The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

tones and accents

with 2 comments

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sauntering suspiciously through the hinterlands of Maspeth, along the malign fence lines of Rust Street, your humble narrator suddenly sensed a cacophony of ringing bells which occluded all reason. Assuming that one of my states was coming on, those hours of panic and terror brought on by a weakened constitution and the numerous afflictions which plague me, my first instinct was to monitor both pulse and temper.

Suddenly I realized that this ringing in my ears, now accompanied by a clattering and approaching ruckus, heralded the nearness of a train!

Note: Train folks, if you’ve got anything to say or link to regarding the actual model of locomotive, please use the comments link for this post. Every time a train photo is displayed here, I get at least a couple of emails telling me something cool about the locomotive. Please share, and leave a comment. 

A

from wikipedia

Tinnitus can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head. It is usually described as a ringing noise, but in some patients, it takes the form of a high-pitched whining, electric buzzing, hissing, humming, tinging or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, “crickets” or “tree frogs” or “locusts (cicadas)”, tunes, songs, beeping, sizzling, sounds that slightly resemble human voices or even a pure steady tone like that heard during a hearing test. It has also been described as a “wooshing” sound, as of wind or waves. Tinnitus can be intermittent, or it can be continuous, in which case it can be the cause of great distress. In some individuals, the intensity can be changed by shoulder, head, tongue, jaw, or eye movements.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This was once one of the busiest stretches of rail in New York, let alone the United States. The Long Island Railroad (in its various guises, incarnations, and corporate forebears) have maintained their “road” here since the 1860’s. A shame, these tracks are a shadow of their former self and it’s not all that frequently that one sees traffic along the route. Hurling myself across the busy truck route, your humble narrator quickly sprang onto that fence which vouchsafe the track from trespass and interference, and whipped out the camera and began clicking away.

from wikipedia

The LIRR chartered the New York and Jamaica Railroad on September 3, 1859, and a supplement to the LIRR’s charter passed March 12, 1860 authorized it to buy the NY&J and extend to Hunters Point. The LIRR carried through with the NY&J purchase on April 25, along with the purchase of a short piece of the Brooklyn and Jamaica at Jamaica, and the next day it cancelled its lease of the Brooklyn and Jamaica, but continued to operate over it. The Brooklyn Central and Jamaica Railroad, a consolidation of the B&J with the new Brooklyn Central Railroad, began operating from South Ferry over the top of the tunnel, along the B&J tracks to Flatbush Avenue, and south on the new Fifth Avenue Line in August 1860. The new line to Hunters Point was officially opened on May 9, 1861, with regular service starting May 10. A ferry connection (Hunter’s Point Ferry) was initially advertised to James Slip; connecting boats began running to East 34th Street Pier in October. he BC&J soon began operating horse cars over the old line from South Ferry, connecting with LIRR trains at Jamaica. The tunnel was closed off in December.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This double engine was hurtling along, which was somewhat remarkable. When I do see trains along this route, 9 times out of 10 they are NY & Atlantic freight trains which lumber along at a fairly tepid pace compared to this blue and gold comet which roared past me. Sadly, a diminished capacity for joy and low threshold for excitation allow one to consider the witnessing of this passing locomotive to be the high point of the day. Juvenile in character despite advanced years, it does not take much to impress one such as myself.

from wikipedia

Federal regulators limit the speed of trains with respect to the signaling method used. Passenger trains are limited to 59 mph and freight trains to 49 mph on track without block signal systems. (See dark territory.) Trains without “an automatic cab signal, automatic train stop or automatic train control system” may not exceed 79 mph. The order was issued in 1947 (effective 31 Dec 1951) by the Interstate Commerce Commission following a severe 1946 crash in Naperville, Illinois involving two Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad trains. Following the 1987 Chase, Maryland train collision, freight trains operating in enhanced-speed corridors have been required to have locomotive speed limiters to forcibly slow trains rather than simply alerting the operator with in-cab signals. The signal panel in the Maryland crash had been partially disabled, with a muted whistle and a missing light bulb.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Undoubtedly, as these tracks lead toward the Long Island City yard- which offers connections to both Manhattan and the gargantuan Sunnyside Yard- it is impossible to speculate on their final destination, but these engines were headed to somewhere in Long Island City.

for more on the twisting trackways of the Montauk Cutoff, check out this trainsarefun.com page

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the Queens side of the Newtown Creek, a loathsome flood plain typified by concreted devastation and the relicts of the industrial revolution, the Long Island Railroad has long been the proverbial “800 pound gorilla” and as such- goes wherever it wants to go.

For visual orientation to more familiar locales, notice that dagger in the heart of Queens- the Sapphire Megalith- embedded in the innocent soil of Court Square in LIC, or the distant Freedom Tower under construction in lower Manhattan.

from wikipedia

“800 pound gorilla” is an American English expression for a person or organization so powerful that it can act without regard to the rights of others or the law. The phrase is rooted in a riddle:

“Where does an 800 lb. gorilla sleep?”

The answer:

“Anywhere it wants to.”

Also, 

Obscura Day 2012, Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills

April 28th, 10 a.m.

Your humble narrator will be narrating humbly at this year’s Obscura Day event on April 28th, leading a walking tour of Dutch Kills. The tour is already half booked up, and as I’m just announcing it, grab your tickets while you can.

“Found less than one mile from the East River, Dutch Kills is home to four movable (and one fixed span) bridges, including one of only two retractible bridges remaining in New York City. Dutch Kills is considered to be the central artery of industrial Long Island City and is ringed with enormous factory buildings, titan rail yards — it’s where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.”

For tickets and full details, click here :

obscuraday.com/events/thirteen-steps-dutch-kills-newtown-creek-exploration

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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 11, 2012 at 12:15 am

2 Responses

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  1. Mitch,
    150 and 166 are both MP15AC’s (Multiple Purpose, 1500 Horsepower, Alternating Current traction motors). They were both built by the Electro-Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors back in early 1977 originally for the LIRR.

    Dave

    April 11, 2012 at 12:42 am

    • Just one minor correction. The locomotive has conventional Direct Current Traction motors. The Diesel engine makes AC power via an alternator which is converted back into DC power for the traction motors. This was an advancment in locomotives as the Motor-alternator set up is easier to maintain then the older motor-generator set up.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMD_MP15AC

      John

      April 11, 2012 at 11:04 am


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