My date with an M8…

To say my train journeys this past weekend were a bit interesting seems like an understatement. I got to take some cool pictures of Grand Central’s exterior because the road was closed to cars for Summer Streets. I photographed the New Haven Line station Mount Vernon East, which is the 70th Metro-North station I’ve taken pictures of (if anybody is keeping track, lol). Oh, and I also got to ride on an M8. But see, those weren’t really quite as interesting as the nutjobs I found I was sharing the train with. On Friday an absolute genius of a woman decided that it would be a good idea to chase the departing train after forgetting a bag on board. She either jumped off the platform, or weaseled through the fence at Southeast, and ran after the train as it entered the yard. How monumentally stupid. I thought to myself, had she gotten flattened by a train or fried herself by tripping on the third rail, her family most likely would have sued Metro-North. Despite the fact that it would totally have been her fault, her family probably would have been awarded some amount of monetary compensation… and when our fares would go up again, we’d all know why.

On Saturday I again found myself on a northbound train heading to Southeast. It was dark, and near impossible to see anything but blackness out the window. I was in the very rear of the train, the portion that doesn’t platform at Brewster (yes, I totally think it is acceptable to use platform as a verb, thank you). Because it was so dark, I couldn’t really tell whether we were stopped at the station, or at some point before it… but I was certainly wondering what the heck was going on. Turns out a man in the front of the train decided to, how should I say this, basically he thought it would be a good idea to whip it out and begin pleasuring himself – the rest of the passengers present be damned. Girls were screaming, conductors were running, and it didn’t take too long for the train to be stopped until the police arrived. The public masturbator had apparently hidden himself in the train bathroom, but was thankfully apprehended by the police and removed from the train. I’ll call that the Metro-North Harlem Line Pervert Express – I have no desire to ride that train again.

Unfortunately the story of the M8 was slightly overshadowed by the stories of the crazy people. I took a short ride – from Grand Central to Mount Vernon East – though I took quite a few photos of the train before it went into motion. It may not have been the most memorable event of the day, but it was certainly the most positive highlight of the day. The aesthetic of the train is pretty similar to the M7’s found on the Hudson and Harlem Lines, but obviously in red. There is a lot of red. The outside is red, the floor is red, the seats are red. Clearly the decision was based on the New Haven Line’s signature color, but for those who believe that color can effect mood there might be a little bit too much red. A lot of sites have commented on the features of the M8, so I will try to keep this as short as possible, and let the photos speak for themselves. I will say that the lighting, large overhead storage racks, and numerous power outlets are really great additions. Now if we could get more of them in service, and iron out all the remaining glitches we’d be all set…


Read More

Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Bridgeport

An older, and a bit more attractive Bridgeport station

Throughout my tour of the New Haven Line I have discovered quite a few beautiful train stations. Unfortunately, I would not include today’s featured station, Bridgeport, among them. The current station is a somewhat imposing concrete structure, amassed with people heading in all directions via Metro-North, Shore Line East, and Amtrak trains. And all of those people are a quite diverse lot, ranging from girls in rainbow fishnet stockings, to a guy with a soulpatch wearing a miniskirt and high heels. I’m totally not judging.

A literal train wreck at Bridgeport.

The current Bridgeport station was completed in 1975, though it not nearly as beautiful as the station it replaced. The previous station was built in the early 1900’s for the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, but burned down in the 1970’s. The station is located alongside the water, and not far from the ferries to Long Island, as well as Harbor Yard. The station is a transfer point for folks riding the Waterbury branch, and it is approximately 55 miles from Grand Central.

Here are some photos of my visit to Bridgeport… I will state, for the record, there would be more, including a panorama of the M8 that passed by, had I not been visited by a police officer that told me picture taking was forbidden. I suppose the popo don’t realize that there are a lot of ways to secretly record things… I mean if I were a terrorist, it would be quite easy to secretly record the happenings at the train station without, you know, that big “terrorist device” known as a camera. Just sayin’.


Read More

Cat girl, Cat girl, whatcha gonna do when the cops come for you?

Just a note, posted 11/22 – I’ve spoken to some folks at Metro-North that have apologized for the incident and will be reminding the managers of track workers that taking photos on the platform is not illegal. I’m satisfied with this resolution, and I thank everyone for their comments.

