Check out August’s Cat Fancy Magazine!

Any good reader of this blog is familiar with Sadie the Subway cat, former resident of the Transit Museum, though now retired. One of the last times I recall seeing Sadie at the museum was the morning before I interviewed Howard Permut. Apparently I wasn’t too worried that a little bit of fur on my clothes would be a faux pas when interviewing the president of Metro-North (albeit not as bad as actually using the term “Brokeville” while referring to a particular model of Metro-North’s rolling stock). Nonetheless, it seemed like Sadie was in a rather sociable mood, and was intently focused on disturbing a class touring the museum (as you could likely imagine, all the children’s attention turned from the lesson to the furry visitor, sorry Polly!). I picked Sadie up and carried her to another of the museum’s display trains, but she would have none of it, and walked back to where the kids were.

Most longtime visitors to the Transit Museum have at least one Sadie story. The first time I visited the museum I encountered her sitting in her favorite perch in the money car. I was certainly surprised to see a cat. It was definitely unexpected, but in a good way. A lot of good things are unexpected.

So what’s up with all the Sadie memories? Our favorite feline will be featured in the August edition of Cat Fancy magazine. I recounted a couple of my memories of her for the article, and it also gives a nice mention of I Ride the Harlem Line. You may also recognize the photos, which were featured on the site many months ago.

Cat Fancy Magazine
August’s issue of Cat Fancy magazine.

Sadie is, of course, enjoying retirement, and her new favorite perch – a window above Brooklyn. Thinking back to the aforementioned last time I saw Sadie at the museum, I recall that sandwiched in between my visit to the museum and my interview was a quick trip to the Transit Museum’s archives. Located in the bowels of the MTA’s Brooklyn office building, the archives contain a plethora of artifacts related to the subways, and even of Metro-North. Found within is archivist Carey Stumm.

I’m not sure what exactly I pictured in my head for the Transit Museum’s archivist (perhaps an elderly librarian type?), but Carey was certainly not what I had imagined. Far from elderly, Carey is a kind soul whose favorite items in the archives’ collection include the Myrtle Avenue El, and the Putnam Division. I definitely did not expect that.

As you’ll read in the magazine, Carey is now the guardian of Sadie. It seems appropriate that two of the unexpected, lovely things about the Transit Museum are now together. Rest assured that everyone’s favorite subway kitty is in good hands.

Cat Fancy Magazine

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Best of 2012, a year-end review

2012 has been an interesting year here at I Ride the Harlem Line… we finished up touring the stations on the New Haven, Port Jervis, Pascack Valley, and Hudson lines, as well as visited some places far outside Metro-North’s territory. As if that wasn’t enough, we also began our Grand Central 100 for 100 Project, posting one image every day for 100 days, all to celebrate Grand Central Terminal’s centennial.

As is customary around the end of the year, let’s take a look back at what was most popular on the site this year, based on the number of reads… presenting the top 15 posts of 2012:

15

Starting off our countdown at number 15 is a photographic look at the old Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis. Completed in 1899, the old station was renovated and turned into a hotel. An old train shed now offers an ice skating rink. This is one of a few posts on the blog about Minneapolis this year, from my visit there in April. Some of the other stuff from Minneapolis included the Stone Arch Bridge, a former railroad bridge converted to pedestrian use, riding around on the Hiawatha Line, the old and new Minnehaha Station, and the classical music playing Lake Street – Midtown station.

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14th most viewed for the year is our Hudson Line tour to Yonkers. The nicely restored brick station at Yonkers, built by the New York Central, is definitely one of the gems of the Hudson Line.

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There are plenty of hoaxes and tall tales related to Grand Central Terminal, but only one of them made our top fifteen list this year. Coming in at number 13 is the 1929 hoax in the Information Booth. As the story goes, a tricky scammer convinced a fruit seller that the railroad was planning on selling space in the information booth, and that prime space could be turned into a fruit stand. Of course, it was a complete lie, and the scammer skipped town with a nice wad of cash. Amusingly, you can buy apple in the Terminal today – either in Grand Central Market, or in the figurative sense, the Apple store in the main concourse.

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Another Grand Central themed post comes in at number 12 on our countdown – featuring the sky ceiling that nobody really knows about. This painting can be found inside Grande Harvest Wines – it is the last surviving remnant of the 242-seat newsreel theater that was once in Grand Central Terminal.

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Our tour of New Haven Line station Mamaroneck makes the list at number 11. Mamaroneck has a lovely old station that was undergoing a transformation into a restaurant called the Club Car – we managed to get a sneak preview of the place, and shared it along with the station tour.

