Labor Day has come and gone, schools have started back up again, and we find ourselves in the waning days of summer. The much-hyped transit “summer of hell” has also finished – and many seem to think it was a lot more swell than hell. For anyone with an interest in trains, it was always going to be rather swell. Amtrak would be making a return to New York City’s cathedral of railroading, Grand Central Terminal, after being gone for more than a decade. We welcomed the Empire Service trains with both open arms and camera shutters. I caught the trains in various locations along the reroute, and am presenting some of my favorite shots from the duration here. Until the next time…
While the good majority of service on Metro-North is operated by Electric Multiple Unit cars, the railroad’s dashing diesels handle the rest of the load – largely in the unelectrified territories of the Upper Hudson Line, Upper Harlem Line, and the Danbury and Waterbury Branches. West of Hudson service, operated by New Jersey Transit, is also dieselized, carrying passengers through New Jersey and into New York’s Orange and Rockland counties. Arguably, it is this diesel territory that is likely considered Metro-North’s most beautiful. Spots like Port Jervis’s Moodna Viaduct, views of the Hudson Line from the Bear Mountain Bridge, and the Harlem Line’s Ice Pond all fall into this category.
Here’s a photo gallery of some of Metro-North’s dynamic and dashing diesels, most of which were captured within the past few weeks (although a few are favorites from last year) on the Harlem, Hudson, and Port Jervis Lines of Metro-North. Enjoy!
Although it is quite obvious that I am a lover of the Harlem Line, it is undeniable that there are beautiful spots located all along Metro-North’s right of way. Even though the Moodna Viaduct may be one of my favorites, there are plenty of other spots I enjoy on the Hudson Line, like Bear Mountain, Dobbs Ferry, and Breakneck Ridge. The area around Spuyten Duyvil is also especially nice, and I spent an afternoon there a few weekends ago photographing and recording both Metro-North and Amtrak trains.
If you’re interested in checking out the area, across the river Inwood Hill Park offers great views of Metro-North’s Marble Hill and Spuyten Duyvil stations, as well as Amtrak’s swing bridge. Not necessarily railroad related, but of noteworthy mention is the large painted “C” that is kind of hard to miss. The C stands for Columbia – and was first painted on the rock in the early 1950s, with the approval of the New York Central Railroad. Coxswain of the heavyweight crew team, Robert Prendergast, came up with the idea and approached the railroad for permission. After it was granted, the C was painted about 60 feet by 60 feet square, and has been maintained ever since.
One of my personal favorite spots is the swing bridge used by Amtrak, after it splits from Metro-North’s Hudson Line. As most of you are already aware, for many years Amtrak trains ran from Grand Central Terminal. After some significant work in the late ’80s, including fixing up this old swing bridge, Amtrak was able to finally consolidate its New York City operations in Penn Station and vacate Grand Central. I can’t say that I know first hand, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about raucous parties that happened on this bridge while it was out of service. Originally constructed in 1900, the bridge was damaged and taken out of service in 1982, and was reopened in 1991.
If you weren’t yet sick of winter, yesterday’s storm probably pushed you over the edge. We’ve had an immense amount of snow dumped on us the past few months, leading to a lot of cancellations and early closings at my work. Pretty much every time I made sure to have my camera on me to document Metro-North through the storms (you can see the first part here). Today’s winter-centric post features the Hudson Line, and a collection of photos all taken within the last week. In yesterday’s storm I hung out at both Spuyten Duyvil and Croton Harmon, and then headed home on the fantabulous 1:55 Harlem Line “fun boat” to Wassaic, making all local stops, standing room only. If anybody out there saw complaints on twitter about a stupid girl eating tacos on that train, I swear, it wasn’t me!
Considering that today is Friday, it is worth mentioning that this is the end of new Metro-North president Joseph Giulietti’s first work week. I suppose the weather decided to throw an appropriate welcoming party for a man that spent the last fifteen years working in Florida. Nonetheless, rumors are abound that Mr. Giulietti has already begun “cleaning house,” which is likely a good thing. There are plenty of things that Metro-North can improve, but if you ask me, number one ought to be communication.
Over the past few years, Metro-North has greatly improved its communications with riders with both email and text alerts. Although they still haven’t figured out that messages have character limits, and that it is super annoying to receive the same exact message 10 times in one day, we get a lot of info about service changes and info. In fact, we get more info than Metro-North’s own employees! Conductor Bobby touched on this in his open letter to his passengers, which if you haven’t yet read, you most definitely should.
Yesterday’s 1:55 train highlights the issues in communication with Metro-North. The train was a combination of several trains, and was advertised on Grand Central’s big board as an all-local to Wassaic. As far as the crew knew, the train was either going directly to Wassaic, or there would be a connection waiting for us at Southeast. However, en route, passengers began receiving alerts saying that Wassaic service was suspended. Some rather irate passengers from Tenmile River began shouting at the conductor, “I thought this train was going to Wassaic! They TOLD ME Wassaic! Now service to Wassaic is suspended?! What the hell am I going to do?” The kicker is, the crew had no idea the train was not going to Wassaic. They learned this from a passenger. At this point the Rail Traffic Controller was contacted, “I’ve heard from some passengers that Wassaic service is currently suspended. What am I to tell the people that are on this train going to Wassaic?” The response was, “we have no info at this time.”
