Metro-North’s newest Arts for Transit – a revisit to the Hudson Line

I think it is fairly well established that I love the Arts for Transit program, and pretty much any transit-related art in general. My three-year-long jaunt to every single Metro-North station was not only a great way to become familiar with our rail system, but to also become familiar with the art found within many of the stations. The Hudson Line has some of the newest and most attractive pieces out of the Arts for Transit program, including two stations that never made it into my Tuesday Tours. Both Croton-Harmon and Peekskill got some art in the latter half of 2012, after both stations had been featured on the site. Both are rather attractive designs, and I figured it would be worth visiting the Hudson yet again to check them out.

Some of Arts for Transit’s most successful installations are those that almost transcend the barrier between art and function, and those that interact with the space in which they are placed. While bronze sculptures hanging on the wall are certainly a lovely (though easily missed) addition to any station, the bronze chairs you’ll find at Pleasantville station become even more than that. They are attractive, but also functional, they interact with the people that use the station, and they begin a dialogue. People that spy them from the train might say, “what are those nice looking chairs, and why are they there?” And as the artists intended, they evoke the comforts and feelings of home, and the thought that to many regular commuters this station is their second home. When comparing Arts for Transit pieces, Pleasantville always seems to be the bar to which I compare, and is (at least in my opinion) one of the best embodiments of the program’s concept of enhancing the experience of travel.

In a similar vein to the Pleasantville piece, both of the newest Arts for Transit works on the Hudson Line seem to interact with the stations in which they’ve been placed, and thus the people that frequent them. Croton-Harmon’s artwork, a series of laminated glass panels by Brooklyn-based artist Corinne Ulmann, not only depict the changing of seasons, but seem to change on their own based upon the light that filters into the overpass. Several Hudson Line stations feature both faceted and laminated glass works in the overpasses, and I’ve always felt they’ve been successful as they’re never the same at all times. As sunlight passes through, colors are reflected onto the platforms and walkways and move as the sun crosses the sky. Thus the art is hardly static, it subtly changes due to season, time, and weather.

Metro North President Howard Permut at Peekskill station
Metro North President Howard Permut speaks at Peekskill, with the station’s newest Arts for Transit piece in the background. [image credit]

Peekskill’s art, an installation of various painted steel pieces by Joy Taylor, also interacts with the station, and the sunlight. The large pieces cast shadows on the platform, but also highlight a play between new and old at the station. During Peekskill’s recent renovations, the station’s historical canopy was restored. This canopy runs parallel to the more modern one found on the station’s other platform, but both evoke a different feeling. The historical canopy is rounded, where the new is more angular, with squared edges. But with the artistic flourishes added to the modern canopy (the historical canopy was appropriately left without embellishments), the new canopy visually parallels the old. Not only does it create an interesting play between new and old, but it emphasizes the historical nature of the one canopy. That side of the platform is not bare, however. The fencing behind the old canopy carries the same flowery motif, but without compromising the part that is historical.

If you happen to get over to the Hudson Line, both pieces are certainly worth checking out, and make commuting on the Hudson Line a little bit more attractive than before.

 
 
   
  
   
 
   
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
  
 
  

And before I forget, Metro-North’s newest Arts for Transit will be at Fordham station on the Harlem Line. If you happen to be an artist, you still have a few days to reply to the Call for Artists. Submissions need to be postmarked by the 28th.

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Have you checked out “The New York Commuter’s Glossary” yet?

Have you checked out “The New York Commuter’s Glossary” yet? If you haven’t yet heard of the book, it is a humorous little collection of words and illustrations related to the art of commuting. It was written by Mike Malone – who is the man behind Train Jotting, illustrated by the awesome Joe Walden, and of course, designed by me. You can buy copies online, or if you happen to be in the White Plains area, Gary Waxman is selling copies at his newsstand in the train station. You can also find it at the Village Bookstore in Pleasantville.


Gary Waxman shows off the book


Yes, this book was designed while riding Metro-North

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Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 6)

It has been a while since I last posted some old postcards… so I figured we were due for an update. Two of the cards we’ve seen before, though these are alternate views and in color. And even though some of them are not necessarily railroad related, it is interesting to check out the landscape as it once was. The Wassaic House, right alongside the railroad tracks, is visible in the second postcard of the set. Built in 1851, the Wassaic House was a hotel owned by wealthy local Noah Gridley. Gridley was also a financial backer for Gail Borden’s milk condensery, which in addition to the railroad and Gridley’s own iron works, were the three most influential industries in the history of Wassaic.

Other lovely cards that show the world around the rails is an example from Pawling, with the lake visible alongside the tracks. There is also a nice view of what the village of Valhalla looked like – the train station is partially visible on the left side of the card. And the grade crossing in Bronxville, with the funky old-style railroad crossing sign is a nice old view.

