To boldly go ---- to the ends of New York

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MARC Rider

Conductor
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Apr 5, 2011
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2,956
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Baltimore. MD
What was I doing getting up at 4:30 AM and leaving the house at 5? I retired specifically so I wouldn't have to do that any more. Unfortunately, because of limited COVID service on the NEC, this is what I needed to do if I wanted to have enough time in New York for my first post-vaccination adventure. Northeast Regional train 180 (leaving Baltimore at 6:10) isn't running, and the next train is 172, which doesn't get into the Big Apple until around 10. Thus, it was my old standby for my trips to Boston, Acela 2150. It wasn't a bed fare, either, $125. (Regionals were going for about $60, senior fare.) I used one of my upgrade coupons, and so I was set to ride first class. Didn't make my return rezzies. I was headed for Staten Island, and I didn't want to be stuck far out of the way worrying over whether I was going to get back to Penn Station in time for my train. When I looked at schedules, it seems like it takes nearly 2 hours to ride by public transportation from Penn Station to Tottenville, the end of the line for the Staten Island Railway. That means there are people who live in New York City whose commutes are as long as the one I used to do between Baltimore and Washington. (But they do get a scenic ferry ride included.)

I headed away from the house in my 20-year old Honda CR-V that I volunteered to leave at the station garage so that the rest of the family could have the better cars for their daily use. A good thing, because as I tooled down I-83 into the city, I noticed that the brake light was on. Fortunately, the brakes seemed to be working fine. (The car is now sitting in the shop getting looked at, so don't worry.) The early morning traffic, such as it was, wasn't much different from what I usually experienced in the days when I had to make this drive. But, the parking garage at Baltimore Penn Station was as empty as it's been during sinve the pandemic struck. I got to park right by the stairs.

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Ah, here's the kind of departure board I like to see:

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Everything's running on time!

The station actually had a few more people waiting for trains than when I went to New York in September and Philly in October. Note that my favorite commuter train, MARC 407, which use to leave at 5:55 is now leaving at 5:35 and there's no other MARC train until 6:30.

Soon enough it's down on the platform:

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Acela 2150 right on time.

I find my seat, the conductor scans my ticket, and now it's time for some on-board service:

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While the service has definitely been downgraded due to the pandemic loss of traffic, this offering is still better than what they had when I last rode in October. I got a cup of coffee and the omelet.

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Here it is, served in a flex-dining tray. The omelet was a bit odd, but certainly edible. The potatoes were "meh," but I ate them too. A little ketchup helped. The croissant was OK, especially with the butter I liberally applied to it. The coffee was Dunkin, what more can you say?

Dawn started creeping into the sky about the time we crossed the Susquehanna River. It was lightening up when we stopped at the Joe Biden Amtrak station in Wilmington. We had a very short stop in Philly. Nobody boarded, well, in first class, at least. We were making decent time, but then, after we passed Trenton, we started slowing down. It was a little odd, going slowly through the stretch of New Jersey where they spent all that money on the constant-tension catenary so the trains can go 160 and we're doing maybe 80. (To be fair, on the return trip, we blew through that section at 135, so I think the issue was traffic congestion from morning commuter trains, though why there's traffic congestion with everyone running reduced pandemic schedules is a question worth answering.) In any event, we got into New York about 5 minutes late.

As I mentioned in my Moynihan Train Hall post, the new train hall is located over the extreme west ends of the platforms. Thus, unless you make an effort to get to that end of the platform, you're going to go up an escalator into the old Penn Station. There is some waymarking at the platform level, but mostly for "8th Avenue." The signs directing one to "Moynihan Train Hall" are actually on the ground at your feet. In any event, I think I was about the only person that actually made an effort to go in that direction, and at least our first class car was on the very west end of the train. In any event, I got the effect of riding the escalator up into the new train hall:

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It's very nice, but you still scurry into the city like a rat.

More to come.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,956
Location
Baltimore. MD
I have more to say about the Metropolitan Lounge in my other post that gave my first impressions. As I said, this is the nicest lounge in the Amtrak system. Even though there are online complaints about the free food being served, I has pleased with the fruit cup I got to supplement my on-train breakfast omelet and a latte and a bottle of Saratoga water to keep my hydrated.

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For people who have Select Plus who are traveling in coach or business class, the food selection is actually OK and one could get a few things that would make a better meal than the cafe car fare. In addition to the fruit cup, they have hard-boiled eggs, a couple of salads, some "pinwheels" (small wrap sandwiches) and chips and pastries, as well as jars of penny candy. They have bottles of upscale sodas and coffees and related hot drinks (like the latte.) I enjoyed sitting on the "outside" terrace overlooking the main train hall.

Of course, I didn't come this far just to sit in the Metropolitan Lounge. It was time to head out and reach my ultimate goal -- the far end of Staten Island, the southernmost point in New York (City or State), a beach located in Conference House Park in Tottenville.

To get there, I had to leave this bright new train hall, and make my way through the old Penn Station to the 7th Avenue Subway, where I would take the 1 train to South Ferry, then the Staten Island Ferry to St. George, and then the Staten Island Railway to Tottenville. Fromm there it was a 1.2 mile walk.

