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Trip Report

OTOL Big Apple RailFest 2007

January 12-14, 2007
Section 2 of 2


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Chapter 3.8: Lunch at Jamaica Center

We all crossed Archer Avenue and went to various restaurants. Most ended up in the combined Subway/Dunkin' Donuts. It was nice to be off the trains for a little while and get some food into us.

After lunch, those who went to other places met us outside that restaurant. Soon our group of thirteen headed back to the real subway!

Although signs indicated that this entrance would be open on weekdays only, it was indeed open this particular Saturday, so we did not have to cross Archer Avenue once more. In the paid area of the station, a few took a quick trip into the men's room. Together we then headed for the E platform.

Chapter 3.9: MTA NYCT E Train, Jamaica Center to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike

Our afternoon began nicely as we resumed our travels at 1:06 PM, right on time. We rode to the Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike station, where we detrained. To transfer to the Jamaica-bound F train, we went upstairs to a mezzanine and then down another set of stairs to the other island platform.

Chapter 3.10: MTA NYCT F Train, Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike to Jamaica/179th Street

I had allowed in our schedule 12 minutes making this transfer, however we did it in one sixth of the time. Three minutes after we got off the E train, we were boarding an F. That stroke of luck put us nine minutes ahead of the time called for in the itinerary.

The line under Hillside Avenue is what appears to be a typical four-track express line, but the center tracks are used most of the time for storage. All F trains use the local tracks and make all stops.

Our trip on this segment took nine minutes, so at 1:25 PM we were detraining at Jamaica/179th Street. Although it is an endpoint station, we had to walk upstairs and down to another platform to transfer to the next F train that would be returning inbound.

Chapter 3.11: MTA NYCT F Train, Jamaica/179th Street to Stillwell Ave./Coney Island

Here we would begin our longest trip of the day, made possible by the aforementioned trackwork that severed the G line in Brooklyn. We would instead remain on the F train from beginning to end. Complicating matters was that the downtown F trains were running via the A line in Lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. That added a few more minutes to the trip due to congestion.

Our journey began at 179th Street in Jamaica at 1:34 PM. We made our way through Queens and into Manhattan. The only "new" trackage for the group in Manhattan was the short segment connecting the 63rd Street line to the Sixth Avenue Line. On our previous fest back in 2001, we were on a rerouted R that went through another connection to the Broadway line to rejoin its normal routing.

After West 4th Street, we moved onto the Eighth Avenue Line and began making all A stops. We continued like this until Jay Street/Boro Hall, where we resumed travel on the regular F route all the way to Coney Island. We finally got to the Stillwell Avenue station in Coney Island at 3:11 PM, only one minute later than called for in my itinerary.

Downstairs, some opted for another rest room break here before we continued onward to our next train. We then went up to the D train.

Chapter 3.12: MTA NYCT D Train, Stillwell Ave./Coney Island to 4th Ave./36th Street

We had another departure right on time, as our D departed from Coney Island at 3:23 PM. We expected some minor delays along the West End Line, as N trains in our direction were rerouted off the Sea Beach Line onto the same track. However, we got to 36th Street at 3:47 PM, three minutes earlier than planned.

I had allotted us eight minutes to go upstairs and cross over to the Bay Ridge-bound platform, however we did it in two.

Chapter 3.13: MTA NYCT R Train, 4th Ave./36th Street to Bay Ridge/95th Street

Group photo #1 at 95th St onboard an R train. Group photo #2 at 95th St onboard an R train. We then only had a minute to wait before an R train came along. We left 36th Street at 3:50, the time we thought we would be arriving at this station on the D. At 4:04 PM, we pulled into the terminus station at Bay Ridge/95th Street. Our group detrained briefly while the train's crew changed ends.

Chapter 3.14: MTA NYCT R Train, Bay Ridge/95th Street to 4th Ave./36th Street

Here, our layover was longer than planned. The next northbound R departure, on the same equipment, was at 4:13 PM, nine minutes later. We were still one minute ahead of our overall schedule. At 4:26, we arrived once more at 36th Street. We got off there in order to transfer back to the D. This time we did not have to leave the platform on which we had arrived. However, our wait was nine minutes, during which time we let an N pass us by on the express track before the next D came.

