Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

A Round-Trip on the New Jersey Shore Beach Express for a Station-to-Station Bike Ride

The best time to plan a day photographing the southern diesel shuttle end of the North Jersey Coast Line (not including rush hour) is during a Summer weekend when the frequency of the Shuttle trains increases from roughly every other hour to hourly to  accommodate the influx of beach goers. In addition this year there are two special Weekend Shore Express trains designed to get people from New York and Newark down to the shore faster (saving about 20 minutes in travel). When I go on my website trips I have a habit of ending up on local trains (I guess on Metro-North especially) and since I’m not doing evening peak round-trips there is something nice about zooming through local stations. Today I headed down the North Jersey Coast Like with my bicycle (again, I think its become my new website routine to get the out of the way stations that I’m basically down to) and I’ve now photographed every station on the diesel portion of the line. I rode three trains today, the last two (my one ride on the Bay Head Diesel Shuttle and my return trip) had great crews who were doing their jobs well being friendly and making plenty of announcements. My first time ride today had an awful crew especially with this new express service pattern that no ones used to. They never touched the PA system once and I noticed two people that became run-bys, carried past their destinations that we skipped. One had his ticket collected and the conductor didn’t even notice the destination (NJT prints actual destinations, not zones).

The trip down:

I think it’s turning into a tradition, on my train station photo essay bike trips. I can’t bike as fast as I think. I leave the house at 9:05. Thinking I have plenty of time. I don’t get to New York-Penn Station until 9:55 and quickly carry my bike down the stairs into the Amtrak Concourse. there is nearly a line at the NJT TVMs in the Amtrak Concourse (generally its empty) and an NJT Customer Assistant helping folks. I buy my ticket to Spring Lake for $15.50 (the first destination of the day, I’m not dealing with PATH with my bike, not worth it) and am surprised that the Beach Express is boarding on the LIRR’s track 15. The destination sign at the track entrance says Bay Head (not Long Branch with connections to Bay Head). I get to the platform and find a bunch of Comet IIs that lack a middle door, I’m told up at the front and find a Comet IV that has a slightly different ADA seating area (than a Comet V like my trip to Tuxedo earlier this week) to bungee cord my bike to. Another odd duck man with his bike follows me in. He just relies on his kickstand. I tried to continue up to the Comet V cab car (bigger windows) but I’m told no room by the crew before I get up there.
The train leaves on time at 10:01.

  • 10:07 – out of the North River Tubes and through the Meadowlands.
  • 10:09 – Bypass Secaucus on the Express Tack 2. The middle tracks are the ‘siding’ tracks normally used by local stopping tracks. We go through the Meadowlands.
  • 10:12 – Kearney and a train the other way.
  • 10:15 – Newark Penn, we arrive 2 minutes early. A Raritan Valley line does a move that surpluses me. It enters on track 5 (normally it only leaves from there). I guess it’s skipping the yard move. The Silver Meteor comes into the station as we stop. It has a second heritage dining car and the Iowa Pacific Carintas at the back with a rear observation platform. We close the doors at 10:16 and then pull up slightly, before actually leaving at 10:18. The doors don’t reopen.
  • 10:21 – skip EWR
  • 10:23 – pass the huge abandoned factory and North Elizabeth
  • 10:25 – Elizabeth. The platform is crowded but not too many people get on. An Amtrak Keystone and some MLVs skip the station as were in it. No announcements that were an express. A third bike (a man with a BMX gets on my car. There a few passengers who’ve gotten on the wrong train. The crews response “Look at the Schedule.” You really need to at least announce the next stop on an express train. I’m wondering if the PA system is malfunctioning. My seat check has vanished but the other conductor luckily remembers me.
  • 10:30 – Linden bypassed and the huge abandoned yard.
  • 10:33 – Rahway. The third bike gets off who boarded in Elizabeth. (I would have just ridden my bike). Again no announcements about the next stop. A southbound Amtrak Regional passes
  • 10:36 – curve off the Northeast Corridor and seem to gain more speed alone on the start of the North Jersey Coast Line.
  • 10:38 – Avenel that I’m still amazed has high-level platforms
  • 10:40 – High Ball through Woodbridge and over the turnpike and past the Industry
  • 10:42 – Over the approach to the Outerbridge Crossing, if only I could cross it with my bike. I realize I’m really sick of smelling the bathroom and would move if I wasn’t traveling with my bike.
  • 10:43 – Bypass Perth Amboy.
  • 10:45 – Over Raritan Bay, one of the most scenic spots on NJT. We pass northbound MLVs.
  • 10:46 – Slowly through South Amboy
  • 10:48 – Rare interlocking with a siding and we come to a stop as we begin the coastal running portion of our trip.
  • 10:53 – We cross the next bridge, there doing track work on it, the other track is closed and covered with a tarp. We lose ventilation and lights from a voltage change in the catenary system. We regain speed.
  • 10:56 – cross the Garden State Parkway
  • 10:57 – Aberdeen-Matawan, our first stop on the actual Coast Line. A few people wait to board beach towels in hand. Single tracking continues as I notice a track gang. We lose ventilation again.
  • 11:00 – Lloyd interlocking with the two tail tracks where the trains that terminate at Aberdeen-Matawan are stored
  • 11:01 – Hazlet, bypassed and back to trees. I notice that the odd duck bike next to mine has slammed into my bike but don’t really care. I have an old bike.
  • 11:04 – We start and stop going through trees before regaining speed
  • 11:05 – Bypass Middletown. I know it’s a weekend, because the parking lots empty not full. A northbound train passes.
  • 11:08 – over the Navesink River and to a stop at Red Bank. We leave Red Bank and pass the empty not electrified yard.
  • 11:12 – bypass Little Silver, over more water and into trees. Another MLV Train northbound passes as we pass Monmouth Park racetrack. It’s open and I see horses.

