Metro-North’s newest Arts for Transit – a revisit to the Hudson Line

I think it is fairly well established that I love the Arts for Transit program, and pretty much any transit-related art in general. My three-year-long jaunt to every single Metro-North station was not only a great way to become familiar with our rail system, but to also become familiar with the art found within many of the stations. The Hudson Line has some of the newest and most attractive pieces out of the Arts for Transit program, including two stations that never made it into my Tuesday Tours. Both Croton-Harmon and Peekskill got some art in the latter half of 2012, after both stations had been featured on the site. Both are rather attractive designs, and I figured it would be worth visiting the Hudson yet again to check them out.

Some of Arts for Transit’s most successful installations are those that almost transcend the barrier between art and function, and those that interact with the space in which they are placed. While bronze sculptures hanging on the wall are certainly a lovely (though easily missed) addition to any station, the bronze chairs you’ll find at Pleasantville station become even more than that. They are attractive, but also functional, they interact with the people that use the station, and they begin a dialogue. People that spy them from the train might say, “what are those nice looking chairs, and why are they there?” And as the artists intended, they evoke the comforts and feelings of home, and the thought that to many regular commuters this station is their second home. When comparing Arts for Transit pieces, Pleasantville always seems to be the bar to which I compare, and is (at least in my opinion) one of the best embodiments of the program’s concept of enhancing the experience of travel.

In a similar vein to the Pleasantville piece, both of the newest Arts for Transit works on the Hudson Line seem to interact with the stations in which they’ve been placed, and thus the people that frequent them. Croton-Harmon’s artwork, a series of laminated glass panels by Brooklyn-based artist Corinne Ulmann, not only depict the changing of seasons, but seem to change on their own based upon the light that filters into the overpass. Several Hudson Line stations feature both faceted and laminated glass works in the overpasses, and I’ve always felt they’ve been successful as they’re never the same at all times. As sunlight passes through, colors are reflected onto the platforms and walkways and move as the sun crosses the sky. Thus the art is hardly static, it subtly changes due to season, time, and weather.

Metro North President Howard Permut at Peekskill station
Metro North President Howard Permut speaks at Peekskill, with the station’s newest Arts for Transit piece in the background. [image credit]

Peekskill’s art, an installation of various painted steel pieces by Joy Taylor, also interacts with the station, and the sunlight. The large pieces cast shadows on the platform, but also highlight a play between new and old at the station. During Peekskill’s recent renovations, the station’s historical canopy was restored. This canopy runs parallel to the more modern one found on the station’s other platform, but both evoke a different feeling. The historical canopy is rounded, where the new is more angular, with squared edges. But with the artistic flourishes added to the modern canopy (the historical canopy was appropriately left without embellishments), the new canopy visually parallels the old. Not only does it create an interesting play between new and old, but it emphasizes the historical nature of the one canopy. That side of the platform is not bare, however. The fencing behind the old canopy carries the same flowery motif, but without compromising the part that is historical.

If you happen to get over to the Hudson Line, both pieces are certainly worth checking out, and make commuting on the Hudson Line a little bit more attractive than before.

 
 
   
  
   
 
   
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
  
 
  

And before I forget, Metro-North’s newest Arts for Transit will be at Fordham station on the Harlem Line. If you happen to be an artist, you still have a few days to reply to the Call for Artists. Submissions need to be postmarked by the 28th.

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Spuyten Duyvil


View of the railroad tracks near Spuyten Duyvil in 1890.

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.


Stock certificate for the Spuyten Duyvil and Port Morris Railroad Company

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.


Spuyten Duyvil station in 1958.


1975 view near Spuyten Duyvil.

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!).

 
   
 
  
 
 
 
  
 
 
  
 
 
  
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Irvington


The namesake of Irvington – author Washington Irving. Also named Irvington – the first coal burner on the Hudson River Railroad.

Over the past three years, I’ve visited almost every Metro-North station in order to bring you these Tuesday Tours. While seeing stations is nice, sometimes the interesting part is exploring the towns in which these stations lie. Whenever possible, I try to take the train for my explorations, which often times leaves me extra time to explore while waiting for the next train. I try to scout out stations on Google Maps before heading out, just to see what is around and looks interesting. Places like Scarborough, Dobbs Ferry, and Irvington, with their waterfront parks, all looked like promising places to visit. Of all of the Hudson Line stops I’ve been to, I probably spent the most time in Irvington – wandering around the shops, lunching at one of the many restaurants, chatting with some of the residents, and even going to get my hair cut. Though the station itself isn’t too particularly interesting, the town is quite charming, and certainly worth the visit.


