I start graduate school in two weeks. I am spending my last two weeks before it starts going on a trip out west that is partially a mid-winter ski trip and ending with some sun in Arizona. Don’t worry there will be plenty of train rides including finding the ex-NJT ComArrows Amtrak California has bought and refurbished and overnights on the California Zephyr (Salt Lake City to Trukee) and Sunset Limited (L.A. to Tucson, again). I’m going skiing with my Dad at Alta and Squaw Valley (that’s going to be a total bust because it hasn’t snowed in a month) and I bought a new ski pass package called the Mountain Collective that is a package of two days of skiing at those two resorts plus Aspen, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, and Whistler-Blackomb. The original plan was to fly to Denver (I don’t quite have enough time for another cross-country train trip) visit friends there ski at Aspen (staying at a youth hostel in Glenwood Springs) before continuing by train to Salt Lake City (to meet my father). I called up the hostel in Glenwood Springs and found out a Chinese tour group had rented for all of January. I then found out that Jackson Hole has a hostel at the Tenton Village base area ($40 a night, slightly high but Jackson is an extremely expensive placre) and found a one-way flight from New York to Jackson for only $200 (and another $100 for Buses and Shuttles from the Airport and down to Salt Lake City). The only issue with my flights is the first one leaves at 6:00am from JFK and the itinerary has a 50 minute connection in Washington and a 40 minute connection in Chicago (talk about tight connections)!
With my alarm set to 2:20am to sit on the A local train to Howard Beach I go to bed around 11:00pm, fall asleep a little bit and wake up around 12:30am unable to sleep, worried about missing my flight and not waking up in time. At about 1:45am I decided to get up for good. I leave the house earlier than planned deciding I might as well try to finally catch the Yellow S Late Night Lefferts Blvd Shuttle to the Q10 Bus that I look up and find out it runs every 20 minutes through the overnight hours (extremely frequent for a NYC bus on the overnight, most are closer to hourly).
I leave the house finally at 2:24 to a warm feeling 23 degrees and enjoy the wonderful stillness of the middle of the night across the park.It’s been in the teens and single digits for the past few days. The elevator operator is chatting with someone as I try to get on. She says I can take you down with a “How you doing this morning?” She’s clearly board on the graveyard shift. I tell her catching an early flight, couldn’t sleep, might as well be early. The next train voice echoes for the next approaching train in the nearly empty station at 181 Street–(2 Photos). There maybe 4 other people waiting with me. I’ve checked the schedule but the train doesn’t seem to be really following it. It’s supposed to come at 2:34.
2:38 – Finally down to 2 stations away!
At 2:42 my A local finally arrives.
We stop at 168 Street and 2 handcuffed men led (that don’t clearly look homeless) are escorted on my three undercover cops. The handcuffed men sit down the cops stay standing. There talking to the men a tiny bit saying “It’s too cold for you to be out here” they get off at 145th and I see them escorted up the stairs where the transit police station is. That’s a first the police escorting loiters via the subway. Its on account of the cold, a Code Blue you can’t be wandering the streets when it’s 20 degrees.
At 110th street a uniformed token clerk gets on, iPod speakers blasting from her bag. As soon as she sits down there luckily turned off.
- 3:07 – Between 81 Street and 72 Street we get our first slow order of overnight maintenance.
- 3:12 – Just before 59 Street we switch onto the express track, guess we’re running express to Canal Street not all local tonight.
At 42 Street (3:19) I dither about switching to the faster E train but decide against it. Keeping moving is the name of the game at this hour!
I finally get to Fulton Street at 3:31 (if only the A trains schedule was accurate!) and zooming towards Brooklyn.
At 4:00am I get off at Euclid Avenue–(7 Photos), I’ve decided I’m going to take the Lefferts Blvd shuttle to the Q10 that runs every 20 minutes overnight, even if it cuts down on my lounge time in the United Club.
Almost immediately at 4:02 the 4 car OPTO Shuttle of R46s with orange Ss comes in as I get some photos. It pulls and stops at the front half of the platform. At 4:05 another A train comes in, there was something off about the schedule!
I hear the bell at 4:07 and we leave for Lefferts. I’m the only person in my car, the third from the rear (there definitely a few in the front car wanting the safety of the T/O) and the entire ride is private (NO ONE else gets on my car), I think a first for any subway ride for me riding a line its entire length.
- 4:09 – Pass another Yellow Shuttle train at Grant Avenue
- 4:11 – Stop at 80 Street
- 4:12 – 88 Street
- 4:14 – Rockaway Blvd. With instructions to wait for the A train for Aqueduct, Howard Beach-JFK Airport.
- 4:16 – 104 Street
- 4:17 – 111 Street
We come to a stop just outside of Lefferts Blvd–(12 Photos) for no apparent reason before switching into the station across from a shuttle train that then leaves. We pull up towards the rear of the platform behind a 4 car set of R46 cars that are idling in the station. The destinations signs are for the A train It’s clear that the MTA runs the Lefferts Shuttle by dividing two normal 8 car trainsets into two, one covers two shuttle trainsets and the other just one trip with the other half of this 4 car set idoling in the Lefferts Blvd terminus. The arrival time is 4:20am. I walk down the platform towards the Lefferts Blvd exit and there is also a garbage train with a Diesel Locomotive, a single garbage car and a yellow ex-redbird for the crew to stay warm in.
The Q10 to JFK luckily runs every 20 minutes overnight. At 4:37, 1 minute late the very crowded Q10 arrives. We’re told to go to the back so we can leave. I assume it’s always this crowded. The occupants are mainly early shift airport employees but also a few travelers. Although it’s been over two hours my transfer does register.
4:53-At the flags and Federal Circle, the entrance to the airport. We go and the AirTrain stop at Lefferts but I’m staying on today. We pass the parking lot shuttles leaving the airports bus depot to start regular service and we stop for employees at the various non-passenger terminal stops. I should make my flight but I don’t think there will be any lounge time sadly. If only the A train wasn’t late and I made the previous Lefferts Blvd Shuttle and Q10.
I arrive at the stop outside the former terminal 6 at 5:05 with most of the bus also getting off. Terminal 7 is quite close and I walk down the remains of a sidewalk that is surrounded by construction fencing with signs saying Sidewalk Closed – Take Airtrain, in the road for maybe 30 feet with virtually no traffic.