Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: West Haven

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’re most likely aware that Metro-North has a new rail station. West Haven, on the New Haven Line, is Metro-North’s 124th active station, and one of just a handful that have opened in the past few years (Fairfield Metro and Yankees-E 153rd Street being the other two). The new station puts a break in the long stretch in between New Haven and Milford stations, and relieves parking issues at both.


Rendering of what the station site would look like at completion.

A station in between Milford and New Haven had long been debated, and extensive studies looked at sites in both West Haven and Orange. Though an apparent decision in favor of West Haven came in 2002, the debate was dragged on for many more years. Connecticut’s Final State Environmental Impact Evaluation, published in June of 2007, cites the pros and cons of the two sites and is an immense four hundred and fifty pages.

Despite the Orange station plan being supported by Bayer Pharmaceutical Corporation (the proposed Orange site would be within walking distance of their headquarters), the state upheld the original 9 to 6 vote in favor of West Haven. After many years of often-heated debate, a ceremonial groundbreaking was finally held in November of 2010, and attended by then-Governor Jodi Rell (the station project has languished over the tenure of three different governors – the original decision was made during John Rowland’s term, and Dannel Malloy was present at the ribbon cutting).


Aerial view progression of the work site: by 2010 a few buildings have been knocked down in preparation for the new station, and by 2012 construction is in full force.

Though the station was originally estimated to cost around $80 million, and would include a parking garage, the final cost was closer to $110 million and lacked the garage. Although the 658 parking spaces at the new station do alleviate some of the parking problems at New Haven and Milford, it does not have the impact that was originally hoped for with a 2000+ space garage. Nonetheless, the new station does allow access to the nearby Yale West Campus, and West Haven’s Veterans Hospital is investigating the possibility of operating a shuttle to and from the new station.

Many West Haven citizens hoped for an older style station, reflecting the historical aesthetic of the old Savin Rock Amusement Park. Alas the station built was a more modern brick and glass building that may resemble a school more than it does a train station. The only truly aesthetic touch are the stylized seagulls on some of the window panes, which do seem to appropriately reflect the nearby Savin Rock area of West Haven, but are relatively underwhelming. Though it is certainly a nice addition to the New Haven Line, and to the citizens of West Haven, the station is hardly unique, and un-noteworthy compared to many of the historical stations you’ll find on the line.

 
Left: Ceremonial groundbreaking at West Haven station.[1] Right: Ribbon cutting ceremony at West Haven.[2]

As a final note, Michael Mercuriano, chairman of the West Haven Train Station Committee is hoping that a plaque will be placed at the station recognizing the efforts of the committee. I didn’t see a plaque to that effect, but if you were to ask me I think a plaque recognizing Robert Luden would be most appropriate. Luden was the 27-year veteran track foreman killed in May near the construction site.

  
  
Construction views of West Haven station. Top: The prefabricated pedestrian bridge is placed.[3] Bottom left: Aerial view of the construction site.[4] Bottom center: Glass installers getting ready to place the windows into the station.[5] Bottom right: Platform view of the construction work[6].

No Tuesday Tour would be complete without a cache of photos, which you’ll find below. Unfortunately the station building was closed, and the sky was cloudy with no sun, so they aren’t the most optimal photos. Rest assured that one of these days I’ll be getting back over to West Haven, however…

 
  
   
  
   
  
 
   
   
  
  
 
  
   
  
   
  
   
  
   
 

  1. Ceremonial groundbreaking photo from Discover West Haven. []
  2. Ribbon cutting photo from the city of West Haven. []
  3. Pedestrian bridge photos by Tim Kemperle []
  4. Aerial view of the construction site photo from Discover West Haven. []
  5. Glass installers photo by Peter Casolino, New Haven Register. []
  6. Platform view of the construction site photo from Discover West Haven. []

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Stamford

Welcome to Stamford, the next and final stop on our tour of the New Haven Line. We’ve seen the best (and worst) that the line and its branches have to offer – from the attractive New Canaan, Mamaroneck, and New Haven stations, to the barely-there stations of Merritt 7 and Ansonia. Stamford is much more utilitarian than it is beautiful, consisting of five tracks that accommodate both Metro-North and Amtrak trains, as well as a waiting area complete with a Dunkin Donuts and a MTA police station <insert stereotypical joke here>.

