January 18-19, 2003
Also on my website was the ever-changing guest list. The list was, at one time, a little larger, but some had to cancel due to other commitments or illness.
Meeting for the Saturday Fest
Our meeting point was different this year than for previous AppleFests. Since we were beginning our travels on the MTA Long Island Railroad (LIRR), it was more sensible to meet near the LIRR's gates. We stood next to a pillar near the bottom of the escalators leading to the Seventh Avenue AMTRAK concourse and the new NJ TRANSIT concourse. Lou Petrillo, Michael, and I had come from Jersey City, taking the PATH train from the Pavonia/Newport station near the Doubletree Club Hotel in which we were staying over the weekend. Ed Findlay, who lives in a suburb of Boston, came down on an overnight Greyhound bus and spent some time riding subways in the wee hours. Mike Hammond arrived by NJ TRANSIT train from Newark Liberty International Airport, where he was staying at the Marriott Hotel. Alan Burden came by subway from Queens, and Jishnu Mukerji arrived by NJ TRANSIT from New Jersey. Owen and Isak Sindler had the shortest trip of all to get there, simply walking across the street from the Hotel Pennsylvania. That left nine of us. Ellis Simon had called me the night before to say that there was a chance he might join us in Woodside. So we did not wait for him, and proceeded to board our train on Track 19. We sat in the front car so that Ellis could find us.
Parts 1 & 2: MTA Long Island Railroad
Part 1: Penn Station to Port Washington
LIRR Train 6419 was not too crowded. We left on time, and remained on time throughout our trip. At our first stop, Ellis did join us, making our group ten people. In coming from the Long Beach Branch, he had to change trains at both Jamaica and Woodside.
During this trip some opted to stand at the front of our car, watching our progress over the tracks, while the rest sat at the rear of that first coach.
At Port Washington, the end of the line, we all detrained and waited in the station. While there were a few places that one could go to get some coffee or other refreshments, we chose to wait inside the station during our scheduled 31-minute layover. Unlike our Boston experience in Haverhill, nobody went out for ice cream -- nor would anybody desire ice cream in that weather. Consequently, nobody missed the train. In fact, we posed for group photos on the platform before re-boarding our train.
Part 2: Port Washington to Flushing
The same equipment that had brought us outbound as Train 6419 was now Train 6416. There was a pretty good crowd boarding here heading inbound. It was a task to find a set of vacant front-facing seats so that our group could sit together.
This ride would be shorter, since we were going only as far as Main Street in Flushing. I calculated that we were about three minutes late when we arrived at the Flushing station.
We descended a flight of stairs to the street level, and walked around a block to the subway station. I had never done this transfer before, so I let Alan lead the way. It was still cold, but not as bad as it had been earlier in the day. The streets here were crowded; downtown Flushing is a bustling neighborhood much like many parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
All ten of us were present and accounted for as we went down into the subway station for our next ride.
Part 3: Flushing to Queensboro Plaza
In the original plan, there was no Part 3A. For Part 3, we were supposed to have gone all the way to Times Square on the 7 train. A maintenance project that we found out about just two weeks before AppleFest 2003 was to begin caused us to scramble to create a guide for Part 3A, which is the for the W train between Queensboro Plaza and Times Square. We would get where we were going, but by approaching our destination from the north rather than the east. Meanwhile, with the months of work that had already gone into the original route guides, Alan and I decided to leave the 7 guide intact for the entire would-be trip from Flushing to Times Square.
So when we boarded at Flushing, and at every single station en route, the conductor was being efficient enough to announce that this train was going only as far as Queensboro Plaza, and that passengers could transfer to other trains there or at 74th Street. His announcements became monotonous to those of us riding with him the entire way, but obviously they were necessary for those just boarding.
We had no idea on what headway the trains might be running, since they were being turned at Queensboro Plaza. We did not have long to wait before our first MTA New York City Transit train of the day left the Main Street station in Flushing for our inbound journey through Queens. Our equipment for this trip was one of the remaining "Redbirds" that they had not yet dumped into the Atlantic Ocean.
We had not gone far when we came to an unscheduled stop. Since we were in the front car, we could see that our train was ferrying track workers to a location approximately over the Van Wyck Expressway. We then moved slowly past the workers, and were soon on our way towards the Willets Point/Shea Stadium stop.