Today was the final day for me to go out and take panorama photos at the last five stations on the Harlem Line. After that, the panorama project would essentially be complete (the original goal of all Harlem Line stations complete, but I’ll still be shooting panoramas and adding them to the project and map), and I would have visited all current and active stations on the line. However, I had been warned many times about two particular stations: Melrose and Tremont. Some readers of the blog assured me I would be safe there. Many train conductors I know advised me not to go there, unless I planned on taking a gun. I did ask @MetroNorthTweet his opinion, and he responded “I just checked with our Police and they said there shouldn’t be a problem during the day.” I decided to go. The amusing thing is that at both stations there was no threat to me whatsoever – it was actually *I* that was deemed a threat.

I suppose this now means I’ve now been baptised by fire into the inner circle of transit photographers… I’ve now had the police called on me, while I was taking photos at Melrose. This weekend there was a bit of track work going on in the Bronx. I kinda figured that the extra bodies in the vicinity of the stations would make me safer. Instead, it was apparently my turn to get harassed by the track workers, or rather, one specific track worker. Trains stopping at Melrose are not as frequent as many other stops, and I was aware I was going to be stuck at the station for slightly over an hour. I spent at least a half an hour of that time taking photos of the trains going by. All the while the track workers were hanging around, doing not a thing. It was when they came up onto the platform to hang out in an idling MTA vehicle on the street (playing loud music, by the way) that they noticed me taking photos. Taking photos in the opposite direction didn’t seem to bother them, but instead in the direction where they had been working (or perhaps, not working) they got angry. One worker came out of the idling vehicle to shout at me to stop taking photos. I didn’t really think anything of it, and by the time the next train had started to roll by I had forgotten, and pulled out my camera to get a nice shot of the train as it went by.

Track worker then exited the vehicle, slammed the door, and charged down the stairs to come and yell, “I told you, don’t take no pictures. Nobody’s allowed to take pictures. MTA Police don’t allow NO photos.”
Eric, who was accompanying me on my last photo jaunt to Harlem Line stations, replied something along the lines of, “There’s no reason we can’t take pictures here.”
The track worker steps forward, threateningly replying, “Oh yeah? OH YEAH?! Well we’ll see about that. I’m callin’ the cops on you. I’M CALLIN’ THE COPS RIGHT NOW!”

Thinking back, I was wondering why this man was so angry. I came up with a couple of possibilities:
– He was picked on as a child
– He’s not getting anything from his wife in the bedroom
– He’s not very big and needs to assert his manhood in some way or another
– He thinks I now have photographic evidence that proves he and his buddies were doing nothing other than punching each other and listening to loud music in an idling Metro-North vehicle.

He got on his walkie talkie and called in, “I have a situation here at Melrose. We need the cops down here right now.” I don’t think he said anything else, and wouldn’t clarify what exactly the “situation” was, but he said there were two people that were “doing things they weren’t supposed to be doing.”

The train I was taking was set to come in around fifteen minutes, and it took the police about that long to get there. When the track worker saw I was getting my stuff together to board the train, he began to block the bridge plate (since track work was being done, people could only enter and exit the train from the small bridge). Anotherwords, the man was blocking my only way to get onto my train and to leave. But what right does a track worker have to detain a passenger on Metro-North Railroad? None whatsoever – I would consider that illegally detaining me.

The cops certainly arrived in order to take care of this “situation” – clad in their bulletproof vests. I walked right up to one of them, handed him one of my website business cards and said “Yes, I take photographs at train stations. I’ve taken photos at many stations and have had no problem before. There are people that work for the railroad that are aware I am out here taking photos…” (not exactly a stretch. I’ve gotten messages from an array of people, from ticket collectors to engineers) the police officer interrupted me, demanding my identification. I really didn’t think he had any right to see it, but I wanted the whole damn thing to be over with, and to be able to board my train that the police were now preventing from leaving. And so I gave him my ID, which he photographed. He asked me where I was going (did he really have any right to know?), and I told him the Botanical Garden. He asked if I would be taking photos there as well, and I said yes. He told me not to go to any places I didn’t belong as I boarded the train. That makes me wonder, did track worker lie and say we were in unauthorized areas? Conveniently, I was wearing my GPS tracker – which allows me to geotag my photos. It can also plot on a map every single step I took today – and prove I was not in any unauthorized areas.

