The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Sunnyside Yards

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.

“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.

freely generating

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If you see something, photograph it and say something.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the overt messaging offered by security professionals and municipal Police officials concerning the presence of literally millions of desert born sappers hidden alongside the heaving shorelines of a lake called Freedom, there do seem to be quite a few holes in the fence lines of our rail yards. Probably, this is because the security apparatus of these institutions need to strike different nerves to acquire their sources of funds, rather than to rankle the ire of the common proletarians and politicians alike.

Luckily, this homeland insecurity allows one such as myself opportunity to observe some often esoteric kit which the railroad people employ for “maintenance of way.”

from wikipedia

A railroad crane, (US: crane car or wrecker; UK: breakdown crane) is a type of crane used on a railroad for one of three primary uses: freight handling in goods yards, permanent way (PW) maintenance, and accident recovery work. Although the design differs according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating crane body is mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. The body supports the jib (UK; US: boom) and provides all the lifting and operating mechanisms; on larger cranes, an operator’s cabin is usually provided. The chassis is fitted with buffing and coupling gear to allow the crane to be moved by a locomotive, although many are also self-propelled to allow limited movement about a work site.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a flat bed car coupled to a self propelled rail crane, called a Burro, you’re looking at there. What your humble narrator doesn’t know about the rails is enormous and the scope of my ignorance on the subject is actually breathtaking, so if i misname something or am just wrong on this subject- please instruct and correct via the comments section.

Corrections and additions are always welcome at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from rootsofmotivepower.org

Burro cranes (some were outfitted with shovels, as the one at Roots) were designed to be self-sufficient maintenance-of-way tools. As such, they were self-powered, and could propel not only themselves, but could take along with them a flat car, gondola, dump car or other equipment needed for their work. Therefore, they could take with them rail, ballast, timbers or any other materials needed for track repair or construction.

These utilitarian rail vehicles have been built by several manufacturers, including Cullen-Friestedt, Federal Sign & Signal, and now by the Badger Equipment Company. But they have always retained the name Burro, and if you say Burro to a railroader, he knows that you’re not referring to the four-legged animal.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Extensive construction and demolition work has been underway at Sunnyside Yards in anticipation of the East Side Access project for several years now, but these fellows with their Burro were MOW workers.

from maintenanceofway.com

Railroad Maintenance-of-Way (MOW) machinery and its design and utilization, is the equipment used by railroads to lay, clear, and maintain railroad track infrastructure and is of paramount importance in keeping the world’s railroads running dependably, safely and profitably. Railroads are a key component of the world economy. Corn, beans and other foods and feeds, coal, oil, manufactured goods, building materials, and virtually everything else that one can name, moves by rail. The volume of goods transported by the railroads is increasing dramatically. Existing railroad track must carry more and heavier traffic. Railroad bridges must be repaired and maintained. Fences, walls, gates, area lighting and other security structures are of increasing importance. Increased traffic and speeds adds to demand on signals. Railroad and railway Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization strategies play a key role in keeping all rail traffic running safely and on time. Railroad Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization efficiency planning make it possible for railroads to upgrade and maintain track and rights of way.

Want to see something cool? Upcoming Walking Tours

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

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.

ecstasies and horrors

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

Peculiar shapes framing the opalescent moon- no doubt due to a dynamic weather system, rather than some external force, intelligence, or madness inducing entity of supra normal scope which can exist only in the imaginings of a madman- caught my attention while returning to Astoria from the hoary lanes of Greenpoint. It seems sometimes that one spends most of his time occupied in perambulating between the two communities and those happy neighborhoods which adjoin the two.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Trying to ignore the shining parallelogram of clouds which lent our world’s largest satellite a menacing cast, your humble narrator elected to continue working on the whole “night photography” thing, and began fumbling about with camera settings and nervously whispering to myself. Skillman Avenue, normally a well traveled and busy thoroughfare in Western Queens which adjoins the Sunnyside Rail Yard, is a ghost town at night, although there is a feeling of being watched.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I was not being paranoid either, as dozens of security cameras actually were watching me. Whether someone is ultimately watching the camera feed is another matter, of course, but the machines notice all things. They especially notice a weirdo in a black raincoat waving a camera around in near total darkness. Such thinking kept my mind off the menace of the lunar threat, and the curious way that the parallelogram in the sky unsettled me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One supposes that he is just too fragile for this world, a stunted flower straining out from the cracks which mar a post industrial field of pavement. Perhaps it is fated that I follow my ancestors into convalescence and begin the search for an institution of charitable design which might house and insulate me from the terrible possibilities which lurk at the edge of sanity- for if one finds himself a selenophobic, may he not be accused of being a lunatic?