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The Hudson Line tour of Tarrytown station also makes the list, likely for our coverage of the new and most wonderful Arts for Transit piece by Holly Sears. The 1898 Richardsonian Romanesque-style station at Tarrytown was built by architectural firm Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, who are most known for their stations on the Boston and Albany railroad.

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Ninth most popular for the year was my first foray into 3D modeling, and 3D printing. I decided I would try to model the Harlem Line’s Brewster station from historical photos – basically how it looked when it was first built. The interesting journey  was featured in various places around the internet, including the TinkerCad Blog, Shapeways Blog, Adafruit and Wired.

8

One of the more memorable things I got to do this year was to have a brief chat with Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut. Having been with Metro-North since its inception, the man has a pretty interesting viewpoint regarding the history of the Harlem Line. We talked about Metro-North’s formation from ConRail, Millerton, and other admirable rail systems, among other things.

7

Before touring the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines, I wrote a brief introduction to the West of Hudson lines, which was the seventh most viewed post on the site this year. The intro included a few maps, time tables, and a look back on the damage Hurricane Irene wrought on the Port Jervis line.

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Sixth on our top 15 countdown is a trip to Metro-North’s Operations Control Center. This is the workplace for the railroad’s Rail Traffic Controllers – one of the most stressful and possibly thankless jobs at Metro-North. The current OCC is certainly high tech, but we also got a glimpse of the old OCC, and an ad for one of the New York Central’s historical towers in Grand Central – which looked quite archaic in comparison!

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One of the most memorable shots of Hurricane Sandy was this capture of a boat resting on the Hudson Line’s tracks in Ossining, which I couldn’t help but turn into an image macro. In other news, whoever happens to own that boat is probably a big asshole, as it seems to be named after a Nazi warship. I guess the owner never realized his boat would end up on the front page of several newspapers – or top 5 in our countdown.

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Fourth most popular for the year was our April Fool’s prank about Harlem Line service getting restored up to Millerton, complete with two fake timetables and a fake ticket. Rumor has it, some folks in Metro-North’s customer service department hate me even more than they did before after this trick!

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Coming in at third most popular is the Grand Central 100 for 100 project, featuring 100 historical photos of the Terminal in the hundred days leading up to its centennial. By now we’re more than halfway through, so if you aren’t following the project on Facebook, you totally should be!

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It appears that everybody loves Dobbs Ferry station, as our tour was the number two most read post on the site for 2012. Featuring another Richardsonian Romanesque station by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, Dobbs Ferry also has a nice location right on the Hudson River’s waterfront.

1

Everybody seems to say that the cat is the internet’s unofficial mascot, and it certainly seems that is true! By far, the number one most read post on the site was about Sadie the Subway Cat, of the New York Transit Museum. In addition to our March photo session with the popular feline, we updated you on Sadie’s subsequent retirement, and a humorous update on her new life outside the museum.

That just about wraps up 2012 – I’m definitely looking forward to bringing you new things in 2013… everybody have a Happy New Year!

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Bye bye Joe Lhota, hello Sadie the cat?

In case you missed it, two big things in MTA land went down this week – (or should I say up?) fare increases are totally happening in March, and Chairman and CEO of the MTA, Joe Lhota, will be resigning. We’ve certainly had a seemingly endless revolving door in terms of MTA chiefs. Lhota has been at the helm of the MTA for just about a year, so I guess he didn’t really set any records for longest time served.

People have been debating who should get the nomination to replace Lhota, and if you ask me, it should totally go to Sadie the subway cat! A few weeks ago I updated you on Sadie, who formerly worked at the New York Transit Museum, but has since retired. I had a chance to talk to the wonderful museum employee who has adopted Sadie, and it seems that she is certainly enjoying retired life…

 
  
 
The subway kitty is now an apartment kitty, and with a nice view!

I bet we could convince Miss Sadie to take the post as chief of the MTA, though. Think about it, we’d just have to pay for her cat food, litter and vet care, and that can’t be more than $1,000 a year, right? That is a bargain compared to the $350,000 that Jay Walder got paid in 2010 as MTA chief. And it wouldn’t be the first time a feline was in an executive position at a transportation company – just ask Japanese cat Tama, who worked herself up from the position of Stationmaster, to Super Stationmaster, and now Chief Operating Officer at the Wakayama Electric Railway. Apparently putting animals in executive positions at railroad companies seems to be a perfectly acceptable business practice in Japan. So why not hire a cat and get ridership up?

In other news, when it comes to the cuteness factor, Sadie beats Joe Lhota hands down. Jay Walder, too.
sadielhota
Sorry, Joe Lhota.

