Rare mileage on the Alaska Railroad – The Palmer & Airport Branches

Most of the places we’ve checked out thus far on the Alaska Railroad are part of regular routes that countless passengers have traveled over. Today, however, we’re going to take a look at two of the railroad’s branches – the Palmer branch and the Anchorage Airport branch. Both routes are occasionally used for passenger service, but are not in regular scheduled service. The Alaska Railroad operates a fair train every year for the Alaska State Fair, which travels over the Palmer branch and to South Palmer station. Besides the fair and other special events, it is mostly freight that sees this branch. Beyond the branch’s useable track lies the town of Palmer, for which the branch was named. Palmer’s depot still stands, and is used as a community center. Sitting outside is a restored coal locomotive.

 
  
  
 
 
  
 
  
   

Photos around Anchorage and on the Palmer Branch

The Anchorage Airport branch likely sees more passengers than the Palmer Branch, but it is still not a regularly scheduled route on the railroad. Cruise ship lines with chartered trains are usually the only patrons of the branch, leaving the depot there fairly quiet. If you have money to burn, the depot is available to rent, however.

  

Photos on the Airport Branch. With its high-level platforms, this is the most “Metro-North looking” part of the entire Alaska Railroad.

Thanks to my camera, you can ride both branches from your own home. Starting off at the Anchorage International Airport, we pass the Anchorage depot before heading onto the Palmer Branch, finishing just beyond the South Palmer / fairgrounds station.

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

Our second video for the day shows another hidden part of the Alaska Railroad, one that passengers never see. Reversing out of Anchorage’s depot, we head into Anchorage yard just after sunrise.

Next week we’ll check out yet another part of the railroad never seen by passengers, as we go behind the scenes and take a shop tour.

Read More

More Adventures on the Alaska Railroad, South of Anchorage

In our last two Alaska Railroad videos, we got a chance to tour the two main areas the railroad services south of Anchorage – Whittier and Seward. Both routes share the same trackage just south of Anchorage, which parallels the Seward Highway and travels through the scenic Kenai Peninsula, Chugach National Forest, and Turnagain Arm areas. Before moving on to the area north of Anchorage, I figured that we should finish up with the coastal areas south of the city. We spent a little less than a week in the Anchorage area and experienced quite a variation of weather – from sun and blue skies, pouring rain, and even a little bit of snow – all of which are visible in my collection of photos. Anyway, I’ll let the photos (and more mounted on the locomotive video) speak for themselves!

 
  
   
 
  
  
  
   
 
  
   
  
 
  
   


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

Read More

Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad 50th Anniversary “Timelapse”

Ever since I purchased a GoPro camera, my absolute dream was to fasten it to the front of a moving train and make a totally awesome video. On Sunday, that dream was finally fulfilled on the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad. Not only is the CP&LE RR awesome for using authentic coal-fired steam locomotives, they’re celebrating their 50th anniversary this season! We’re commemorating that milestone by taking you on a fast-forwarded ride around the park from a camera mounted on the front of “Judy K.” – one of the park’s steam locomotives.

Long before the park opens to the public, the crew of the Cedar Point and Lake Erie railroad are hard at work getting the locomotives running for the day. A real rarity among amusement park railroads, the CP&LE RR uses real coal-fired steam locomotives, which takes a whole lot of “elbow-grease” and experience to run. Crewed by some wonderful, and exceptionally hard-working people under the watchful eye of 40-year veteran superintendent Randy Catri, the CP&LE RR has long been a staple attraction of Cedar Point. Though it may not be one of the park’s most talked-about rides – like the behemoth Top Thrill Dragster, or the new Gate Keeper – not many of the park’s attractions can boast a 50 year history and having served over 116 million in those years.



The Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad in action.

I met up with the crew early on the morning of August 18th, and captured “Judy K.” leaving the railyard, coupling with passenger cars outside Funway Station, and performing a first test loop around the park. Thanks to our camera, mounted on the front of the locomotive, you get an up-close and personal tour of the coolest amusement park railroad on the planet (and authentic coal-fired steam is interesting ANYWHERE!). As an added bonus there’s also a short crew view, where we see coal being added to the fire, and another loop around the park viewing the train from the side.