Postcards of Irvington station, from the collection of Steve Swirsky.

Irvington station is located approximately 22 miles from Grand Central, with Tarrytown station to the north and Ardsley-on-Hudson to the south. There are two side platforms, with four tracks running in between. The two platforms are not directly across from one another, but there is a tunnel under the tracks that does connect them both. The old station depot, built in 1889 and designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge is still present, but not in use by the railroad. Despite all the time I spent in Irvington, I never managed to get a decent photograph of the station, as the front of it is apparently an appealing location for cars to park.

I don’t really have too much more to say Irvington station, but while we’re on the subject, has anyone out there tried any of the restaurants surrounding the station? It seems that food alone might be a good version to head to Irvington. I grabbed some takeout from Haru Hana, which was pretty good. Chutney Masala, which is right across from the station in the waterfront side, smelled delicious. I heard that Red Hat also has tasty lobster – though you better be careful what you do with that lobster. It wouldn’t be good if you dropped it on the tracks. What a waste of a good lobster!

 
  
 
   
  
   
 
  
 
   
 
  
   
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Pascack Valley Line: Pearl River


Postcard and ticket from Pearl River station

Welcome to the end of the Pascack Valley Line – or at least the end of our tour here. Pearl River is the final station on the line in New York state and considered part of the Metro-North system. From here southbound trains head towards New Jersey – the state line is slightly less than a half-mile from the station. The ultimate destination of Hoboken is about 25 and a half miles away, a train ride that takes around an hour.


Passengers waiting for a train at Pearl River, circa 1910. Photo from the Orangetown Historical Museum & Archives.

Of the three stations on the Pascack Valley Line, I must say that Pearl River is my favorite. In terms of facilities it doesn’t have much more than the other stations – a canopy-covered low-level platform, a few benches, some ticket vending machines, and a shelter – but the station is situated in a lovely part of town. It is surrounded by several shops and a small green area, complete with one of the four-faced clocks that are rather common at area stations. For some reason the place just felt a lot more cheerful and welcoming than either Nanuet or Spring Valley.

Pearl River still has its station building, which is occupied by the Mexican-themed Southbound Cafe and Bar. Fitting the restaurant’s desired festive image, (and matching the red-roofed canopy) borders around the doors and window ledges have all been painted red. The building looks in better condition than it did in 2000, so assumedly it has been touched-up at some point in the years since then, likely around the time the restaurant moved in. Besides the paint job, the restaurant has also placed a few potted plants around the station building, as well as made some outdoor seating available. These little things help make Pearl River a nice little station, and a perfect ending point to our tour of the West-of-Hudson stations.

 
   
  
 
 
   
 
  
 
   
 
   
 

Believe it or not, Pearl River is the 95th Metro-North station to be featured on the site. We’ve taken tours through each line – except for one. But instead of moving on to the Hudson Line next, I figured I’d postpone the tour there to do some Tuesday Tours of the Hiawatha Line

Actually, I’m kidding. I know some of you have been eagerly awaiting the Hudson Line tour (I’m looking at you, Al), and I’ll be starting that next week!

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Grand Central

Last week I finished up the Tour of the Harlem Line with the final station, Botanical Garden. But there was one more station that I wanted to feature – a station that we all know, and a wonderful landmark of the city of New York. That station is of course, Grand Central Terminal. It is a bit of coincidence that I’ve chosen this day to present Grand Central – for it was on this day, February 1, 1913, that the final preparations for the opening of the station were made… with the official opening to the public at midnight.

Grand Central has been mentioned this blog quite a few times before, from the 1902 train wreck that led to electric service and paved the way for the station, to the 1910’s advertisements highlighting its opening. I’ve also discussed the gorgeous sculpture on the front façade, the role Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis played in saving Grand Central, and a little bit about the Vanderbilts, and how the station may be like an architectural embodiment of that family. Despite all of that, there is always so much more I could write about Grand Central, but that is something for another day. Today I want to take you on a photographic tour of the wonders of this place…

If there is one constant about Grand Central, it is certainly my awe every time I enter the main concourse. I have certainly been there a million times, but I am still always amazed. There is a little part of me that is envious of all the Metro-North employees that are employed in this beautiful building, and see it every day. I’ve taken photos here a million times as well, and I don’t think I am ever pleased with any of them, for they never seem to do the place any justice. Beauty can be found throughout – not just in the concourse or on the front façade. The little details always captivate me, from the stylized GCT monogram, to the little sculptural acorns that can be found all over – a symbol of the Vanderbilt family.

