The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for the ‘AMTRAK’ Category

defined apprehensions

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Twirling, ever twirling.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The affability of recent climate has seen me visiting old haunts and novel locale alike in recent weeks, which might be described as having been a somewhat pleasurable set of experiences. That would mean, of course, that your humble narrator was actually capable of experiencing a sensation called “pleasure.” A series of dull events punctuated by occasional gastro-intestinal distress, all sorts of bacterial and viral infections, and the oft bizarre actions of others is the way one such as myself describes “Life.”

One bright spark in the otherwise gathering clouds of existential horror which plague me are unexpected moments of serendipity.

A train passing by can excite one endlessly, and reminds that “you have to appreciate the little things.”

In my case, it’s big things that go “thruuummmm thruuuuuuummmm thruuummmm” or “claaacckkclaaacckkclaaacckk” as they pass by, but I’m all ‘effed up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Good days are ones where I’m not walking to go anyplace in particular. Days when I leave the house and decide only which compass point to walk toward. For some reason, its not east that often, as that’s usually looking into the light. Instinct always points my path towards water, no matter where I am. It was kind of interesting finding myself in Queens Plaza, which I used to inhabit back in 2009 and 2010 during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial period but which I mainly cross through these days on my way to someplace in Brooklyn or Hunters Point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle had agreed to visit the Brooklyn Grange roof top farm here in Astoria with a friend of ours who subscribes to their CSA program and I tagged along. While they picked up some quality produce, I got busy with the camera. Serendipity at work, when I woke up that morning, seeing this vista overlooking the Sunnyside Yards and the Shining City of Manhattan was not on the menu.

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constantly felt

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All of my trains are filthy.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One has mentioned the Train Washing Station at the Sunnyside Yard before, in this post from june of last year. Recently, while walking the camera about one evening, happenstance brought me to the Train Washing Station just before sunset as a dirty locomotive arrived.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Unfortunately, all I had on me was my wide angle lens (I wasn’t anticipating this sort of thing, instead, my mission for the evening had involved shooting indoors) so these shots didn’t allow me to get right up next to the engine. Normally, I’ve got the equivalent of a 150mm with me all the time, but a humble narrator has been trying to travel a bit lighter this summer.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The photo bag has swelled out to outlandish proportion in the last year or two, with multiple lenses and strobes. One enjoys having the widest range of options, of course, but carrying ten pounds of glass across the concrete devastations wreaks havoc upon my fragile spine and aging musculature. Unless I know I’m going to need the full Monty – I leave most of it at home these days, and try to travel about with just one lens.

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There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, July 26th, The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek
With Atlas Obscura, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, July 27th, Glittering Realms
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

rusty impediments

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Your motive is loco, man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So few places to go, no one to see. The gray frigidity has me down, lords and ladies, and it is not impossible that over the last few weeks, I’ve watched everything on Netflix- including a couple of episodes of “Power Rangers Jungle Fury.” Playing with the cords on my hoodie, counting the floor tiles, bored. That’s me. Cabin Fever, I think they call it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Been reading lots of good stuff, including a marathon exploration of the dissimilar topics of leprosy and the genetic consequences of multi generational incest- both of which led to the Hapsburgs. None of this relates one little bit to the history of Newtown Creek nor Queens, which actually has been my intention. Little projects like mine tend to drag you down a long drill hole, and you become so focused that you lose sight of the bigger picture… which somehow includes leprosy and incest.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Its cheerier reading than I normally do during this time of year, when my google searches have historically included “stages of putrefaction of cadaver” and “common practices of yeast distillation in 19th century america.” Hey, a guy gets curious about things. Its better to know something, well… some things… than to remain willfully ignorant about unpleasantries.

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augmented party

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Today’s post shows you how to wash a dirty locomotive.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hanging about and walking around Queens with a friend one afternoon, our path carried us up Skillman Avenue and past the gargantuan Sunnyside Yards. Luckily, something I’ve been trying to catch as it happens began to happen when Amtrak 934 sauntered into view.

from wikipedia

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track. The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that there is an entire industrial sector for whom the manufacture and maintenance of “train washes” is a focal point. It also seems to be the case that having a shiny clean locomotive pays a dividend in terms of aerodynamic drag and that the cleaner your train is, the more efficiently it runs.

from wikipedia

The AEM-7 is a twin-cab B-B electric locomotive that is used in the United States on the Northeast Corridor between Washington DC and Boston and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. They were built by Electro-Motive Division from 1978 to 1988. In the Boston Mechanical Department of Amtrak they are known as “Meatballs” and in the Washington Mechanical Department they are known as ASEAs since some of their major parts and components were designed in Sweden by ASEA (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget; translation: General Swedish Electrical Inc), which merged with Brown Boveri in 1988 forming ABB. They are also referred to as “toasters” by railfans, owing to their boxy appearance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One is informed by railfans that once upon a time, this was a tedious task accomplished by a sizable crew of laborers, who used pole mounted brushes to clean away the grime. The “modern” system (the unit pictured is somewhat archaic by 2013 standards) is far more efficient and highly automated.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fundamentally, its the same thing that happens when you wash your car, except for scale. The train rolls past water jets and a system of rotary brushes which chip away the patina of dead insects and grime which the train picks up during normal operation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This train wash is nothing new, of course, and has been on my radar for awhile. Were my methodology the same that is employed by most, I would have just lingered around this spot until I got my shots, but that’s not how your humble narrator rolls.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Instead, if its not happening while I’m passing by, it might not have happened at all for all I care. You can’t force Queens into revealing herself to you, instead, you must trust in serendipity and that she will position you in the right place and at the right time.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

higher order

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Happy Monday Newtowniverians, and a healthy one is wished for all the Brooklynites and Queensicans out there.