My favorite card of the bunch, however, is the nicely detailed shot of Brewster station. It is the same station we know and love, with some different details – like the New York Central Railroad stenciled above the door. You can click here for a comparison shot of Brewster today. The card of Brewster was sent in by reader Steve Swirsky, a contribution which is much appreciated!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Because you can never get enough postcards, there will certainly be more a 7th part and beyond. You can also check out the old parts, in case you missed any, with the following links:
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 1
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 2
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 3
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 4
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 5

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Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 5)


A train crash postcard

Imagine that we are in the year 1920. A train has just had an accident. As people rush over to attempt to assist, so too does a photographer. Camera in hand, the photographer takes a couple snaps of the wreck. Not only for event detailing purposes, but for postcards too. I’ve become a crazy postcard-collecting nutjob, and every time I see a train crash postcard, it makes me chuckle a little. Postcards were printed with pretty much anything and everything on them… but I suppose it makes sense, they provided an easy way to share (back before we had this thing called internet, boggles the mind!) Of course, it is just human nature to want to see a train crash, or any crash, period. Any person that has ever been in a car moving past an accident knows exactly what I’m talking about.


And if I wanted to send you a LOLCat back in the day, I’d send you this.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to discover a Harlem Division train crash postcard. I have found quite a few station images, many of which I’ve posted previously. Today I have a few more of those for you, as well as some more “everyday” scenes: track workers at Dover Plains, a locomotive crossing a road in the snow, and horse carts delivering milk to the train station to be transported to the city. Thrown in the mix is a card of the Harlem Valley State Hospital, with the location of the current Harlem Valley-Wingdale station visible.

Make sure you enjoy this somewhat chilly Friday (where’s my hat?!), and don’t get too frustrated if you see anybody rubbernecking on your way home this evening! Just think, hey, that could be on a postcard!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

If you missed parts one through four, you can find them here:
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 1
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 2
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 3
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 4

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Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 4)

You know addicts never quit… how could I ever stop collecting these postcards? Plus it seems that I love multi-part posts. We’re on number four, folks. In case you missed the others, you can find them here:
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 1
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 2
Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line, Part 3

I’m not much of a psychic, but I have a really good feeling that there will be a part 5. But until then, enjoy more old postcards from various locations along the Harlem Line. This time we have Brewster, more of Chatham, the abandoned Upper Harlem station of Craryville, a view of Croton Falls, Dover Plains, and Goldens Bridge, the station at Hartsdale, a winter scene at Hawthorne, a train pulling into Pleasantville, a view of the depot in Tuckahoe, the Borden Condensed Milk factory – located next to the tracks in Wassaic, and the old station in White Plains.












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The Harlem Line, in panoramas

I’ve spent many months posting various panoramas of the Harlem Line stations. I’m now excited to be able to post the entire Harlem Line, viewed in panoramas. You can watch as the farmland and rural greenery morphs into the suburbs, before changing into the concrete jungle of New York City. If you want to see more photos from each of the stations, just click on the picture. Anybody have a favorite panorama? I think my two favorites are Tenmile River and Harlem-125th Street – the two of them are polar opposites in terms of the scenery visible while taking a ride down New York City’s oldest railroad.

For those who like maps, I place all of my panoramas on a Google map, which you can see below. I also add photos to Panoramio, which provides the photos for Google Earth.

View larger map

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Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 2)

Back in November I posted a whole bunch of postcards that I had collected of stations along the Harlem. I had promised a part two, and here it is now… but why stop at just part two? I’ve sort of realized I have quite the boatload of postcards, and I keep acquiring them. One of my rather lofty goals was to be able to collect a postcard for each Harlem railroad station. But I also couldn’t help purchasing alternate designs of the same stations. So although some places I have no postcards for, there are others that I have a bunch. I have far too many of Grand Central, and three or more of stations like Pleasantville, Chappaqua, and Chatham. Needless to say, there will be a part three, and possibly a part four at some time in the future. I do have a request to any of you out there, though. If you happen to have a postcard that I don’t have in my collection here, I would love you so much if you could scan it for me. As much as I’d love to actually have it in my possession, I would love it even more to have it available in my digital gallery!

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

The last four postcards are a little different. They are not Harlem stations per se, but once upon a time you could board a Harlem Division train that went into Massachusetts, across the Boston & Albany’s tracks. Leaving from Grand Central, the train would make stops at 125th Street, White Plains, Brewster, Pawling and Chatham. After a short pause in Chatham, the train would continue to East Chatham and Canaan, before crossing into Massachusetts and making stops at State Line, Richmond, Pittsfield, Cheshire, Adams and North Adams. Most of those stations are long gone, just like the Upper Harlem stations. Amtrak trains still make stops in Pittsfield, though the two stations in the postcards were torn down, which is unfortunate. They were gorgeous in comparison to today’s Pittsfield station. I think the waiting room there looks more like a school cafeteria than part of a train station!

