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The Railroad Photos of Jack Delano

These days almost everyone has a camera – whether it be a point and shoot, an SLR, or just the stock camera that came with your cell phone. Despite all the criticism of people these days and what they’re photographing, part of me thinks that the people of the future who consume all their nutrients in pill form might find today’s photos of food taken by hipsters rather quaint. The fact remains that what is commonplace today may be noteworthy and historic tomorrow. Time has only proven this true – Boris Klapwald’s snapshots of Grand Central Terminal were boxed up and forgotten for nearly fifty years, until discovered by his daughter. She brought them to the MTA, and they were exhibited in the Terminal through Arts for Transit. Street photographer Vivian Maier was practically unknown until her largely undeveloped film was put up for auction after her death. Her discovered photos have since been exhibited around the world, and is the subject of a documentary. Although the good majority of the photos captured these days aren’t much to write home about, it is undeniable that we are well-documenting our world, and the things future generations will most likely interpret as just plain weird.

Though cameras were far less common in the past, there were many photographers that froze glimpses of what was then normal life. I’ve posted about the Depression-era photographers of the Farm Security Administration before – despite the name, the project yielded thousands of photos that had nothing to do with farms, but instead featured normal Americans living life – including two of the most iconic photographs of Grand Central Terminal. A similarly iconic photo of Chicago’s Union Station also came out of the project, captured by photographer Jack Delano. Delano’s railroad-specific work in the Chicago area is currently on display at the Chicago History Museum, which I recently got the chance to check out.

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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!

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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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Holidays on the Harlem Line

Did I ever mention that sometimes I wonder if I picked the wrong profession? I enjoy graphic design but advertisements? For things like Christmas? Bah humbug, I hate Christmas. Well, no, actually I hate being told that I am required to purchase extravagant gifts for a particular person. Honestly, I’d much rather give someone a for no reason other than this reminded me of you present. But yet, here I am, working on last minute ads for Black Friday…

Just this once though, just for my lovely readers, I will pretend that I enjoy the holidays, and fill you in on all the train and holiday related good stuff on the Harlem Line and in the city.

Discounts to see the Christmas Spectacular or Wintuk

In case you missed last week’s Mileposts, those interested in seeing the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, or Cirque du Soleil’s Wintuk can get a discounted ticket thanks to Metro-North. In addition to the discount, you also receive a free roundtrip train ticket to go see the show! When purchasing tickets for these events, use the promo code METRO in order to apply this promotion. For more information, details, restrictions and the like, check out these pages:
Tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Tickets for Wintuk

Discounts on the Nutcracker in White Plains

Another holiday event with discounts is at the Westchester County Center in White Plains. The Nutcracker, performed by the Westchester Ballet Company, will have shows on the 17th, 18th and 19th of December. Coupons are available on Westchester County’s website (after completing a short survey).
For information on purchasing tickets, click here.

Grand Central Holiday Fair

Every Christmas season Vanderbilt Hall is filled with various vendors selling their wares, and this year is no exception. The fair will run until December 24th, and is closed on Thanksgiving. For more information about hours, and a vendor map, check out this event page.

Holiday Train Show in Grand Central

The Transit Museum will again be hosting their Holiday Train show in their annex in Grand Central Terminal. Hours are as follows:
Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 8 :00 PM
Saturday & Sunday 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
The show will run until January 17th.


Video from last year’s Holiday Train Show

Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden will be having its annual Holiday Train Show, which starts this Saturday. The garden is easily accessible via the Harlem Line, very close to, you guessed it, Botanical Garden station. The show will run until January 9th. Train and holiday related events will be happening throughout that run – from gingerbread houses to Thomas the Tank Engine visits – so be sure to check the schedule.

Lionel Pop-Up Train Stores

For anybody interested in purchasing some Lionel trains for themselves or friends, Lionel has a few pop up stores in the area. Supposedly these stores will have limited edition products not sold anywhere else. You can find the stores in Manhattan and White Plains:

Lionel New York
1095 Avenue of the Americas (41st St), New York, NY [map]

Lionel at the Westchester Mall
125 Westchester Ave., White Plains, NY [map]

Holiday Events at the Westchester Italian Cultural Center

The presepio is the most popular traditional Christmas decoration in Italy, and the Westchester Italian Cultural Center, not far from Tuckahoe station, will have theirs on display for the season. Events start on November 30th with Christmas Through the Ages, and the opening of the presepio exhibit. The exhibit will continue until January 1st. For more information click here.