I hope you all enjoy this final stop on my tour of the Harlem Line. I had a great time not just photographing, but exploring. I tried to do that at Grand Central as well – not just photographing the main concourse, but to explore and see the areas that aren’t as often captured, like the lower level’s dining concourse. The tables that you will find down there are a wonderful little addition, covered in old rail ephemera. There are plenty of other little details like this throughout, which I love. Most of the photos were taken in public areas, except for a few of the main concourse which were taken on the second and sixth floors.

For now we shall bid the Tuesday Tour posts adieu, but don’t be too sad, when the spring arrives I will be heading out to more stations on another line. By this time next year I might not be known solely as the Cat Girl, but as the crazy nutjob that has been to, and photographed, every Metro-North station!

 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
   
 
 
 
   
 
 
   
 
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Botanical Garden

I have a little confession to make – as much as I crack jokes about the younger generations of Vanderbilts and their amazing ability to spend their grandfather’s money, I must admit that despite all that some of them really have left their mark on the New York area. Outside of the railroad, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, grandson of the Commodore, had positions in all sorts of organizations. He held titles of Vice-President and director, was on the board of a few different hospitals, and was also a finance manager for a church or two. But one particularly noteworthy organization, of which he served as president, was the New York Botanical Garden. Vanderbilt, along with Andrew Carnegie and J. Pierpont Morgan also contributed monetarily to the gardens, which were formed in the 1890’s.


Postcard view of Botanical Garden station

The Botanical Garden station itself is located slightly less than ten miles from Grand Central, and mere steps from the gardens for which it was named. Although commuters do use the station, it is also frequented by tourists going to check out the gardens. Metro-North probably is one of the easiest ways to get to the gardens, and if you had any question about that, there is even a video on youtube that explains how easy it is to get there. The video does highlight the lack of consistency when it comes to the name of the station. All of the platform signs refer to it as “Botanical Garden” but the ticketing machines call it “Botanical Gardens”. I suppose it is not that big of a deal, but for the purpose of this post I am using Botanical Garden, as it is visible as such in my photos.

 
   
 
  
 
  
 
   
 

My longtime readers will recall the crazy idea that I had back in April or May of 2010, to photograph every Harlem Line station, and get at least one panorama photograph at each. I’ve spent the months since then photographing, and then posting a new station every week. Today my goal has finally been completed. Botanical Garden is the last station to be featured in my Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line. Next week I’ll feature a little bonus, a station we all know. After that Tuesday posts will be on hiatus – but as soon as spring weather comes I can assure you that I’ll be out taking more photos.

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Pawling

Nestled in the rolling hills of Dutchess County lies the small village of Pawling, connected to the thriving city of New York by the railroad. When the New York & Harlem Railroad reached Pawling, the village had a population numbering in the 500’s. Today that population is a bit over 2000. It is the first station along the line in Dutchess County, and is roughly 64 miles north of Grand Central. When the line continued all the way up to Chatham, Pawling was approximately the midpoint. Historically, the station thrived due to the dairy industry. A factory visible from the platform today was once a milk plant – after processing the milk it was sent out via the Harlem. Located slightly north of the station was a yard, a small engine house, and a blacksmith and carpenter shop. There was once a turntable too, but that was later replaced with a wye.


Facilities at Pawling, circa 1920. Diagram by Lou Grogan

  
The original station, built in 1860, burned down in 1984. Photos by Lou Grogan

Today the station is, like most of the current Upper Harlem stations, rather quiet – except for the sound of a passing diesel engine. The station is past the zone of electrification, and unless you manage to board one of the few express trains, you’ll have to change at Southeast. The station is one of two in the town of Pawling – the other is the Appalachian Trail, which is a very limited service station.

That is about all I have for Pawling… next week I’ll be bringing you the final station on our Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line, Botanical Garden.

 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Tremont

The next time you’re riding a train out of Grand Central, give a little wave goodbye when you pass Tremont station, at mile post 7.9. For Tremont is a lonely station – it may have four tracks, and it may see every Harlem and New Haven line train pass by, but only a handful of them stop. Like Melrose, Tremont is a Bronx station with somewhat more limited service than most other Harlem Line stations. During non-rush hours, that means a train about every two hours. Tremont is also small – the platform can accommodate only two train cars.

