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.

 
  
 
   
  
 
  
   
 
  

Read More

Remembering Metro-North in 1986…

Back in February of 1986 I had not yet reached my second birthday… I’m not too familiar with the milestones of an aging child, so for all I know I could have still been wearing diapers at that time. Metro-North, founded in 1983, was a fledgling organization. Though we may be similar in age, Metro-North didn’t seem to have much of a “diaper wearing” stage. In terms of the Harlem Line, they hit the ground running – beginning major renovations to the line. The tracks were electrified from North White Plains to Brewster North (Southeast), and over 10 million was spent on upgrading Brewster yard (aka Putnam Junction) and shop. Metro-North was also trying to reach their customers – printing several guides to explain to riders what they do, and give a brief tour of the system.


I’d like to have one of these in my backyard. The loco and the castle.

Since SmartCat debuted about two weeks ago, I’ve still been working on adding plenty of new material for you all to peruse. Two of the newest things found in the catalog are two brochures Metro-North released in or around 1986. One was a guide to the Metro-North system, the other a Grand Central and Customer Service guide.

Just spotting the little things that have changed over the years is quite fun. It was a time where terrorism was not as much of a concern, and the Terminal had a room where you could temporarily store your bags. And people weren’t quite so health conscious either – Harlem and Hudson trains each had one car reserved for smokers, the New Haven Line had two. Vanderbilt Hall was still a waiting room, and many of the updates – including the other stairwell in the main concourse, and the cleanup of the sky ceiling – in Grand Central had not yet been made. Amtrak trains still stopped at the Terminal, and places like Crugers and Kent Road were still stops listed on the system map.


The old Omega departure board can be seen in one of the brochures. It was replaced by an LCD Solari board in the late 90’s.

You should definitely check out SmartCat if you haven’t already, or if you want to jump right to the aforementioned brochures, you can use these links:

1986 Guide to Metro-North
1986 Grand Central Customer Service Guide

As an addendum to this post, as I’ve gotten a few messages regarding adding things to SmartCat, I would absolutely love user submissions. If you have anything that you think would be archivable, whether it be a timetable, postcard, ticket, etc… send me a message. I’d love to add it!

Read More

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.

  
 
 
  
  
 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 

Read More

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.

 
  
 
  
 
   
 
  
 
 
  
 

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Westport


Postcard view of the station, labeled as Saugatuck. This card was postmarked 1915.

Today’s stop on our ongoing tour of the New Haven Line is Westport, a lovely station with a miniature identity crisis. Although Metro-North refers to this station simply as “Westport,” historically it has been called “Westport & Saugatuck.” The old station building that still remains – built around 1880 – also lists the name as “Westport Saugatuck” on the front. However, it seems that many of the locals refer to the station simply as “Saugatuck,” the name of the portion of Westport where the station resides. For consistency’s sake, I’ll use the Metro-North designation of “Westport” hereon.


Old train tickets listing the station name as Westport & Saugatuck

Much of Westport’s charm derives from the lovely station building, which was renovated in 2004. The station still contains the original ticket window, however Metro-North no longer staffs this window and tickets are sold through on-platform TVMs. Besides the obvious waiting-room and bathrooms the station contains, it also has a small book swap shelf, courtesy of the Westport Public Library (this is the second New Haven Line station I’ve featured with a book swap shelf. Redding was the first. I absolutely love the idea). During the aforementioned renovations an additional tunnel under the tracks was installed, with elevator, as to meet ADA guidelines. Though the main station is on the New York/westbound side of the tracks, another station building exists on the opposite side, which is used as a taxi stand and contains a car rental office. This building looks significantly more beat-up, and is covered in a layer of paint that has cracked over the many years.

 
  

1950’s photographs of Westport station


Photo of a 1912 train wreck that occurred near the station.

Westport is a lovely little station, surrounded by an interesting neighborhood, of which residents are extremely proud – despite the many changes over the years. Thanks to the railroad (which first arrived in 1848), getting to Westport station is relatively easy. The station is about 44 miles away from Grand Central, and travel time is about an hour and ten minutes.

