RAILROAD SIGNALS of the U.S.
A day trip to NYC for National Train Day
National Train Day this year marks the end of a year long excursion for Amtrak's 40th Anniversary Train. Because of work going on at Union Station in Washington DC, Amtrak decided to host the event at Grand Central Terminal in New York City. And what an event it was!
Getting old, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend a whole day driving to New York, looking for a place to park, and being inconvenienced by what many consider one of the worst cities to visit because of of the (bad) things they hear about. So I threw around the idea of going to NYC for weeks. Having spent a lot of youth in the Queens because my grandparents lived there, I still feel comfortable in wandering around NYC by myself, even in areas I probably shouldn't :-)
So I booked a train instead of deciding to drive. I haven't ridden trains for quite a few years, and for once, I'm glad I didn't drive.
Getting the tickets itself is a whole 'nuther story, cause I decided to have fun doing it (I know, not many consider taking public transportation FUN). So I took the light rail from Timonium down to Mt Royal where I caught the train over to Penn Station. Being a chatty person, I missed the train leaving Penn Station after BSing with the light rail ticket inspector, and the Amtrak guy at the ticket counter. Not wanting to wait 30 minutes to catch the next train leaving, I went up to St Paul street to catch a bus into downtown. Baltimore has a "new" bus service called the Charm City Circulator, which is a free bus service and has three loops in the downtown area... the best part about it is that it is free. The busses are really nice compared to the MTA's busses too. So I took that bus down to Baltimore street where I caught the Metro over to the Johns Hopkins station to meet up with the wife for the trip home, as she works down there. Once and a while, you can catch a CSX freight coming through Mt Royal while waiting for the light rail.
Besides going to New York for the Anniversary train, I wanted to catch up taking pictures with things I had not done before or lately, so I had on my list to ride (of course) the subway system, the LIRR, PATH, and the railroad formerly known as SIRT, now just the Staten Island Railroad (SIR), the Staten Island Ferry, and visit the Transit Museum and the 911 Memorial. I would have liked to take a ride on Metro North and NJT, but there simply wasn't enough time in 15 hours to fit it all in.
The trip started at Baltimore's Penn Station at 3:55am on Amtrak train #150, on time with the schedule stating 3:54, and given that our watches are usually not accurate. I was surprised there were as many people waiting for the train as there were.... there was about 15 people there besides my self. Getting on the train, the train was pretty empty, and I had my choice of seats. It was a quiet ride up, but I think Amtrak should kill the overhead lights under the luggage rack on a night train like this.
Train #150 is the first train on the Northeast Regional time table for the weekends. The train is scheduled to depart B'more at 3:54, and my watch said 3:55. The train arrived in NYC at 6:32, which is 8 minutes early.
After taking pictures around Penn Station, and grabbing a quick breakfast At McD's, we picked up an unlimited MetroCard for $29.95, not knowing how many times I was going to be going through the turnstiles. At $2.25 for one trip, I figured I would be close to using all of it's value... guess I should have sold it before leaving New York, huh? :-)
From Penn Station I hopped on the #1 down to South Ferry, it's terminus. The artwork is down by where you go to the #1 line, and the Pennsylvania tile work is inside the station. It's the original decor of the station.
One of the things that probably annoys the majority of us railfans, is the disappearance of those great "front" windows for us to look out the front of the subway cars. Back in the 60's when I was a teenager and you could ride all day long for 15 cents, I wore out my right hand holding onto the door handles looking out the windows. The SIR trains still have a small hole, but the one time I was trying to take pictures through it, someone else in the cab besides the operator told me not to take pictures cause it was distracting to the operator.... dunno why, the only one that could see a lens up at the whole was the person complaining, and you couldn't get pics of the operator if you tried. That was the first of only two "run-ins" I had all day, not too bad.
Once down at South Ferry, I took a brisk walk over to the Staten Island Ferry. I stepped up the pace when I saw others doing the same. Once inside the terminal, it was only about three minutes before the ferry started loading up. Don't know why, but they wouldn't let you go topside, my how times have changed :-( Starting in 1997, they made the ferry free, but they also quit taking vehicles. In the aerial shot of South Ferry, you can see the type of ferry that took us over to the island, it is a smaller one than pictured in the thumbnail.
The photo below is of the Staten Island ferry terminal.
The Staten Island trains are scheduled to leave about 8 minutes after the ferries arrive, so you can't piddle around unless you want to wait another 30 minutes.
I decided to get off at the Old Town station. mostly because you could see a few signals from there, although they were only dwarfs. The SIRT as you may or may not know, was at one time part of the B&O Railroad, and because of that, they used B&O signals instead of regular colorlight or transit signals. The MTA a number of years ago was going to replace them, but have put it off for an indeterminate amount of time. Below is the inbound train I took, and one of the dwarf signals several hundred feet down the track.
I got off of the inbound at the Tompkinsville station, figuring I could walk back to the ferry if I had to. I was able to catch a couple of other trains while there, and some of the regular high signals.
The Tompkinsville station.