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 6, 2013 at 12:15 am

ancient idol

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue in Queens is one of the thoroughfares via which pedestrian transits are accomplished between the blessed hillocks of Astoria and the lamentable post industrial flats surrounding the Newtown Creek. It is all downhill from here, your humble narrator often tells people, but at least there is some spectacular scenery along the route. To wit, the Sunnyside Yards.

Mayan Apocalypse Countdown: just 9 days left until the 13th b’ak’tun ends, initiating the Mayan Apocalypse on December 21st. Tick, tock.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Illegal dumping is an art form here in Queens, with scatter dash arrangements of discarded goods lining both fence and wall. An odd thing I’ve noticed over the last few years is the presence of discarded single shoes. I’d be able to look over a pair of shoes, but everywhere I go these days, I’m seeing single shoes. That is weird, and there’s a story behind it, I am sure. It will likely involve a serial killer, I think.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This beautiful bit of detritus, arranged upon the old iron fence of the rail yard, has obviously been in place for a long time. Many questions occur to me, regarding it, but like many of the things which Queens wishes to have noticed- there will never be an answer. Queens is like that.

harnessed shadows

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

To begin with, you will be hard pressed to find someone who is a bigger supporter of the efforts of the NYPD than your humble narrator. Vast physical inadequacies and a timorous constitution render one a “victim waiting to happen” and the presence and oversight of the gendarme is the only reason that you haven’t heard about finding my corpse lying in the street somewhere, as we live in a community cursed with predators and a criminal element which threatens all. Saying that, I recently attended a meeting of the 114th pct. community council here in Astoria, and one of the speakers was a representative of the “Anti Terror” squad. I have long been a proponent of the single truth of a “Terror War” which is that the side which most scares the shit out of the other is the one who wins. Apparently, the other guys have the upper hand at the moment, as we continue to be a reactionary and terrified opponent given to wild flights of fancy about the capabilities enjoyed by the enemy- including the deadly martial art of photography.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This unit is tasked with subverting and detecting terrorist plots, gathering intelligence on “bad actors”, and performing a role few would ask for. The representative who spoke at this meeting, however, informed the community that should they witness- for example, someone taking photographs of bridges or other “odd” things- that they should call the police and report it as suspicious behavior. After his statement was concluded, the Lieutenant was suddenly faced with an odd mendicant named Mitch who confronted him on this. I asked “Did you actually just tell the room that photography is a precursor to terrorism”?

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I let the Lieutenant know that I ran a blog, and was speaking to him in the manner of a journalist. “Other than the fact that there is no documented evidence of this, and that google maps would actually be a far more effective tool to scout a potential target than sending out an operative with a dslr, there are specific orders curtailing the harassment of photographers issued by Chief Kelly” I continued. Then, I asked him about the glaring lack of security and holes in the fences around the Sunnyside Yard and the energy infrastructure around Newtown Creek. I asked about the boats tied off to the Buckeye pipeline at Vernon Blvd. street end, the ferry boat on English Kills, and several other choice spots for undocumented and uncommented deviltry to occur. Additionally, did he know that there are websites which claim that anyone can find a free berth on Newtown Creek and that boats regularly show up there these days from unknown points carrying who knows what? I had to remind him where Newtown Creek and the largest rail yard in New York City was, as he seemed rather focused on Manhattan.