   
 

Photos of Stamford station in the 1970’s and 1980’s

Throughout the many years the railroad has run through Stamford, there have been several different station buildings to occupy the space. One of the buildings with the longest life-span was built in 1896, surviving for nearly 90 years, before being demolished to make room for the current station. There were, in fact, two full stations on each side of the tracks – complete with ticket windows, bathrooms, baggage and waiting rooms. Although many New Haven Line stations had a building on both sides of the tracks, one of the two was usually smaller and did not have full amenities. Stamford’s two full-service stations was a rarity, and reflected the station’s importance. By October of 1907, the line from New York up to Stamford was electrified, which lead to even further population growth in the city.

Stamford station did not see any major changes until 1972, when high-level platforms were constructed to accommodate the new “Cosmopolitan” railcars (M2’s), and again in the early 1980’s when the historical station buildings were razed to make room for the current station.

 
   
  
   

Historic American Buildings Survey photographs of Stamford, taken in 1983 before the two stations were demolished

The current station at Stamford, known as the Stamford Transportation Center, was completed in 1987. The construction took around five years and cost a very over-budget $40 million dollars. The new station opened to less than stellar reviews, using an array of embarrassing adjectives such as dismal, uncomfortable, and gruesome. Though there have been renovations in the time since, the station still feels like a massive, unfriendly box of concrete. The high concentration of police also made me absolutely frightened to take pictures, though there were many places that I could have. Any station with that many tracks usually equals more opportunities to capture the movement of trains. Although I got a few shots of the new M8 railcars, the rest of the station is remarkably drab and relatively non-noteworthy… especially compared to some of the wonderful things we’ve seen on the New Haven Line.

 
  
   
 
  
 
 
   
 
  
  
   

So… that is it. We’ve officially toured the entire Harlem Line, and the entire New Haven Line. Up next will be the Port Jervis Line, which I photographed last year, followed by the Hudson Line, which I will start photographing soon.

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Darien

Welcome to Darien, a lovely Connecticut town filled with famous people, aspiring politicians, and people that make a whole lot more money than I do. In fact, Darien is considered part of Connecticut’s “Gold Coast” – a moniker I had not even heard of prior to today. Along with other railroad towns I’ve featured – like New Canaan and Greenwich – Darien is certainly one of the more wealthy destinations along the New Haven Line. The story is still the same – the railroad enabled people to move out of the city and establish suburban communities in Westchester and southern Connecticut. But really, who wouldn’t want to be able to work in the city during the week, and hang out at the yacht club on the weekend?


Postcard view of Darien

Darien station is one of two stations in the town of Darien, the other being Noroton Heights, which is one stop to the west. The station is slightly less than 38 miles from the city, and it takes you just under an hour to get to Grand Central. Stamford, on the other hand, is a short, approximately five mile, jaunt that takes a bit less than ten minutes.

The historic station building that still stands was built at some point in the 1800’s, and was restored in 2002. As with other stations we’ve seen on the line, building plans were often reused as a cost cutting measure. Darien’s station bears a strong resemblance to Westport, and is practically a twin to Southport‘s west-bound station


Photo of Darien from the lovely TylerCityStation

It was at Darien that I think I realized the true nature of my terrorist photographer tendencies. Metro North published a nice little “System Safety / Security Pocket Guide” for employees. Inside it lists various suspicious behaviors that should be reported straight away. One of which says, “Taking photos in areas of little interest to the public.” I don’t know about you, but I am not sure if light fixtures are of real interest to the public. In fact, I think I took more photos of light fixtures than I did of the 100+ year old Darien station. Thankfully it wasn’t a hot day – sweating is another suspicious behavior.

Below you will find all of the suspicious photos I snapped at Darien – which is the second-to-last station to be featured on our tour of the New Haven Line. Next Tuesday will be our final station stop – Stamford.