Chapter 3.15: MTA NYCT D Train, 4th Ave./36th Street to West 4th Street

Well, the D trains were still somehow getting to 36th Street three minutes ahead of schedule, because this one came at 4:35 PM, vs. the planned 4:38. Our final official conveyance of the day ran express most of the way, bypassed Dekalb Avenue, and gave us a nice view of the impending dusk as we ran over the Manhattan Bridge.

Our group detrained when we arrived at West 4th Street in Greenwich Village at 4:57 PM. Through all we had been through today, between taking thirteen subway rides and Piotr's disability, we ended up one minute ahead of our itinerary. Give Piotr a lot of credit for being able to get around, mostly on stairways, throughout the system and not delaying us at all!

We walked to the north end of the West 4th Street station, and exited on Sixth Avenue between Waverly Place and West 8th Street. We had 3-1/2 blocks to walk once on the surface in order to get to our dinner stop.

Chapter 3.16: Dinner at Famous Ray's Pizza

Finally the big moment outside of rail travel that some in the group had waited for! There is nothing like Famous Ray's oversized pizza slices to satisfy an appetite after a long day on the rails. We spent about half an hour there.

Chapter 3.17: End of Saturday's activities

After dinner, we split up for the day. Jishnu, Ellis, Maurice, and Alan walked west on 11th Street and then north to 12th street to an entrance to the 7th Avenue subway line. They rode a northbound 2 train. All but Alan got off at Penn Station, where they had to catch various trains. Jishnu took an NJT Midtown Direct train to Short Hills. Ellis had to catch an LIRR Long Beach Branch train to Oceanside. Maurice took Amtrak Train 57, the Vermonter, to Philadelphia. Alan remained on the 2 to Times Square, then switched to a 7 train to return home to Queens.

Piotr went across Sixth Avenue and took a bus to 32nd Street, and then another bus from there to Washington Heights. John Corbett walked up to 14th Street, and then east to Union Square, where he caught a 4 train to Grand Central Terminal. He then completed his trip by taking a Metro North Hudson Line train to Riverdale where he would be spending the night.

Skip, Lou, Mike, Steve, Nick, Michael, and I went south on Sixth Avenue to the 9th Street PATH station. Nick was the closest of all to his final destination for the night, as he would be staying at the dormitory of a classmate at the nearby New School.

The rest of us went downstairs into the PATH station, and from there we went back to New Jersey. Steve and Mike went as far as Pavonia/Newport, while Lou, Skip, Michael, and I went to Journal Square, and changed trains there for Newark. Eventually we got to Newark Penn Station and walked over the bridge to our adjacent hotel.

Chapter 4: Sunday, January 14, 2007

Our final day of BARF 2007 brought about 14 people on the 14th. Today would be our commuter rail excursion on Metro North up to Wassaic.

Chapter 4.1: Meeting in Grand Central Terminal

The people staying at the Hilton in Newark (Lou, Skip, Michael, and I) first went to McDonald's in Newark Penn Station for breakfast. Then we took an NJT Northeast Corridor Line train into New York Penn Station. From there it was a 2 train one stop Uptown to Times Square, followed by the S shuttle to Grand Central.

At Grand Central, we had arranged to meet by the information kiosk in the middle of the main hall. Also returning from previous days were Steve, Mike H., Jishnu, John Corbett, Maurice, and Alan. Joining us for Sunday only were John Wireman, Bill Magee, and Torolf Haug.

Jishnu and Alan came from their respective homes once more. Maurice, for the second day in a row, took Amtrak Regional 150 from Philadelphia to New York, then subways to Grand Central. Steve and Mike left the Courtyard Newport early in the morning, and first went to the Marriott Financial Center in Manhattan, where Steve would be staying on Sunday evening. They were able to leave their luggage there and get breakfast before heading up to Grand Central by subway. John Wireman came up from Philly via the SEPTA/NJT combination, then the subway. Bill Magee drove from Cherry Hill to Hamilton, parked there, and took NJ TRANSIT's Northeast Corridor Line up to New York, then subways. John Corbett came down to Grand Central from Riverdale to join us. Torolf was new to our group. He hails from Wayne, NJ. He took an NJ TRANSIT bus into the city from Willowbrook Mall, followed by the cross-town S subway shuttle.