About the time we got to 111th Street, we could hear some sirens down in the street. When we looked to the right we could make out a pretty serious fire -- flames, black smoke, and all. It looked to be in the vicinity of LaGuardia Airport, so obviously we feared the worst. We felt a bit glum after that, if in fact there had been a plane crash at or near the airport. We figured we would find out the truth when we got to Times Square, which has the up-to-the-minute news ticker.
When we got further towards our destination, we could see the airport from another angle, and it was now apparent that while the fire looked severe, it was not coming from the airport. We never did find out what was burning that day.
Once we passed 74th Street, those announcements about the service disruption got a little shorter, since they were down to just one transfer possibility.
Meanwhile, as we moved into Woodside, we passed Alan's "home" stop at 69th Street, and then 61st Street where the transfer is available to the MTA Long Island Railroad. We had passed under this spot on the LIRR a few hours ago.
We came into the Queensboro Plaza station, and everyone was told to get off and catch the W train across the platform. Once everyone was off, our train reversed direction and proceeded eastward, empty, out of the station. It would reverse twice more to position itself as an outbound train upstairs, proceeding over a switch and back to the outbound platform one level above us.
Part 3A: Queensboro Plaza to Times Square
We had about a 5-minute wait at Queensboro Plaza for the W train, along with a platform full of other refugees from the 7 train that terminated there. One finally showed up, relieving the nervousness I was starting to experience. I wanted to stick as close to schedule as possible, while maintaining a comfortable period of time for our lunch break. As you will find out later, we needed every possible minute.
Quickly we were whisked into the 60th Street tunnel, which was about 18 blocks north of where I wanted to be, but at least we were on a route that takes about the same amount of time as the 7 train to go between these two points.
Unfortunately, we had boarded one of the cars closest to the front of this W train, so when we got to Times Square, we had to walk quite a bit on the platform to access the stairway at its north end leading to the main concourse. Alan knew of a good spot near the S Grand Central shuttle train where we would have an easy time meeting one another. There were entertainers in the area as well drawing crowds, but at least we would have a show if we got back to the meeting place before the others. Once we had agreed that we would meet at this location at 12:50 PM, we split up and headed for lunch. As it turned out, four of us went north, and a few from our group went somewhere south of Times Square.
Lunchtime at Times Square
Here we were at the Crossroads of the World, where just 17 days earlier, tens of thousands of people ushered in 2003. Despite the extreme cold and windy conditions, Times Square is always bustling with activity. Thankfully, no bad news on the ticker.
Mike, Alan, Michael, and I had set our sights on eating at a Sbarro restaurant. The chain once strangely had two stores within two blocks (and perfect sight) of one another on the 7th Avenue side of the Square, but when we got to 45th Street that one had closed. We continued up to the one at 7th Avenue and 47th Street.
After a numbing walk of 5 blocks in the cold, we still had to wait on a line for our food. The serving area of this place was square in nature, which made it confusing as to who was next in line, and where one had to wait if they were having pasta, pizza, or salad. Employees of the store tried to control the crowd by telling people to move on to the next part of the serving area, even if they had not yet ordered their food. Nevertheless, besides the employee-induced chaos, and the narrow staircase down to the subterranean dining room, we had a good, filling lunch.
As we were finishing, we realized we only had about 10 minutes to get back to where we were supposed to meet the rest of the group. A good brisk walk would do it, but we were still smarting from the previous walk. We had noticed out the window, while on line for the food, a subway entrance across the street. Hmmmm.. Well seeing the subway entrance brought about the only spontaneous portion of our Fest, which was...
Part 3B: 7th Avenue/49th Street to Times Square
We went across 7th Avenue and down into the Broadway subway's 49th Street Station. Although we were at 47th Street, the southern end of the station was here. It was much easier crossing the street to the subway entrance than walking through the cold and wind back to 42nd Street.
Having already been on this line before (see Part 3A), we knew that the stairway to the concourse where our group would be reconvening was at the very rear of the Times Square platform. So in the interest of saving time, we walked to the northern end of the platform, which was most likely under 49th Street itself, so we could board one of the rear cars of the train and be nearest to the stairway when we got to Times Square.
We were lucky in that a W train came right along. We had only a few minutes until the agreed-upon meeting time of 12:50 PM, and we thought we would not make it in time. We got to our spot at 12:48, and found that we were the first ones to return. About 5 minutes later, the other six from our group came from wherever they had spent their lunchtime, and we quickly set out to catch our next train from this busy station.Continued in next section