Sad train is sad…

Sad train is sad...

Fare increases are in inevitable but depressing reality when it comes to riding the train. Starting March, Metro-North has unfortunately had to raise fares yet again. This, of course, has happened many times throughout history. In 1951 the New York Central distributed a brochure to Harlem and Hudson commuters regarding an upcoming fare increase, which I’d like to share with you… complete with an anthropomorphized sad train. Sad train is sad :(

Brochure Part 1

Brochure Part 2

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The Harlem Line, and the color blue

Just the other day I was chatting with a coworker about riding the train – she lives in Mount Vernon and mentioned occasionally riding the “red line” into the city. I had to chuckle a little bit – it is usually the uninitiated newbies that refer to the Metro-North lines by their colors. The color of each line, however, is deeply ingrained in all of us. From the signage on the platforms to the printed timetables, we all pretty much know that the Hudson Line is green, the Harlem blue, and the New Haven red. But where did these colors come from, and how long have they represented each line?

Most obvious is the New Haven Line. The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, of which today’s New Haven Line was once a part, long used red for printing and locomotive paint schemes. Although not part of the core Metro-North lines on the east of the Hudson River, I’ve always thought that the selection of orange to represent the Port Jervis line was a little bit clever – much of the line runs through Orange County. I’m not sure how the Harlem became blue, and the Hudson became green (you’d think it is backwards – blue seems more appropriate for the line that runs along the Hudson River), the two colors have been established long before Metro-North ever came into being. Their first usage on timetables dates back to around 1965.


One of the very first (in not the first) New York Central timetables where the Harlem Division is colored blue.


The first uses of the blue and green color for the Harlem and Hudson Divisions was not in the ink – it was the paper. These two are from April 1967.


Some of the earliest timetables using blue ink. Although there were a few more printings of timetables on blue paper, the blue ink on white paper became the standard, which continues today.

Blue ink on white paper eventually became the standard for Harlem timetables, though there were a few times over the years where the rules were totally broken. One of the most odd was an early timetable printed by Metro-North in 1983 – in maroon ink. I have no idea why anyone would have thought to print a Harlem Line timetable in maroon – my only assumption is that it was to catch people’s attention as it highlighted the electrification project underway north of White Plains.

Most amusingly, you’ll note a little mark on the bottom right that reads “Form 112.” Form 112 was the number assigned to Upper Harlem timetables since the New York Central days, which at that time meant service from Pawling to Chatham (or in the early 1900’s, North Adams, Massachusetts). It is a little bit odd to see that form number used for service north of White Plains. Calling stations like Valhalla, or Mount Kisco the Upper Harlem seems like blasphemy to me.

Today you won’t find form numbers on any of Metro-North’s timetables. Their inclusion in the early timetables almost seems like an in-joke amongst the old railroaders working for this new company. You won’t see “Upper Harlem” timetables either – the entire line is usually printed in a single timetable, making this particular timetable rare.

Below is the rest of the timetable, which is a bit interesting to see… especially the listing of the fares when Metro-North took over from Conrail in 1983.

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The first week…

If you haven’t realized by now, I tend to shy away from discussing the various political issues surrounding the MTA. I like to stick around in the history zone, and talk more about art and photography-related things. If you want politics and opinions, and can stomach about ten advertisement banners per page (my personal faves are the animated fat loss banners of the sketch-woman clenching a fatty gut in her hands), Second Avenue Sagas is probably the place for you.

However, we’ve almost completed the first week with our new MTA big boss Joe Lhota (albeit unofficially, until confirmed by the senate in January), and I had to say something. The media is scrutinizing his first moves in the big chair (fare hikes in 2013!), but I had to say, I liked this one article that I found: New MTA chief Joe Lhota calls on prosecutors to throw book at riders who attack transit workers. I think that is a good a place as any to start. What you probably do know from reading my blog, is that I do have a tremendous amount of respect for train conductors (I’m not going to say employees, as you all know there others that I do not hold in such high esteem). They are on the front lines, the public face of the company, and they deal with idiots for a good portion of their days. Many get significant compensation for this work, but it is a tradeoff for having few days off and transporting your drunk ass home on holidays like New Years.

In the summer when there was the New Haven Line incident of the stuck train near Greens Farms (which I never really said much about, either), passengers were furious. And one of the reasons was because during the incident the conductors hid in their cabs, or reportedly removed their uniforms. I always found myself giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they weren’t being shitty employees – they were just afraid of what a train full of irate passengers could do. I want to know what the statistics are for conductors that have been assaulted by passengers. And the sad thing is, that I would guess it is probably in the 90% range, if not higher. There have been broken noses, broken fingers, employees that have been hit with umbrellas, spit on, or had a glass bottle broken over their face when sticking their head out the cab window. And these are just stories that I know. I certainly support stiffer penalties for that sort of thing – I don’t care what job you’re in. You shouldn’t be doing that stuff to fellow human beings (or even animals for that matter!) I’d also be okay with a new MTA slogan of “ride the goddamn train/bus/subway and don’t be an asshole” but somehow I don’t think that would go over too well.

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