 
  
 
 
  
 
   
  
 
   
 
  
 
   

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: New Canaan

 

If it isn’t obvious, I’ve been to a lot of train stations. My current count of Metro-North stations that I’ve photographed stands at 83. I’ve chronicled my various issues here – cops in Melrose, a rent-a-cop in Bridgeport, and I’ve even had people yell at me that they didn’t want me pointing a camera in their direction (sorry, honey, but I’m trying to take a picture of that train, not you). However, this past weekend when I visited New Canaan I had a little bit of a different experience. I think this is the first time that I’ve ever seen a person excited that I was taking a photos of their station. I saw an older man, and when he saw me with the camera, he said, “it is a nice day for it, it is a very iconic station.” I think he was actually proud of his station, and that I was taking photos there. That is a first.

Though when it comes to train stations, the citizens of New Canaan do have a lot to be proud of. Their station, originally built in 1868, is one of the oldest surviving (and currently in-use) stations in the state of Connecticut. There has been plenty of work on it since – and it has even been jacked up and moved in order to accommodate a high-level train platform. The platform itself is a bit deceiving, as entering from the parking lot it appears to be low-level. However, the station and parking lot is raised above the tracks, which is why the station had to be jacked up during its restoration. Most recently, there was an expansion of the tracks, so the new M8 trains could run on the branch line.

  
  
Undated photos of New Canaan station from the Library of Congress. They were most likely taken in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, and before the station was raised.

Somewhere along the way, New Canaan station, terminus of Metro-North’s New Canaan branch, and 41 miles from Grand Central Terminal, became a haven wealthy commuters to the city. Not surprisingly, the railroad played a significant part in the growth of New Canaan, as it made New York City easily accessible – in a little bit over an hour. Today’s New Canaan Branch started out as the New Canaan Railroad, which ran its first train on July 4th, 1868, from Stamford to New Canaan. In the 1880’s the line was leased to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, and by 1890 had merged with them.


1913 view of the station


1945 view of New Canaan station

I will not lie – I very much enjoyed visiting New Canaan station, and New Canaan itself. I had been told that the area was quite wealthy, and en route to the station saw houses (mansions?!) with six car garages. But despite the station being one of the oldest around, it certainly didn’t look ancient. On the contrary, it was beautiful and well taken care of. And to my delight, it is even open on weekends (as you’ve seen from my many tour stops, this is usually not the case, and I’m trying to get photos through the windows). Though the ticket windows may no longer be in use, it is lovely to see how they once looked in a station many, many times older than I am (I’m even younger than Metro-North – and @MetroNorthTweet has worked for Metro-North longer than I’ve been alive!).

 
  
   
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
 
  
 
 
  
 

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: South Norwalk

Today’s stop on our tour of the New Haven Line is the mainline station of South Norwalk – which, like the part of town, is affectionately known as SoNo. Besides New Haven’s Union Station, this is one of the more busy stations along the New Haven that I’ve visited thus far. Like a lot of the stations I’ve seen, there are two station buildings located on either sides of the tracks – one old and one new. On the eastbound/New Haven side of the platform lies the older station building, which was “modernized” in 1994. It is definitely my favorite of the two station buildings. On the westbound/New York side is a much more modern building, completed in 1996. The more modern station’s defining feature is a large metal and glass arch, which provides light for the waiting room inside. That side of the tracks also provides access to a parking garage, and to security offices (is SoNo a really dangerous area? The train station website certainly talks a lot about security). There are little places to pick up food and drinks in both buildings, but they were closed on the weekend when I visited (the bathrooms were also closed, as nobody ever has to go on the weekends).

South Norwalk is 41 miles from Grand Central, though it does have some attractions within walking distance for people who don’t want to head all the way to the city. For anyone interested in trains, the SoNo Switch Tower is a nice place to visit. The Maritime Aquarium is also close by, and is probably my favorite attraction in the area. I mean, how could you not love adorably cute seals?

  
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
   
   
 

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Southport

I’ve spent the past few weeks posting some relatively boring photographs of some of the stations along the Danbury Branch of the New Haven Line… Despite what anyone seems to think about me, I really do think that I am more interested in train stations more than the actual machine that is a train. But it is undeniable that train station photography, without any actual trains present, is pretty boring. And most of the Danbury Branch stations I featured were like that. In fact, several did not even have any train service on the days I visited, as signal work was being done and buses were carrying passengers instead of trains. Today, however, the station I am featuring has a whole lot of photographs that do contain trains. At most stations that I visited on the main New Haven Line, there was at least one train going by. Here at Southport, you’ll be able to spot both Metro-North trains, and the occasional passing Amtrak train as well.