Anyways, here I am now, wondering what exactly is going to the photo that a police officer now has on his phone of my ID. I also came up with a couple of possibilities:
– The MTA police will now have a file on me, as I am a potential “threat to safety”
– Nothing whatosever
– [redacted, I admit, this was an inappropriate comment]
– The police will be actively pursuing me as a threat. In this instance I figured I’d help them out, since I am a designer and all, I created my own wanted poster:

Real terrorists vandalize their own hypothetical wanted posters. Oh, and that is a new, custom hat, thanks to the always-awesome Susan at Boshi Basiik!

In a post 9/11 age of paranoia and suspicion, public photography is increasingly seen as threatening, or mistaken as criminal…Amateur photographers are the documentarians of real life. We capture our world to help us understand it. We are not a threat

-JPG Magazine

There is really nothing else for me to say, other than what I’ve said already. I will still love Metro-North, and I will still love photography. And nothing is going to change that… even if it makes me a supposed “terrorist.”

Read More

White Plains, Level 8, My new favorite place

Despite the fact that I started this blog to talk about all the crazy people I see on the train, I don’t really do it all that often anymore. But that is not to say I still don’t see crazy people. The coat guy is still around in White Plains, sporting his new favorite accessory: a big red cowboy hat. I rode in this morning with a skinny guy that dreams of being a bodybuilder. He had about ten bags, along with a few magazines that had photos of greased up men with muscles so enormous they must be taking steroids. The seat next to him he used as a table, as he buttered his bagel and mixed up his protein shake with the cup of milk he purchased from Starbucks. Bag Lady still rides the shuttle bus, as does the whiny girl that moans in some foreign language on her cell the entire ride. Yesterday I had to sit through the entire shuttle ride listening to her whine – she does not talk, she whines – and she continued to do so in the waiting room of the train station. I couldn’t stand to hear it anymore, so I went exploring.

There aren’t too many places in the White Plains train station I’ve never been. But I figured, why the hell not, I’ll go to the top of the parking garage. Up at the 8th level you can look down at the city of White Plains, listen to the rumble of the diesel engines as they head to Wassaic, and hear the whine of the M7 as it brakes and stops. And besides all the bits of trash (used condoms, eew) it is actually kinda nice up there. And quite peaceful, since I never seem to see anybody up there. Anyways, here are some photos of the view, morning and evening.

You know, the only thing I’m afraid of now is that someone is going to see me up there looking down and think I want to jump. Thats the last thing I need – cops coming after me. With all the stories I hear about photographers getting arrested and such for taking pictures, I really have a fear of the police, and I don’t trust them one bit.

Read More

Meet Berta, An MTA PD K-9

Every once and a while in White Plains station I see officers from MTA PD’s K-9 unit… and each time I see them, I always have the desire to chat. But I never do. That is, until today.

Meet Berta, who is quite the cutie. I had a short chat with Berta’s handler while waiting for my train this evening (me being the moron I am, forgot to ask him his name!). Ever since reading an article in the New York Times about the MTA’s dogs, I had a question. What is up with the price gap? The NYT stated that male dogs were more expensive than females. I had to ask Berta’s handler. Are the females… less effective?

He laughed at the question. “Definitely not,” he said. The two dogs he works with, Berta, and a German Shepherd, are both female. He was also skeptical that there exists any price difference between the male and female dogs. Although Berta’s job is to sniff out explosives, her handler jokes that she really excels at sniffing out chocolate chip cookies. Shame on you, Berta, dogs aren’t supposed to eat chocolate!

And there you have it. Dog themed posts two days in a row. I do think I need to clean myself up now… I seem to have dog fur all over my shirt…

Read More

MTA Police step up security at White Plains train station

As I went through White Plains train station this morning, police were at the front of the station setting up a table in order to inspect bags. There was a K9 there as well, which actually caused a bit of commotion. A hispanic male walked up to the dog and began petting him, the police were not too thrilled about that. The man sort of shrugged and walked away, either because he didn’t speak English, or he was pretending not to be able to understand what the cop said to him.

If you’re having difficulty reading the sign from the picture, it says:

MTA Police Department
Container Inspection Program

Backpacks/Containers are subject to inspection prior to entering the mass transit system. Individuals may refuse to permit inspection and elect not to enter the system. Individuals will not be permitted access to the system with the uninspected container. Individuals who refuse the container search and later attempt to enter the system with the uninspected container may be subject to arrest.

