Counting down the 12 most popular posts of 2011, Part 1

2011 was certainly a whirlwind of a year. The site found itself featured in the New York Times, and I even had a radio interview. There were visits to lots of interesting places: train stations in Quebec, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, and non train related spots like an ice hotel, and the final space shuttle launch. In February we finished up our tour of the Harlem Line, and by May began our tour of the New Haven Line. As we head boldly into the new year, hoping for many new and wonderful adventures, I thought I’d take the time to check out the top 12 things you loved about 2011.

Although not eligible for a spot in our 2011 countdown, as it was posted in 2010, the Panorama Project page was hands-down the most popular page on the site this year. Likely the New York Times article had a lot to do with that. Although we post a new station every Tuesday, the Panorama Project page is still the best way to check out all the stations and lines that have been featured thus far.

Number 12 on our list is The Rebirth of a Train Station: Canaan. While so many towns are content to ignore their railroading history, Canaan is the complete opposite. They are fiercely proud of that history, and when their gorgeous station was the victim of arson several years ago, they vowed to rebuild. In the ensuing years, the old depot has made a huge transformation – no longer is it a fire-ravaged hulk – it is slowly returning to its former grandeur.

Later in the year, we revisited Canaan during their annual Railway Days.

Old postcards have always been a popular subject matter on the site, and over the years there have been six parts (and more to come!) in our Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line series. Part two was the eleventh most popular post on the blog in 2011. You can check out all the other postcard posts with the following links: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

Tenth most popular in 2011 was one of our Tuesday Tour stops on the New Haven Line, Pelham. Pelham is one of the old and attractive New Haven Line stations on the opposite side of the border, in New York. I found myself here on the very day that the article featuring the site was published in the New York Times. And the fact that this post was linked to by a few other railroad websites certainly helped with its popularity.

A bit more popular than the postcards are our collections of old photos from the Harlem Line. Like the postcards, there have been many different old photo posts, and for a brief stint I posted many of these photos on Mondays. Part 3 of Even More Monday Morning Old Photos was the ninth most popular post on the blog in 2011. It contained several photos of the line that used to be, when it passed by Millerton and extended all the way up to Chatham.

Everyone must admit that the concept of quiet cars is a great one – however, in practice, it may be a little bit more difficult. You know that although you may encounter some really nice people on the trains, there are also a whole bunch of assholes. They yap on their phones, take up rows of seats with their bags (one morning I saw a woman holding hostage several seats with her large carton of juice). There are many times that I am skeptical that good ideas can work with stupid people.

Before the quiet car program started, Metro North said that conductors would have “Shh Cards” to pass out to loud people to tell them to shut their traps in a nice, passive way. I thought the idea was amusing, and managed to get my hands on some of the cards before the program debuted. And they were a little bit too nice – I was unable to resist making modifications to them… and even printing out a few. The fake shh cards posted under the title of Quiet cars and Shh cards was the eighth most popular on the site in 2011, and the cliffhanger I’ll leave you with until later on this week.

Want to see the remainder of the top 12? Check back later this week to see them, and to find out which post will be crowned number one most popular of 2011.

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Weekly News Roundup, 12/23

Here’s this week’s news, on this incredibly grey and rainy day.

Connecticut to get quiet car trial

When Metro-North started doing trials for their “Quiet CALMute” quiet car program, it only included the Harlem and Hudson Lines. Starting January 9th, however, quiet cars will be appearing on the New Haven Line. The Connecticut Commuter Council’s Jim Cameron blogged about it, and to my amusement said, “treat passengers like adults and they’ll act that way.” I would very much like to ride Jim Cameron’s train, where all the passengers act like adults. You know, where people don’t hide in the bathroom to evade fare and don’t get into fistfights with the conductor because they don’t want to pay.

Many people support the quiet car program, though I still have some reservations about how it will work on a larger scale. I’m curious to hear how it works out when quiet cars are added to some “real” trains. As I’ve mentioned before, the Wassaic trains where quiet cars were added are normally quiet. The people have to wake up early, have long commute times, and often catch up on sleep (oh, and they commute more in a day than Cameron does in a week). On my local, however, we have a delightful business man that dresses in a suit and tie, boards at Mount Kisco and hides in the bathroom until Chappaqua. Then he comes out and shows his Chappaqua monthly, a scheme that saves him $49 a month. He’s not one of the incredibly obnoxious and rude passengers on the train, but it is unfortunate for the real adults that board at Mount Kisco and actually pay the full fare.

Train in Connecticut searched for murder suspect

Connecticut has had some wacky stories this week… from Jesus on a bus, a turkey loose in a tire shop, to a man that defecated in a bank parking lot prior to robbing it. Some Metro-North riders were involved in a situation far less amusing when armed police boarded their train in Darien looking for a man suspected of murdering two. Or maybe a different man that killed someone else. Everybody’s confused, but they were looking for somebody!

Route 120 bridge opens – finally

The Route 120 bridge over the railroad tracks and adjacent to Chappaqua station has opened. Finally. Every morning during my commute, I watched the slow construction on this bridge, and it is nice to see it finished. It contains a walkway and a set of stairs for easy access to the Chappaqua train station.

“Club Car” coming to Mamaroneck

The old Mamaroneck train station is still being renovated, but when it reopens it will be housing the Club Car Restaurant and Lounge.

Renovations in progress at Mamaroneck

MTA approves budget for 2012

The 2012 budget has been approved by the MTA board this week.

Happy Holidays!

To get you into the “holiday spirit” TrainJotting has posted their amusing Twas the Night Before Christmas parody again this year.

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Quiet cars and “Shh cards”

If you haven’t heard, quiet cars will be coming to Metro-North. Conceptually it is a great idea. In practice, well, we’ll see how it works. Passengers prove time and time again that they will pretty much do whatever the hell they want – whether it be putting their feet on the seats, or “cleverly” attempting to dispose of their garbage by dropping it in the gap at the next station stop. Unfortunately “policing” these quiet cars may fall to the conductors, which already get enough crap from many disgruntled train riders. I am imagining a scenario that will inevitably happen at one time or another: a businessman that gets on the train and insists he needs to have a cell-phone conference call. As the train is packed, the only available seat is in the quiet car. Because he’s paid Metro-North several hundred dollars for a monthly pass, he feels he deserves that seat, and the fact that it is in a quiet car doesn’t concern him.

There are a couple things that amuse me about the initiation of this quiet car program. Firstly, on the Harlem Line, the quiet cars will be on Wassaic trains. Clearly, whoever thought this up has never been on a Wassaic train. If you’re not familiar with the people that I’ve dubbed “the Wassaic people” – they never talk on the train. The trains are always quiet. On the rare occasion that I miss my normal train, I can board a train that originates in Wassaic and happens to stop at Goldens Bridge. If I even say good morning to the conductor taking my ticket, those Wassaic people shoot daggers at me with their eyes. I’m not sure about whatever other trains have been assigned quiet cars, and whether there are odd folks on the Hudson Line that we can call “those Poughkeepsie people.”

The second thing that somewhat amuses me about these quiet cars are the “shhhh cards.” If you are making noise in the quiet car, conductors may give you a specially printed card that they hope will make you pipe down. I got my hands on a few of these cards today, and you can see a preview of them here:

If you ask me, these are a little bit too subtle. This may actually work better:

Metro-North, I fixed that for ya

As far as I am aware, one shh card does not put you in “the penalty box” nor does two get you ejected from the train. A shame, as sports references generally help people to understand “difficult” subjects.

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