In all seriousness, it will be interesting to see who will be replacing Lhota. And a little bit of a shame, as I thought he seemed pretty competent. (And yes, I admit, I always thought he was pretty cool for actually starting and maintaining a twitter account.) The likelihood of a cat getting the position is probably less than the world ending tonight, so we certainly wish Sadie the best, and to keep enjoying her retirement. But on the off chance that she does get the job, I know who Sadie can hire as her deputy!

grumpycat
The trains aren’t running? GOOD!

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Subway cat: Update

Despite all of the interesting places I’ve visited and featured on this site, by far one of the most popular subjects I’ve ever posted about is Sadie the Subway Cat. We first featured Sadie back in 2010, and had a nice photo feature on her earlier this year. Sadie is the resident cat at the New York Transit Museum, or rather, she was, up until recently. For all the Sadie fans out there, I figured I’d pass along the news that she has recently retired… and she seems to be enjoying her time as a retiree! Sadie worked at the Transit Museum for the past five years. The Transit Museum has stated that they are undecided as to whether they will be getting another cat.

We’ll miss you, Sadie! Enjoy your retirement!


Sadie hanging out in front of her favored money car on my most recent visit to the Transit Museum in September.

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The life of a subway cat…

If you’re a regular New York City subway rider, it is highly likely that at least at some point during your journeys you’ve seen a subway rat. Rats are such a plague on the system that someone even started a site called Rate My Rat (thankfully, Metro-North doesn’t have to worry about this problem quite so much – though there are always exceptions). Since the New York Transit Museum is housed in a retired subway station, they too have visiting rats. And who better to take care of those rats than a cat?

 

Enter Sadie the subway cat, an adorable feline that has already been featured here once before. Though she may have been adopted to keep the rats in check, I’m told that she doesn’t too much in terms of catching rats. In fact, one of the security guards at the museum told me she got scared and ran away from a rat once, without even hissing or making a noise at it.

Sadie is, however, one of my favorite parts of the museum. It had been nearly two years since I saw her last – as every time I visited the museum she was somewhere hiding. But on my most recent visit, she was in a strange mood and starving for attention. She interrupted several tour groups of children, and wandered around the museum’s various restored cars while I snapped her photo. She’s gotten quite chubby since the last time I saw her, but she’s still adorable. Not like the Transit Museum will listen to anything I suggest, but I most definitely think they ought to get her a cat cam. It would be interesting to see the museum from a cat’s point of view!

(more…)

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Looking back at 2010… a countdown of the most popular

Ah, 2010. You were the first full year that I actually operated this blog. Lots of fun and shenanigans were to be had. I decided to take a look back at what was popular on the site this year, as a wrap-up for 2010…

1. BPGlobal Billboards

The first entry here is not train-related in any way… however it was such a major news story at the time I couldn’t not have some fun with it – though fun is actually a terrible way to describe it, as the Gulf Oil Spill was quite tragic. To me the two standouts in coverage on this was a fake twitter account, BPGlobalPR, and Boston Globe’s The Big Picture. I merged the two into fake billboards, which apparently caught on and made their rounds on the web – and brought around thirty thousand viewers to the site in a single day.

2. Harlem Line Timetables

It is true, I have turned into an eBay whore… collecting just about anything regarding the Harlem Line. Many of the timetables I have can be found on the second most popular part of the site, the Harlem Line Timetables archive. It is desperately needing updating, as I own or have scanned many more timetables than are currently pictured. My goal was always to have a timetable for every year, and for the most part I do have that, from 1930 on up. Look for a major overhaul of this section in 2011!

3. Stupid Warning Signs

Ah, stupid warning signs. One of the most amusing things I’ve made for the site. These popular signs round out the top three most popular things on the site this year. Folks have requested that I turn these into stickers, but if you people start sticking these on trains the MTA PD might actually have a real reason to arrest my ass.

4. The Cutest Train Car in the World

One of the posts I made after returning from Japan featured the Tama Densha railcar of the Wakayama Electric Railway. The railroad is known in offbeat circles around the world due to the fact that they employ a feline Stationmaster (I believe she’s actually been promoted to Vice-President now). Tama the cat was so popular, designer Eiji Mitooka created a train car in her honor. The front of the train has whiskers, the seats inside have cat print. My favorite part of the train? The library full of books for the kids.

5. Centalia, PA – Burning Ghost Town

I’ve always been fascinated with Centralia, ever since I first read about it on the internet many years ago. Since then I’ve visited several times. The story begins in the 1960’s, when a coal seam under the town caught fire. It continues to burn to this day. The land has fissures that belch smoke, and it permanently smells of sulfur. It is a tragic story, as the once bustling small town has been whittled down to less than ten citizens.

