The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Railroad

mounting eagerness

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Man, I’ve barely mentioned my beloved Creek lately.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Yesterday, business took me to Red Hook’s Erie Basin, a trip which turned out to be abortive as that which I went to photograph would not be available until next week. Having a free afternoon, unexpectedly, one decided to walk home to Astoria. Shots from the journey are being processed, but your humble narrator found himself all along the river, and everywhere from Brooklyn Bridge park to The Navy Yard. My back started to ache in Williamsburg, and discretion being the better part of valor, I cut the walk off at Metropolitan and Roebling. Not bad for my first serious perambulation of 2014, but I am badly out of shape after a hibernation forced by incessant ice and snow.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Vast soliloquy governed my thoughts on the walk, and a realization that I havent been spending much time on the Newtown Creek- personally and at this blog – in the last few months left me thunderstruck. Accordingly, pictured above is the DB Cabin rail bridge, spanning Dutch Kills, which carries LIRR Montauk branch traffic. DB Cabin hasn’t been opened since 2002, as its motors are non functional. Accordingly, Dutch Kills is an industrial canal which cannot accept anything larger than a rowboat, and that’s only at low tide. There are those who would like to throw this inheritance away, and turn it into some sort of bullheaded swampland, but that’s something that sounds good at cocktail parties. They forget about Mosquitos, and jobs for those beyond their clique, and that M1 zones are for industry – not water sports or bird watching.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This bridge frustrates me as I’ve never gotten a decent shot of a train crossing it. There’s another rail bridge at English Kills which has stymied my desires in similar fashion over the years, but its just a matter of time until I get both. That’s the thing about me and my beloved Creek – I ain’t going nowhere. There are some who wish I would just fall in and disappear into the black mayonnaise, probably due to my brash nature and overwhelmingly unwholesome aspect, but they can go jump in the East River and swim to Manhattan to beg the Mayor for a job for all I care.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Newtown Creek is the subject of much speculation, discussion, and debate. All over the world – architects, planners, and engineers sniff at the air and smell a giant bucket of Federal money about to spent here. They anxiously twist their hands trying to conceive of some angle by which their pet projects can be shoehorned into the Superfund process. They forget that this is the home of industry, which must be encouraged to not just stay here, but to reinvest in Brooklyn and Queens – albeit in a manner which is less destructive to the processes of human and animal life along the waterway. You can have both.

Also, all bets are off, and your Newtown Pentacle is back in session.

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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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marshy shore

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

My fascination with the Sunnyside Yards here in Long Island City is well known, and observation of the modifications to the place demanded by the East Side Access project have been eagerly and enthusiastically observed and recorded accordingly. On this particular afternoon, the esoteric bit of kit on display for the discerning enthusiast was a truck adapted for life and transit upon the railroad tracks. The particular occupation of this vehicle is somewhat beyond me, with a singular observation that it seemed cool and was manufactured by a company called Brandt.

from wikipedia

The Canadian company Brandt has also converted large truck tractor units for use as locomotives that can move by road to where they are needed. Still mostly used for permanent way maintenance, they can also be employed as thunderbird (rescue) locomotives or even used in normal service, where they are suitable for smaller operators.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Nothing short of byzantine, the operational engineering of this project must be a devilish conundrum. Imagine the combined challenge of rebuilding, and in some cases installing new capability, to one of the busiest rail yards on Earth without disrupting its function. The new installation part of that is adding an additional track, including truss bridges flown over local and quite residential streets, which will fundamentally change the flow of traffic along the entire northeastern United States and parts of Canada while hundreds of passenger trains whizz by as they move between Manhattan and Long Island.

from wikipedia

Extending between Sunnyside, Queens, and Grand Central, the project will route the LIRR from its Main Line through new track connections in Sunnyside Yard and through the lower level of the existing 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River. In Manhattan, a new tunnel will begin at the western end of the 63rd Street Tunnel at Second Avenue, curving south under Park Avenue and entering a new LIRR terminal beneath Grand Central.

Current plans call for 24-trains-per-hour service to Grand Central during peak morning hours, with an estimated 162,000 passenger trips to and from Grand Central on an average weekday. Connections to AirTrain JFK at Jamaica Station in Jamaica, Queens, will facilitate travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport from the East Side of Manhattan.