Also- Upcoming Newtown Creek tours and events:

for an expanded description of the October 20th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

for more information on the October 27th Newtown Creek Boat Tour, click here

for more information on the November 9th Newtown Creek Magic Lantern Show, click here

for an expanded description of the November 11th Newtown Creek tour, please click here

graceful valleys

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- photo by Mitch Waxman

A structure which may be discerned in the distance, within the shot above, at Sunnyside Yards is the 35th street or Honeywell Bridge. The location of the camera which captured it was astride the 39th street or Harold Avenue bridge at Steinway Street, where ongoing construction has rendered a hidden breach in the fencing which normally frustrates its purpose by obfuscating the view.

For a discussion of another of the bridges which cross these titan rail yards, click here for the posting “incaculable profusion”, examining the Thomson Avenue Viaduct to the west.

from forgotten-ny.com

When the Yards were built, Long Island City, to the north of the Yards, was effectively cut off from Sunnyside and Maspeth, to the south. Viaducts were built at Queens Boulevard (which was itself under construction in 1910), Honeywell Street, Harold Avenue, and Thomson Avenue. Laurel Hill Avenue (43rd Street) Gosman Avenue (48th Street) and Woodside Avenue were carried under the railroad.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

A paucity of such apertures in the fence lines around the yards exists, which is appropriate in this age of heightened vigilance, and the discovery of something large enough to accept the lens of a dslr is tantamount to observing a unicorn to one such as myself. Of course in the midst of all this faux security and theater, I can show you a dozen different places where you could work mischief if you chose to. Such is always the case with large installations like this one, however, and illegal trespass is not the Newtown Pentacle way.

The real estate happy characters in Manhattan are desirous to rob me of this vista, as evidenced in the document linked to below, describing the feasibility and benefits of decking over these yards and expanding the population of western Queens by tens of thousands. It seems to be a plan of some vintage, however, crafted before the financial crisis and concurrent economic crisis experienced by the region and country at large since 2008 (when do we get to start calling this a depression?).

from nyc.gov

Sunnyside Yards, one and three-quarters of a mile long and 1,600 feet across at its widest point, is the largest site in this inventory. The total deckable airspace of its 14 parcels – over 167 acres – is more than double the size of the next largest airspace site, the 74-acre NYCT Coney Island Maintenance Shop and Yards (K5000). This one corridor contains around one-sixth of the entire deckable airspace in this inventory.

The potential for large scale land uses above these yards is extraordinary. With the possible exception of Staten Island’s west shore, no other large tracts of “vacant” land remain in the City. Moreover, Sunnyside Yards is defined by a surrounding context of relatively dense development and plentiful transit access.

At the behest of former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding Daniel Doctoroff, DCP’s Housing, Economic and Infrastructure Planning (HEIP) unit conducted a preliminary analysis concerning the viability of decking over and developing Sunnyside Yards. The HEIP unit determined that the most desirable sites within the yards were two roughly rectangular areas running from the southwest to the northeast; the northern third of both sites is located northeast of Queens Boulevard.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

These trusses which fly over the Sunnyside Yards are actually rather new. The Honeywell and Harold Bridges (39th and 35th streets), for instance, were totally rebuilt recently. The Honeywell Bridge reopened in 2003 after having laid fallow and closed to pedestrian and vehicle traffic for better than 20 years. The night shot above, by the way, is betrayed by its format and shape as being from my trusty old Canon G10, which is still in service at this- your Newtown Pentacle.

from nytimes.com

In 1979, inspectors from the city’s Department of Transportation judged the 1,600-foot four-lane bridge, which was built in 1909, to be on the verge of falling down. The inspection occurred near the end of an era in which the city, nearly broke and as exhausted as a disco dancer at dawn, partly balanced its budget by deferring maintenance on bridges. Tom Cocola, a department spokesman, said once costs had been cut by removing the bridge from the city’s regular inspection schedule, ”we probably just forgot about it.”

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 12, 2012 at 12:15 am

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