Mount Kisco: Tree Lighting

Not far from Mount Kisco’s train station the town will host its tree lighting ceremony, on Friday December 3rd at 6PM. Cookies and cocoa will be served, and for the young ones there will be visits with Santa Claus afterward.
104 Main Street, Mount Kisco: [map]

Brewster: Tree Lighting & Putnam Chorale Holiday Concert

Christmas events in Brewster will commence at 4:30 on December 4th at the Southeast Museum, down the street from the train station. A holiday ornament-making workshop will be held for children, followed by caroling and the village’s tree lighting.
For more information about that click here.

Afterward, the Putnam Chorale and Brass Quintet will be performing a holiday concert, which is a free event. The show will be held at the United Methodist Church, which again is not far from Brewster station. The concert starts at 7:30 PM.
For more information, go here.

Great Westchester Toy & Train Show

In time for Christmas gift-giving is the largest toy/train show in the northeast – and within easy walking distance from White Plains station. The show will be held on December 12th at the Westchester County Center, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.
For more information and a coupon for a dollar off admission, click here.

Annual IRideTheHarlemLine.com Holiday Card

Did I mention I hate cards too? They’re so impersonal sometimes, just grabbing something at Hallmark and running off. I’d much rather somebody draw me a picture, even if it is shitty. And every holiday that is exactly what I do, though I do hope you don’t think my drawing is shitty. Be sure to find me on the train and I’ll be happy to give you one of this year’s card (which is much better than last years). If I don’t see you or you don’t live in the area, you are welcome to email me your mailing address and I will send you one through the mail. (It will even have a Conductor Dog stamp on it!)

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The Transit Museum’s Bus Festival is this Sunday

 
   
 
Photos from last year’s Bus Festival

Although the Transit Museum in Brooklyn is known for its collection of subway cars, it also has quite a collection of historical buses as well. Every year the museum has a Bus Festival to show off that collection, in conjunction with the Atlantic Antic, Brooklyn’s largest street fair. Admission to the event is completely free to see the buses and the museum. The festival runs from 10 AM until 6 PM this Sunday. I won’t be attending this year, but last year’s festival was really great and I highly recommend it!

For more information, check out the Museum’s Calendar page.

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Coney Island Nostalgia Ride

After spending a day riding trains on Saturday, I have unfortunately come to the conclusion that my mother never wants to ride the subway again. My mom was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Queens, but when she was in high school her family moved to Connecticut. Despite all that, she never had been on the subway until later on in life. I’m sure most subway riders dislike the crazy folk that occasionally share the ride with them, but by now are used to it. My mother, on the other hand, is not used to it. The ride began normally… until a beggar boarded the train. At the start I was unsure as to whether the beggar was male or female… but I did notice a rather odd shaped stomach. After a few moments I realized that it was a woman, and that she was wearing no bra. Her breasts sagged to waist level, and under a rather baggy shirt it gave her the appearance of a really messed up stomach. As she began to sing religious songs and praise god, the subway rider reflex kicked in: everyone in the vicinity pretended to be asleep. Except for one man, who shouted, “Nobody give her money! She’s going to use it to buy drugs!” And then the fights began…

A white trashy looking lady gets on the train, and instead of walking in, just stands in front of the door, blocking it. Aman behind her keeps saying “excuse me” to try and get her to move, so he can also board the train. She does not, and he drops the f-bomb. Between the two, words begin to fly, as she shouts “You messed with the wrong girl, punk!” I was totally on the side of the man, until he started going batshit, screaming about the “white devil” and how the lady should go “lick a pussy.” As the woman’s stop neared she attempted to convince the man to exit the train with her, so she could fight him on the platform, which he did not do. But what he did do was to team up with the aforementioned braless beggar, singing religious songs, and harassing the man who said she was going to use any money given to her to buy drugs. “You don’t know me! Go back to Africa!” she shouted, as she exited the train.

Soon after that my mother and I arrive at the Transit Museum, and wait to board our Nostalgia Train heading for Coney Island. It was a great trip (though it did feel as though a particular person was missing, if you’re still out there…), and had significantly less crazy people, though there were a few. Railfans are an… interesting bunch. The old man who on the previous nostalgia ride grabbed another man by the neck and told him he’d kill him was back, this time announcing the stations we passed and repeating “pretty, pretty, pretty” over and over again. But other than that, it was another grand adventure riding the old trains, and taking photos. Everyone had the option to either stay on the train for photo opportunities, or to go off and explore Coney Island. Many people chose the explore part, several of which I saw waiting in line for the Wonder Wheel (and one apparently vomited his guts out while on the Wonder Wheel).

Anyways, that is enough overly-verbose babble from me, what you really wanted to see I am sure are the photos…
















I’m not sure when the next Nostalgia Ride with the Transit Museum will be, but they are always very enjoyable, and I highly recommend going on one if you get the chance.