  
  
 
   
  
   
  
 
   
 

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Mamaroneck


Postcard view of Mamaroneck station


Aerial view of Mamaroneck. The old station is to the left, away from the tracks and platform.

Welcome to one of the final Tuesday Tours of the New Haven Line. Our stop today is the delightful village of Mamaroneck. I had every intention of posting Mamaroneck last – I even had Darien’s tour ready to go – but I happened to get a sneak peek of the newly-restored station over the weekend, and couldn’t resist posting it right away. The station, built in 1888 in the Richardsonian Romanesque style (which, admittedly, is one of my favorites), is certainly one of the nicest (and second oldest) on the New Haven Line. However, like many old stations, the condition of the building had degraded, and it needed a lot of work. Metro-North, who owned the station, was having difficulties finding someone to lease the place in the condition it was in. Without the funds to renovate the station themselves, Metro-North instead listed the station for sale in 2007.


Drawing of Mamaroneck station, front view

Though various parties were interested in the station, it was ultimately sold in 2008 to John and Chris Verni of Verco Properties, for $1.25 million. Renovations began after a formal groundbreaking ceremony on April 22, 2010. During my first visit to Mamaroneck last September, I happened to get a few shots of the station while the restoration was in progress. It didn’t look like too much had been completed yet, but I was feeling very optimistic about this place, and knew I would return at some point.

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Fairfield


Postcard view of Fairfield station

Welcome to Fairfield, the next stop on our tour of the New Haven Line. Although it isn’t as hip as the new Fairfield Metro station, it does have a bit of history – including an 1882 station listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located just over 50 miles from Grand Central, a train trip to the city from Fairfield takes about an hour and fifteen minutes.

 
 

Many of today’s historical images of Fairfield station have come from a site called Tyler City Station, which is filled with information about Connecticut stations, and is quite wonderful. It is definitely worth checking out.

One of the nice things about New Haven main line stations are the configuration of the tracks. Instead of having an island platform, like a lot of Harlem Line stations, there are two platforms – one on each side of the four tracks. Because of this arrangement, there were usually two station buildings, one on the New Haven (or eastbound) side, and one on the New York (or westbound) side. While many stops along the line have only retained one of their stations, Fairfield has managed to preserve both.

 
Diagram of the tracks and station buildings at Fairfield

Fairfield’s eastbound station is the oldest of the two, a brick building constructed in 1882. The building measures 26 feet by 82 feet, and is one and a half stories in height. The inside has high ceilings and hardwood flooring. The old waiting room is used by a taxi company, and the building also contains a restaurant and cleaners.

The westbound station is constructed of wood and measures 30 feet by 90 feet. It also has hardwood flooring, and is partially occupied by a coffee shop. There is a small waiting area that once served as a ticket office, but Metro-North closed that window in 2010. The design is similar to several other stations we’ve featured, as reusing the architectural plan for multiple stations was a method of cost savings for the railroad.


Because we’re all fascinated (or at least I am) with train crash images, here is one in Fairfield.

  
Photos of Fairfield in 1988, from the application for listing the station on the National Register of Historic Places.

That is about all I have on Fairfield, and for our tour today. At the time of my visit there was some construction going on, and some tracks were out of service. You will note in several of the photos that trains were boarding from temporary wooden platforms, instead of the normal concrete side platforms, because of this construction.

 
  
 
   
  
 
  
   
 
  

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: New Rochelle

Welcome to New Rochelle, our next stop on our tour of the New Haven Line. Located about 17 miles from Grand Central, a train ride to the city takes about 35 minutes – leaving plenty of time to get to Broadway in 45. The station services both Metro-North passengers, as well as Amtrak passengers on the Northeast Regional. The station is part of New Rochelle’s “transportation center” with connections available to taxis and Bee-Line buses, and a large parking garage available for commuters.

 
 
Postcard views of New Rochelle

The very first scheduled train from New Rochelle to the city ran on December 28th, 1848. At that time there was only a single track here. A second track was later added in 1853. By 1869 there were 6 trains daily that ran to and from New Rochelle and the city.

