Superstorm Sandy

A Free New Haven Line Photo Jaunt to Milford stopping at both Fairfields, Stratford and Westport on a Crowded Express Train North and a 20 Minute Late Express Back and Home via the Hudson Line — LIRR & MNR Free! Part 3

This is the final post (Post 1|Post 2) in a three part series documenting my Adventures on mostly the free LIRR and Metro-North Railroads after Governor Cuomo declared a transit emergency after Superstorm Sandy

I am at Grand Central, boarding the 2:34 express train to New Haven. I walk the relatively short train, you enter the lower level platforms not quite at the back of trains and realize the first two cars, a bar car and another M2 are closed off and decided to stand at the door to enjoy the ride out of Grand Central before trying to decide on a seat. Just before we get to 125th Street the conductor removes the do not enter line from the door position seat so I go and sit down there and am joined by a seat mate as the train gets even more crowded. We head through Harlem and over the Park Avenue lift span again and this time don’t take the branch to head up the Harlem River at Mott Haven Junction. Its a relatively uneventful ride as we curve off at Wakefield to take the short spur over to New Rochelle where we join Amtrak on the NEC.

Heading through Westchester on one of the middle tracks I notice quite a few stations are using bridgeplates, the normal Connecticut-bound track seems to be out of service, the catenary system still being fixed after the storm. Eventually we toally wrong-railed and came into greenwhich on the opposite, New York-bound platform. Here the train empties out a decent amount. There is a reason why many of the semi-stop New Haven expresses stop in Greenwich, its a busy station. We leave and immediately switch back to an express track for a New York-bound local to enter Greenwich going the other way. This railway is definitely still in the recovery stage post-Sandy.

At Stamford the train gets crowded again with people, we are 3 minutes late. Soon the conductor actually announced “It’s a free ride declared by the governor” without actually specifying which which one (I have entered Connecticut). I have spontaneously look at my timetable to figure out which station and strategy of doubling back will get me the most stops before dark. I decide to get off at the modern and new Fairfield-Metro Stop (it opened as an infill station a year ago) at 3:51. I get there and have 9 minutes for a photo essay. I get one of the really simple modern side platforms with glass canopies and tiny windscreen only waiting areas.

At 4:00 a New York-bound train comes in, 2 minutes late, and takes me only one stop to Fairfield (the original station). Here I get some photos of the New York-bound platform before noticing a Metro-North cop sitting in squad car by the station house and don’t venture into the parking lot as much as I probably wood of. I go over to the much less interesting New Haven-bound platform early then I might and board the next train in that direction (a Friday only trip) at 4:13, which is 3 minutes late. This slight lateness is actually unusual in my experience with Metro-North, you can usually set your watch to their trains. I go and sit in the closed M2 Bar Car all the way to Stratford where I arrive at 4:27. The annoying thing about this ride was I heard each announcement 3 times from different conductors because some cars were having issues with their PA systems. I run over to the New York-bound platform to get pictures of its station house and come back to the New Haven-bound platform. I take the next train at 4:39 one stop to Milford at 4:45. Milford I have a busy time at (and might have taken the following train if I wasn’t on such a strict schedule) but I’m on the next train out at 4:58. I take this train to Southport the last stop of the day, if it was summer I would have kept going on. Southport is a neat station with two completely offset platforms each on the opposite side of the station’s grade crossing. This photo stop drags into the sunset until darkness.

I look at the timetable and notice that the next New York-bound train isn’t until 6:32 but if I backtrack to Fairfield an express will stop at 6:04 with 8 minutes to spare, if I double-back on the next train. I hope this is enough time as 5:56 comes and goes eventually at 6:01 the train arrives. We arrive in Fairfield at 6:04 when my New York-bound train is scheduled to leave. I am standing at the door and dash over as it opens to the concrete road overpass (which doesn’t let you have a clear view of the tracks) and over to the New York-bound platform. There is a crowd waiting, I even get a few night photos, before it arrives 3 minutes late at 6:07 with M8s, so no front window today.

It is one of my most memorable main line Metro-North trips (branch line trips I remember since most of them I’ve ridden only once or twice) home for many reasons, first they announce that were bypassing Greenwich and those passengers will need to switch to the local (there letting the real rush hour trains stop at that station with limited bridge plates). Next comes the contrast of going through towns that are experiencing blackouts. Westport Station is in the dark south of the tracks, along with the southbound platform at Darien. At Stamford passengers on the train change, we come in on the normal New York-bound platform but its announced the next local is on the opposite, normally New Haven-bound platform. We leave Stamford and switch to the middle and then New York express track which is the only New York-bound track in service with bridge plates set up, they want the rush hour trains to stop at the real platforms. The lights are out at both Old Greenwich and Riverside before coming back on at Cos Cob. Were moving quite slowly and come to a crawl at Greenwich where we could have opened our doors at the bridgeplates (for maybe four cars) set up but don’t stop. The LED displays say ‘Track Change’ and people are scurrying over the overpass.

Parallel to I-95, we enter New York State and its darker than normal, no streetlights are on on I-95. We pass Port Chester which has power by bridge plates still with all trains wrong-railing. At Rye we start crawling and stopping. As a reverse peak train we clearly have less priority and rush hour express zoom by us on the left hand tracks. We finally get to Harrison with like two bridgeplates set up. At 6:54 two trains speed by us in the other direction, there doing track work and the power is out along the line, and go between stopping and slow running.
At 6:57 we slowly go past the bridge plates and through Mamaroneck. There lights around us, trains pass us full speed, expresses heading back to Connecticut.
7:03 — Larchmont station lights on but clearly no power in town, trains keep zooming by the other way. We keep inching along.
7:09 (7:07 is are scheduled arrival time into 125th Street) — stop for a Stamford local the pass.
7:11 — Finally New Rochelle on a track towards the middle of the ROW as we regain speed. A northbound diesel passes (Metro-North has a few new haven diesel trains during rush hours)
7:15 — Mt Vernon East with temporary lights and we slow down again
7:20 &mdsah; Woodlawn and gain some speed in the Bronx
7:27 — a Harlem line train passes the other way. We go trough Melrose. I’m wondering if I’ll make a 7:35 or 7:38 Hudson Line train back up to Marble Hill. Someone actually asks we’re are we? and the car has a bit of a laugh at how were over 20 minutes late.
7:30 — over the Deegan and the Harlem River into Manhattan.
We arrive into 125th Street at 7:32 and I run down (via the street) since I’m at that staircase to the southern side of Park Avenue and not the station house side to catch the 7:35 express to Marble Hill (the 7:38 is a local to Greystone). I’m heading home the same way my day started. They Announce “First four cars for Marble Hill, next stop.” I walk up to the second car from the front disoriented and double check with the conductor I’m in an okay car. We slowly go over the Harlem River and stop at the Mott Haven wye before proceeding along the Harlem River.

It’s an On Time Marble Hill arrival at 7:45. I go back up the long staircase and up to the elevated 1 train station where the countdown clock says the second 1 train is running all the way to South Ferry before correcting itself. The 1 train is quite crowded. I get off at 181 Street where the line to get onto the elevator is backed up onto the overpass, a Uptown 1 train has unfortunately just arrived. I shove my way (there enough elevators, the landing is just far too small) and take the elevator up to the surface before walking back downhill to 184 Street and taking my closed A train station elevator back up the hill to get home a little after 8:00, quite good timing coming from Harlem-125th Street. Too bad it normally would be far too expensive.