An afternoon out at Spuyten Duyvil

Although it is quite obvious that I am a lover of the Harlem Line, it is undeniable that there are beautiful spots located all along Metro-North’s right of way. Even though the Moodna Viaduct may be one of my favorites, there are plenty of other spots I enjoy on the Hudson Line, like Bear Mountain, Dobbs Ferry, and Breakneck Ridge. The area around Spuyten Duyvil is also especially nice, and I spent an afternoon there a few weekends ago photographing and recording both Metro-North and Amtrak trains.

And #217 said, “I don’t think I can…”

If you’re interested in checking out the area, across the river Inwood Hill Park offers great views of Metro-North’s Marble Hill and Spuyten Duyvil stations, as well as Amtrak’s swing bridge. Not necessarily railroad related, but of noteworthy mention is the large painted “C” that is kind of hard to miss. The C stands for Columbia – and was first painted on the rock in the early 1950s, with the approval of the New York Central Railroad. Coxswain of the heavyweight crew team, Robert Prendergast, came up with the idea and approached the railroad for permission. After it was granted, the C was painted about 60 feet by 60 feet square, and has been maintained ever since.

One of my personal favorite spots is the swing bridge used by Amtrak, after it splits from Metro-North’s Hudson Line. As most of you are already aware, for many years Amtrak trains ran from Grand Central Terminal. After some significant work in the late ’80s, including fixing up this old swing bridge, Amtrak was able to finally consolidate its New York City operations in Penn Station and vacate Grand Central. I can’t say that I know first hand, but I’ve heard plenty of stories about raucous parties that happened on this bridge while it was out of service. Originally constructed in 1900, the bridge was damaged and taken out of service in 1982, and was reopened in 1991.

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Pioneer Park and the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, Fairbanks, Alaska

Before I continue with a long series of photos and videos from the Alaska Railroad, I figured it would be fun to quickly introduce everyone to the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, located in Fairbanks, Alaska. Located in Pioneer Park, the museum operates a historic 1899 steam locomotive a few times a year for visitors. Built in 2005, the museum consists of a shop for the locomotive, and a smaller section for displays, all of which is staffed by volunteers. The museum was one of the very first stops for the NRHS convention, and the historic locomotive was operating all afternoon, and a night photo session was held in the evening.

Postcard from Alaskaland, and token from the centennial exposition
Postcard from Alaskaland, and token from the centennial exposition.

Pioneer Park, where the museum is located, is a bit of an interesting spot in Fairbanks. The grounds were first established in 1967 for the Alaska 67 Centennial Exposition, which celebrated the centennial of the Alaska Purchase. Later the 44-acre historical park became known as Alaskaland. It was eventually renamed Pioneer Park, lest you think it some type of amusement park with roller coasters (Alaska has none, unless you count the hill named roller coaster on the Dalton Highway).

1981 brochure for Alaskaland
1981 brochure for Alaskaland, including an aerial view of the railroad tracks encircling the park.

So before we depart Fairbanks on a journey down the Alaska Railroad, let’s take a quick minute to check out Pioneer Park and the Tanana Valley Railroad Museum, and a short video from my GoPro camera which was mounted on their historical locomotive.


For the folks subscribed to the site via email, you must visit the site to view video features.

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Journey the Harlem Line in 6 minutes: Grand Central to Southeast Time Lapse

Have you ever seen these awesome time lapse videos the MTA has done on the LIRR? When I first saw them, I decided I wanted to try the same thing at some point on the Harlem Line. Yesterday I finally got a chance to try it, unfortunately not in HD (didn’t have a big enough memory card to do the whole ride in HD). The ride first starts out in Grand Central, and heads all the way to Southeast. We make all local stops north of White Plains, with the exception of Mount Pleasant. The hour and twenty minute ride has been condensed into a little over six minutes.

Because I know a few of you more astute observers will find some issues with the video (signals? track?), I will say that this video was taken not from the cab, but from the rear of the train. The footage was reversed to make it appear like it was from the front of the train. This is my first attempt at a time lapse, and I think I’d like to try it again at some point. Perhaps in HD, and possibly from the front of the train, so everything doesn’t look wrong. But as a first attempt, I think this is a pretty cool way to see the Harlem Line.

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Pigeon Trapping in White Plains & Video of Pigeon Riding the Train

Apparently Metro-North has gotten fed up with the pigeon problem in White Plains. Maybe they were embarrassed by the fact that people were videotaping, and blogging about it. Or maybe they were getting a little pissed off that birds that have pea-sized brains were outsmarting them. Either way, last week I noticed something new at the station. Pigeon traps. With all the snow I didn’t really get a chance to post anything about the traps. But I did happen to get into a conversation in the waiting room with a woman about them. Really, the pigeons aren’t harming anything. In fact they are eating the crumbs off the floor, which is more than what some of the cleaning people manage. Their antics are amusing, and Metro-North could probably be spending money worrying about other things, rather than purchasing pigeon traps to put throughout the station. Even if they had the traps on hand, someone had to place them, and that takes time. Time that could have been spent doing other things. Like cleaning the bathrooms? Or going after the annoying people that smoke in the waiting room, or beg for dollars? I’d prefer the pigeons over those.

