The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for March 14th, 2022

hellish hours

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Scuttling, forever scuttling, in the dark and cold of the Queensican night, camera in hand. Shoes scraping along the frozen concrete, friendless, filthy black raincoat flapping about in the stiff wind. Nothing matters, nobody cares. Sometimes it snows.

This time around, one was heading off in the direction of the Dutch Kills tributary of Newtown Creek here in Long Island City. As is my habit, a visit was paid to some of the better holes found in the fence lines of the cyclopean Sunnyside Yards. Fortuitous timing was achieved, since I got there just as a Long Island Railroad train set rolled past, navigating its way through the Harold Interlocking. Harold is the busiest passenger train junction in the United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There’s quite a bit of work underway down “on the deck” at Sunnyside Yards, as the latest phase of the MTA’s “East Side Access” project plays out. What that means to the passing photography enthusiast is that they’ve increased the intervals of time between trains to allow for longer periods of uninterrupted construction work, and they also seem to be timing things so that when they need to have the laborers step back to allow a train to pass safely, generally more than one train set is doing so during that interval.

“They” are the people in the control rooms at Grand Central and Pennsylvania Station who sit in front of large electronic screens detailing where, when, and how fast locomotives are moving about in the NYC system. I’ve seen the one at Grand Central, but I wasn’t allowed to photograph it due to “Homeland Security concerns.” “They” use homeland security whenever they don’t want you to report that they’re still using Windows 95 or something, as a note. The photo above depicts what is arguably the most strategic non military or political “spot” in the northeastern United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Given the spate of rail activity observed, a humble narrator decided to just hang around the holes. I was particularly enjoying the snow on the ground, since it allowed a lot of the ambient light down on the tracks to bounce about and paint the scene in primaries and pastels.

Recently, one encountered a great YouTube channel for some rail museum, one which I’ve misplaced the specific links to, which explained – as if you were talking to a first grader – how to interpret the signals on the “traffic lights” found above rail tracks. This has been immensely helpful to me. Blinking yellow versus green? It also informed me about what the motions that train people make with their lanterns means. Now I know. If I hadn’t lost the link, you would too.

Scuttling, always scuttling…

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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

March 14, 2022 at 11:00 am

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