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Author Topic: Travelogue observations - 20th September 2019 - on Penn Central, New York  (Read 559 times)
grahame
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« on: September 20, 2019, 07:43:08 pm »

Q: "With my book in one hand, and my drink in the other, what more could I want?"

A: Somewhere to sit down!!



Three days in New York.  Loads of jokes about everyone on the boat needing to have their shoes resoled, yet almost nobody making use of the local subway and buses to get around.  "You are very brave to use the Subway" they say when I tell them I took it, and there was a noticeable lack of people waiting at the bus stop just across the way from the ship for a $2.75 ride, though plenty of people - it seems - going on the specially organised coaches to specific places and paying an order of magnitude more.

I am brave. I went on the Subway. And I am not proud - I used the bus rather that pay for the exclusivity of a private bus, or a taxi. The system for us braves in New York worked well for us - the odd glitches here and there.  A signal failure on no. 1 Subway / boards indicating significant disruption, but one turned up.  A wait of 30 minutes for the bus that runs every 20, then 2 turn up at the same time (due, I suspect, to previous congestion) and the Staten Island Ferry only running every 20 minutes when it should have been every 15 - a three boat not a four boat service due (I suspect) to more boats than normal requiring repair at the same time. So many things familiar. And so many things different.  I used, perhaps, just over a dozen subway trains. Just under a dozen bus rides. And one single trip on a ferry. And within the New York inner suburban area, the system works. I suspect that varies for the outer suburbs - let me comment on why.

Penn Central Station.  Stretching along 34th Street.  A subterranean network of burrows underneath Maddison Square Garden (which is not a garden) and under the grand old station building (which is no longer a station building). At one end of the warren Subway lines 1 2 and 3 run north / south and at the other end A C and E run north / south. And on a different level, 21 (I think) platform tracks run East / West.  Trains on them are run by the Long Island Railroad, by the New Jersey Transit, and by Amtrak.  Each of the three has their own booking offices, each of the three has their own departure boards, and each of the three has their own waiting rooms, with seating reserved for their ticketed passenger. Some food and drink outlets (but not all) have seating ... and where that's not clearly inside their premise, it's labelled "customers only, maximum 20 minutes" or the like.  Three extra tracks at the main level head out to the south - the terminal tracks of the PATH which the Port Authority for The Hudson provides as a commuter line to Newark, New Jersey.

Having read that paragraph back, perhaps we were brave to venture on public transport here. It makes King's Cross / St Pancras look simple; the tracks are reminiscent of the tracks under Birmingham New Street.   Some pictures from Penn Central - though even with ten of them, they only start to give you a feeling for the place.



















So - a London comparison?  I suppose "Penn Central" might be akin to a "London Central" station had things developed differently.  Incoming lines from Watford running in across what is now Kensal Green Cemetery (the old London North Western), from High Wycombe (old Great Western / Great Central) from Reading, from the South West (via Brenford and Old Oak) then tunnelling under from Royal Oak to London Central with one end of its platforms at City ThamesLink ... carrying on with branches out to take over services from Liverpool Street fanning out via Cambridge and Peterborough for the north, to all of Essex and most of Kent to the South, with Continental services too.  With services moved to West End Central, most other London termini would become surplus to requirements and follow Broad Street. Retain Thameslink and Victoria?

I’ll talk about Grand Central another day, but that’s now purely an outer suburban station;  from Penn Central, trains headed north to Albany and Buffalo have a significant extra wriggle – as noted for trains headed north of Peterborough in my hypothetical thoughts.

With such a volume of trains and traffic passing through - "London Central" would be far, far too busy to work on a single concourse model and would need – like Penn Central – to follow the muliple-route warren model.  But, please, can we have some seats?
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Red Squirrel
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« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2019, 08:12:41 pm »

...and under the grand old station building (which is no longer a station building)...

Just to be clear, the old Penn Central building was a treasure whose destruction in 1963 makes the demolition of the Euston Arch seem trivial. In the old Penn Central, "one entered the city like a god," now  "one scuttles in... like a rat."



Madison Square garden was later built on this site. The new 'head' building for Penn Central is the James A Farley building, a former post office which, whilst similar in style to the old Penn Central, is a mere shadow of the old station.

If you haven't heard it before, Alistair Cooke's talk is worth hearing: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p00spzn2
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grahame
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« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2019, 08:19:26 pm »


Just to be clear, the old Penn Central building was a treasure whose destruction in 1963 makes the demolition of the Euston Arch seem trivial. In the old Penn Central, "one entered the city like a god," now  "one scuttles in... like a rat."

Madison Square garden was later built on this site. The new 'head' building for Penn Central is the James A Farley building, a former post office which, whilst similar in style to the old Penn Central, is a mere shadow of the old station.


Thank you for that correction; I had posted without checking my history sources.  The James A Farley building is labelled as "Penn Central" which confused me /// yes, inside it's (still) a post office and one skuttles underneath it and the other building around to find the trains.
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« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2019, 09:39:24 pm »

But that's not the end of the story... a significant chunk of the  James A Farley Building is being redeveloped into the Moynihan Train Hall (see https://esd.ny.gov/moynihan-train-hall) - which should improve things somewhat.
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2019, 10:21:58 pm »

...and under the grand old station building (which is no longer a station building)...

Just to be clear, the old Penn Central building was a treasure whose destruction in 1963 makes the demolition of the Euston Arch seem trivial. In the old Penn Central, "one entered the city like a god," now  "one scuttles in... like a rat."



Madison Square garden was later built on this site. The new 'head' building for Penn Central is the James A Farley building, a former post office which, whilst similar in style to the old Penn Central, is a mere shadow of the old station.


The architect - McKim - was the same.


If you haven't heard it before, Alistair Cooke's talk is worth hearing: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p00spzn2

Great stuff. Thanks for posting.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2019, 10:53:39 am by Red Squirrel » Logged
Red Squirrel
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« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2019, 02:01:01 pm »

More on Penn Station - if you can stand it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-41Eh7fnjO0
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2019, 02:23:42 pm »

More on Penn Station - if you can stand it!

Thank you - I very much COULD but not from Ship's internet connection.   Stored for later, keep it coming.  Grin
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« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2019, 02:52:28 pm »

You are of course right that Grand Central sees only local trains now. I used to work fairly often in Connecticut and, on a Friday afternoon, catch the train in from Norwalk. Grand Central may see only Metro North commuter trains, but, in my view, it is still by far the classiest way to make an entrance in NYC.
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