Consider this a quick preview of the CP&LE RR, as we’ll be celebrating the 50th with a whole lot more photos and fun in the upcoming weeks!

Note: This is a repost of an original post from several weeks ago. At the request of Cedar Point, that original video (and the post that featured it) was taken down. We reshot the video, along with some additional angles, so it is actually better than it was before!

Read More

Counting down the 12 most popular posts of 2011, Part 2

Here is the final part of our top posts of 2011. Thank you to all of you for your continued support and visits. These are the posts that you all voted for, with your eyes and your clicks.

No tour of any of Metro-North’s lines could be complete without a visit to the most wonderful station of all – Grand Central. Our Harlem Line Tuesday Tour finished with photos of GCT, and was extremely well-liked, coming in at number seven in the countdown. I think I was rather proud of the photo set, as it covered quite a few locations that were not part of the main concourse. Although the concourse is the highlight, it is by all means not the only thing interesting found in the Terminal.

These are the reasons why there are probably people that work for the MTA that dislike me… although I love the history of the rails, as well as photography, there are some times that I just can’t help joking around. In this spoof, The MTA wants to make sure you are prepared, I poked a little bit of fun at the brochure that they released regarding hurricanes. My intent wasn’t to knock their preparations (as that hurricane brochure came in handy later on during the year!!), it was more to make an amusing statement about the snowstorms slamming us that just wouldn’t stop. We were somewhat prepared – but absolutely fed up with the snow that kept piling up. But being able to add in some zombies and Norse mythology just made it all the more fun.

Many times I’ve passed through the streets in Danbury and sighted a particular wall covered with some absolutely gorgeous graffiti. Every time I did, I always thought that I should go and take a photo of it… but I never got a chance to do it until March. In the post Gorgeous rail-side graffiti in Danbury I posted photos of the mural (which was a lot larger than I had originally suspected). The painted wall is located just off of Main Street in Danbury, not far from the Metro-North station, and located along some railroad tracks.

Just about any day this year was a good time to be anyone other than Hermon Kaur Raju. Raju is the commuter we love to hate, yapping on her cell phone the whole ride and using a whole slew of four letter words. When a train conductor told her to shut her trap, Raju went on the offensive – demanding that everyone acknowledge how educated she was. Most unfortunately for her, someone had been recording the entire exchange, and posted it to YouTube. Despite being removed a short time later by the original poster, the damage had been done. The clip made it to the Huffington Post, Gawker, and Raju was even one of Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Persons In The World.”

Although I did not post her name at the time, resisting the urge to poke fun at Raju was impossible. The post Be nice to your conductor, or you’ll wind up on the internet was one of our top posts for the year. Metro-North never really made a public response regarding the incident, however Raju would likely be pleased to know that the conductor involved was reprimanded for the incident – for not wearing her hat.

Discovering the old stations of the Harlem Division has been an interest of mine ever since I first read about them. Many no longer exist, but a few have been converted to businesses and are still around. Only one (to my knowledge) has been converted into use as a home, and the thought of living in an old train station is probably pretty awesome to anyone that calls themself a railfan. In an Adventure to Sharon Station, I got a great chance to tour the house, which is currently for sale. Even though the the outside looks much as it did way back when, the inside contains all the modern comforts one would expect in a home. I’m very appreciative to Elyse Harney Real Estate for allowing me to see the house, even though they knew I didn’t have the means to purchase it – though if I ever win big in the lottery, they may be one of the first people I call.

Although often forgotten by commuters, Metro-North does have tracks on the west side of the Hudson. I suppose they lines over there are easily overlooked, as they don’t go into Grand Central, and are operated by New Jersey Transit. However, one of the most beautiful locations along Metro-North’s tracks is found on the west side. The Picturesque Moodna Viaduct, located in the rural countryside of Orange County. The viaduct is the longest and tallest trestle east of the Mississippi River, and I was very happy to note that the Hurricane Irene damage on the Port Jervis line did not greatly harm this wonderful gem. It seems that many others also find the viaduct a lovely place, as it was our second most popular post on the blog in 2011.

