Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Riverside

 

Riverside station in 1954

In-between the stations of Cos Cob and Old Greenwich on the New Haven main line, lies the station of Riverside. A journey to Grand Central, approximately 30 miles, takes around an hour. Four tracks run through Riverside, and two platforms run alongside the two outer tracks. On those platforms you can find a few ticket vending machines, a soda machine, a couple newspaper boxes, and a bench or two. One side has a small shelter from the elements, though it looks pretty beat-up and is tagged with graffiti and strewn with trash.

Riverside station itself is not particularly noteworthy – though the bridge that carries traffic over the tracks is one of Connecticut’s historic bridges – and a little bit more interesting.

   

Aerial photographs of Riverside and the bridge in 1977


Various sketches of truss bridges, from the patents of bridge engineer Francis Lowthrop

The historic Riverside Avenue bridge is clearly visible to anyone taking the train from or past Riverside station. Not only does it carry traffic over the four railroad tracks, it has two stairwells and an area for pedestrians to cross over to the other side of the platform. Although this bridge was originally constructed in 1871, it did not find its current home until around 1894. Designed by Francis Lowthrop and fabricated by the Keystone Bridge Company, the current span was a portion of a larger railroad bridge over the Housatonic River in Stratford. That bridge was replaced in 1884.

  
 
 
Photos of Riverside and the bridge in 1984

The portion of the Riverside Avenue Bridge that was reconstructed here is smaller than original – the bridge is now 164 feet long and 22 feet wide, and about 20 feet above the tracks. Bridges similar to this one are very rare today, and the Riverside Avenue bridge is the last cast-iron bridge still in use in Connecticut. With the increasing weight of heavy locomotives, many cast-iron bridges were simply replaced due to safety issues, or modified to carry lighter cars instead of trains, which explains their rarity today. By 1986 the safety of this bridge was also being questioned, and parts were deemed unsafe. However, instead of replacing the bridge or restricting it to only pedestrians, a new bridge was built inside the historical bridge. This solution allowed the preservation of the historic bridge without compromising the safety of the drivers that cross it every day.

The Riverside Avenue bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and is one of roughly 55 bridges on the Register from Connecticut. It is also the oldest railroad bridge listed in Connecticut (though it only carried trains for a short period of its lifetime).

 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
 
   
 
  
 

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Derby/Shelton

A few weeks ago our friends over at TrainJotting were looking for nominations for the crappiest train station in the tri-state area. Though his home station of Hawthorne won the vote (likely because many of his readers are also from there), several of the nominations were for Waterbury Branch stations. I nominated Waterbury, due to the frequent stories of theft. Someone else nominated Ansonia, which is probably one of the most ghetto looking stations in all of Metro-North. In fact, quite a bit of the Waterbury Branch is pretty ghetto. It is the only part of Metro-North where there is no extra fee to purchase tickets on the train – solely because there are no ticket machines in which to purchase them. The reason for this has been debated on the internet – some people claim that it is in fact due to the rampant thefts. The official statement is that there is not enough ridership to warrant the installation of ticket machines.

Although Derby/Shelton is not quite as bad as say, Ansonia, it isn’t the most spectacular Metro-North station. One of the only things going for it is the original brick station, though it isn’t being used by the railroad. In fact, it is used as a Department of Motor Vehicles photo licensing center… which in some ways is almost amusing. Not only have cars overtaken trains as the preferred method of transportation in the United States, they are infiltrating the former train stations! I suppose it is a better outcome than the station being demolished, though.

What is it that makes Derby/Shelton a little bit ghetto? Maybe the it is the bus-style shelter, or the wooden low-level platform. No, you know what it is? It is the fact that the train departure schedule is taped to a trash bin. Every other station has some sort of message board or wall on which to place information. But at Derby/Shelton you can save time by figuring out what train you’ll be leaving on, all while throwing out your used coffee cup!

Despite being close to the highway, Derby/Shelton feels a little bit remote – at least in terms of stations. Stratford, the next station to the south is a little over 10 miles away. Grand Central is almost 70 miles away – the Waterbury Branch has the honor of having some of the most distant stations from the terminal. There is just a single track, and a long wooden box serves as a low-level platform.

  
 
   
 
  
 
 
 
   
 
 

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

The morning of silence… and no crazies to be seen.

This morning I arrived into White Plains train station and was surprised to note the downstairs benches were completely empty. Many times I find myself at this spot looking for an open spot, only to find the seats completely full. Or other times there are a few empty seats… but empty for a reason. People generally like to keep a distance from the station crazies… the winter coat man has been around frequently this week (despite some of the days being quite warm), deeply engrossed in conversation with himself. But not even he was around today. Complete emptyness. I wondered if today had been a holiday I was unaware of, and nobody had work…

Though I soon learned the lack of people was due to train delays… the delay announcer was stuck on permanent loop, reading the name of every train coming northbound from Grand Central. According to the radio on the bus, a train got stuck at Scarsdale station… and according to my friend who was apparently on that train, the first two cars actually had smoke in them. She showed up to work rather late and a bit dishevelled, and talked a bit about angry passengers demanding refunds. Didn’t hear much else other than that though… but hey, I’m not complaining. At least *I* had some peace and quiet :D

In other news, the campaign of passenger passive aggressiveness continues, and today we were rewarded with angry mumbling of “this is outrageous!” in addition to the normal angry glares. This situation will likely resolve itself in one of several ways… 1.) The lady drives her car to work, 2.) The lady takes the number six to work, 3.) The lady complains to the bus company about the passengers being assholes to her. Hmm, I have a feeling it will be number three. And of course the bus company would be too nice to reply to her and say, well stop being an asshole to the bus driver!

Before I go, one more additional observation… fried chicken may not be the best meal to eat on the train. Yes, I do get rather annoyed when people leave their food trash on the trains, you COULD just take it with you when you get off and throw it in the trash… but come on, ziploc bags full of your picked clean fried chicken bones? That is just nasty.

Read More

Number 1 Reason to Ride Metro North: Beer

While riding the train I always see a lot of people drinking beer after work. I wonder if some people solely ride the train just because they can drink and ride, instead of getting arrested for drinking and driving. I also notice that just about every single person who drinks beer, leaves their empty beer bottles and cans on the train when they get off. You know, just so everyone sees how cool they are that they drink and ride. Everybody know you gotta show off like dat, yo.

Some people get started early…
beerpic1

And others enjoy the beginning of the weekend…
beerpic2
Either way, you’re just not cool if you aren’t drinking beer on the train.

Hey, maybe Metro North could even do a promotion, touting the best reason to ride the train! Completely ignore the fact that the majority of people do actually have to drive their cars home after getting off at the train station. Replace those boring train advertisements, and do a little something like this:
beer1beer2beer3

Read More