Today’s post displays a couple of interesting shots I managed to grab before a meeting held at LaGuardia Community College for the Newtown Creek CAG.

This CAG is a sort of advisory/community group which has formed up around the edges of the EPA Superfund project. The CAG is a requirement for EPA, and they periodically convene a meeting to inform us about their activities and overall status of the process.

from epa.gov

A Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of members of the community and is designed to serve as the focal point for the exchange of information among the local community and EPA, the State regulatory agency, and other pertinent Federal agencies involved in cleanup of the Superfund site.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In this meeting, during which a presentation from the NYC DEP was offered describing a forthcoming dredging project on Newtown Creek, discussion of various issues surrounding the Superfund project between Federal officials and community representatives was offered. Everyone else in the room was a lettered professional or community leader or of high professional caliber, representing every conceivable office, power, and potentate involved in the Newtown Creek story.

Then there’s me, who kept on having his attention drift over to the Sunnyside Yard and the fantastic views of it at rush hour which I wasn’t photographing.

from newtowncreekcag.wordpress.com

Newtown Creek CAG membership is structured on a rolling basis. The Superfund process on Newtown Creek will take many years, and interested stakeholders are encouraged to become CAG members as they learn of and want to fully participate in the process.

The CAG is designed to serve as an ongoing vehicle for information-sharing, discussion, and, where possible, consensus-building regarding decision-making related to the Newtown Creek Superfund Site. Its members represent a diverse cross-section of key stakeholder interests, including affected property owners, concerned residents, local governments, community groups, environmental groups, health experts, the business community, and others as appropriate. Requirements and responsibilities for CAG members are described in the CAG’s Operating Procedures, posted in the Resources tab.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd duck, even after all these years, it is so strange to think that someone like me is even allowed in the building let alone invited to participate and offer both questions for correct answering and contribute direct observations of obscure places being discussed. The folks at EPA have shared some of their early findings, which have greatly excited the scientific minded and fired the imaginations of those who imagine a “greener” city. Check out the CAG site for details.

from dictionary.cambridge.org

“out of your depth”- meaning: in water that is so deep that it goes over your head when you are standing: I’m not a strong swimmer so I prefer not to go out of my depth.

irresistibly borne

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A few more shots from the low light photography exercise I’ve been forcing myself to perform all winter.

Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this place. It’s a dinosaur, a relic of the “old” Queens Plaza, which has somehow withstood the arrayed powers and potentates who have completely remade most of the area. One would hope that for the sake of history, and in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the Borough of Queens, that this shop and its signage be granted landmark status and preserved “as is”for all time.

Obscured by the lamp post, one would add, is the signage that reads “Ladies Welcome.”

I’ll bet they are.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Acela was in its bed and snug as a bug in a rug.

Acela maintains a difficult schedule all day and really needs her rest. She is very sweet however, and everyone has nothing but good things to say about her. This is where the modern train receives maintenance and attention from trained mechanics and engineers, at the Sunnyside Yard.

from wikipedia

Generally Amtrak train crews consist of an engineer, a conductor, and at least one assistant conductor. Acela trains also have an On-Board Service crew consisting of two First Class attendants and a Cafe Car attendant. In addition to the food service provided in the Cafe Car, on most trains an attendant will also provide at seat cart service, serving refreshments throughout the train. First Class passengers are served meals at their seats on all services.

At Amtrak, the On-Board Service crew is considered separate and subordinate to the Train and Engine crews. Acela maintenance is generally taken care of at the Ivy City facility in Washington, DC; Sunnyside Yard in Queens, New York; or Southampton Street Yard in Boston, Massachusetts.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Apologies are offered for any unintentional “artsy fartsy”ness to the shot above, I was just trying to push the exposure and catch the light. This one was on Northern Blvd. incidentally. All of these were handheld shots, at a variety of exposures and iso settings using environmental light, for you photographic types.

beggars crouched

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal velocity seems to be at an all time low, lords and ladies, as your humble narrator must have seen too many winters. A shut in and seemingly partial invalid, at least cognitively, one must do with the few pleasures left to him as the end is likely nigh and sure to be horrible. An insubstantial element of joy, however, has been watching the painfully slow processes at work around the Sunnyside Yards as the East Side access project incarnates.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast, the part of the project walked through in today’s post is the fascinating and parallel insertion of a second track on the LIRR main line.

My comprehension of the situation is limited, but as I understand- it involves the requirements of Amtrak, which gave up some amount of allotted space and track rights at Sunnyside Yard to the City and State project, on condition that it no longer suffer schedule interruptions due to LIRR breakdowns or bottlenecks. It seems that even with Amtrak’s former holdings, frequent service delays experienced by the LIRR rippled out from NY and across the Northeast corridor rail network.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Your humble narrator is a relative late comer to the story of the railroads, and there are incredible gaps in my understanding of the system. One thing which I’ve never been able to clarify for myself is why there isn’t more active rail at work.

Once upon a time, in the City of New York, there were miles of active tracks servicing thousands of individual businesses. The plan which is actively under construction will ostensibly improve passenger service, but what about freight?

Also:

Remember that event in the fall which got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy?

The “Up the Creek” Magic Lantern Show presented by the Obscura Society NYC is back on at Observatory.

Click here or the image below for more information and tickets.

lantern_bucket

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