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You have to go downstairs to the "new" West End Concourse, then walk past the entrance to the 8th Avenue Subway, around a corner, and then you're in the Long Island Railroad concourse. It's now under renovation, and all the shops and food outlets that usually line this hallway are gone, replaced by low ceilings and the noise of construction. There are signs promising great improvements when it's all done, though.

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Here's a new escalator coming in off 34th St. that wasn't here when I passed by last September.

After a quick ride on the subway (everybody was wearing masks), I ended up at the South Ferry station, rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy. A quick walk over to the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and after a relatively short wait I boarded the S.I. Newhouse for for my ride across the 5 miles of Upper New York Bay to St. George.

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The S. I. Newhouse, just before discharging passengers.

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NYPD is chasing our boat!

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The famous scenic skyline of . . . Jersey City.

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Ellis Island
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Statue of Liberty
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Another ferry, not sure where it was going. It left Governor's Island, but was headed for Brooklyn.

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Finally approaching St. George after a 25 minute cruise.

More to come.
 
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PVD

Conductor
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NYC/Queens
There is ferry service from Brooklyn now to Governor's Island, in addition to Manhattan since it is now open as a park.
 

PVD

Conductor
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NYC/Queens
The ceilings in the LIRR corridor will actually be higher when completed, but many of the areas have temporary steel panels that protect the public from construction above, and serve as a work platform.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
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Location
Baltimore. MD
Ready to dock at St. George, Staten Island.

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Of course, I had to deal with the issues related to being an older gent who is also taking a diuretic for borderline high blood pressure. The restrooms on the ferry were locked up tight. Fortunately, the restrooms at the ferry terminal aren't.

Now, off to ride the train.

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The Staten Island Railway is a sort of hybrid of the New York subway and a suburban interurban. The only faregates are at the St. George and Tompkinville stations at the north end of the line. Everyone lese rides for free, and if you're connecting from a subway ride in Manhattan via the ferry, you get a free transfer. The train runs exceedingly slowly, in only one place did I clock it at 45 mph, usually it was 30 mph or less. Plus, it makes a zillion stops. Only about 5 of the 24 stations are ADA-compliant. At times, the ride is a little rough, and on my return trip, I actually got a little trainsick, we were rocking around so much. They were doing some track work the day I rode, and there was some single tracking being done. Trains were running at 30 minute headways, so I needed to plan that into my schedule in addition to the ~50 minute travel time between St. George and Tottenville.

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And of the line in Tottenville. There's a ramp at the far end. I used the overpass at the other end, and eded up on Main Street. I walked up the hill into a different world from our normal vision of "New York City."

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This is the Conference House, a circa 1600s manor house where the British and American representatives had a brief pointless meeting in September 1776 to see if they could end the Revolution early. It contains a museum, but that was closed due to the pandemic. Two park rangers were outside with a webcam, apparently hosting some sort of Zoom class for presumably school students.

The house is surrounded by a rather large park, called (surprise!) Conference House Park, and it is on the park grounds where Ward's Point, the southernmost extremity of the State 9and City) of New York can be found.

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After walking back through the residential neighborhoods of Tottenvile, I soon reached "downtown," the intersection of Main and Amboy Streets. By this time it was about 12:30 PM, and clouds were coming in from the southwest. I was getting hungry and needed (what else?) a restroom. There were a few possible lunch places, but both the Chinese place and the taqueria were both take-out only and had no restrooms. Next door was a coffee house that not only had restrooms but served "toasts," a sort of open faced sandwich that served my needs quite well. They had run out of my first choice, but the nice young woman behind the counter recommended the "caprese," which was sort of like an avocado toast with fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. As I was looking doubtful, she offerred to add some pest, which really jazzed things up. I got an iced coffee to wash it down.

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As you can see, not a traditional caprese, which is just tomato and fresh mozz with basil, but it was quite good.

While eating lunch, I fired up the Amtrak app and looked for trains to take home. I estimated the time I would need to get back to Penn Station, then added a little for for padding and to see a couple more things on the way, and figured I would have no problem catching the 6 PM Acela. I also used a 12-hour advance upgrade coupon that was going to expire in a couple of months, and snagged a First Class seat. With that business taken care of, it was now time to catch the train back to the city.

Approaching the station as I walked down Main Street, I saw the next northbound train leave. Oh, well, a 30 minute wait at a lonely station platform. It wasn't as bad as that, I walked down to the other end of the platform and got a few scenic views of Arthur Kill, the Outerbridge Crossing, and scenic Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

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Soon the next train came in, and I was off on a rattling ride northward to St. George.

-more to come
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
2,956
Location
Baltimore. MD
Ready to dock at St. George, Staten Island.

View attachment 21757

Of course, I had to deal with the issues related to being an older gent who is also taking a diuretic for borderline high blood pressure. The restrooms on the ferry were locked up tight. Fortunately, the restrooms at the ferry terminal aren't.

Now, off to ride the train.