Now, remember whose blog you are reading. Obviously, I had to put up a sign about this. Someday I may use my talents for the good of man-kind. Today? Not so much.

Here are higher resolution images so you can see all the text:

So far I haven’t seen any pigeons dumb enough to get caught. Traps are located behind the benches in the waiting room, and on top of the ticket machines by the window. Truly the question is, what happens to the pigeons if they are in fact caught? Taking them outside the station and letting them go would do little, they’d probably come right back in. Do they get sent up the river to pigeon prison? Are they gassed by employees in a dark, back room? Your guess is as good as mine. In a few weeks the problem will work itself out anyways, traps or no traps. The weather will be warmer, and the pigeons wont need to be inside. They aren’t dumb. They come inside because of the cold. Hell, I know a lot of crazy people that do that too!

As an unrelated bonus, I figured I would include some amusing video I saw on YouTube, of a pigeon riding public transit. The pigeon’s name is apparently Henry Goodfeathers. Looks like the video was filmed somewhere on the subways of Toronto.

More polite than a lot of human subway passengers

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Me and the Pigeons: Dreaming of the Rainbow Over Mount Kisco

I just happened to be looking through my photos on my cell phone, and I came across one that I had forgotten about. It is above. There had been a storm raging that day, but on the ride home it had begun to clear up. I snapped that photo when we were at Mount Kisco station. I was sitting near the door, and the train conductor, Guy, said to me, “come out and look here,” as he was standing on the platform. I ducked out of the train for about two seconds to gaze at it. Then engineer was wondering if he could go, and the conductor in the back, Dave, was like, “Wait, I think they’re looking at the rainbow. Isn’t that nice?” The whole thing took a matter of seconds, and my recollection of the dialogue is probably pretty off, but I smile when I remember that time. And really, I wish it was a nice day with a rainbow outside, instead of the cold and the snow.

I know a lot of people would agree with me. And a few of my avian friends. That would be the pigeons in White Plains. They of course are sick of the cold, and have begun hiding inside the station again. Apparently a recent addition in the past few weeks to the station were spikes added to the inside windows, a former popular spot for the pigeons. Now the pigeons have taken to some other spots, one being the ticket kiosks. I bet the machinery keeps those nice and toasty for the birds. I work for FUJIFILM, and we have photo printing kiosks in places like Walmart and RiteAid. And I’ve heard horror stories from techs that have to go out to service those machines, and have found animals that have made homes inside the machines because of the warmth. I can only imagine, and feel sorry for the poor chap that is going to have to service or clean those ticket machines at some point in the future.

I even have video, hooray!

I was amused though, on the MTA’s new site, they have a list of Frequently Asked Questions. One of which is how they are working to deter pigeons from roosting inside trains and stations. Their answer?

To address the problem of pigeons in our stations, we are testing a new system that drives away pigeons by sending a harmless, low-voltage electric shock through wires installed in areas where they perch.

Yeah, I wonder how that is working out for them… zap.

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Government’s $5 Million Marriage Promotion Campaign @ Goldens Bridge

Hello everyone, and good evening from White Plains station. I’m back from vacation now… Returning back to the north is a bit depressing, as the temperature is steadily going down, and the nights are growing longer and longer. Before long the train conductors will be breaking out their flashlights…


Shortly before I went away, I happened to notice the above ad at Goldens Bridge station. I did think it was a bit odd. Along the bottom of the ad it said that it was paid for by the government. After doing more research, it seems that the government has paid five million dollars for this junk.

Immediately when I saw the ad, I thought to myself that this ad was not promoting happy marriage… The government is using taxpayer money to promote heterosexual marriage. Irrelevant of whether a person accepts the notion of gay marriage or not, I really don’t think the government should be spending the money in this way. So what if it comes out to a penny a person? That is a remarkably stupid way of justifying anything. Five million dollars is a LOT of money.

Another ad from the campaign. Ads like this have been posted on public transportation across the country.

Anyone else have any constructive thoughts about this? I say constructive because I really don’t need to be flamed by religious nuts talking about how gays are going to hell, etc. There are so many more constructive things that people could be attacking instead of gay marriage. Seriously, I think the entire human race is obsessed with the fact that they know what is “best” for every other person on the planet, and forcing their beliefs on others.

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