In an absolutely unprecedented move, the entirety of MTA buses and trains shut down ahead of the oncoming storm, Hurricane Irene. Although some people criticized the decision as a bit over the top, it turned out to be the right one. Of all the agencies, Metro-North likely suffered the worst damages, from both high winds and rain-induced floods. In an absolutely brilliant move, the MTA kept customers apprised of the ongoing situation through their Flickr account, visually documenting the storm on their infrastructure. Some of the photos even wound up in the trending topics of twitter – a monumental achievement for the MTA’s social media endeavors.

I reposted many of the MTA’s photos under the title of Metro-North and the Aftermath of Irene, Damage Photos, and it was the number one post of the year on I Ride the Harlem Line.

Read More

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.

Read More

Be nice to your conductor, or you’ll wind up on the internet…

By now you’ve likely seen the video that last week became a viral sensation – namely a woman arguing with a conductor (and getting kicked off of) a Metro-North train. Uploaded Tuesday by YouTube user Zanzibar78 (real name Casey, age 33, who has now gone “missing”), the video was picked up by a wide range of websites, including the Huffington Post, Gawker and Gothamist. The person that uploaded the video likely had no clue how popular it would get, and has since shut their YouTube account down. But of course, this is the internet. Nothing ever really gets deleted here. Other people who downloaded the video have reuploaded it… and in case you didn’t actually see the video, here it is:

Again, I must say, this is the internet. And most unfortunately for the obnoxious woman, the video was sent to so many people (especially locals) that by Friday afternoon she had been identified. I’m going to refrain from posting her name, but it isn’t hard to find via a google search. Information from her internet profile coincides with information she stated in the video (namely, she’s originally from Garrison), so the ID is likely accurate. Her LinkedIn profile as well as her presence on Twitter and Facebook have been deleted, but need I say it again? This is the internet. People took screenshots of it all before the deletion, and you can find those easily via search as well… including some rather strange photos taken from her Photobucket account before that too was deleted. Someone has even made a fan page for her on Facebook, touting some of her best quotes.

Does this whole situation sound familiar to you, though? It does to me. Have you heard of the “Dog Poop Girl“? The woman was a subway rider in Seoul, South Korea, where she would occasionally take her dog. One day, the dog pooped on the floor of the subway, and despite other passengers asking her to clean it, she refused and got off the train. Someone, of course, took pictures, and she too was identified and harassed via the internet.

And yes, I said harassed – as much as I love this video, as much as I know that maybe, just maybe, this girl will have some sense knocked into her, I also know that someone will take it too far. It doesn’t take much to figure out her address, or even her phone number. But all of that would be, most definitely, going too far. The whole internet now is familiar with what education this girl has had – but she is now becoming “well-educated” in the school of internet vigilantism.

Here is my public service announcement to everyone – you should be nice to your conductor. If you’re an asshole, your picture might just wind up on the internet… especially since there are plenty of sites like Subway Douchery, and Kiss My Commute that would just love to post your picture. Even I’ve been known to post pictures of obnoxious people from time to time. Honestly though, I really shouldn’t have to say this. When you get off the train in the evening, why don’t you say “Good Night”? Or in the morning say “Good Morning.” And maybe “Please” and “Thank You” too. It isn’t hard. After all, it is a conductor that gets your drunk ass home on New Years, and put up with so many people’s crap on a day to day basis. I’ve heard people say things to conductors that I would never even type on this blog (and I certainly have no qualms about using the f-word, these are way beyond that).

Seriously though. Good morning, good night, please, thank you – this is basic stuff you should use throughout your life – not just on the train. Be a nice person, and don’t wind up on the internet. You probably won’t enjoy it if you do.

Read More

Japan’s Beautiful Shinkansen

I have a bit of a problem when it comes to focusing on things. My mind is always in a million places at once. I am notorious for starting things and never finishing them… in addition to having a whole bunch of awesome ideas that I never end up acting on. Over a year ago I rode my first high-speed “bullet train” in Japan… and I never posted anything about it. As I started posting things from my most recent trip, I figured it was probably about time to go through some of my even older photos, and actually get them posted.

Japan’s shinkansen is beautiful, at least in my opinion. The front is is long, sleek, and aerodynamic… at least on the N700 Series, which is the one I took. The Nozomi (“super high speed”) service took 2 hours and 20 minutes to go from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Tokaido Line, a distance of nearly 300 miles. The train’s top speed is 186 miles per hour. Part of the beauty of the high speed system in Japan is that the shinkansen has dedicated tracks, and no grade crossings. The ride is rather scenic, but because the train never intersects with roads there occasionally periods where the train will run in tunnels completely underground. I was amused, because it felt like every time I started recording the view on my video camera, we went through tunnels.

