Metro New York RailFest 2003
October 4-5, 2003
|Group shot at Secaucus Junction station (Piotr Dzwonek photo)||End of the line at Montauk, looking west. Group poses at bumper post. Trains now use high-level platform west of the station building (Piotr Dzwonek photo)|
Chapter 3: Sunday, October 5, 2003: Secaucus and Montauk
Chapter 3.1: Before the Sunday Fest
Our meeting point for Sunday was Hoboken Terminal, which for us in Jersey City was a lot easier to get to than Grand Central. Since breakfast would be on our own, and since we knew we would be having an early lunch in New York City, we had to leave early and get something to eat first.
Chapter 3.1.1: Breakfast in Hudson County
The Doubletree charges a hefty $10 per day for "valet parking", but then you have to park it yourself. That fee expires at 6 PM the following day. So since we were checking out of the hotel, and I knew we would not be getting back there until about 7:30 PM, I could not leave it there. Instead, I was able to park the car at a nearby parking garage for the Newport Centre Mall. My employer has offices in an adjacent building, so I can park there by using my work ID at a reader.
But after checking out, the first matter of business was finding breakfast.
Lou had asked at the hotel the previous night about possible places to eat breakfast in Jersey City, and a place along Montgomery Street was recommended to him. I knew this to be within blocks of Exchange Place, where he could then take either the light rail or the PATH to meet us in Hoboken. So I dropped him off at this place on Montgomery Street.
Then Michael and I went into Hoboken, to a McDonald's on Washington Street. Although we were about five blocks from Hoboken Terminal, we would not be leaving the car near there. After we ate, I drove back into Jersey City and parked at that mall parking garage. We then walked a few feet over to NJ TRANSIT's Hudson-Bergen LRT station, and awaited the next car.
Chapter 3.1.2: NJ TRANSIT HBLRT, Pavonia-Newport to Hoboken Terminal
Michael and I did not have to wait long for our trolley, and soon we were aboard and moving back to Hoboken. Our trip took about five minutes. Although I had with me the validated ticket I had purchased the night before, we were not challenged by any ticket inspectors.
Chapter 3.2: Meeting at Hoboken Terminal
We got to Hoboken Terminal and walked into the waiting room. There we met Lou (who had ridden a different light rail car) once more, and then Piotr Dzwonek arrived from South Amboy, having taken the North Jersey Coast Line and then PATH. Alan arrived soon after that, by PATH from the other direction. Some of us bought some snacks to get us through our long LIRR trip later in the day. Then when our train's track location was posted, we went and boarded it for our short run to Secaucus.
Chapter 3.3: NJ TRANSIT Main Line, Train #1711, Hoboken, NJ to Secaucus, NJ
This was an unconventional trip, as not too many people go from Hoboken to New York via Secaucus. The intent of the transfer station was to tap markets in other directions. Still, it was a legal and valid trip. The ticket machines had written instructions to enter a code "704" as our destination, which was the old code for Harmon Cove (which closed in August with its station functions moved to the new Secaucus Junction). The Harmon Cove tickets got us into New York, since the introductory weekend routine charges those using the Secaucus station headed for New York the same rate as somebody going just to Secaucus or Hoboken.
Chapter 3.4: Exploring Secaucus Junction station
When we got to Secaucus Junction, we snuck in a photo op next to a station sign. Luckily nobody was watching us at the time. I had heard that since it opened, the station has been a police state, prohibiting photography MBTA-style. And once we went up to the main waiting room level, several different employees asked if they could help us, which seems nice, except that collectively we knew a lot more about NJ TRANSIT than all of those employees put together.
I felt eyes on me wherever I went, checking out the various passageways, stairways, etc. connecting the two levels of train platforms with the rest of the station. Alan ventured down to the northern end of the building, and there was at least one person watching him at all times. Maybe they were legitimately trying to be helpful, but the general feeling while you are there waiting for a train is that you're not welcome there. You have to wonder how they are going to keep an eye on everyone when the station opens on weekdays to throngs of commuters headed to and from the city.
A few minutes before our scheduled departure, we went downstairs to the designated New York-bound platform and awaited our train. The turnstiles were not activated; in fact one could bypass them completely through a gate that was left open.