One of the most historically significant trains to ever depart New Rochelle, however, was on the day of January 8th, 1902. The usual New Rochelle commuters boarded their 7:48 train to the city. The train was a local that originated in South Norwalk, but the rear car was called the New Rochelle car – it was kept locked and was only opened for passengers upon arrival at that station. Everything played out as normal that day, until the train reached the Park Avenue Tunnel and paused on track 2 at about 55th Street to allow a Croton local train to pass. A White Plains local, also arriving in the tunnel and on track 2, ran through a red signal at about 59th Street and plowed directly into the back of the South Norwalk local – the New Rochelle car. Fifteen residents of that city were killed on scene and many other passengers on the train were injured. Newspaper headlines ranged from the relatively gruesome: “Trapped Under Engine and Roasted by Steam” to the more sympathetic: “New Rochelle Grief-Stricken.”


Rescue operations after the Park Avenue Tunnel crash in 1902. All of those killed boarded at New Rochelle.

At the time of the crash, steam trains were allowed in the tunnel, which made visibility very poor. The incident significantly swayed public opinion against steam in the city, and ultimately led to their banning in Manhattan. The railroads were left to find an alternate method of powering their trains into the city. Frank Sprague and William Wilgus invented the “third rail” method of powering new electric trains – technology that is still in use today on the Harlem and Hudson Lines. The most important change the crash brought about was the new Grand Central Terminal – a station built to accommodate these new electric trains.

   

Photos of various trains at New Rochelle in the 1970’s

New Rochelle has come a long way since the railroad first came to town in 1848. Back then the city had only about 2,000 inhabitants. By the 1900’s, however, that number had grown to 15,000, as New Rochelle became a desirable suburb for commuters (today the population is around 77,000). While the original roundhouse for steam engines and a yard for freight are no longer in existence, the historic station building remains and has been restored. Like many old stations, the 1887 building had fallen into disrepair, it was also burned by fire in 1988. Commuters had described the station as dank, dirty, and derelict.

Thankfully, instead of tearing down the station, it went through a process of restoration starting in 1990. The city of New Rochelle, which had purchased the station property in 1982, agreed to share the cost of the restoration with Amtrak. The fully restored station was reopened on March 1st, 1990. The one-and-a-half story building is again beautiful – the brick exterior was cleaned, and the inner plaster walls and wood ceiling were repaired. The terrazzo tile flooring was in poor condition and had to be completely replaced. Additional changes made during the renovations included new lighting, bathrooms, and windows. The station was nominated, and is now a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

 
  
 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  
   
 
  
   

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Noroton Heights


Noroton Heights, circa 1920. Image is from a postcard that was for sale on eBay, labeled as Norton Heights.

Today’s station visit on our tour of the New Haven Line may deserve the title of “Most frequently misspelled Metro-North station,” which certainly made researching it for today fun. Noroton Heights – or as some would believe, Norton Heights – has even been spelled wrong on a map published by Metro-North. However you spell it, we’re talking today about the place in Connecticut, the one that has the railroad station (a Norton Heights does actually exist in CT, it is in Wolcott). Located about 36 miles from Grand Central, Noroton Heights is on the New Haven main line, and is one of two train stations in the town of Darien.


Noroton Heights, 1946


Noroton Heights, date unknown. [image source]

Although the historic photos of Noroton Heights above are pretty awesome, none of them depict the placement of the station how it is today. When high-level platforms were being constructed along the line (in the early 70’s), the Noroton Heights station was shifted about two tenths of a mile east. Unfortunately, I was not aware of this at the time, so I missed seeing the old Noroton Heights depot, which is still around and is being used as a youth center. When the building’s life as a railroad station ended, it was transformed to serve the population of Darien in alternate methods. In 1972 it became the home of Darien EMS Post 53, and served as their headquarters for 16 years. After Post 53 relocated to a new building across the street, the old depot was set to be demolished. Fortunately, it was saved from that fate when the youth center acquired it in 1989.