  
  


Timetable for Harlem Division service to Massachusetts

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Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 1)

Hi, my name is Emily, and I have a problem. An addiction, really. And no, I am not referring to my frequent use of hats with ears. I have an addiction to eBay, and buying crazy things there. I’m not quite to the stage where one ought to worry that I am going to end up on that TV show Hoarders. Nor am I to the point where I’ve collected a hundred cats and you can change my nickname from Cat Girl to Cat Lady. But I am somewhat interested in acquiring old things. Like train timetables from 1883, or postcards from the early 1900′s. I began scanning some of the postcards I’ve managed to get… I hope that one day I’ll have one for every station, but I know that is quite a lofty goal. Someday, perhaps…

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Pleasantville

Evidence that my mind has been entirely corrupted by horrible marketers and their abysmal catch-phrases, I want to say that I was pleasantly surprised with Pleasantville station (this is one notch up from saying “Flip Out!” in an advertisement for a flipbook which I unfortunately created yesterday). Seriously though, the little station in the middle of the Harlem Line has character – a lot of which has to do with the Arts for Transit piece there. The station is easily accessible from the attractive green area in the center of the village. Part of the reason it differs from many of the other area stations is the fact that the platform is lower than the neighboring streets. As opposed to walking up a set of stairs to a vestibule above the tracks, the larger than usual vestibule and waiting area sits at street level, and you instead descend a set of stairs to the platform.











Installed in 2002, Pleasantville’s Arts for Transit piece, titled Almost Home, is the newest located on the Harlem Line. The work was a collaboration between Brooklyn-based artist Jane Greengold, and Vietnamese-born and current New York resident Kane Chanh Do. Both artists work in sculpture and installation art. Almost Home consists of twenty-two bronze chairs, sixteen of which are in the upper waiting area, and six on the lower platform level. A book also rests on a ledge in the upper part of the station, a bronze replica of a copy of the Reader’s Digest… though admittedly I would never have had any clue of what it was supposed to be, had I not researched the piece for this post. Apparently Reader’s Digest was originally printed in Pleasantville, and so the book is representative of that historical link.

Although I can’t say I’ve seen all the Arts for Transit pieces on the Harlem Line, Almost Home really is my favorite so far. Not only is it visually attractive, it is functional part of the station. Conceptually, the almost home theme is intriguing to me. As a commuter, besides my own home and work, I spend a good deal of time on the train or at the train station. At times the train station feels like a second home to me. There are times when I think some artist’s statements are complete BS, but in this case I think Do and Greengold describe their piece quite well:

In this suburb of New York City, we have re-created, in bronze, chairs likely to be found in the homes of the commuters who use the station, bringing some of the comforts of home out to meet the riders, making the station almost like home, and reminding riders that they, too, are almost home. Because the chairs look so life-like, so much like wood and upholstery fabric, they create a humorous, trompe l’oeil effect.

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Friday’s From the Historical Archive: An Adventure to the Former Kensico Cemetery Station

On a chilly and gray Friday, my friend and I got lost in a cemetery. Kensico Cemetery. Kensico Cemetery was a stop on the New York Central’s Harlem Division, but was finally closed in 1983 when Metro North electrified the line north of White Plains. The original station building was completed in 1890, but was expanded and partially rebuilt in 1936.


A 1902 article from the New York Tribune showing pictures of the new station buildings at Pleasantville, Kensico, and Scarsdale.

The Cemetery is located down the street from where I work, and I convinced my friend to accompany me on a lunch break adventure. After driving up and down the winding streets of the cemetery, we finally found the former train station house, the current cemetery administration building. We headed inside to get warm, and to find a map. The lady inside was cheerful to help us on our quest to find some famous dead people, but inside I’m certain she thought we were nuts. She handed my friend and I a stapled packet labeled Kensico Cemetery Historical and Scenic Tour.


An old photograph of the Kensico Station building, from an 1895 Book, Health and pleasure on “America’s greatest railroad.”


What the station building looks like today.

Buried in the cemetery are quite a few famous people, including Alfred Holland Smith, who was the president of the New York Central. He died in 1924 in a freak accident in Central Park. Ayn Rand is another person buried in Kensico. Although she is not directly related to the railroad, she did research into the New York Central railroad while writing her book, Atlas Shrugged. Not only was she allowed to ride in the locomotive of the 20th Century Limited train, they allowed her to drive it. The character from the book, Nat Taggart, is supposed to be modeled on Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Final resting place of Alfred Holland Smith

Additional pictures from our adventure:

If you’re interested in going to the cemetery yourself, I’ve scanned the map that I was given at the administration office. The entire packet is a nice read though, with historical information on the people and explanations on how to find each of the memorials. I suggest stopping in to the office to grab a copy, since the people are quite nice. If you’d rather skip it though, this map should assist.

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