I’m not exactly sure how long the police will be there, and how many bags they plan on inspecting (everyone’s or just a random selection of people). The increased security is most likely a response to the bombing attack in the Moscow subway on Monday, which killed 39 people.

Read More

White Plains: Welcome to the waiting room…

Around this time of year, the waiting room in White Plains is packed. Nobody wants to wait outside in this cold. And if you like people watching, it is the spot to be. The current “thing” to do is smoke inside. Who wants to smoke outside in the cold? The best way to perform this maneuver is to hide against the wall or window, in an attempt to block anyone from seeing your pipe or cigarette. Nasty smelling chewing tobacco is also popular. Be sure to pull a hood up over yourself and lean over, so nobody can really see what you’re doing.

Nope! Can’t see me! (though we can smell you)

Earlier this morning I saw Johnny walking through the waiting room with a cigarette in hand. Johnny (which is just my nickname for him) is an interesting character. I wouldn’t group him in with some of the other crazies at the station, he seems relatively normal, but he does hang out and smoke with the crazies. And tries to have conversations with them. Which can be interesting, since most of these people are used to only talking to themselves. When not smoking, he also likes to sing. His mind does not retain lyrics well, however, which is where his nickname came about. One amusing morning he kept attempting to sing Johnny B Goode, but after a few words just went back to singing “Go go, Go Johnny go, Go!” over and over again.

Crazy coat guy was hanging about the waiting room yesterday too. With the blue purse. And a questionable looking chain around his neck. Honest to God, I think he stole a hood ornament off of a car, and put it around his neck.

John the dollar man was in the waiting room last night, being questioned by police. And he looked as if he were about to cry. A friend of mine said she actually saw him on a train from Grand Central, walking up the aisle and asking for dollars. It was only a matter of time before somebody complained. Plus White Plains always tends to have a decent size contingent of police officers. And occasionally K-9’s that are probably ready to take a bite out of your leg.

That is about it for crazy stories from the waiting room for today… though I realized that I never mentioned anything about the new year. Honestly I am not much of a fan of holidays. But as the decade came to a close, I thought about some of the “commuting memories” I had of the decade. There were two that stuck out in my mind. Wesley Autrey, the man that saved another man that fell on the subway tracks, and Edwin Gallart, the guy who lost his phone down a Metro-North toilet, and got his arm stuck attempting to retrieve it. Anyone else have any “commuting memories” from the decade? Comment or tweet…

Read More

Seven Signs of Terrorist (Bloggers)

So this is very cool… my very first post on here with my new netbook. I really adore my laptop – it is the best computer I’ve ever had, it has a tablet/touch screen so I can draw all I want so easily. The only thing bad about it is that it is heavy. And I hate having to carry heavy things on my walk to the train station, or on the train. So for portability sake, especially so I can take it with me on the train and on the trip I’ll be taking to Japan next year, I purchased a netbook. Makes it rather easy to be updating this blog on the road… or perhaps I should say, on the rails.

Only catch is this… I bet I look suspicious. Today we had quite a few police/homeland security folks at White Plains, passing out the train maps I posted about a while ago, along with some new cards detailing how to spot terrorists on public transit. Unfortunately one of the “Seven Signs of Terrorism” includes taking pictures and monitoring activities aboard trains. I am doing that all the time! Another includes acquiring uniforms… and I have that train conductor hat! In all seriousness, I’d probably make a shitty terrorist. With the crazy hats I wear, everyone and their mother could probably identify me.
Trainblogger… not terrorist

Hopefully getting police out there and teaching everyone the mantra of “If you see something, say something” actually works in protecting us. There certainly were a lot of police around handing out papers, down in the entrance part of the station, in the waiting rooms, even out on the platform. Obviously through my blog I see a lot of probably suspicious, likely crazy people, but I certainly wouldn’t label them a terrorist.

Suspicious photo taking behavior!

Handing out cards on the platform

I do think a few years ago I was on a train though where a “suspcious” bag was left and police came on board to confiscate it. It is doubtful that there was a bomb in the bag, but for every false alarm, if one of those calls actually prevents an attack from occuring, it is worth it, right?

Read More