The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘MTA Nostalgia Trains

perfect triumph

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It’s National Pretzel Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Friday, the 21st, was the centennial of the opening of the IRT Flushing line from Queensborough Plaza to 103rd street Corona Plaza. Access Queens, a transit advocacy group which has grown out of the 7 Train Blues Facebook group (which I’m a steering committee member of) produced a celebration for “Our Train” with the cooperation of the NY Transit Museum. Here’s the Access Queens page describing the effort.

It was a very Queensican kind of day.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured speaking above are Jodi Shapiro of the Transit Museum, who is curating an exhibit for the museum about the 7 line which will open in late July, and Subway historian Andrew Sparburg. Also present, but out of frame were Subway historian Joe Raskin and Forgotten-NY webmaster Kevin Walsh. The whole Access Queens crew were on scene, as were 40-50 transit enthusiasts.

Our template for the event was found in a NY Times article from 1917, which can be accessed here, describing the events surrounding the opening of the line which built modern Queens. Basically, this boiled down to gathering at the Grand Central platform in Manhattan, boarding the train at two in the afternoon, and then riding out to what was the final stop on the 7 back then – 103/Corona Plaza (or as it was known back then, Alburtis Avenue).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The cool bit was that when the NY Transit Museum got involved, they brought their own ride with them. The “Train of Many Colors” arrived shortly after two and we all boarded it. As mentioned above, there was a small legion of folks along for the ride – many of whom were youngsters that were transit nerds who knew more about the system than even MTA employees do – that attended. Everybody expressed their love for “Our Train,” even though the Grand Central Station platform was filling with smoke during the event due to a fire in Queens.

The FDNY who arrived on scene seemed to enjoy the event, at least.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train left Manhattan, and the Access Queens and Transit Museum folks rode it out to 103rd street. Luckily, one of my buddies – Mark Christie from the Hunters Point Park Conservancy – was aboard, and as Corona was where he landed when he originally moved to Queens from Belize – knew where to find the good eats. Mark guided us to a fantastic restaurant thereabouts where an “Al Pastor Torta” was awaiting a humble narrator.

I love it when a plan comes together.


Upcoming Tours and events

First Calvary Cemetery walking tour, May 6th.

With Atlas Obscura’s Obscura Day 2017, Calvary Cemetery Walking Tour – details and tix here.

MAS Janeswalk free walking tour, May 7th.

Visit the new Newtown Creek Alliance/Broadway Stages green roof, and the NCA North Henry Street Project – details and tix here.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

April 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

certain amount

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Holiday traditions, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last Sunday, like every other history geek in Queens, I found myself at Queens Plaza waiting for the MTA’s annual “Holiday Nostalgia Trains” event to start. I missed the first roll through, as I was up fairly late the night before, but got there in time for the second showing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Nostalgia Trains are late model subway cars maintained by the transit museum that are still quite functional. They make a round trip from Queens Plaza to the City’s Second Avenue stop on what’s normally the “F” line.

As an aside, my railfan pals can cogently argue that the subway cars which the modern day F is using could qualify as museum pieces, but that’s another story.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Famously, the Nostalgia Trains run several models of car which would be familiar to New Yorkers of the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s and so on. Some of these units were online as late as the 1970’s, I’m told. Back in the day (as late as the 1980’s), as it were, the L or Canarsie line had incredibly low ridership by modern standards, so MTA used some of these antiques to service it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One missed last year’s Nostalgia Trains, for a variety of reasons, but after the long holiday weekend – Our Lady of the Pentacle suggested that I get out of the house for a while. I ran into a number of people I know onboard, and met a few new people – including a Subway Historian named Andrew J. Sparburg.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

MTA is going to be running the Nostalgia Trains every Sunday during December, and the link below offers a bit of nitty gritty about the eight historic examples of their rolling stock, and a schedule of when and where you can board and ride.

from mta.info

Seven of the cars on the “Shoppers Special” are nearly identical except one: No. 1575, which appears much more modern than the rest of the consist. No. 1575 is the prototype for the subway car class that followed the R1/9, with amenities such as fluorescent lights and smaller ceiling fans. Customers can visit the train year-round at the Transit Museum, though it sometimes makes guest appearances for special occasions such as anniversaries and the holidays.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One does wish that MTA had preserved just one of these historic units in the actual distopian condition which distinguished the NYC Subways during the “bad old days.” Graffiti, mess, etc. It would be great if they hired a professional junkie to pass out on the rattan seats as well. Spray some piss scented air freshener around, hire a couple of thugs to menace the crowds, etc. Poop on the windows… y’know – New Yawk, Fun City.

