platform was commissioned by the wife of former Glenbrook commuter Sean Rooney, and it depicts his favorite golf course. Every morning Rooney would wake, just as many of us commuters do, and head to the station to await the morning Metro-North train to get to work. But unlike many of the other commuters with whom he waited on the platform, one evening ten years ago Rooney never managed to catch that train home. Rooney worked on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower, and died when that building collapsed on September 11th, 2001. The mural’s colors are not only a tribute to the life of a man, a fellow commuter, but bring a small bit of life to an otherwise grey and drab railroad station.

 
  
 
 
   
 

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Fairfield Metro



Renderings of the completed Fairfield Metro property [image credit]

Many of the stations that I feature on this site have a rich history that I really enjoy to dig in to. There is nothing that I love more than to unearth old photographs or drawings of stations from nearly a century before I was born. Today’s featured station is the complete opposite of that, as it is brand spankin’ new. In the years since Metro-North’s takeover, a handful of new stations have opened on all three of the main east of Hudson lines. The Harlem Line has pushed further north, reclaiming once-lost territory up to Wassaic. The new Yankee stadium station is the Hudson line’s gem. But the newest station of them all is Fairfield Metro – the first new station on the New Haven main line in many, many years.


Former Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell at the site of the under construction Fairfield Metro in April 2010 [image credit]

   
Construction photos of Fairfield Metro in May 2010 [image credit]


Construction at the Fairfield Metro site in September 2010 [image credit]

Although the opening of a new station is not greeted with quite as much pomp and circumstance as yesteryear, people are still convinced that this new station is “transformational” for Fairfield. Unfortunately, the project has lingered and has been surrounded by controversy for many years: the soil at the site was contaminated, the developer went into foreclosure, the project was millions over budget, and the residents of Fairfield absolutely hated the station’s name.


And months before even being scheduled to open, Fairfield Metro was already covered in graffiti [image credit]

Eventually, everything did manage to fall into place, and an opening date of December 5th was announced. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony to symbolically open the station was held last Friday, and was attended by Connecticut’s governor Dannel Malloy. Train service commenced yesterday, marking the official opening of Metro-North’s newest station.

 
  
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy and Fairfield Selectman Michael Tetreau at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday. [Image credit, credit 2]

Two days before train service officially began, I got a chance to check out the new station. It is situated between the original Fairfield station and Bridgeport, and 53 miles to Grand Central. The average travel time to and from the city is around an hour and fifteen minutes. Fairfield Metro is the third station for the town of Fairfield, and will hopefully alleviate some of the parking difficulties at the original Fairfield station, where the waiting list for a parking pass supposedly has over 3,000 names. It is estimated that Fairfield Metro will serve 2,500 to 4,000 daily passengers. In terms of amenities the station is currently bare-bones, but when the whole metro center is complete it is planned to have a coffee shop, newsstand, florist, bank, dry cleaners, various restaurants, a health club, and even a park.

Although the town didn’t get to name their station (otherwise we’d probably be calling it Black Rock), they did get to name the new street on which the station lies. Fairfield Metro can be found on 61 Constant Comment Way. And yes, it is named after the tea.

 
  
   
  
 
 
  
 
 
   
 
  
 
  

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Westport


Postcard view of the station, labeled as Saugatuck. This card was postmarked 1915.

Today’s stop on our ongoing tour of the New Haven Line is Westport, a lovely station with a miniature identity crisis. Although Metro-North refers to this station simply as “Westport,” historically it has been called “Westport & Saugatuck.” The old station building that still remains – built around 1880 – also lists the name as “Westport Saugatuck” on the front. However, it seems that many of the locals refer to the station simply as “Saugatuck,” the name of the portion of Westport where the station resides. For consistency’s sake, I’ll use the Metro-North designation of “Westport” hereon.