The coal under the town that is burning is anthracite – which was popularized in little rhymes about Phoebe Snow in advertisements for the Lackawanna Railroad.

6. The Loneliest Station on the Harlem Line

Although I hadn’t come up with the concept yet, the Harlem Line Panorama project began with Mount Pleasant – which I labeled as the loneliest station on the line. The tiny station in between Hawthorne and Valhalla services the cemeteries in the area, and has very limited service.


The first panorama posted on the site

7. The Harlem Line Panorama Project

If you’re interested in seeing all the panoramas to date, located on a map – this is the place to go. This Google map is the seventh most popular portion of the site, although technically it lies off site and on Google’s servers. However, each placemark contains my favorite panorama from that stop, and a link back to the post on this site.

8. Sadie the Subway Cat

The Transit Museum in Brooklyn has employed a cat or two, mostly in the hopes that they would chase away any subway rats. In this eighth most popular post I recollect my first visit to the Transit Museum and my encounter with Sadie… and my crazy idea to get her a miniature-sized train conductor’s hat. Of course none of that really panned out – and as far as I am aware, Sadie has been quietly retired from the public.

9. The #1 Reason to Ride Metro-North

Back in June I posted these spoof ads for Metro-North and beer. If you are a regular commuter you will notice that in the afternoon, and most especially on Fridays, there are quite a few people drinking beer. The exception to that if you are those people that work at Target in Mount Kisco, you’re drinking it in the morning. But since you can’t drink and drive, and you can certainly drink and ride, Metro-North could always have an amusing new ad campaign.

10. M8 Cars Will Not Debut on the New Haven Line

Ah, April Fools Day… I couldn’t resist making a fake post about the new M8’s. Shattering the dreams of many New Haven Line riders, I posted that the red trains would be repainted blue and running instead on the Harlem Line by the end of the year. I even made up some fake quotes and attributed them to Dan Brucker – which probably doesn’t place me very high on his list of awesome bloggers.

So that is it! The ten most popular things on the blog in 2010. Happy New Year everyone!

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Train Cats: Sadie the Subway Cat

You may not know it, but across the globe there are several working cats that reside at train stations. One of the most famous is named Tama, she is the “Super Stationmaster” at Kishi station in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. In New York we too have a “working cat” – you can call her the Subway Cat. Her name is Sadie, and she resides at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn.

When I first encountered Sadie I was downstairs at the museum taking photos of all the different subway cars. When I entered the money car they have on display, I saw a cat lounging on one of the shelves. I leaned out the door of the car and shouted to my friend, “Hey! Get over here now! There’s a cat inside this car!” I must admit I was surprised, as I wondered where the cat came from. But then I noticed a tag on the collar, which read “Sadie, Transit Museum”. Sadie was adopted from a shelter by the museum, and is not the first feline resident. Previously there was a cat named Token. Token disappeared one day (one museum employee I talked to is convinced Token was just taken home by somebody, as opposed to disappearing on his own). Sadie stays at the museum, though on long weekends or holidays she goes home with one of the employees.

But as I said, Sadie is a working cat. Sadie’s job description is rodent control. Though I’ve never been able to get a straight answer from anyone whether she has actually caught a subway rat before. Some people are disgusted by that. “She catches the RATS in the SUBWAY and you TOUCHED her?!?!” She has a bell on her collar, which apparently scares the rats away. If you go to the museum to see Sadie, be sure to note that she is grey and white. She is not brown. If you see something large and brown running around, it is probably a Sadie-size subway rat.

Upon a visit to the museum, I had this conversation with the ticket collector:
Me: So is the rat catcher around today?
Him: The what?
Me: The cat. Sadie. Is she around?
Him: (Laughs) She’s around somewhere, probably catching more Z’s than rats though!

Whether she catches rats or not (I have been assured that she has at least caught some pigeons though), Sadie has become somewhat of a mascot of the Transit Museum. In the gift shop you can purchase a stuffed cat, with her picture on the front of the package, that comes with markers so you can decorate her. If you ask me though, they ought to play up the mascot role a bit more for her. Maybe get her a mini cat-sized conductor’s hat to wear (yeah right). Or maybe even use her in some advertising, or the educational programs for children.

Supposedly the aforementioned cat, Tama, brought a million dollars into the local economy just by being cute, and encouraging people to ride the train. Hey Sadie, want to go save the W and Z trains? I hear the MTA could use a little money.

In other news, I continue planning my own trip to Japan in April. I will be posting my train adventures, and hopefully I will be able to go to Kishi station, and meet the “Super Stationmaster” herself!

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