Another thing that I watched happen yesterday was at the very beginning of the storm – the early morning Upper Harlem train arrived late and a woman demanded to know on board, “so which one of you conductors woke up late to make my train late?” Despite the smut tabloid headlines that “transit expert” Jim Cameron likes to post (he claims he once worked for a reputable news agency, but his New York Post-esque headlines seem only fit as a rag for dogs to pee on), Metro-North conductors are not horrible people. They do not hit people with trains and run away. And it is ludicrous to even insinuate that it is a regular occurrence for Metro-North employees to perform disgusting acts on passengers because they are “stressed out.” In reality, handfuls of Metro-North employees slept on trains or in rail yards to make sure they were able to work through the storm. Others worked nearly 24 hours straight because their trains got stuck in the snow. Are there some Metro-North employees out there that are assholes? Probably. And I bet you have assholes where you work too. But by and large, the majority of employees work hard to get people where they need to go. Like in this snow storm.
As you’ll see from the photos below, running trains yesterday was not easy. Many people like to debate over catenary versus third rail methods of powering electric trains – each has its merits, but yesterday demonstrated one of the downsides to third rail. Excessive amounts of snow up to and covering the third rail makes it difficult, if not impossible, to operate electric trains. But if 100 car pileups could attest, the roads weren’t that great yesterday and today either.
Anyway, enough ranting. Here’s what winter looks like on the Hudson Line:
When coming up with superlatives for the Hudson Line, people generally cite it as Metro-North’s most attractive line. I, on the other hand, like to think of it as the most frequently misspelled. It is the Hudson Line that has stations like “Phillip’s Manor” and “Pokipse,” and, of course, the one that takes the cake – “Spitendivel.” Today’s tour takes us to the (correctly spelled) Spuyten Duyvil, a station about 10 miles north of Grand Central Terminal in the Bronx. Considering that it is a station that is frequently misspelled, as well as rather attractive, it seems to be a good representation of the Hudson Line.
As I am sure you could gather, the name Spuyten Duyvil is clearly not from the English language. The name derives from the Dutch Spuitende Duivel, which means spouting devil. First bestowed on the creek nearby, the name was later adopted for the train station as well. Historically, there was also a railroad that bore the name – the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad Company. It was leased to, and later incorporated into the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, which allowed that road to connect with the Harlem Railroad at Mott Haven.
I don’t think there is really too much else to say about Spuyten Duyvil, other than the fact that it really is an interesting spot. Located right on the water, you can watch the Circle Line and other boats sail up and down the river. Right above your head is the Henry Hudson bridge, which provides an interesting vista very much unlike any other Metro-North station. Just north of the station is an old rail tower that is no longer used, which is visible in a few of my photos from the station. Also north of the station is where Amtrak diverges, and the tracks cross the river via a swing bridge which is visible from the platform. The swing bridge is definitely interesting to watch, it opens and closes somewhat frequently to accommodate around 30 trains that pass over it every day.
Aerial view of Spuyten Duyvil. The Henry Hudson bridge as well as Amtrak’s Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge are visible. If you look closely you can just make out the Metro-North platform under the bridge.
Anyways, that is all I’ve got for today and Spuyten Duyvil. I must insert a shameless plug here – if you like the historical photos I post along with these Tuesday Tours, you should totally like us on Facebook (if you haven’t already). I’ve been posting a bunch of old photos on there, and I promise something pretty interesting will be happening over there within the next month (shh, it’s a surprise!).
Edit: Metro-North has resumed most service. For the most current information, check the MTA website.
Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference addressing the damage after Irene has just completed. Of course, Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Jay Walder was present to address the state of New York City’s transit system. The unfortunate news for Metro-North riders is that it was our railroad that suffered the most damage out of all of the MTA. Walder said there was severe damage to all three lines, including significant flooding and track erosion. Damage assessments are still going on, and there will be no decision on when service will be restored until these assessments have been completed.
What I must say, however, is that MTA has been keeping us in the loop via their Flickr account, which is much appreciated. From the photos we can see that there is severe flooding at Tuckahoe and Valhalla, on the Harlem Line. Valhalla also has power lines down, in the vicinity of Kensico Cemetery. There was a mudslide at Spuyten Duyvil and Scarborough on the Hudson Line. Beacon, also on the Hudson line, has massive flooding and is probably the worst station I’ve seen so far, with the parking lot and pedestrian underpass completely filled with water. Harriman, on the Port Jervis Branch also has a flooded parking lot. Thus far there has been no photos posted of the New Haven Line, but Governor Dannel Malloy has said that there was extensive damage to the catenary system, and on the New Canaan branch. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves… (all photos credited to the MTA)
Also interesting are a few photos from yesterday in Grand Central. Seeing the station this empty is a bit creepy. Although people say that this happens quite frequently at night, it is obvious that it is not night in these photos. You can see Grand Central Terminal empty – with the sunlight still streaming through the windows. That light makes these images even more amazing to me. I’m a bit jealous I wasn’t there myself to take photos of the empty station!