Enjoy this quick look at Tremont station through various panoramas… This pretty much wraps up our tour to the Harlem Line’s more limited service stations. Melrose and Tremont are like the big brothers of the bunch, as their limited service is much more often than the once or twice per day Mount Pleasant and weekend-only Appalachian Trail. These are the final weeks of my Tour of the Harlem Line, as I’ve featured most of the stations so far. Next week we’ll go and visit Crestwood, the last station to be featured that was part of the Mid-Harlem Station Improvement project (all of which have photos preserved in the archives of the Library of Congress).

 
   
 
  
 
 
  
 
 

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Woodlawn

Although it is the Hudson Line more often cited for its scenery, you do pass by quite a few interesting locales taking a train down the Harlem Line. From the farmlands of Dutchess county, to the reservoirs that serve the city’s need for water, there is much to see on the Harlem Line – and I hope that I’ve been able to show some of this on my weekly tour of the various stations. Although it certainly isn’t the most noteworthy, the line does also pass by quite a few cemeteries. In the case of Kensico Cemetery, the railroad probably played a part in its growth. Kensico may no longer have a station dedicated to it, but at one time the cemetery even had its own rail car to serve the more affluent of folk heading to bury their loved ones.


Resting place of Gail Borden, at the Woodlawn Cemetery

Another cemetery I haven’t yet mentioned on here, however, is the Woodlawn Cemetery. Woodlawn station itself is located in the Bronx, a bit shy of 12 miles from Grand Central. It is just north of Woodlawn that the New Haven Line diverges from the Harlem. Although the station isn’t expressly for the cemetery, as Kensico was, it is very close to it. For those interested in seeing the final resting place of quite a few historical figures, Woodlawn would definitely be an interesting place to check out. Not to mention the wide array of different styles of memorial (someone please erect a statue of me riding a liger upon my death?). Some of the memorials were designed by renowned architects, such as Cass Gilbert (who designed New Haven’s Union Station), and McKim, Mead, and White (who designed the original Pennsylvania Station). Noteworthy musicians WC Handy, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington are all buried at Woodlawn, as well as businessmen whose names most people recognize: RH Macy, JC Penney, and Frank Woolworth. And many of us would also recognize the names of Joseph Pulitzer, Fiorello LaGuardia, Simon Guggenheim, and Augustus Juilliard, also buried in the cemetery. Of course my favorite “resident” is Gail Borden, the eccentric inventor of condensed milk, who was also a Harlem Division rider (a post about him on here is quite overdue, but will be coming soon, I swear!)

Anyways, here are some shots of the Harlem Line station at Woodlawn:
  
 
  
 
 
  

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Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Goldens Bridge

Of all the places I’ve been on this little tour of the Harlem Line, it is funny that I have not yet featured the one station I spend the majority of my time at. As of the first of this month, I have been living in and commuting from Goldens Bridge for two years (I’ve been commuting regularly on the Harlem Line slightly longer, though from Brewster station). Besides some of my crazy neighbors, it is a fairly nice area, albeit a little quiet.


Goldens Bridge station in the 1920’s

Over the years that the railroad has been servicing the area, much has changed in Goldens Bridge, and it was probably not as quiet as it now feels. In the early 1900’s the Muscoot Reservoir was created, flooding areas in the town that people had formerly lived. Some of these people had their entire houses moved to other locations. The construction of Interstate 684 in the late 1960’s also changed the landscape of the hamlet significantly, and the two dangerous grade crossings that were in the town have been removed. The station building that was in Goldens Bridge was on the east side of the track, roughly located where the southbound entrance to the Interstate now is.


A train at Goldens Bridge

The busy station of yesteryear is a stark contrast to what the station is now. It was from Goldens Bridge that the Mahopac branch diverged from the main line, a once-popular service which was discontinued in 1959. The station had a turntable as well as a water tower -northbound steam trains would take on water here and be set until they reached Millerton. By 1902 the New York Central had two tracks all the way up to Goldens Bridge until 1909 when the line was two-tracked up to Brewster.

For all the changes the area has gone through over the years, it does slightly amuse me that the current station is sandwiched between the concrete and asphalt of the highway on the east side, and a little bit of wilderness surrounding the reservoir to the west (if you’re interested about visiting that little bit of wilderness, I’ve posted about it before). But it is that Interstate that brings many people to the station, the parking lot is always filled with commuters from New York and Connecticut… and plenty of folks for me to people-watch…

 
  
   
 
  
 
   
 
 
 
 

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