Chapter 4.2: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9619, Grand Central Terminal to Southeast

We had an on-time departure from Grand Central at 9:50 AM, and we kept to the schedule throughout our trip to Southeast.

We had expected Nick Gibbon to join us today as well, but he was missing in action. Skip reached him by cell phone as we were headed north on the train. Nick became a late scratch as he had decided to sleep late and thus missed the train.

Chapter 4.2.1: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9519, Fordham to White Plains

Piotr meanwhile felt it would be easier for him to meet us along the line, rather than going down to Grand Central from Washington Heights. So he took a bus from Washington Heights to the Fordham station in the Bronx, and then caught a local train from there to White Plains.

When he joined us in White Plains at 10:21 AM, we had achieved our maximum for the day at 14 people. We would maintain that number until we got back to White Plains on the southbound trip.

At Southeast, we had to get off the electric MU train and await a diesel to continue further north. Amtrak P40 #833 heads up our MN train to Wassaic, at Southeast. One might think that with this drill happening once every two hours on weekends, that Metro North would have their act together. Unfortunately, everyone had to wait for them to bring the diesel train out of the yard and to the track across the platform from where our electric train was still sitting. It was confusing since the diesel consist is much shorter than the MU, so we were among those who had to hustle towards the rear of the platform when the diesel train came to a stop. Of course by that time, seats together were at a premium, so we were spread out throughout the coach.

Chapter 4.3: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9919, Southeast to Wassaic

After all of that, we did however get to Wassaic right on time. Our train at Wassaic. We spent the 19-minute layover stretching our legs on the platform. There was not much to see anyhow because it had gotten a bit foggy. Eventually we all gravitated back to the train and sat in the cab coach to await our southbound departure.

Chapter 4.4: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9934, Wassaic to Southeast

Our first inbound train operated right on time, as we departed Wassaic at 12:23 PM, and arrived in Southeast at 1:03. After that 40-minute trip, we again had a change of trains.

Chapter 4.5: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9634, Southeast to White Plains

Here we had a two-coach diesel train discharging all of its passengers to a much longer MU consist. We wanted to be at the front of the electric train to put us closest to the proper exit at White Plains to access the mall where we were going to have lunch. Thankfully we all got seats fairly close to one another.

Still right on the money at 1:07 PM, we departed from Southeast. Our train at White Plains. Our train remained on time right until we got to White Plains, at 1:59 PM.

Here is where our group began to get smaller. Thirteen of us to walked two blocks to the Galleria at White Plains, while Bill remained aboard Train 9634.

Chapter 4.5.1: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9634, White Plains to Grand Central Terminal

Bill decided to remain on this train and continue back to New York, across town on the subways, and eventually back to Hamilton on NJ TRANSIT.

Chapter 4.6: Lunch at Galleria at White Plains

This walk took a little longer than I had expected, so we did not get to the mall until about 2:15. Coupled with rest room breaks and long lines at some of the eateries, I could see that it would be difficult for all of us to have time to eat, and still make the 2:59 PM Metro North train back to New York.

Originally my itinerary had called for two hours at the mall, but on a personal test run on a weekday I was able to pull it off the round trip walk and have my meal all within an hour. Therefore, I announced to the group that if anyone was finished and had to be back in New York to make connections, they should leave right away to make that 2:59 train. We would hang around until the 3:59 train instead.

Most of the group sat together, however somehow we had lost Torolf. He had sat over by the Ranch 1 restaurant, and then unable to find anyone and assuming we were all going to take the 2:59 train back, he made his way back to the station.

Chapter 4.6.1: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9638, White Plains to Grand Central Terminal

Electing to take the 2:59 PM departure were John Corbett and Skip Howard. Torolf had some people from the group to talk to as this express train made its way towards New York City. When they got there, John returned to Ronkonkoma on the LIRR. Torolf went by subway to Port Authority to get a bus back to Willowbrook Mall. Skip went on the subways to Penn Station, where he eventually caught Amtrak Acela Express 2256 back to Massachusetts.

