Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Croton-Harmon

As I mentioned last week, today’s stop on our Tuesday Tour is one of the least attractive stations on the Hudson Line, Croton-Harmon. You have to have mixed feelings about this place, because despite not looking all that spectacular, there’s a lot of action going on here. Not only does Croton-Harmon serve Metro-North, Amtrak has several trains which stop here. The station is also the northern terminus of electric service on the Hudson Line, and although Metro-North offers many through trains, some passengers still have to transfer here, so it is definitely a busy station (in the past fewer through trains were available, thus transferring here was a must). Metro-North’s Croton-Harmon shops, which recently won a Brunel Award, are also here, which certainly adds to the action.


Croton-Harmon timetables and ticket.

Croton-Harmon station is located about 33 miles from Grand Central, and a ride to the Terminal takes, on average, around an hour. However, there are a few express trains that will get you there in around 42 minutes. In terms of ridership, Croton-Harmon is the busiest station on the Hudson Line, and the sixth busiest system-wide (strictly Metro-North traffic and not counting GCT. Only White Plains, Stamford, Scarsdale, New Haven, and New Rochelle get more weekday passengers). Amtrak service adds another 42,000 passengers a year traveling through the station.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1963. The Hudson Division was part of the New York Central at this time.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1974. The Croton-Harmon shops in the Penn Central years. Penn Central Memories on Flickr has a lovely collection of photographs at Croton-Harmon in this era.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1984. Metro-North is still a fledgling railroad, after taking over from Conrail in 1983.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1992.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 2012. The current award-winning shops at Croton Harmon. [image source]

Denoting its busy status, Croton-Harmon has three island platforms, allowing multiple trains to stop at the station simultaneously. Above the platforms is an enclosed waiting room for passengers. Croton-Harmon is one of the few system stations to still have a manned ticket window, which serves Metro-North customers only. Amtrak does have two ticket machines not far from the ticket window. The waiting area also has a few vending machines, and restrooms available. Closer to the parking lot, the station also has a cleaners – this building was the temporary station in 1988 as the current station was under construction.

There isn’t much else noteworthy to mention of today’s Croton-Harmon – it is a busy, functional Metro-North station, that when compared with other Hudson Line stations like Poughkeepsie and Yonkers, is hardly attractive. With the traffic moving in and out, the station is at least nice place to watch trains… thus I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves!

 
 
  
 
  
 
   
 
 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  

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Tuesday Tour of the Port Jervis Line: Harriman

 
The two above photos were on a single postcard, showing the old and new stations at Harriman. The station at left was known as Turners, and was replaced with the station on the right in 1911. From the collection of Steve Swirsky.

As we continue north on our tour of the Port Jervis Line, the next station we encounter is Harriman. When the railroad first arrived here in the 1800’s, the station was known as Turners, after original landowner Peter Turner. The first station built by Turner burned down in 1873, and was replaced with a smaller wood structure (above left). By 1911, that station was falling into disrepair and was again replaced with a brick and stucco structure with a tin roof (above right). The land for this new station was donated by Edward Harriman, and after he passed away in 1909, the name of the station was changed to Harriman in his honor.

 
Postcard of Harriman station, built in 1911. From the collection of Steve Swirsky.


Erie railroad photograph of Harriman station, taken shortly after construction was completed.

The location of today’s Harriman station, however, is in a totally different place than those shown above. Harriman was originally on the Erie railroad’s main line, which was abandoned in the 1980’s when Metro-North took over passenger service. A simple station, which retained the name Harriman, was built by Metro-North on the railroad’s new route, which was formerly known as the Graham Line. The new station is basic, consisting of a platform, canopy, small shelter, and two ticket vending machines.


Edward Harriman’s “special train.” Photo from the GG Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.

Besides being known for his badass moustache, and the namesake of this station, Edward Harriman was a wealthy railroad executive that owned a large estate which he named Arden (some of that land was donated upon his death, and is now Harriman State Park). Although he was associated with the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, he did influence the Erie Railroad as well – and two stations were named for him. In addition to Harriman, the station of Arden was named after his large estate. Reflecting his status as a wealthy executive, Harriman, of course, had his own private train – which is in the photo above.


The years were not particularly kind to the old Harriman station. The dilapidated structure was torn down in 2006.

Although the tracks running past the old Harriman station were torn out, the station building did survive for at least a few more years. Unfortunately, the run-down building was deemed unsafe, and in lieu of renovating it, the station was torn down in 2006.

Though these stations built by Metro-North aren’t very spectacular, the canopy on a few of them depicts a small sketch of the railroad in bygone years. Harriman’s sketch features a steam train, passing in front of what appears to be the old Harriman station. This is probably the only remotely interesting thing going on at Harriman, other than the weekend bus that will take you over to Woodbury Common. Well, at least you can get to the city in about an hour and fifteen minutes.

I’ll just wrap things up with a few of the terrible photos I took during my visit to Harriman. Have I mentioned that I really want to reshoot the entire Port Jervis line on a day that actually has nice weather? Perhaps someday…

 
   
  
 
   
   
  
 
   
  

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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: 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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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Greenwich


Postcard of Greenwich station

Growing up as a kid in Connecticut, probably the only thing I knew about Greenwich was that was where rich people lived. As completely illogical as it sounds, I almost expected that the train station there would have a platform paved with gold… or at least the station would be extravagantly nice. In reality, however, Greenwich is just another regular station along the New Haven main line. Located 28 miles from Grand Central, the train ride to the city ranges from a 41-minute express train, to a 57-minute off-peak local. The station building has a little waiting room with vending machines and benches, and contains a staffed ticket window, an amenity getting rarer and rarer on the Metro-North system. From inside the station building, you can descend a set of stairs and exit to the street level and the various shops of Greenwich.



