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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Friday’s from the historical archive: old Penn Station, Jackie Kennedy and the Grand Central we almost lost

A few weeks ago when I posted some photos of New Haven’s Union Station a reader commented about how nice the station was, compared to some of MTA’s other stations. The example given was Penn Station. Not only did the comment remind me of some old photos I saw of Penn Station, but a post that I had started writing back in March and had never posted. And that post was about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

In comparison with other stations, Penn Station today isn’t too noteworthy in an architectural sense. Of course when I talk about Pennsylvania station, I am referring to the station in New York City. The name had been used by the Pennsylvania Railroad at several of their other stations, including one in Newark, which occasionally causes confusion. But considering that the station is the most used in the country, you’d think it would look nicer. And of course it would have, had the original not been demolished to make room for the new Madison Square Garden.

The original station was completed in 1910 and was designed by McKim, Mead and White. By the 1950’s the railroad industry was hurting, and in a move to attempt to make some money, they proposed the demolition of the station in order to use the “air rights” and build something over it. The station would be located under street level, and Madison Square Garden and some office buildings would be above it. Despite some protests, the glorious station was demolished in 1963. What exactly does all of this have to do with Jackie Kennedy? The loss of Penn Station eventually led to the formation of a Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the New York City Landmarks Law. It was the Commission that protested when the New York Central decided that they too wanted to demolish Grand Central and build above it. And one of the most prominent members fighting for Grand Central was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The fight to save Grand Central went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1968 two designs submitted to replace the station were rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1978. Grand Central would not be demolished. In 1998 after an overhaul Grand Central was rededicated, and for her endeavors to save the station a plaque honoring Jackie Kennedy was placed in Vanderbilt Hall. The last time I was in Grand Central I found the plaque and took a picture. It reads:

In an age when few people sought to preserve the architectural wonders that are a daily reminder of our rich and glorious past, a brave woman rose in protest to save this terminal from demolition. Because of her tireless and valiant efforts, it stands today as a monument to those who came before us and built the greatest city known to mankind. Preserving this great landmark is one of her many enduring legacies. The people of New York are forever grateful.

I’m going to leave off with a few quotes, a rededication newspaper article, and a random thought. If as a child I had never felt the awe of stepping into the gorgeous Grand Central, a particularly fond memory, would this site even be here? The station utterly captivated my thoughts, and despite all these years, I can’t help but smile every time I step into that main concourse. So thanks, Jackie, thank you very much.

Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future? Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters.

If we don’t care about our past, we cannot hope for our future.

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The Fight for the Solari in New Haven

Despite growing up in Connecticut, about halfway in between Waterbury and Danbury, both New Haven line branches, I’ve only been on the New Haven line once. It was always easier to cross the state border and get on in Brewster, or Southeast (then Brewster North). I’ve never been to New Haven’s Union Station, although I’ve certainly driven by it. But I can certainly relate to the current New Haven train riders that are now fighting for the last Solari departure board in use on Metro-North. I don’t quite know why, but I really loved the Solari board that used to be in Grand Central when I was very young. I remember standing under the Solari that was for Amtrak in Penn Station many years ago when I took my first ride on Amtrak, going to Florida with my grandmother. I even remember the board in use also in Penn Station for the Long Island Rail Road, under which everyone would stand waiting for the information on their trains to flip up, and when it did, would race like marathon runners to their tracks. I remember all these, but today, they are all gone.

Most unfortunately, the New Haven Independent reported yesterday of the plans to remove the Solari board from New Haven’s Union station, and replace it with an LCD at some point next year. The article is full of comments, and people that want to save the board. A commenter going by the name of Erin brings up a good point:

My two cents: if the Solari sign is hard to maintain, use the $5 million it was going to cost for LED signs as a reserve fund to fix the Solari sign if ever needed.

I really do love these boards, and I would hate to see it get one more of them taken down. It ought to be kept for its historic nature, it is the last of its kind on Metro-North, and one of the few left in the United States. If the sign is going to get removed, I would love to see someone, like the Transit Museum, acquire it and put it on display. Considering the board is in Connecticut, however, I am unsure if it would even be considered for it to go to the New York Transit Museum, even though Metro-North is represented by the museum.

Though the fight is on to save the board. A group has been made on facebook called Save Solari, and there is also a page on SeeClickFix. As for me, I do believe a photography trip is in order, especially if the unfortunate happens, and the board is taken down.

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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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