The problem with museum pieces is often the loving restoration, which belies what their true operational ambience was.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personally, I was rather happy that all of the shooting which I’ve been doing in the Subways over the last couple of years seems to have finally paid off. Practice, practice.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The nostalgia trains carried us from Queens Plaza to Manhattan, where a short interval was suffered and the reverse trip was begun. I spent much of the first half of the journey catching up with friends and acquaintances, then got busy on the return to Queens Plaza.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

If you’re planning on attending and photographing the trains, I’d recommend bringing along a bright lens (f2.8 or better) and shooting at a fairly high ISO speed. Modern subways are quite a bit better lit than these survivors.

The shot above, if you’re curious – was captured at f3.5, ISO 4000, and a shutter speed of 1/250th. It’s also pretty important, when shooting in the “system,” to adjust your color temperature settings. If you’re on AWB or “auto white balance,” you’re going to be losing a whole lot of the image to an orange cast which will increase image noise. I shoot in raw format, and therefore always adjust the color temperature of the shot during the development process, but these were captured under the menu settings for tungsten light and later adjusted to 3750K.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Thanking the merciful creator that I didn’t have to spend much time in Manhattan, the Nostalgia trains soon reentered Queens Plaza, where riders were commanded to debark by the MTA personell. It seems they didn’t want us to see the turnaround track, for some reason.

Funny thing is, the crowd who was in attendance at this event seemed to be at least 50% railfan. Railfans will tell you the kind – and exact model – of the screws used to hold the track in place, when it was installed, and where the rails were forged.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The train disappeared into the east bound tunnel, whereupon it executed a reversal along the occluded turnaround track, and then picked up another load of lookie loos for the journey back to Second Avenue.

The Nostalgia trains are running every Sunday until the end of the year.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

December 2, 2016 at 11:30 am

problematical attempt

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Alright already, jeez.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As previously mentioned, Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself enjoyed a short vacation at the end of the last month, and for part of that duration we were at sea. Hence, your humble narrator is a bit short on content as I’ve been off my beaten path. Therefore, a couple of shots of the oceanic sky greet you today. This was about 15 minutes or so after the burning thermonuclear eye of god itself opened.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunset, on the same day as the one above. We hit weather for most of the “away game,” it was 42 degrees in Florida for instance, so seeing the ole burning thermonuclear eye of god itself open and close at all was a treat.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

moist verdure

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A life well lived is a series of dull events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My annual pilgrimage to the MTA Holiday Nostalgia “Shoppers Special” Subway event carried me to Queens Plaza one recent Sunday. It’s a fun and wholesome thing to do.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, I have more than just a few acquaintances and friends who also enact this yearly journey, wherein legacy subway cars are run on the M line in a circuit between Queens Plaza and 2nd avenue in Manhattan.

It’s always nice to see someone you know.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The weird thing, for me, is that it involves willingly heading down into the rat infested tunnels- an activity which normally fills me with a malign dread.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These are all retired subway cars, once typical, that represent various eras of design. At the time of their original deployment, each of these legacy units were state of the art.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The legacy cars performed well, although they are quite rickety in comparison to modern subways units. There was a brief interval wherein a door got stuck in the open position, but the MTA guys sorted that out in no time.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An odd mix of folks were observed onboard. Some were ordinary commuters and customers of the M line, while many were hardcore rail fans. More than one photographer was spotted shooting models in period dress.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The rail guys, they’re mostly guys, are the quiet ones on the train who watch every little detail and are listening to the machine. These cats can tell you the part number for individual screws on these trains, and you ignore their knowledge at your own peril. Foamers indeed.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This show will be running every Sunday on the M line in December, operating between Manhattan’s 2nd Avenue and Queens Plaza. Check out the MTA Holiday Train page for schedule info.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 13, 2013 at 7:30 am

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