I didn't feel like either waiting for another train, or walking, so I caught a bus back to the terminal, where I took pictures of the signals, the busses, and the surroundings.
Once back at the terminal, I went for a walk to see what trouble I could get into, and these are a few of the pictures I grabbed
I got to talking to one of the maintenance guys who told me where the yard was, and that I might be able to catch some of the engines, so I hopped on the next train heading out and got off at the Clifton station. Couldn't see much.
The next train back came shortly, so we hopped on it, headed back to the terminal, and took the next ferry back to Manhattan - which is when I took the picture at the top of the page... not too shabby for a non-SLR.
Once back, I got snookered into one of them helicopter rides. Well, not really snookered, cause I love them things. If I had the money, I'd go get a license to fly one :-) We left the pad and flew around the Statue of Liberty, and then headed up the Hudson on the east side to about Central Park, and then came back down along the west bank, getting good shots of Hoboken from the air..... the trip worked out good riding by myself, as I got to ride shotgun in the front, and the two couples that were on my flight were stuck in the back.....
After the chopper ride, it was up to Grand Central Terminal for Train Day. The Bowling Green station was closed because they were doing track work on the station, so I walked over to Whitehall St and caught the R up to Canal St, then caught the #6 up to Grand Central.
Grand Central was packed for National Train day. Amtrak and MetroNorth both had a bunch of equipment on display as can be seen from the photos.
From Grand Central Terminal, I went down to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. We got back on a #4 and took it to 14th St/Union Square, and transferred back to the R, which took me to Jay St/Metro Tech.
The museum is about 8 blocks away, and the walk isn't all that bad. Be sure to take a map along so you know where you are going if you decide to visit the museum. It is a great museum, and is in a station no longer used in revenue service.
After staying at the museum till it closed, and you need a whole lot more than 45 minutes to go thru it, I went back to the same station, and caught my second favorite line, the F, to 74th St in the Queens, one stop up the IRT #7 line from where my grandparents lived on 69th Street. From there, I went up to the #7 line, and headed over to Woodside, making a quick stop at 69th St to see what they've done with the place (I spent a lot of time around here as a teenager back in the 60's, riding the subway all day for 15 cents! :-)
The map below shows where these places are in relation to each other. The dark green line is the 4 track IND line zipping thru, with a local stop at 65th St (the M & the R), and an express/local stop at Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave. At this point, your really on the fringe of Jackson Heights, but that's where my grandparents said they lived. The red line is the IRT #7 line, and the stop where I transferred is 74th St/Broadway, the 7 equivalent to Jackson Heights below on the F line. The orange line is the former New Haven line into Brooklyn, and was double tracked till the mid 80's. The blue line in the lower left corner is the Long Island. The apartment building I grew up in during the summers has the red arrow pointing to it, and we were in the corner that faced Hell Gate, which is above us and a little to the left, say 11 o'clock. The green dot is where a White Castle used to be, and the red dot my favorite electronics store.
Below is an aerial view of the same area. The stations are pointed to by the green arrows. The red arrow points to the apartment building, notice there is nothing in the way to obscure sight lines to LaGuardia, Hell Gate, the Empire State building, 69th St, and the New Haven. What a cool spot! The yellow arrow points at a re-alignment done to the right-of-way, I believe in the early 90's when they were working on the BQE to soften the S-curve going under the tracks. I saw many an accident there when it rained. The orange arrow points to where a SB semaphore used to be till maybe the late 80's. The Blue line is Broadway, the white line is the BQE, and Roosevelt Ave runs under the #7 line.
At Woodside, we got pictures of the LIRR pedestal signals on the inbound side of the platforms. On the outbound side, they have the new "tri-light" color light signals in place, replacing the full size PL signals :-(
From Woodside, we caught a LIRR train back into Manhattan. The train was packed for a hockey game later in the evening. There was barely standing room in any of the cars. The windows on the Long Island train were terrible to shoot through, not that I could get near one anyways.
Nice emblem on the side of the Long Island cars.
Throughout the course of the day, I came across about 7 or 8 people/groups in the subway system. The picture on the right is of the Meetles, and I guess their first album was "Meet the Meetles" :-) The drummer had the audacity to come over to me and demand I made a contribution.
We finally took a break to eat something around 7:30-8:30pm before heading over to the PATH. I got on at the 33rd St station. Found out that PATH doesn't accept the weekly MTA pass, and had to fork over mo money to ride.
The PATH train, on it's way to Newark, stopped at Hoboken. We got to Newark with about 25 minutes to spare before the Amtrak train came along.
Coming back, I was on Train #167, and it was packed. Shouldn't have gotten on in Newark :-) I got on the coach car behind the business class car, and kept walking and walking and walking, never finding a spot to sit. As I walked through the cafe car, which was the 2nd to the last car, a bunch of guys on their way home from a Yankees game started having fun with me because of my (still out) cameras, so since I wasn't having any luck finding a seat, I decided to hang with these guys.... at least they were having fun :-) They were a bunch of guys that worked for Amtrak in Philadelphia, so once they got off, it became almost eerily silent :-)
Last Modified 08-Jun-2014