The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Posts Tagged ‘Sunnyside Yards

padding, clicking, walking

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Want to feel better? Take a walk in Queens.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Skillman Avenue between 39th street and 49th avenue is “big sky country” here in Western Queens, with the majesties of the Sunnyside Yard and the glorious skyline of the Shining City laid out for all observers. It has always been one of my favorite spots for a stroll, and never more so than at twilight.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s a number of things I can tell you about the yards. When it opened, this was the largest coach yard on the planet, and it hosts the busiest tracks on earth to this day – specifically, the Harold Interlocking, which is shared by Amtrak and the Long Island Railroad. There’s an ocean of PCB’s and other industrial chemicals in the ground here, and its likely going to be listed for some sort of environmental cleanup or remediation before too long.

The odd and continuing appearances of cast off single shoes found along the fence line continues to intrigue and puzzle a humble narrator, but that’s another story.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that the whole “deck over the yard and build a new neighborhood on top of it, with a stadium and hotel complex at the Queens Plaza side and affordable housing to the east” chestnut has surfaced again – the latest iteration of a plan espoused by Dan Doctoroff early in the first Bloomberg term. A number of people have asked me what my thoughts on the matter are.

My reply is always: How, in any way, would that be good for Queens? Does the proposal to deck the yards include hospitals and schools, an annex for the already stretched 104th and 114th precincts, additional FDNY personnel and equipment, or some mechanism to incorporate this new population into the existing wastewater system? Who will bear the costs of these municipal services? It won’t be the entity that builds a stadium or hotel complex, one guarantees you.

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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.

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.

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