The newer, high-level platform at Noroton Heights, 1980. [image source]

The station building that is there today isn’t particularly noteworthy, though it does have the typical amenities one would expect on a main line station – a canopy and shelter, a walkway to cross the tracks, and a few ticket vending machines.

 
  
   
   
  
 
  
  
 
  
 

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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).

 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
 
   
 
  
 

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Old Greenwich

Located slightly more than 31 miles from Grand Central is today’s current stop on our tour of the New Haven Line, Old Greenwich. While touring Metro-North’s stations, we’ve encountered a couple places that have changed names over the many years the railroad has been around. Unionville, for example, was what Hawthorne was once called. Katonah was once called Whitlockville. Up until 1931, Old Greenwich was known as Sound Beach. I personally think that Sound Beach sounds a lot nicer, but perhaps the word “Greenwich” in there bestows a certain level of elevated status for its residents.


Old Greenwich station in 1946

Although we’re really here to check out the Metro-North operations here (with trains almost every half hour, taking about an hour to reach the city), the most interesting part of Old Greenwich is the station building. The stick-style building was built in 1892, and was moved to its current location in 1895. If you remember our visit to Cos Cob, you’ll notice the similarity between the two buildings. Using the same building design at multiple stations was a cost-saving measure.

 
  
 
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Port Chester

Today’s visit on the New Haven Line is to Port Chester, which I must admit, is one of my favorites along the line. If one was to compile a list of the more noteworthy New Haven Line stations, Port Chester probably wouldn’t be on it… yet it would rank high on my list. Not only did I love the historical station building, but I also loved the new art on the platform, courtesy of Arts for Transit. On the blog, I’ve already mentioned my love of the “leaf people” at Port Chester, what I suppose you would call a grotesque, or a figure carved into the side of the station building. I can’t really think of too many other Metro-North stations that have similar carvings, so they are rather unique, and give a little bit of character to Port Chester.

 

Postcard views of Port Chester station

Port Chester itself is a village that is part of the town of Rye. Historically, both Connecticut and New York claimed ownership of the land, though it was ultimately designated a part of New York, and of Westchester County. The Port Chester train station is the first station in New York, after crossing the border from Connecticut on a New York City-bound train. The station is slightly less than 26 miles from Grand Central, and trips range from 39 minutes to 56 minutes, depending on whether the train is an express during peak hour or not.



More postcard views of Port Chester

As much as I love Arts for Transit, I think they have screwed up on the New Haven Line. Much to the chagrin of railfans, station buildings are becoming obsolete. In order to save money, Metro-North has closed countless ticket windows on all of their lines. Ticket Vending Machines on platforms are the norm at most stations. If a station happens to still have a building, it has likely been converted into a commercial space, or it serves as a waiting room during very minimal, select hours. Knowing all these things, however, Arts for Transit has continued to place art inside these station buildings. I would have loved to take better photographs of the art at Larchmont, Harrison, and Rye, but alas, all three were locked.

Thankfully, Arts for Transit has done well at Port Chester – which is one of the program’s newer pieces of work, installed just last year. In fact, I think Port Chester is a perfect example of exactly how this program should function – good art, installed in the open, public space of the station, and visible to riders (as much as I love Mount Vernon East‘s, it is hard to see it from a train, and is sufficiently outside the station area that regular commuters could potentially never notice it). I’m also very pleased when the art featured is by a local artist.


Painting by Bernard Greenwald, whose art is featured at Port Chester

The artist behind the work at Port Chester is Bernard Greenwald – though born in New Jersey, he’s currently based in Red Hook, NY. A friend of Greenwald’s suggested he submit his work for Arts for Transit’s call for artists for a piece at Port Chester station. Out of nearly 400 entrants, Greenwald was one of four finalists chosen to make a final proposal. Ultimately his art was selected for the commission, and he created 40 paintings of the Port Chester area. The designs from these paintings were then silk-screened between glass panels by a glass fabricator in Long Island, and installed in various shelters located on the platform at the station. It is a lovely addition to a nice spot on the New Haven Line.

  
 
 
  
  
 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 

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