Even while we were on the platform somebody from NJ TRANSIT came over to make sure we were headed for New York.
Chapter 3.5: NJ TRANSIT Dover Midtown Direct, Train #6916, Secaucus, NJ to New York-Penn Station
Our train was a few minutes late. When it came, we found seats in the same area of one coach, and settled in for our quick trip through the tunnel into Manhattan.
Padding erased most of the tardiness of this train, so we would not lose much of our lunch hour in Penn Station.
Chapter 3.6: Lunchtime in Penn Station
After we ate, we went into a Hudson News to get some more snacks to eat during our upcoming seven-hour LIRR round trip. Then we went to reassemble with the group.
We had agreed to meet once more at the bottom of the escalator near the Long Island Railroad waiting room. Soon after we got to our meeting location, all five of us were present.
One of the late alterations I made to the itinerary was to take an earlier connecting train to Jamaica, one several minutes before the one listed in the timetable. This change was made to ensure that we would not miss the Montauk train if our first train was late. Well since we all had eaten lunch and purchased our tickets, we were ready to go even sooner than the earlier train I had chosen. So we decided to board an even earlier Long Island Railroad train, to maximize our time in Jamaica.
Chapter 3.7: MTA/Long Island Railroad Babylon Branch, Train #6030, New York-Penn Station to Jamaica, NY
The train we took happened to be a Babylon Branch train, one that makes two local stops in Queens between Penn Station and Jamaica.
We arrived in Jamaica on Track 7 with plenty of time to spare. It was not long before our diesel train came in on Track 8, right across the platform from where we had arrived. We were able to get good seats on the upper level of one of the bilevel coaches, which would give us a nice view of Long Islandís scenery.
Chapter 3.8: MTA/Long Island Railroad Montauk Branch, Train #8710, Jamaica, NY to Montauk, NY
We watched as our train became more and more crowded. First, when the connecting train I had in my itinerary (a Long Beach train) came in on Track 7, plenty of people hustled across the platform. Then when the printed connection, a Port Jefferson Branch train to Huntington came in on the same track, more passengers made use of the cross-platform transfer. As always, there is never a dull moment in Jamaica!
At precisely 12:16 PM, the doors closed and our train headed out of Jamaica. We took the Montauk Branch via St. Albans, and then rejoined the Babylon Branch near Valley Stream. We highballed nonstop to Patchogue.
After Babylon, we entered the world of non-electrified trackage and grade crossings. Our train did good business in places like Mastic-Shirley, Speonk, and the parade of stops with the word "Hampton" in their names.
The one problem with our trip was that our coach's rest room had no running water. Hence the toilets would not flush, and one could not wash his or her hands. We wondered if the coach had a malfunction, or if somebody forgot to water this coach.
We arrived at Montauk's nondescript end-of-the-line station right on time. Across the island platform was a similar consist. We had roughly half an hour layover here, so we stuck fairly close to the station. There is not much to see or do at this station, as it is far from any civilization, and certainly a number of miles from the famous Montauk Point and its lighthouse.
One interesting thing we noticed was that some train once overshot the bumping post, because its wheel prints were in the concrete of the street beyond the station. Nowadays with all of the LIRRís trains utilizing high level platforms, this station's high level island platform was built quite a ways west of the station building.
Some of us wanted to get soda, and the only place where it was available was a machine outside a nearby car repair place. There was nowhere to use restroom facilities either, but one member of our group, having been thwarted by the condition of the train's rest room, improvised in the woods.
We returned to the train platform and took some group shots. We then prepared to board the train for our return trip to New York City.
Chapter 3.9: MTA/Long Island Railroad Montauk Branch, Train #8705, Montauk, NY to Jamaica, NY
We were surprised that the consist on which we had arrived would not be our transportation back to New York. Another train was used, the one that was across the island platform from where we had arrived. We surmised that the condition of the rest room might have been a factor in the crew using the other train.
We departed from Montauk on time, and headed west. There was plenty of station work at most of the stops in the Hamptons; apparently even after the summer is long gone, plenty of people still go out there in October for the weekend.
This train had plenty of water with which to flush toilets and wash hands. I made a point of making use of this luxury before the train got too crowded.
