Metro-North Transit Adventures

The Underpowered New Haven Line and Amtrak at Harrison & Mamaroneck

The vast majority of the photos on my website have come from one camera, my Canon Rebel XTi Digital SLR that I bought with my high school graduation money now a little over six years ago. Recently its developed a terrible electrical problem shutting down a lot and combined with no lenses that really work. All 4 of my normal kit lenses I’ve broken or have broken in one way or another, the final one I scraped climbing Breakneck Ridge (didn’t take the train up, drove) two weekends ago, the day after my trip to finally visit Aqueduct Racetrack I finally broke down and bought a new camera. I end up buying the Canon Rebel SL1 yesterday, the smallest SLR ever because I like cameras that are light that I can keep in my bag to have at a moments notice on the subway.

Today I took it out for its first ride heading up to Westchester County to photograph the reduced operations on the New Haven Line. After a total electrical outage since Wednesday, between Harrison and Mount Vernon West because of a feeder cable failing while the back-up cable was out for repairs, today a new temporary substation came on line built by ConEd in the parking lot at the Harrison Station. This temporary substation – using residential power to be used for the remainder of this week while the permanent cables come on line – can electrify the wires but the limited juice can only accommodate a few trains on the crippled section of the line. Metro-North announced because of this they would run some electric express trains (to get through the power outage faster and use less power since they don’t have to accelerate and decelerate) and let Amtrak restore 5 (out of the normal 10) Acela Express trains to the schedule. The rest of the Northeast Regional, and Amtrak’s Vermonter would be towed through the now brownout, low power area by pairs of P42s running back to back simply attached to the AEM7 or HHP8. Metro-North local trains would continue operating using only dual-mode P32 diesel trainsets.

I start by crossing the park to 181 Street(6 Photos) and take my first few photos of the entrance before going downstairs and realize my new camera’s higher ISO ratings means I can get better action photos of trains entering and leaving underground stations. A R32 C train passes through the uptown track running light to the yard


I lack an unlimited ride MetroCard right now and end up going the very long way entirely via subway taking the A to 145 Street running up and over for the D train to 161 Street Yankee Stadium the 4 one stop to 149 Street-Grand Concourse before finally ending up on the 5 train to Baychester Avenue. I take pictures but these photos are the Bronx section that are in too old a format to make quick updates too (I need to rebuild) so I won’t share any yet.

At Baychester Avenue I walk over to Boston Road and wait about ten minutes for Bee-Line Bus Route 60 that gives me my transfer. Sitting on the bus I’m tracking Southbound Amtrak Train 173 and nearly get off in Larchmont to photograph it.I got off the bus at Mamaroneck at 3:40 and rushed up to a platform. I don’t quite know if I’ve missed photographing southbound Train 173 that has left Stamford at 3:26 an hour and two minutes late but as I track the train a bit and learn I’ve just missed it and its already gotten down to New Rochelle (its next stop).

I first photograph an M8 Express train like nothings wrong:


Then a northbound diesel local train:

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Then I use the underpass for a southbound diesel:


Southbound Acela Express Train #2167, running just (left Stamford) 19 minutes late, much better than the Regional. It makes Amtrak service seem totally normal:

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Some more diesel local trains passed through:

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Then the real star attraction passes through the station: The Northbound Lynchberger  – Northeast Regional Train #176 – is only about a half hour late. I’m particularly happy with the photo of the AEM7 going through sandwiched between the P42s and Amfleet car, pantograph down. I’ve tracked it waiting just before the Hell Gate bridge for twenty minutes using the new Track A Train Amtrak app. I assume this was where the P42s were attached for the trip through the low-power zone.

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I have a good photo stop and do the 2 mile walk up to Harrison. I immediately notice some Metro-North customer service on the New Haven-bound platform and then the temporary substation along the northern end of the parking lot. It is full of ConEd employees and some cops standing guard since the temporary fencing could easily be moved by an idiot if left unattended who would be immediately electrocuted and killed. The temporary transformers look like trailers. None of the police or other staff hassle me during my hour photo stop.

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I first photograph an arriving diesel local train from GCT that terminates and goes beyond the Harrison Station with P32 #217:

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The next is a diesel local (from Stamford) that stops:

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Then Boston-bound Amtrak Acela Express Train #2168, soon it stops in Stamford a few minutes later, only leaving 11 minutes late

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Then Washington-bound Northeast Regional #137 passes, its running 30 (from STM) to 39 (from NRO) minutes late. It has two different P42s from #176 earlier. I don’t get as good photos because its taking the local track so the platform isn’t great for photos.

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The diesel trainset I photographed when I arrived at Harrison soon passes by out-of-service running light back to Grand Central I assume to pick-up another end of rush hour load and some Express trains, one diesel, one electric

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Another Rush Hour Local diesel train terminating at Harrison arrives and I get a good exhaust shot as an electric express train passes the other way.

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Then more M8s passing the temporary substation:

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I’ve been tracking the Vermonter wanting to photograph it but also wanting to get home. Eventually the scheduled 6:06 local train terminates on the opposite platform at 6:09. This train is supposed to relay in two minutes (I get worried it might be a track change) but the trainset leaves. It finally comes back to receive passengers at 6:16, evening has descended, and I decide not to wait around for the Vermonter that is somewhere close although it. I’ve decided to treat myself to a $3.50 diesel ride to Fordham (costing $6.00 total instead of $2.50 to get home if I’d taken the much longer bus to subway option).

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I’m happy I’ve taken the train. I sit in the photographed newer, center door Shoreliners that have automatic push to open doors on the vestibules, the older ones have manual you slide them yourself doors. Few Metro-North cars have air release doors and the passengers on this New Haven Line diesel local from Harrison clearly aren’t used to them.  There’s a lot of trying to fight the door open by the emergency handle. In Pelham I almost think the door is broken by some people getting on before the conductor is next to pass and with a tap on the push button it opens as expected!

There is also entertainment from passing trains. In Larchmont the Vermonter passes us as were making the station stop. We then pass it again as it goes over to track 4 into New Rochelle to reach the Hell Gate Line. I nearly get off and take the bus home but the Vermonter creeps back by us as we make our New Rochelle Station stop. It stops briefly before leaving and passes us again although I see the lights of the Amfleet Cafe car going off to the Hell Gate Bridge Line. I get a surprisingly good out the window photo of AEM7 #909 pulling the Vermonter’s Cab Car. Normal train running activity.



I get off at Fordham and try my new camera at night photography. ISO 3200 is a little to noisy, I think 1600 is what I’ll stick with for different photos (a lot better than my old Rebel where I’d rarely go above 400 unless absolutely necessary). I do a final run over to the opposite platform to get a northbound diesel local to Harrison, I’ve lined up the shot with the LED sign perfectly until someone decides to walk in front of me. That train is packed, people can barely cram into the vestibules (especially the older Shoreliner I and IIs that lack center doors). It’s clear that crews aren’t trying to enforce the rules that riding in vestibules is prohibited, at least they don’t ever have to lower the traps.

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I find the Bx12 temporary construction stop with some Select Bus readers simply in the sidewalk with no shelters. I take it to 207 Street to the A home, satisfied with my first day of using my new camera.