The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for August 11th, 2010

wholly kaleidoscopic

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Often have the Sunnyside Yards been referred to at this, your Newtown Pentacle, as cyclopean- gargantuan- or titanic.

Perhaps it is just that we New Yorkers are not used to seeing such accumulations of acreage and open sight lines, or just maybe its that the 2-3 stories down surface upon which the tracks are laid down is the actual hardscrabble earth, not the engineered “ground” upon which we walk and drive.

from wikipedia

The yard is owned by Amtrak, but it is also used by New Jersey Transit. The shared tracks of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Main Line and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor pass along the southern edge of the yard. Plans for the LIRR East Side Access project to build tracks to Grand Central Terminal would have those tracks diverging in the vicinity of, or perhaps through, the Sunnyside Yard.

Northeast of the yard a balloon track (or reverse loop) is used for “U-turning” Amtrak and NJ Transit trains which terminate at Penn Station. Leading eastward near the south side of the yard, this balloon track switches off and turns left under the LIRR/Amtrak tracks, turns left once again, and merges with the Sunnyside yard track to turn the train west toward Penn Station.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recently, while moving through Queens Plaza on one of the sultry afternoons which have so far typified the summer of 2010, I found myself at one of the “hidden in plain sight” vantage points by which facility laborers enter and leave the place and the very edge of a high security “homeland security type” area.

During non peak hours, the yard acts as a staging and holding area for various Manhattan bound commuter trains, which is why in the above shot you’re seeing Amtrak parked next to New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Railroad transits through the place on a regular schedule.


Sunnyside Yards Platform

The Sunnyside Yards development proposal has been discussed by city planners, developers, and community advocates for decades. The report recommends that builders put between 18,000 and 35,000 housing units on the site, depending on the zoning. There would also be schools, parks land and an interposal transportation facility for the MTA, LIRR, Amtrak and bus service. Some advocates hope the project would include a guarantee of 50 percent affordable housing.

The property, which is owned by Amtrak and is primarily used by New Jersey Transit, is enormous. It runs from Laurel Hill Avenue on the east to Hunters Point Avenue on the west. To put it into perspective, if the property were in Manhattan, it would span 42nd to 59th Street, from Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1910, at its height the Sunnyside yard had 45 tracks and a capacity of 552 cars. It provides area trains with connections to the New York Connecting Railroad which provides Amtrak and the cargo carriers like CSX access off of Long Island and the New York archipelago over the Hellgate Bridge to the mainland.

from wikipedia

The P32AC-DM locomotive was developed for both Amtrak and Metro-North so it can run off power either generated by the on-board diesel prime mover or collected from a third rail electrification system at 750 volts direct current. The P32AC-DM is rated at 3,200 horsepower (2,390 kW), 2,900 horsepower (2,160 kW) when supplying HEP, and can obtain a maximum speed of 110 mph (177 km/h)

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The yard also serves Amtrak’s Acela service, which is a high speed train line, but this is one of the so called Genesis trains that is pulling forward, one of the work horses of the Northeast Corridor.


The Genesis P32AC-DM are a regional service dual mode locomotive found exclusively on almost every train between New York and Albany (These are Empire Service trains, the Maple Leaf, the Aderondeck, the Ethan Allen Express, and the Lakeshore Limited). This is beacause trains entering Penn Station can not be diesels. The trains use there diesel locomotives throughout the trip from Albany until just near Penn Station when the driver puts the third rail shoe down and uses this, there is no change felt to passengers on board. The train then stops at Penn Station, discharges all regular passengers and then runs light under the east river on the third rail, and into Amtrak’s Sunnyside Yard.

Written by Mitch Waxman

August 11, 2010 at 12:15 am

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