A new LIRR train station in Sunnyside at Queens Boulevard and Skillman Avenue along the Northeast Corridor (which the LIRR uses to get into Pennsylvania Station) will provide one-stop access for area residents to Midtown Manhattan. The station may spur economic development and growth in Long Island City.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The specific occupation of this vehicle- given the small crane rig on its bed might be defined as a rail tie loader- but I’ve been excoriated for guessing when it come to the railroad before so if one of you might know for sure, please speak up in the comments section. There are large segments of pre assembled track and sleepers nearby the device, it should be mentioned. This sort of thing is part of the reason that I carry a camera with me whenever I’m transversing the concrete devastations of Western Queens, you never know what you might see.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

A free event, “Watch Wildlife on Maspeth Creek with NCA and DEC!” – Friday, April 26
Meetup at Maspeth Creek at 1 p.m., for more information visit newtowncreekalliance.org.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman - Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

decreasing wind

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Foaming, your humble narrator was scuttling his way to Brooklyn recently when sonic evidence of certain titanic exertions, whose only source could be a locomotive engine at work, penetrated through my ever present head phones.

On this particular afternoon, nearby the so called “Bliss Tower” along those tracks of the Long Island Railroad which snake along beneath the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in a nameless section of Queens, once known as Blissville but which I describe as DUGABO, it was a NY and Atlantic freight operation which was raising the ruckus.

from anacostia.com

New York & Atlantic Railway began operation in May 1997 of the privatized concession to operate freight trains on the lines owned by Long Island Rail Road. The railway serves a diverse customer base and shares track with the densest passenger system in the United States.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My headphones were not playing Norwegian Black Metal, nor late 80′s NYC Hardcore. They were not transmitting one of my many H.P. Lovecraft audio books, the soundtrack from the first Omen movie, or any of my usual playlists of childish anthems and guitar driven ballads.

Instead, the audio files I was enthralled by were podcasts, specifically Dan Carlin’s “Wrath of the Khans” series, which is presented episodically at his Hardcore History show.

If you’re not listening to Dan, you’re missing out.

from wikipedia

There is an urban legend that Julius Caesar specified a legal width for chariots at the width of standard gauge, causing road ruts at that width, so all later wagons had to have the same width or else risk having one set of wheels suddenly fall into one deep rut but not the other.

In fact, the origins of the standard gauge considerably pre-date the Roman Empire, and may even pre-date the invention of the wheel. The width of prehistoric vehicles was determined by a number of interacting factors which gave rise to a fairly standard vehicle width of a little under 2 metres (6.6 ft). These factors have changed little over the millennia, and are still reflected in today’s motor vehicles. Road rutting was common in early roads, even with stone pavements. The initial impetus for the ruts probably came from the grooves made by sleds and slide cars dragged over the surfaces of ancient trackways. Since early carts had no steering and no brakes, negotiating hills and curves was dangerous, and cutting ruts into the stone helped them negotiate the hazardous parts of the roads.

Neolithic wheeled carts found in Europe had gauges varying from 130 to 175 centimetres (4 ft 3 in to 5 ft 9 in). By the Bronze age, wheel gauges appeared to have stabilized between 140 to 145 centimetres (4 ft 7 in to 4 ft 9 in) which was attributed to a tradition in ancient technology which was perpetuated throughout European history. The ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks constructed roads with artificial wheelruts cut in rock spaced the wheelspan of an ordinary carriage. Such ancient stone rutways connected major cities with sacred sites, such as Athens to Eleusis, Sparta to Ayklia, or Elis to Olympia. The gauge of these stone grooves was 138 to 144 centimetres (4 ft 6 in to 4 ft 9 in). The largest number of preserved stone trackways, over 150, are found on Malta.

Some of these ancient stone rutways were very ambitious. Around 600 BC the citizens of ancient Corinth constructed the Diolkos, which some consider the world’s first railway, a granite road with grooved tracks along which large wooden flatbed cars carrying ships and their cargo were pulled by slaves or draft animals. The space between the grooved tracks in the granite was a consistent 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in).