At the beginning of the video is a little jingle… this is another awesome thing about the trains in Japan. Sometimes there are so many different train lines that converge at one point, and it is hard to know which train is which. All you really have to do is listen though. Trains of different lines have different jingles, which allows you to audibly distinguish between the trains. Though I do wonder sometimes how anyone who actually works on those trains and hears the jingles all day long doesn’t go postal. I certainly heard those jingles in my dreams!

 
   
  
   
  
 
   

Read More

Tuesday Tour of the Harlem Line: Bronxville

15.3 miles north of Grand Central on the Harlem Line, lies the station of Bronxville – located in the village of Bronxville, and the town of Eastchester. It is one of the more heavily used stations on the line, only Scarsdale and White Plains get more commuters. The railroad has had a presence in Bronxville since 1844, and like many of the suburbs along the line, grew significantly because of it. Bronxville is relatively small – the village is only one square mile, and has a population of around 6,500. It is not only one of the most affluent areas on the Harlem Line and Westchester, it is certainly one of the more affluent areas in the entire country.

Architecturally Bronxville’s station is very different than the tudor-style stations seen at other locations such as Hartsdale and Scarsdale. It was built in Mission Revival style, taking after the Hotel Gramatan, which was built in Bronxville in 1905. Mission Revival is more common in the west and specifically in California – and now that the hotel it was modeled after was torn down in the 1970′s – Bronxville station looks a little bit out of place stylistically. Nonetheless, it is still a beautiful building, and although the inside has seen many changes, the outside is very similar to how it was when completed in 1917. Unfortunately the Saturday I visited the station building was not open, so I never got to see how exactly that inside looked.

The architect for the station was A.F. Haldeman, and not much is known about him. It is possible that he was an architect on the staff of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. The only other projects I have seen him referenced in are a freight house in Manhattan, which most likely no longer exists, work on the Port Morris railroad yard, and stairwells for the Harlem station.









For an amusing bit of history, be sure to check out this newsreel video of Bronxville from 1933, Loving husbands face jail for kissing wives:

And here are a couple of views of the station in 1988:

Read More

A trip to the city to promote Winnebago Man

I effing love the Winnebago Man. I have loved that video on YouTube forever. And I clearly remember laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes. At my work we happen to get a lot of freelancers coming in and out, and we have a bonding ritual here in our little studio (nicknamed “The Cave”), out of view of the other suit-and-tie employees… we must watch Winnebago Man (and the Alabama Leprechaun video). The origins of the video clip are a little bit interesting for a web-designer working for a marketing team. Viral videos, and viral marketing, more specifically, are the buzzwords of the day. But it is certainly not a term I’ve heard used before the internet was widespread. But yet, Winnebago Man’s origins are from the days of VHS tape (originally filmed in 1988), passed around amongst friends, and beyond, which could arguably classify it as a pre-YouTube viral video.

So when I heard that there would be a documentary based on the Winnebago Man, I was ecstatic. I followed the updates on Twitter… and when I heard they were looking for people to help promote on the street team, I signed up along with my friend. Last night we took the train to the city after passing out some cards in the White Plains area to promote the film. Although we were focused on leaving them at restaurants and the like, people seemed to be really curious what we were doing. Which is totally opposite to what I would have imagined. Those people standing on the street corners attempting to hand you papers, they are damn obnoxious. And most people won’t take them… the ones that do often throw them away not far down the street. So when people off the street walk up to you and want to see what you’ve got, that surprised me. Any extra flyers we had were posted on poles or other places around for people to see.

And best of all, we met some interesting people on this little adventure. A restaurant host that wanted extra flyers to hand out to friends. Some great artists in the Union Square area (whom I gave my little IRideTheHarlemLine card, I hope they email me, I’d love to post some of their subway related art/photography on here). And even people that saw the flyer and recognized Jack Rebney, having seen the video.

It was a great little adventure last night… except for the nasty lady who took off her shoes and socks on the train, but I’m trying to forget that part. If you happen to be in the city though, you should definitely check out Winnebago Man. It comes out tomorrow.

Read More