Photographs of Greenwich station, taken November 1928

When I first arrived at Greenwich, I hiked up a big set of stairs at the western end of the platform. While that far end of the platform is a little beat up, the opposite end is a bit nicer, and has views of Borealis, a sculpture installed at the adjacent Greenwich Plaza.


Aerial photo of the station area, visible is the station building and platform, Greenwich Plaza and the sculpture Borealis, as well as Interstate 95 and Greenwich harbor. [image credit]

Although the sculpture is not exactly part of the station, it is definitely visible to those that commute. While photographing the station, I felt myself drawn to it. Borealis, installed in Greenwich in 1999 (though completed in 1988), is the work of artist Mark di Suvero. When installed, a crane was brought in to lift the 29-foot-tall sculpture, made of welded steel, into place. Borealis also has a sister piece, called Aurora which is on display at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden.

 
  
 
  
 
   
 
  
 
 
  
 

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A Visit to Shibuya Station: Hachiko the Loyal Dog & a Cat Cafe

Tokyo’s Shibuya Station is the fourth busiest commuter rail station in Japan, though it’s claim to fame is in canine form. Across the world many are familiar with the story of the loyal dog, Hachiko, who was a fixture at the station in the 1920’s. Hidesaburo Ueno, a Professor in Agriculture at Tokyo Imperial University used Shibuya Station to commute to work. His young Akita dog, Hachiko, would wait for him at the station every evening after work. In May of 1925 Ueno collapsed while giving a lecture, and died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Despite the fact that his master was gone, and would never return, Hachiko still waited at Shibuya Station every evening. For nine years, until his death, Hachiko waited at the station. Hachiko’s story became popular when a former student of Ueno’s wrote an article about his loyalty, which was published in a Tokyo newspaper.

A year before Hachiko’s death a bronze statue was erected outside Shibuya Station. Unfortunately, During World War Two, the statue was melted down for the war effort. In 1948 a new statue was designed by the son of the original artist, and is on display outside the station. The statue serves as a popular meeting point, and isn’t too hard to find. Just look for the signs in the station that point to the “Hachiko Exit.”

Several movies have told the story of Hachiko, the first being Hachiko Monogatari, in Japanese. This movie was remade in English and titled Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, and starred Richard Gere as Parker Wilson. To make the more palatable for a Western audience, all the Japanese people were removed, and the story was set in Rhode Island. The writers couldn’t seem to figure out how to explain why a white guy would name his dog Hachi (-ko was a suffix added to the name Hachi, which also was not explained by the movie), so they had to include one Japanese character: the stereotypically mystical, wise Japanese colleague of Parker’s. What a rather harsh critique from me. But I won’t lie. The movie made me cry. Shoot, I was crying when it started, as Parker played with Hachiko as a puppy. I kept thinking, “You’re both going to diieeee at the end!”


The poor lighting made a good shot hard. About ten minutes afterward it began raining. You can find better photos on Google. So I figured I might as well try to be unique and show you it in Stereographic 3D!

Not far from the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station is a place called HapiNeko. Prior to going to Japan I had heard of a Cat Cafe, and thought it would be fun to visit one. We totally ran into HapiNeko by accident though, outside of the building there was a large sign with a picture of a cat. I can’t read Japanese, so I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what exactly the place was, but we ventured up to the third floor of the building. Thankfully in the suite we found cats, as opposed to creepy old men attempting to entice young schoolgirls so they could steal their panties for used panty vending machines.

In a country where space is an expensive commodity, not everyone has room for a pet, or is allowed to keep one in their apartment. Cat Cafes have opened up across Japan, charging a small fee for patrons to spend time with a cat and relax. The concept is not reserved to cats alone, at the Tokyo Dome Amusement Park, an impromptu animal area was set up with temporary fences. People could pay 500 yen (around $5) to spend time with various animals: dogs, cats, chicks, a goat, and even a rather large tortoise. I love cats just as much as Japan does, so I could not resist entering the cafe, paying around ten dollars for half an hour with the cats, and a cup of apple tea.

Like most Japanese homes, one is required to remove their shoes before entering. The clerk reads you the rules, and explains how to properly hold the cats without hurting them. Once inside there is a sink in which you are required to wash your hands, and then use alcohol. Any bags or luggage you may have is taken and put into a cubby. You place your order for a drink, and then you are permitted to enter the room with the cats.

HapiNeko employs a staff of sixteen cats, most of which are around three years old. Breeds include American shorthairs, a British shorthair, a Russian Blue, Scottish Folds, Bermans, and a Persian. Their names range from typical Japanese: Ryoma and Hinako, to more American: Gigi, Lara, Mimi, Princess, Nina, Marcia and Mocha, to slightly more amusing: Milk, Tofu, and Roll.






As my friend and I left the Cat Cafe and made our way back to the station, it had begun to rain. The massive throngs of people in the world-famous scramble crossing had disappeared. A few braved the pouring rain with their umbrellas, but walking by Hachiko, the massive crowd still remained.

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