View attachment 21758
The Staten Island Railway is a sort of hybrid of the New York subway and a suburban interurban. The only faregates are at the St. George and Tompkinville stations at the north end of the line. Everyone lese rides for free, and if you're connecting from a subway ride in Manhattan via the ferry, you get a free transfer. The train runs exceedingly slowly, in only one place did I clock it at 45 mph, usually it was 30 mph or less. Plus, it makes a zillion stops. Only about 5 of the 24 stations are ADA-compliant. At times, the ride is a little rough, and on my return trip, I actually got a little trainsick, we were rocking around so much. They were doing some track work the day I rode, and there was some single tracking being done. Trains were running at 30 minute headways, so I needed to plan that into my schedule in addition to the ~50 minute travel time between St. George and Tottenville.

View attachment 21759

And of the line in Tottenville. There's a ramp at the far end. I used the overpass at the other end, and eded up on Main Street. I walked up the hill into a different world from our normal vision of "New York City."

View attachment 21760

View attachment 21761

View attachment 21762
 

Michigan Mom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
795
Location
MI
This is all so wonderful! Enjoying the narrative and photos. Even the Caprese toast. No avocado, mind, just the pure elements of the bread, mozz, basil and tomato. Drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. I'll be heading to the grocery store this afternoon.
Regarding the Staten railway.... this is very interesting. As first time visitors to NYC, we were no doubt confused at times, and I'm someone who gets confused in my own home... anyway, I recall taking the ferry over to Staten Island, and then looking for a train to get back to Manhattan. We couldn't find one and ended up taking the ferry. We are NYC bound in May so we should be more oriented this time around.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Harrisburg, PA
Thank you so much for sharing. My daughters lives in Queens and works in Manhattan. Wife and I have seen a lot around those areas, but haven't ventured to the other 3 boroughs yet. We moved from FL to PA, so our next trip will be Keystone Line instead of having to fly. But now I want to see Staten Island too!
 

PVD

Conductor
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The SIR cars are due to be replaced by a version of the R211, the R211S (cab signaling) The current R-44 cars are overdue for retirement. Delivery times have slipped, but the days of the R-44 are definitely numbered.
 

Bob Dylan

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Austin Texas
Alas, this trip I did skip the Delis. Anyway, Ben's in Manhattan is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, and I wasn't about to schlep to their locations in the outer boroughs.
It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!

When I take my New York trip to see the New Train Hall( and ride in AcelaFC), I'll visit your Deli for you!😁

I'll also try your route on the Staten island Train since I've never been farther than the Dock when riding the Staten Island Ferry.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
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Messages
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Baltimore. MD
The SIR cars are due to be replaced by a version of the R211, the R211S (cab signaling) The current R-44 cars are overdue for retirement. Delivery times have slipped, but the days of the R-44 are definitely numbered.
Well, then I'm glad I got to see them before they head out to the great railway yard in the sky, or wherever such obsolescent equipment goes.
 
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PVD

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They came in the early 70's I believe they were the first 75 foot cars. All of the ones running on the subway were retired, only the SIR ones remain. Its funny how they run at a leisure pace out there, they set speed records for subway cars when they were in testing. They were the last large order completed by St Louis Car, a company that built cars for many systems, some in very large quantities.
 

mcropod

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 29, 2018
Messages
287
Location
Oz
Interesting to hear about the old train sets in use. Maybe islands attract old trains?

(snip)
Too right! We've got some very old trains still in use on this island!

Early next month I'll be on a couple of them in Far North Queensland: The Gulflander and the Savannahlander.

I came across this late 1980s TV doco about the Gulflander and its driver/station-master (start 2m:36s in) who is every old Queensland bloke of that era, bashed-up hat and constant rollie-in-mouth included. :)


I'll be lodging my TR in these fora.
 

PVD

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The other R-44 on the subways are all gone, the SIR fleet has different signaling control from the subway, there were other plans for earlier replacement with rebuilt R-46 which would be available when all R-179 came aboard, but those have changed to the present plan to give them all new cars. Don't forget, Manhattan as well as Brooklyn and Queens are islands (or part of one)
 

railiner

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Palm Beach County
Nice trip report. At one time, you could have taken a ferry from Tottenville over to Perth Amboy, NJ. Nowadays, there isn’t even any local bus service over the Outerbridge Crossing into NJ. Not even over the Goethals Bridge, other than expresses to Manhattan, “closed doors” through NJ. Only the Bayonne Bridge has a local bus from Staten Island to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail terminal in Bayonne.

If you didn’t want to take the long ride back to Manhattan, the way you came, you could have taken an Uber across to the NEC station at Edison, gone on NJT to the closest Amtrak stop...
 

Seaboard92

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South Carolina
Well, then I'm glad I got to see them before they head out to the great railway yard in the sky, or wherever such obsolescent equipment goes.
I believe NYC MTA dumps them in the oceans to become new Coral Reefs. I believe there are several Red Birds down at the bottom of the Atlantic. I'm sure they strip the components off of them first as a lot of that stuff can be reused on other cars or sold to collectors. There is a market for everything.
 
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