By the time we had reached Patchogue, our last stop before running express, our train was packed. Empty seats were a novelty as there were many people headed towards the city on a late Sunday afternoon. We then highballed nonstop to Jamaica, following the same route through Queens as we had taken earlier.
The train got into Jamaica right on time, and it terminated on Track 2. Passengers were directed towards a Brooklyn train, which would follow on Track 2, or the Penn Station connections on Track 1. After simply walking across the platform, we did not have to wait long.
Soon our connecting express train arrived to whisk us to Penn Station. We said goodbye to Alan here, as he would have to take a different train, a local that would stop in Woodside.
Chapter 3.10: MTA/Long Island Railroad Shuttle Train, Jamaica, NY to New York-Penn Station
The 6:15 PM LIRR express train from Jamaica to Penn Station is not part of any branch line. It apparently was put on solely to handle the passengers headed into Manhattan from the Montauk train on which we had just arrived. Even though the express train originated at Jamaica, there were so many passengers from the Montauk train on the platform that it quickly filled up. Because of this, in order to sit together, we had to take seats facing backwards.
The highlight of this trip came just after we departed from Jamaica, when we saw on our left a test train running on the AirTrain JFK line. Alan saw it too from the platform and tried to call me, but with all the noise on the train I did not hear my cell phone ringing.
The rest of our nonstop trip was uneventful, and before we knew it we had entered the East River tunnel for our final approach into Penn Station.
Metro New York RailFest 2003 was officially over, but once again everyone had to get home.
Chapter 3.11: After the Sunday Fest
When Lou, Piotr, Michael, and I arrived at Penn Station, we ended up on the western end of the platform because we had been in one of the head cars of our LIRR train. So when we ascended the stairs, we ended up in a concourse under the Farley Post Office building. We had to walk through the 8th Avenue/34th Street subway station and up the ramp to get into the main part of Penn Station and its LIRR concourse.
Lou had a train to catch at Grand Central Terminal, so I gave him final instructions of how to get to the 1 2 3 subways and how to transfer at Times Square to the S train. He ran ahead of us, and then somehow we caught up to him in the mass of humanity, finding him looking lost. I told him once again to just head straight down the concourse and he would eventually come to the subway station. Hopefully he caught the right subway trains, made his transfer, and got to GCT with enough time to catch his Metro North train home. That reduced our group to three.
Chapter 3.11.1: Dinner in Manhattan
Piotr, Michael, and I had a quick bite to eat in Penn Station, and then we went outside and walked one long block east to Herald Square in order to catch the PATH train back to New Jersey.
Chapter 3.11.2: PATH Train, 33rd Street to Pavonia-Newport
Piotr had a Quick Card with multiple discounted PATH fares on it, so we took advantage of that, and then I paid him back. Michael for some reason turned the turnstile twice on his way through, causing another fare to be removed from Piotr's card, so I paid him back for that one too.
This was deja vu all over again, only this time we had Piotr along instead of Lou. Once again we had a choice of trains to take, and we opted for the Journal Square train rather than the Hoboken one. Again we had quite a long wait before we departed from 33rd Street.
Chapter 3.11.3: Getting home
When we got to Pavonia-Newport, the three of us took our long walk out to civilization, and then we crossed Washington Blvd., walked across the HBLRT tracks on a pedestrian crossing next to its Pavonia-Newport station, and then went into the parking garage where I had left my car.
I drove Piotr to his home in South Amboy, and then Michael and I headed to our own home, with memories of yet another exciting RailFest.
Chapter 4: Conclusion
Metro New York RailFest 2003 was another success! Although our plans were not solid until right before the Fest took place, everything went according to the itinerary throughout the entire weekend, except that we took an earlier LIRR train on Sunday out of Penn Station. For what was really a "minor Fest", and one that I admit was hastily planned, I was happy that we had no hitches, and that we had eight people involved.
Chapter 4.1: What's next?
Plans are well underway for another Fest in Philadelphia, to take place over the weekend of January 17-18, 2004. Philadelphia Area RailFest 2004 will feature many SEPTA commuter rail lines that we did not ride during the last gathering in Philadelphia in the summer of 2001.
See you in Philadelphia in January!