Shore Line East and Old Saybrook

In keeping with last week’s theme of exploring Connecticut, today we take a quick visit to the southern coast of the state to check out Shore Line East. As part of the important Northeast Corridor, many of the stations along the line have a long history with the old New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. Though some of the railroad historical buildings are still around (like the freight house, now restaurant in Old Saybrook), most of the Shore Line East stations are of relatively new construction (the exceptions being New Haven, which we’ve visited before, and New London, which deserves its own post at some point in the future).

Shore Line East is operated by Amtrak, so you’ll often catch CDOT locomotives in the old New Haven Railroad scheme, Amtrak locomotives, or a horrible mixture of both (hey boss, I put our sticker on the front, and painted over the Amtrak logo!). The service itself is fairly young – Shore Line East trains began running in May of 1990 – and the line was only supposed to be temporary while construction was being done on Interstate 95. Due to its popularity, however, Shore Line East became permanent.

Some views of the smaller stations on Shore Line East – Branford, Madison, Guilford, and Clinton.

Of the newer Shore Line East stations, Old Saybrook is probably the nicest, and a pretty good place for capturing trains. Besides the Shore Line East trains, about eighteen Amtrak trains stop here daily (which is actually more than Hartford, which we visited last week). Three tracks run through Old Saybrook, and the station consists of a side platform, an island platform, and an overpass connecting the two. Because it was started as a temporary operation, little money was spent on Shore Line East stations. However, once the service became permanent, proper stations were constructed, the first being Old Saybrook in 2002. Branford, Guilford, and Clinton were opened in 2005, and Madison in 2008.

Most Shore Line East trains terminate at Old Saybrook, though a few do go on to New London. The bane of Connecticut’s railroads are definitely the many movable bridges found along the shore line. Some are over a hundred years old, and cause slowdowns and nightmares for Metro-North. In Shore Line East’s case, the challenge to operating more service to New London is that trains must cross several movable bridges, bridges that the Connecticut Marine Trades Association fights to keep open for boats, as opposed to closed for trains. While some have big plans for the service (like connecting it to Rhode Island), it is these local issues that will have to be addressed first (not raiding the state’s Special Transportation Fund is another…).


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Tuesday Tour of Metro-North: A new system map

By now you are probably aware that I finally finished my three-year-long project to photograph every Metro-North station – all one hundred and twenty three of them. For my “final” Tuesday Tour post, I thought it would be nice to post a map which links to the photographic tours of every station. Though I’ve tried my hand at doing some Harlem Line maps in the past (they were crappy) and made an acceptable stab at a map of the West of Hudson Lines, I never really attempted a system-wide map. I’m not the biggest fan of Metro-North’s maps, especially how they deal with multi-line stations like Fordham (admittedly, it is not a bad map when you compare it to this atrocious Metro-North publication!), so I wanted to do something drastically different.

I guess when I say drastically different, I mean cleaner, hopefully easier to read, and showing info that the official map does not contain. One addition was Metro-North’s extra services, namely game/special event trains. Including them explains visually how Metro-North’s main lines connect, something most railfans probably know, but the average rider may not. The official map doesn’t properly illustrate that the Harlem and New Haven Lines run side by side up to Woodlawn, that they can both head onto the Hudson Line for Yankees games, or that the New Haven Line can diverge and follow Amtrak’s path into Penn Station and Secaucus for football games. Other additional info I included are limited-service stations, and shared stations. A handful of Metro-North’s stations also have Amtrak service, and in the case of New Haven station, Amtrak and Shore Line East service.

In all, my map is more of a “diagram” than anything. Some geography has been compromised a little bit for easier viewing and aesthetics. But every station name and dot links directly to its respective Tuesday Tour full of photos and history, so it is certainly an interesting way to see the system as a whole. Since the map is large, it will open in a new window. Click the preview image below to launch the map!


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Where are the trains?

Hello, and welcome to planet Earth. The Earth is a planetary body that revolves around the sun… unless you are one of the many Metro-North riders that have the erroneous belief that the world actually revolves around them. Those special people are known to cause scenes on the morning train (like the woman I saw last week yelling, “for every minute we’re late I’m docked pay!”), and somehow have the strange belief that Metro-North has one train running on each line: their train. The remainder of us, however, are well aware that the busiest commuter railroad in the country certainly has more than 3 trains running at a time. But how many? And where are they?

I had a kind of silly idea – I would create a map that showed the location of every Metro-North train at an arbitrary time during the morning rush. That way people would be able to really visualize how many trains there are, and to understand that they aren’t alone on the rails – not by a long shot. The map would provide a quick snapshot of what exactly is happening on every weekday morning. Somehow along the way the map turned into a little bit more interactive of a piece – using Google maps, one can zoom in and out, pan, and click on each train placemark for more information. Then I got a little bit more crazy – I added in the Shore Line East and Amtrak trains passing over Metro-North territory, as well as the deadheads I was aware of. If anything, there could be more trains than what are currently shown, but for the most part it is fairly exact.

If you click the above image, the interactive map should open in a new window. You can click any train placemark for more information. Any train deadheading (moving from one place to another, but not carrying passengers) will be labeled “not in revenue service.” You can also toggle on and off the various lines to, for example, show only Harlem Line trains. By default all trains are turned on – and there are quite a lot of them. Did you realize there were quite that many? Perhaps the subtitle of this map should be “RTC’s are awesome and I salute them.”

I must thank Eric (@kc2hmv) for doing quite a bit to help me get this map looking awesome, as my programming skills are nonexistent (the toggle feature was all him!). Secondary thanks goes to this site, as I based the design of my map off of the clean and nicely done commuter map found there.

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