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Arts for Transit: Departures and Arrivals

Well I suppose I am a little late in posting these pictures… but that is the problem with me, I take so many damn photographs I am late with posting up all of them. Plus my shoulder still hurts quite a bit, so by the time I get home from work after using the computer all day, the last thing I want to be doing is messing around on my own computer. I guarantee you that a big part of it is probably poor posture and sitting hours at a time in front of the computer making silly websites. I’m trying to catch up though, I swear. I still have train-related Japan and Canada photos I’d love to post, timetables to scan (I purchased a new scanner for this!), plus photos from the Transit Museum’s newest exhibit, highlighting the Arts for Transit works around the MTA network.

In addition to the exhibit, there were also a couple tours through the museum to see some of the Arts for Transit works. A few weeks ago I went on one of those tours, we went to see Departures and Arrivals, by artist Ben Snead, in Jay Street-Borough Hall station. The tour ended with a trip to Ben’s studio, where we got to see some of his previous work, and the things he is currently working on.

Departures and Arrivals is a glass mosaic, based on original paintings by Snead (these paintings are actually at the Transit Museum for the exhibit). Snead’s work often pictures insects, reptiles and fish, and with this mosaic that theme carries through. On the tour Snead discussed why he chose the various animals displayed on the wall, and perfect for a train station where people come and go every day, the underlying theme is the migration of these animals. All of those displayed in mosaic form – sparrow, lion fish, koi, parakeet – are all animals not native to the city, they were introduced by people, or migrated on their own. The beetle, which is screened onto the larger white tiles, is a species native to this area – though it is disappearing due to humans encroaching on its habitat.

Mosaics always amaze me, as I figure they aren’t the easiest thing to create, and rather labor intensive. Although Snead created the initial design, it was from his paintings that the mosaic was fabricated by Franz Mayer of Munich. Snead mentioned that there was a bit of color shifting from his original designs, but it came out very well. If you look closely the piece is not entirely created from many small tiles, there are some larger pieces of glass used for feathers, and for beaks. This was partially done to save money, I remember hearing during the tour, but I don’t see it as hurting the piece, I rather like the effect.








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Photos from a day of riding the Lo-V’s

Yesterday the Transit Museum had a great nostalgia ride with the Lo-V’s. It was great fun, and I took a lot of pictures. But I was certainly jealous of some of the cameras some of the other folks had. My pictures may not be the most spectacular, at least in comparison with some of those awesome cameras, but I did my usual thing of taking panoramas, and had a lot of fun doing it. I’m not going to be verbose this evening (shocking!), as I think the pictures can just do all the talking. Enjoy!












The Transit Museum puts on tours like this every once and a while, so if this looks interesting to you, you ought to check out their events calendar.

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NY Transit Museum Annex Reopening & New Exhibit: Where New York Began…

If I haven’t said it before, I think it is pretty cool that MTA has been embracing social media, and the various agencies have twitter accounts. There’s MTA, Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, New York City Buses, New York City Subways, MetroCard Promotions, and the NY Transit Museum. The Transit Museum seems to be the newest of the bunch. A little less than a month ago, the museum sent a tweet, giving a little sneak preview of the new exhibit opening in the Annex in Grand Central, which has been closed since January:

How long does it take to make exhibit mounts for 100 ceramic sherds? Our preparators will know soon.

Why exactly were they making exhibit mounts for ceramic sherds? It doesn’t much sound like something transit-related. But in fact, all of the objects on display in the new exhibit do in fact relate to public transit… they were all excavated from under the South Ferry subway station. I’ll let the museum take it from here:

Construction in New York City is always complex, but it raises particular concerns when it cuts through the most archeologically rich section of town. In February 2009 a new South Ferry subway station opened on the southernmost tip of Manhattan, a place where environmental, historical, and commercial interests collide. In order to build the station, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was required to conduct an archeological review and excavation. This provided an extraordinary glimpse into the very place that the modern city has its roots, and the basis of an exciting new exhibit at the New York Transit Museum. Where New York Began: Archeology at the South Ferry Terminal will be on view at the New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store from March 18 – July 5, 2010.

In addition to unearthing portions of the city’s early infrastructure, excavations yielded over 65,000 artifacts, including ceramic sherds, shells, coins, tobacco pipes, and architectural materials. These pieces document 400 years of city life and embody the cycle of building, razing, and rebuilding that is a hallmark of New York City. Over 100 of these objects will be on view along with historic maps and photographs, and field images and video of the archeologists at work.

This also marks the grand reopening of the museum’s retail store, which features a dynamic new design, new fixtures and lighting to better showcase the Museum’s unique product mix.

The museum is going to have an opening for members on the 18th, which I will be attending. I’ll be sure to take lots of photographs, and post them up!

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