Chapter 4.6.2: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9538, White Plains to Grand Central Terminal

Next to decide to leave were Steve and Mike. They needed to go to Lower Manhattan first to get Mike's suitcase from Steve's hotel, and then they would go to Queens where Mike would catch a bus to his hotel. They left a little too late to catch the 2:59 express, but they were able to make the 3:08 PM local train. They then took the 4 train to Wall Street. As you will see in Chapter 4.8, their adventures for the weekend were far from over!

John Wireman also left us and was on the same train as Mike and Steve. From Grand Central, he made his way back to Penn Station, and took the NJT/SEPTA combo back to Philadelphia.

Chapter 4.6.3: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9642, White Plains to Grand Central Terminal

Piotr, Jishnu, Maurice, Alan, Michael, and I remained at our tables chatting for a little while longer. We then decided to begin walking over to the station.

When we got to the platform, Piotr went inside so he could sit down. We said goodbye to him there, since he was going to take a local train to Fordham while the rest of us would be on the express to Grand Central.

The other five walked towards the north end of the platform, thinking that part of the train might be less crowded. However, when Train 9642 came in, it was packed to the gills. Some of us stood, while others found rumble seats near the doors to park ourselves for the 36-minute trip.

As it turned out, this particular express train did make a stop at Fordham, so Piotr could have come with us. He later told me that no announcements had been made inside the station that the express train would stop at Fordham.

Our trip was otherwise uneventful, and we came to a stop at Grand Central right at 3:35 PM. We had quite a walk to make to get into the terminal itself, since we had sat near the rear of the long MU train.

Chapter 4.6.4: MTA MNRR Harlem Line, Train #9542, White Plains to Fordham

Piotr was aboard this train as it ran local down to Fordham Road in the Bronx. From the train station, he took a bus back to Washington Heights to get his belongings. He then eventually traveled by subway to Penn Station, took NJT to Metropark, and was picked up there for the final stretch of his trip back to South Amboy.

Chapter 4.7: The group splits for good

At Grand Central, we said goodbye to Alan, who would make his way home on the subway. Maurice, Jishnu, Michael, and I took the S shuttle to Times Square, and then a very crowded 1 train from there to Penn Station.

Before we got off the subway, Michael and I bid farewell to Maurice and Jishnu as we ran for our 5:01 PM NJT Northeast Corridor Line train to Newark. Just like my luck on Friday night, we just made it aboard before the train departed. At Newark we detrained. While Michael remained in the waiting room on the platform, I ran across to the Hilton to get our suitcase from the bell captain. I only had 12 minutes between trains to accomplish this mission, and I did it successfully. We then enjoyed a quick express trip down to Metropark, and drove home from there.

Meanwhile, Jishnu caught the next NJT Midtown Direct train to Short Hills, and Maurice took Amtrak Keystone 669 back to Philadelphia.

Chapter 4.8: End of Sunday's activities... and some Monday fun too!

BARF 2007 was just a memory now, with most of the group on their way home. However, the adventures continued for Mike Hammond, who stayed at the Marriott La Guardia Airport on Sunday night, and then returned to Cleveland by air on Monday morning.

Steve Weagant, meanwhile, took a day trip to Atlantic City. His journey included an Amtrak Regional to Philadelphia, NJ TRANSIT's Atlantic City Line in two directions, the PATCO Speedline from Lindenwold to Camden, and NJ TRANSIT's RiverLINE and Northeast Corridor Line to get back to Newark Airport. From there, he finally flew back to Chicago that evening.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Once we got by the subway service diversions, everything went without a hitch. I was quite pleased that our group peaked at 13 on Saturday and 14 on Sunday. The only disappointment was our breaking up before the fest had officially ended on Sunday, but it is understood that various people had different plans for the evening.

Now we look back on yet another successful fest. The letdowns of the subway diversions will become the nuclei of our BARF 2008 event next January.

Meanwhile, planning has already begun for more fun in 2007. I have decided that it is time to stop talking and start acting on holding a major rail fest in California. Northern California will be the venue in July 2007, featuring most of what San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento have to offer us railfans. Because OTOL NoCal RailFest 2007 will be so massive in the number of activities and the necessary length of time involved, I concluded it would be best not to hold an event in March. I am hopeful that time will allow one more meet this year, most likely taking place once more on the east coast.

The more distant future still involves fests involving New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, the Rockies, Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest.

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