The Roman Empire actually made less use of stone trackways than the prior Greek civilization because the Roman roads were much better than those of previous civilizations. However, there is evidence that the Romans used a more or less consistent wheel gauge adopted from the Greeks throughout Europe, and brought it to England with the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43. After the Roman departure from Britain, this more-or-less standard gauge continued in use, so the wheel gauge of animal drawn vehicles in 19th century Britain was 1.4 to 1.5 metres (4 ft 7 in to 4 ft 10 in). In 1814 George Stephenson copied the gauge of British coal wagons in his area (about 1.42 metres (4 ft 8 in)) for his new locomotive, and for technical reasons widened it slightly to achieve the modern railway standard gauge of 1.435 metres (4 ft 8.5 in).

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, the media I consume is not something I think people would be interested in, at least that’s been my experience in real life. A recent conversation with Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame, wherein that intrepid explorer queried me about where to find some of these Lovecraft audio files which are so often mentioned, forced me to reconsider that maxim. Accordingly, since its a holiday weekend and you might have some free time, here you go.

The Atlanta Radio Theater Company is great. The website… their stuff is available as mp3′s at itunes and others, so go hunt them down.

The astounding H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

ARTC made a better Dunwich, by my taste, but HPLHS did both “Mountains of Madness” and “Shadow Out of TIme” better and they made a freaking “Call of Cthulhu” silent movie as well as the unbelievably great “Whisperer in Darkness” film. Dark Adventure Radio Theatre just rocks.

Huge talents, a podcast performed by two of its associates is HPPodcraft.com.

Incidentally, just like the LIRR Engine 102 featured in yesterday’s post, today’s NY&A engine is an EMD SW1001.

from wikipedia

The EMD SW1001 was a 1,000-horsepower (750 kW) diesel locomotive for industrial switching service built by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division between September 1968 and June 1986. A total of 230 examples were constructed, mainly for North American railroads and industrial operations.

The SW1001 was developed because EMD’s SW1000 model had proved unpopular among industrial railroad customers, as the heights of its walkway and cab eaves were much greater than those of earlier EMD switcher models. The overall height was similar, but the SW1000′s roof was much flatter in curvature. Industrial railroads that only operated switchers often had facilities designed to the proportions of EMD’s earlier switchers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gold standard, the best of the best unabridged readings are from Audiorealms, featuring narrator Wayne June. Flat out readings of the Lovecraft Texts by professional voice talent in a studio. Genre defining, these are commercial works which really deserve support. Buy em, highest Mitch Waxman ratings- lengthy, mellifluous, well worth the hard slaved money. Six volumes, covering all the really good stuff. I think I got them through iTunes, although audible.com has them for sale.

The unmentionable Jeffry Combs reads “Herbert West Re-Animator.”

Additional mentions for theatrical productions of “Call of Cthulhu” and “Lurking Fear,” pro recordings from “back in the day,” when audio books were released on things called “audio cassettes.” Check out lovecraftzine.com for a list of free downloads which includes these two gems.

Archive.org is hosting Maria Lectrix‘s readings of “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.“ Free, and open sourced, go get em. Poke around at archive.org, by the way. This isn’t the only Lovecraft audio there- look for “Herbert West: Reanimator” and others.

from nyc.gov

Greenpoint Avenue is a four-lane local street in Queens and Brooklyn, running northeast from the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Roosevelt Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, also known as the J. J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, is located approximately 2.2 km from the mouth of Newtown Creek. The bridge is situated between Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Review Avenue in the Blissville section of Queens.

dark and furtive

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

While inspecting the scene which stands extant in DUPBO, or Down Under the Pulaski Bridge Onramp, one cannot help but notice the regular appearance of the Long Island Railroad operating along those tracks which it has held tenancy over since 1870.

The singular thrumming and vibrations of the municipal railways engines often rouse me from the piles of trash and wind blown debris amongst which one such as myself dwelleth, commanding my attentions and demanding proximity.

from 1877′s “Long Island and where to go!!: A descriptive work compiled for the Long R.R. Co.“, courtesy google books:

Long Island City is the concentrating point upon the East river, of all the main avenues of travel from the back districts of Long Island to the city of New York. The great arteries of travel leading from New York are Thomson avenue, macadamized, 100 feet wide, leading directly to Newtown, Jamaica and the middle and southern roads on Long Island, and Jackson avenue, also 100 feet wide, and leading directly to Flushing, Whitestone and the northerly roads.

Long Island City is also the concentrating point upon the East river, of the railway system of Long Island.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Diminished expectations notwithstanding, someday I would hope to actually ride upon one of these trains, transiting merrily from terminus to terminus and happily recording the largely pedestrian experience in photographs, anecdote, and the occasional video.