As we arrive in Long Branch there is a man going to the race track who is mad that we didn’t stop and had his ticket was collected. The conductor asks him “Which girl collected your ticket?” (this trains crew was all women) He doesn’t respond, she barely finds her timetable to tell him the time of the next train back north to Monmouth Park.
We get to Long Branch at 11:20, no announcement that its the last stop or to transfer. Only the two rear coaches (Comet IIV and a Comet V cab car, the only ones NJT seems to use these days as cab cars) are open on the diesel shuttle train. I walk down the platform to the ADA area of the Comet V. The front half of the car is full. The rear empty. I ask two folks waiting for the bathroom to move so I can secure my bike. Their nice about it but look surprised when it move all six tip-up seats to fit my bike. The odd ball biker bike assumes he can leave his bike in the rear cab (“because you don’t need to use it right?” he tells the conductor). The conductor yells at him and tells him he’s actually breaking federal law by entering the cab of a train.

  • 11:23 – We leave Long Branch
  • 11:28 – Stop at Elberon. The conductor rolls his eyes at me as he passes because the odd duck with his bike is now standing with it in the vestibule. I double-check and am told that Spring Lake is low-level (I don’t remember)
  • 11:30 – here an annocement for Allenhurst and an advisory to wait for the train to leave and for the crossing gates to rise before crossing the tracks.
  • 11:31 – Allenhurst
  • 11:34 – notice an old depot, North Asbury Park
  • 11:35 – Asbury Park. There are a half dozen people getting on our train.
  • 11:37 – Bradley Beach
  • 11:41 – crossing the Shark River entering Belmar, I notice the adjacent road bridge is open for a passing boat.
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I wheel my bike through the crowd since Spring Lake is a low-level platform. The friendly conductor tells me he will open the door in both cars not just the other Comet (this doesn’t make sense to me). The southbound trip is complete.

The bike ride

I get my photo essay including of the oddest little waiting room at Spring Lake.

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I get on my bike and ride north to Belmar. Lock it up and spend about 15 minutes doing my photo essay. There is one thing I notice off in the distance, the railroad bridge is open. It forms an odd but nice backdrop for all my photos of this station.

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I notice a long traffic jam on Main Street and realize its because the Shark River Bridge is up. There is also a much higher highway like bridge for NJ-35 (that doesn’t need to move for all the pleasure boats) but it doesn’t allow pedestrians. I ride up along the traffic and watch the gates go up and the bridge reopening. As I cross I get these rather picturesque photos of a northbound train across the water.

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I continuing riding up to Bradley Beach and get the next southbound (hourly service means I barely need to check a timetable for train photos, they keep appearing)

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It’s back on my bike for a photo essay the boring, 1980s, modern Asbury Park Transportation Center that is a major bus connection

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Biking north, I catch a train passing the former station building at North Asbury Park. I find its reuse interesting the porches now inclosed (and tons of No Tresspassing signs)

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I keep riding north and wait a minute, I hear another train I dash over to the nearest grade crossing and get some photos

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I’m just a block south of Allenhurst Station, it has this odd enclosed shelter area attached to the modern professional building that is open for better or worse but has one of the worst (nearly vomit inducing) stenches of urine I’ve smelled in a long time. I don’t even walk inside just snapping a quick photo through the open door.

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I get back on bike for the modern Elberon Station

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After Elberon I decide to skip Long Branch I don’t have a full photo essay but its terminus status makes it a station I don’t feel like just stopping at with my bike. I decide its time for some ocean views and ride over to be above the beach. I might have gone down to the beach for a minute but the beach costs some money here (Had I bought NJT’s beach package I would have gotten a voucher for only a few cents more oh well). I get my Jersey Shore fix of Long Branch for the day and ride back inland until I smell the horses. It’s time for some photos of the current Monmouth Park Station (well there isn’t a platform you board straight up from the ballast!). A train stops while I’m there.

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Next I walk towards the actual entrance to the racetrack and find these rails sticking up from some overgrown brush.

