A train day
What with the roads still being in wretched condition I decided to take the train into work today. It helped that the day’s work location, in the Bronx, was close to the 238th Street station on the 1 subway line, which would make for a direct if lengthy trip from Penn Station. As I was giving my wife a ride to work – her Mazda is a lot worse in the snow than my Subaru – I would have to get the LIRR from Stony Brook, that station being in fairly close proximity to her workplace. As it looked like the 5:54 from Stony Brook to Penn would be the last train I could get and still get to the Bronx by 8, and I had no illusions about road conditions, we had to leave the house at (ugh!) 5 am.
Neighborhood streets were just as bad as they’ve been, though the Long Island Expressway was in good shape, at least for the two exits we were on it. The eastbound lanes were still closed for snow removal. On a much worse note, Nichols Road (County Road 97), which is a major four-lane thoroughfare, was horrible. Only one lane was passable in each direction and it was often snow-covered. It didn’t help that I was stuck for much of the way behind a coach bus that was going less than 10mph. Fortunately, I made it to the Stony Brook station with just a few minutes to spare. The parking area had been plowed, but the walkways to the platform had not been cleared at all, forcing everyone to clump through the snow.
The 5:54 may be an early train, but it’s a very nice one. Not only does it have the nice seats found on diesel coaches, seats built for actual human beings rather than for midget anorectic quadruple amputees as with the seats on the electric trains, but it also uses a dual-mode locomotive that can run on both diesel and third-rail power. That allows the train to go into Penn Station, which is off-limits to diesels, so there’s no need to change trains at Huntington or Jamaica. It makes a nice express run from Greenlawn to Jamaica. I don’t know what ridership normally is like, as if I’ve ever ridden it before it’s only been once or twice, but it was quite crowded this morning.
Once at Penn I got a 3 express to 96th Street, and then switched to a 1 for the interminable trip to 238th. Okay, it was less than 30 minutes long, but there were so many stops along the way the ride seemed endless. It was raining quite heavily by the time I got to 238th, a detail that usually wouldn’t matter except that I had a very wet walk of several blocks to the worksite.
I finished up quite early, early enough that I figured I had a chance of getting the 3:52 out of Penn. In a bit of a change from the morning I transferred from the 1 to the A at 168th Street, an interesting transfer that involves an elevator ride given the difference in depth between the platforms. I’m not sure that I saved any time over the morning’s routing, but I did get to experience one of the subway’s best express runs, between 125th and 59th streets on the A.
The 3:52 from Penn to Huntington, which makes a Stony Brook connection, was quite the surprise because it was a cattle train. Continuing with the zoological motif, I actually had to do the External Baby Elephant Walk for a couple of carlengths before I saw some empty seats. It was an electric train, fortunately the man who sat next to me wasn’t too corpulent and I actually was able to breathe, more or less. What came as an additional surprise was that hardly anyone was getting off at the various stops on the way to Huntington.
As I waited on the Huntington platform for the connection, the reason for the crowding became apparent: a high percentage of the people who had been on the train from Penn also were waiting for the connection, and most of them were young people with backpacks and other luggage. They obviously were students at Stony Brook who had gone home to the city for the (stormy) weekend. Sure enough, there was a mass exodus from the train at Stony Brook. I noted with some amusement that the walkways still hadn’t been cleared. Though the students who were clumping through the snow with heavy backpacks and luggage undoubtedly saw nothing amusing about the situation. On a better note, most of Nichols Road was in decent shape, though heavy fog kept speeds low.