Of course, such pleasures must be denied to one such as myself, who is an onerous, undeserving, and decidedly feckless quisling renowned for publicly embarrassing himself with wild flights of fantasy and fantastic predictions of an uncomfortable and dire future.

from wikipedia

This station has 13 tracks, two concrete high-level island platforms, and one wooden high-level island platform. All platforms are two cars long and accessible from Borden Avenue just west of Fifth Street. The northernmost one, adjacent to tracks 2 and 3, is the only one used for passenger service. The other concrete platform adjacent to tracks 6 and 7 and the wooden one adjacent to tracks 8 and 9 are used for employees only. All tracks without platforms are used for train storage. The southernmost four tracks are powered by third rail while the remaining tracks are used only by diesel-powered trains.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Feeling somehow exposed down in DUPBO, a dark corner of the Newtown Creek watershed occasionally occluded by the gaseous exhalations of high volume roads, vehicular tunnels, and hundreds of thousands of automotive engines, your humble narrator retreated to the increasingly well used and so called “51st Avenue bridge”.

The elderly engine you see above, which is still at least ten years younger than me, is an EMD SW1001.

from wikipedia

The EMD SW1001 was a 1,000-horsepower (750 kW) diesel locomotive for industrial switching service built by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division between September 1968 and June 1986. A total of 230 examples were constructed, mainly for North American railroads and industrial operations.

The SW1001 was developed because EMD’s SW1000 model had proved unpopular among industrial railroad customers, as the heights of its walkway and cab eaves were much greater than those of earlier EMD switcher models. The overall height was similar, but the SW1000′s roof was much flatter in curvature. Industrial railroads that only operated switchers often had facilities designed to the proportions of EMD’s earlier switchers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A decaying and increasingly decrepit truss bridge designed for pedestrians, the structure hurtles over the tracks and leads one under the steel of the fabled Long Island Expressway. Several years ago, I witnessed documents prepared by certain members of the government which proposed the utter destruction and subsequent replacement of this bridge. This report continued in dire tones- describing the bridge as standing, but unsound due to decaying concrete and rusted steel.

For a longer look at the bridge and environs, check out this post from February of 2010, “dimly lit and illimitable corridors.”

Personal observation has revealed that this is a VERY well traveled route between the industrial labor force of LIC and the nearby 7 train at 49th Avenue- or Hunters Point Avenue- depending on which century you’re describing. The 7, of course, offers connections to the east via Queens Plaza or a short journey into Manhattan via the Steinway Tunnel.

Forgotten-NY has been here too.

from wikipedia

The Steinway Tunnel carries the 7  trains of the New York City Subway under the East River between 42nd Street in Manhattan and 51st Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, in New York City. It was originally designed and built as an interurban trolley tunnel (hence the narrow loading gauge and height), with stations near the 7 ; trains’ current Hunters Point Avenue and Grand Central stations. It is named for William Steinway, who was a major promoter of its construction, although he died in 1896 before it was completed.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This is officially “one of my spots,” by the way.

During the week, especially around rush hour, a series of trains roll through here, providing a good opportunity for photography enthusiasts to gain a less common angle on the familiar blue and yellow passenger service. The phrase “one of my spots,” by the way, refers to an area I visit often while looking for a perfect combination of sky and light and subject. A wealth of photos of this particular spot and situation adorns my photostream at flickr, but I still haven’t hit that moment here, which is another failure I can pin on to my sweater.

There’s magic on the 51st Avenue bridge, I just have to find the right place and time to photograph it, which will take nothing but persistence.

from wikipedia

The Long Island Rail Road owns an electric fleet of 836 M7 and 170 M3 electric multiple unit cars, and 134 C3 bilevel rail cars powered by 23 DE30AC diesel-electric locomotives and 22 DM30AC dual-mode locomotives.

In 1997 and 1998, the LIRR received 134 double-decker passenger cars from Kawasaki, including 23 cab control cars, and 46 General Motors Electro-Motive Division diesel-electric locomotives (23 diesel DE30ACs and 23 dual-mode DM30ACs) to pull them, allowing trains from non-electric territory to access Penn Station for the first time in many years, due to the prohibition on diesel operation in the East River Tunnels leading to Penn Station.

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