Station on the eastbound side in 1966

Not only are the trains pictured captivating – but Southport’s station has a bit of history behind it as well. The original station (on the eastbound/New Haven side) was built in 1859, but burnt down in 1884. A new station was completed in a matter of months (imagine that happening today, it would only take a matter of years!), and is still standing today. Like many of the main line stations, there are station buildings on both sides of the tracks, and they are not directly across from one another. The building on the east (Manhattan-bound) side of the track also had a fire, but much more recently (2008). The fire did not completely destroy the station, and it has since been renovated and reopened.

Southport station is located approximately 49 miles from Grand Central, and is one of two stations (soon to be three) in Fairfield, Connecticut. Although Amtrak trains can be seen passing by, they do not stop at Southport. The two station buildings are still in use – the restored station on the west-bound side operates as a waiting room, and contains restrooms. The east-bound station has been the home to the Italian restaurant Paci since 1996.

 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  
 
 
   
 
 

Read More

Sending Postcards from the Harlem Line (Part 2)

Back in November I posted a whole bunch of postcards that I had collected of stations along the Harlem. I had promised a part two, and here it is now… but why stop at just part two? I’ve sort of realized I have quite the boatload of postcards, and I keep acquiring them. One of my rather lofty goals was to be able to collect a postcard for each Harlem railroad station. But I also couldn’t help purchasing alternate designs of the same stations. So although some places I have no postcards for, there are others that I have a bunch. I have far too many of Grand Central, and three or more of stations like Pleasantville, Chappaqua, and Chatham. Needless to say, there will be a part three, and possibly a part four at some time in the future. I do have a request to any of you out there, though. If you happen to have a postcard that I don’t have in my collection here, I would love you so much if you could scan it for me. As much as I’d love to actually have it in my possession, I would love it even more to have it available in my digital gallery!

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

The last four postcards are a little different. They are not Harlem stations per se, but once upon a time you could board a Harlem Division train that went into Massachusetts, across the Boston & Albany’s tracks. Leaving from Grand Central, the train would make stops at 125th Street, White Plains, Brewster, Pawling and Chatham. After a short pause in Chatham, the train would continue to East Chatham and Canaan, before crossing into Massachusetts and making stops at State Line, Richmond, Pittsfield, Cheshire, Adams and North Adams. Most of those stations are long gone, just like the Upper Harlem stations. Amtrak trains still make stops in Pittsfield, though the two stations in the postcards were torn down, which is unfortunate. They were gorgeous in comparison to today’s Pittsfield station. I think the waiting room there looks more like a school cafeteria than part of a train station!

  
  


Timetable for Harlem Division service to Massachusetts

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Fordham

Another Tuesday, another Harlem Line station… I was a bit behind today, and I am glad I was able to keep up with the schedule, hehe. I’ve been hard at work with some new things for the site, which unfortunately requires me to draw a bit, and although my shoulder is feeling better, it was hurting after drawing too long. When I went for therapy I told this to my doctor… and he looked at me like I grew two heads. “A tablet what?” Later on he advised me to “not draw too much on your scrabble board.” I suppose he’d shit a brick if he saw a person walk in with an iPad. In other news I’ve upped the security on commenting here. I’ve gotten a bit fed up with thousands of spam comments a week, even though they go into a spam folder and don’t actually get posted. The additional spam blocker I’ve added (that prevents spam from ever getting submitted) warned me that there may be false positives. So if you ever make a comment that doesn’t get through, please let me know. Despite the fact that I really didn’t want to, I’ve also closed comments on articles more than 2 months old, which cut down on a lot of the spam.

Anyways, back to Fordham. Besides Harlem-125th Street, Fordham is one of the other Harlem Line stations that is shared. Both Harlem Line and New Haven Line trains stop here, and it is one of Metro-North’s busier stations. Much of the ridership at Fordham is made up of reverse commuters: folks that leave the city and head to jobs in Westchester and Connecticut. Over 6,000 reverse commuters head north on week days. The station itself is located below street level, with a portion of the platform being covered by the road above. Although it does have a ticket window and a small waiting room, I didn’t get too many photos since it was under construction when I visited. Construction on the platform will also be happening soon, as it was announced in July that Metro-North had purchased additional land to extend the platform, and a new canopy and shelter will be built.

Within close proximity to the station is Fordham University, as well as many shops. The station also serves as Metro North’s access point to the Bronx Zoo, as you can take a bus from the station to the zoo. Other than that, Fordham is not the most remarkable station… but here are some photos, enjoy!

 
  
 
   
 
   
 

Read More