The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘Long Island Railroad

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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this splendor

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If these guys go out, what in the name of god itself will I take pictures of?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One isn’t too sure about the details of the current beef between the LIRR unions and the State of New York’s MTA – but my concerns about an impending strike have little to do with the crippling effect it will have on NYC and all of Nassau and Suffolk counties, nor the living hell which commuters will endure getting too and from their Manhattan jobs, or the financial consequences to both organized labor and state officials. Purely selfish motivations rule, as your humble narrator is overly concerned about the lack of photographic opportunity which a cessation of locomotive service in LIC will cause. Hey! This one affects me personally, what am I supposed to take pictures of without any trains?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s always tugboats, I guess, although I’ve been shooting less and less maritime in 2014. No particular reason, it’s just that life have led me away from the harbor in the first half of this year, and I’ve been busy upland. Nice thing about industrial Maspeth, I always say, is the random movement when a train suddenly busts through the scene. If there is a LIRR strike… let’s just say that it diminishes us all, and industrial Maspeth most of all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One wonders if freight operations will be suspended as well? I’d imagine so, but I’m a stranger to the world of organized labor except by neighborly osmosis. The industries I’ve worked in – Advertising and Comics – eschew organized labor. The excesses of both are legendary, but you’ve probably watched “Madmen” so I don’t have to discuss Madison Avenue. As an example for the comics industry, the guy who created Superman ended up walking into DC Comics one day while working as a delivery man. The guy who created all those characters in the Marvel movies – Hulk, Captain America, etc. – was Jack Kirby, whose heirs get ugatz from Marvel. Either way, I’ve got to find something else to take pictures of, somewhere in the Newtown Pentacle.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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.

furious delirium

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Your music sucks, why do you play it so loud?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

In the midst of everything else, a humble narrator has to worry about getting the laundry done, which is not always as easy a proposition as it sounds like. More often than not, indecision about the logical process by which one arrives at some sort of conclusion about whether a soiled garment should be considered for the “colors” or “darks” bags reduces one to gibbering madness. Crouched in the corner of the room, wild eyed and slaked with cold perspiration, I often find myself impaled on the horns of dilemma. That navy blue shirt… where does it belong? Does it belong? Where do any of us belong? This is why I largely dress in black.

All ‘effed up, me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Dire portent abounds. A general tension is palpable, and even the normally laconic army of bicycle delivery guys seem tense, here amongst the raven tressed hillocks of Western Queens. As one sorts his socks and towels, preparing them for drop off at the local laundry shepherd, a distinct sensation of dread permeates the atmosphere hereabouts. Even my little dog Zuzu seems to sense approaching calamity, as she drums her claws across the worn floorboards. At least the humidity seems to have broken.

I fear the polar vortex itself might return, carrying with it certain things which Esquimaux legend only hints at, and am quite unsure if I should send certain articles of Our Lady of the Pentacle’s wardrobe to the laundromat or segregate them out for dry cleaning.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Were this the 21st century that a humble narrator was promised, when still an innocent moppet – the one which had jet packs and moving sidewalks and flying cars – we’d all be dressed in self cleaning space age fabrics which would obviate little need for the services of the laundry shepherds. These were supposed to be “onesies,” or speed suits as Dr. Venture would refer to them, whose coloration would be indicative of social rank. Unfortunately, the world we’ve got is neither “Brave” nor “New.”

Oh no… what do you do with a sock that has red, white, and black stripes? Oh dear lord… the horror of it all…

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sights and glories

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Not sure if this thing sucks or blows, but I think that it probably just blows.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Spotted recently at the LIRR Hunters Point station, an esoteric bit of kit, which was boldly labeled as the TC 888 and which bore the branding of something called “ESSCO.” Certainty exists that shortly after hitting “publish” on this post, one of my rail fan pals will leave a comment or send an email describing this device in brain dissolving detail, but your humble narrator is focused simply on a single query.

Does it suck, or does it blow?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

To me, it looks like something which really blows.

That’s a jet engine at the wide part of the funnel, and the fuel hatch had writing stenciled on it that advised “Kerosene Only.” Also, a lack if any sort of receptacle for the resultant materials which might be produced by an interval of powerful sucking, nor a visible connection to a feeder mechanism designed to interact with other external equipment, suggests that it probably doesn’t suck at all.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So, this pinkish orange Track Cleaner must in fact blow, and there’s no doubt that the jet engine must be able to blow chunks of trash and other debris from the trackbed. One cannot tell you if Hunters Point was getting blown, or just storing the device temporarily.

Either way, it’s clear that it doesn’t suck, and that its job is to blow.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

There are two Newtown Creek walking tours coming up.

Saturday, June 28th, The Poison Cauldron
With Atlas Obscura, click here for tickets and more info.

Sunday, June 29th, The Insalubrious Valley
With Brooklyn Brainery, lunch included, click here for tickets and more info.

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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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- 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.

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