Old train tickets listing the station name as Westport & Saugatuck

Much of Westport’s charm derives from the lovely station building, which was renovated in 2004. The station still contains the original ticket window, however Metro-North no longer staffs this window and tickets are sold through on-platform TVMs. Besides the obvious waiting-room and bathrooms the station contains, it also has a small book swap shelf, courtesy of the Westport Public Library (this is the second New Haven Line station I’ve featured with a book swap shelf. Redding was the first. I absolutely love the idea). During the aforementioned renovations an additional tunnel under the tracks was installed, with elevator, as to meet ADA guidelines. Though the main station is on the New York/westbound side of the tracks, another station building exists on the opposite side, which is used as a taxi stand and contains a car rental office. This building looks significantly more beat-up, and is covered in a layer of paint that has cracked over the many years.

 
  

1950′s photographs of Westport station


Photo of a 1912 train wreck that occurred near the station.

Westport is a lovely little station, surrounded by an interesting neighborhood, of which residents are extremely proud – despite the many changes over the years. Thanks to the railroad (which first arrived in 1848), getting to Westport station is relatively easy. The station is about 44 miles away from Grand Central, and travel time is about an hour and ten minutes.

 
  
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 
   

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Talmadge Hill

Welcome to Talmadge Hill – the station just south of New Canaan on that eponymous branch of the New Haven Line. Although New Canaan station is quite charming, the remainder of the stations on the branch are fairly regular and unremarkable, and this station is no different. Talmadge Hill is small – the platform accommodates four train cars – and it straddles the space between Talmadge Hill Road and the Merritt Parkway. The majority of the platform is of typical concrete – however the north end on the Merritt Parkway side is a metal grate, which was added on later. From this side of the platform you can get a pretty good view of the Merritt, and the steady stream of automobiles that pass under the railroad tracks. Because of the station’s placement between these two roads, lengthening the platform any further would be extremely difficult. Trains picking up passengers at the station extend out into the road at the grade crossing, temporarily halting traffic on Talmadge Hill Road.


Photo of Talmadge Hill in 1954

Although I mentioned most of the New Canaan branch stations are unremarkable in comparison with New Canaan itself, Talmadge Hill provides a stark contrast. Where New Canaan is beautiful, historical, and most obviously cared for, Talmadge Hill is apparently not. There is a bit of graffiti on the station name signs, and the platform has stencil-lettered tags that say “Authorised Graffiti Area” in black paint. Even the underside of the platform has been tagged and painted over – though you’d never see it from a train. Clearly Talmadge Hill isn’t the worst station in the Metro-North system, but it certainly isn’t the best.

 
   
 
   
 
  
 
   
 
   

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Larchmont


Older Larchmont station that was replaced by the current station


1955 sketch of the replacement Larchmont station

Today’s stop on the tour of the New Haven Line is Larchmont, one of the handful of stations on the line located in New York state. Larchmont, situated about 18 miles from Grand Central and in between New Rochelle and Mamaroneck, is a rather unique set-up. The station and platform run parallel to Interstate 95 – and the parking garage for the station is constructed over the highway. The older station was demolished around the 1950′s when the highway was being constructed, and was replaced with what we have now.

  
 
  
 
 
The photos above are all from the collection of the Larchmont Public Library

Larchmont has all the newest Metro-North train tech, with both video boards in the overpass that list the next nine trains, as well as announcement boards over the platform that identifies the next train and where it will be stopping. These are standard at larger train stations, such as Harlem-125th and White Plains. There is a small station building, but it was closed during my visit. Which is unfortunate, because there was an Arts for Transit mosaic in there which I didn’t really get to see. I still must wonder why the heck Arts for Transit places artwork in station buildings that are most often closed. The forty foot long mosaic is by artist Joy Taylor and is titled The Four Seasons.

Taylor isn’t a stranger to Metro-North and Arts for Transit – she submitted a proposal for the sculpture at Wassaic station, which was ultimately not selected (the piece by Anne Huibregtse that was selected was a perfect match for the station). From the photos on the internet I’ve seen, the mosaic looks beautiful, however I never got a good look at it. You’ll find a single photo of the mosaic below (taken through the window of the locked station), along with the rest of my photos from Larchmont station.

 
  
   
  
   
  
 
 
   
 
  
 
   
 

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