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The rails are the remains of the special ‘Pony Express’ branch siding. This is where special diesel trains to and from the racetrack for most weekends Monmouth Park Racetrack meets ran until they were completely discontinued with the 2006 racing season. I guess no one has been doing maintenance. The tracks are extremely overgrown.

I get on my bike and keep heading north to Little Silver. It has a nice old stone station house that has a ticket office open until 9:30am but wait a cafe open until 2:00 or 3:00pm, I can get inside on another visit!

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My last stop of the day is Red Bank that I will have to come back to, it has a wonderful old station house that closes at 9:00AM! My camera dies in the middle of the photo essay because there are also two cops chilling in their truck at the station. They don’t seem to notice me but make me act extra careful.

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At 5:08 the northbound Beach Express comes into Red Bank two minutes late. It’s in pull mode with a single comet IV open in the front of train and a closed one just behind the open section of the train. I ask the conductor the conductor if I can get back to that car and am told the doors are broken. He does say I can board the Comet II here and run up to the open Comet IV on the platform at Matawan. This crew is good announcing express train, express train before we leave. I end up rigging something up with my bungie cords in the much smaller ADA area of a Comet II that gets some compliments from the crew.

We speed through Middletown and go slower through Hazlet. We then come to a stop with an announcement that were waiting for a piece of equipment to pass us. Soon some MLVs in push mode pass.
5:20 – start moving and switch onto the other track wrong-railing.
We arrive in Matawan with the new watch the crossing gates announcement. The crew announces were an express at least twice. They make a final “Crew Check your doors before we leave” the normal, New York-bound platform has closed signs on it.
We go over the Bridge with construction and go back onto the normal, New York-bound track after the coastal views, just before South Amboy (skip 5:32)

  • 5:33 – over the Raritan Bay. We lose ventilation. I didn’t think there is a voltage change here.
  • 5:35 – Bypass Perth Amboy
  • 5:38 – Bypass Woodbridge, the parking lots begin a ways before the station.
  • 5:42 – switch onto the NEC. This time the automated voice says “When leaving the train please watch the gap.” At least their isn’t a crossing gate announcement since were now on the grade-seperated NEC. They announce Elizabeth and Newark only multiple times, like it should be on a new express train at an odd-ball hour that no one is used to. Not the announcement free train this morning.
  • 5:50 – Elizabeth-Broad Street and a crowded platform at my car. The exit is in the back.
  • 5:52 – We leave with an announcement for “No Airport, No Secaucus.”
  • 5:54 – skip North Elizabeth and the abandoned factory
  • 5:56 – skip EWR. Then island interlocking for a freight track.
  • 5:59 – At Newark-Penn a ton of people get on. I assume a Raritan Valley Line train just arrived. Some foreigners decide to sit next to me. I notice they have EWR tickets too. I wonder if a train broke down or if they got off too early.
  • 6:02 – finally leave, let’s see if we’re held for ten minutes at Secaucus since our scheduled arrival time is 6:29. We roll over the Dock Bridge.
  • 6:03 – through Harrison. There is one women with cash. And another trying to get a connection at Secaucus, who knew about his mistake as soon as we left Hoboken.
  • 6:06 – Kearny. I see the Jersey City skyline with the Freedom tower looming above it. We make it over the Portal Bridge without opening mishaps.
  • 6:08 – full speed through Secaucus.
  • 6:10 – cross that connecting railway and enter the south North River Tube. Our conductors announce we will soon be arriving in Penn Station and to make sure you have your luggage, wallet, phone and keys. Also the usual check the overhead luggage racks for your belongings.
  • 6:13 – reach the daylight moment. I’m going to let the crowd get off before me.

At 6:15 we arrive in New York on stub end track 4
I let the crowd get off the Comet II (there so inefficient without a center door) a head of me and notice the rear cars I wasn’t allowed to board have opened. I have one final Penn Station adventure of the day. I walk up towards the rear of the train and follow a few signs to an elevator that should take me up to the Exit Concourse. I push the button, wait a minute and notice that the control key is in the ‘off’ position. I see signs for another elevator in the NJT concourse. This one comes (with a confused lady on it by mistake) and we both go back up to the NJT concourse. I take a second elevator that has numerous signs saying “Passengers Only, No Venders, No Freight” on it (and doesn’t smell great) up to the street inside the closed drop off loop out of Madison Square Garden.

I have a nice bike ride home through Central Park that is full of cops on call for the nearby and just ended Puerto Recon Day Parade that was today. The most interesting thing I notice transit wise are two ex-MTA Bus Orien Vs parked in the park in their paint scheme that the police must use to transport all their officers.

Comments

  1. Just FYI, all the Comet III are out of service and in storage (and they had center doors). The push-pull coaches in service are II (no center door), IV, and V.

    Posted by Eric Rivas

    Link | June 10th, 2013 at 9:30

  2. Thank you, I totally mixed up my Comets

    Posted by Jeremiah Cox

    Link | June 13th, 2013 at 9:23