Saturday, 4 June 2011

'Railfanning' New York- It's not as difficult as you think!

If you are anything like myself, chances are that when you go abroad you want to find some trains. Chances are also that you struggle to find the time to do this, and especially in a city like New York, a great urban metropolis, you also struggle to find good locations. However it IS possible to find some really very good locations to photograph trains in the Big Apple- and you barely need to leave Manhattan! I shall explain some of the locations which I found useful on my recent trip to photograph passenger trains.

The first of these articles shall focus on the 'Genesis' P32AC-DM locomotives operated by both Amtrak and Metro-North Railroad.

Metro-North use the locomotives on their longer distance services from Grand Central Terminal, the routes of which divide at 125th St Harlem. The locomotives are positioned on the north end of push-pull trains. Meanwhile Amtrak use the locomotives on just one route- the Empire Corridor from Penn Station towards Albany and Buffalo. On Amtrak services the locomotive hauls conventional (usually Amfleet) coaches, and is located at the front of the train.

Immediately after leaving Penn Station the Amtrak trains take the 'Empire Connection' and then head along the west side of Manhattan. By the time the railway has passed under the George Washington Bridge, the line begins to open up a little. Continue further still to the tip of Manhattan and you reach Dykeman fields, a park right at the north western tip of Manhattan Island. The best way to reach the park is by subway taking the A train to 190th St and walking towards the Hudson river (I personally took the train to 181st St and went for a long walk beside the Hudson expressway!) Around half way down the park is a footbridge which offers good views of the line in both directions. The top photograph is taken from this location looking back towards Manhattan and shows 707 on an Empire service, typically with 5 Amfleet coaches. Walking right to the tip of the park allows a view across the swing bridge which takes the railway across the Harlem river from Manhattan into The Bronx. By aiming a camera through the fence the second photograph, showing 706, can be achieved of southbound trains. This location also has an added bonus that you can see the trains snaking alongside the Hudson River for some time as they approach, allowing photographs such as the third one on this page. Note that beyond the bridge the in The Bronx the Amtrak trains now travel on Metro-North rails, and their trains can also be seen.

Crossing back over the footbridge and following the footpath around the tip of Manhattan Island opens up views of the Metro North line and Spuyten Duyvil station. The service on this line consists (in each direction) of an hourly EMU from Grand Central to Croton-Harman, and an hourly loco hauled service to Porkeepsie. There are several vantage points in this area which give a view across the Harlem river of the Metro-North line as shown in the fourth photograph. It is worth noting, as illustrated in the photograph, that the loco hauled Metro-North trains tend to pass at, or very close to this location resulting in a sudden burst of activity just once an hour!

The final photograph at the bottom of the page is the only one in this series not taken in Manhattan. It is in fact taken from Spuyten Duyvil station just across the river in The Bronx. From the station platform there is a splendid view of the single track swing bridge which connects the Amtrak line into Penn Station. With an abundance of water and the vegetated cliffs of New Jersey in the background, one could scarcely believe that the bustle of downtown New York was just a few miles away!

Should time permit there are many more locations which could be explored further north along the banks of the Hudson between here and Porkeepsie. If riding the trains is more your thing you should take a Metro-North service one stop on from Spuyten Duyvil to Yonkers, where both Amtrak and Metro-North P32AC-DM hauled services make their last scheduled pick up stop on the way into New York.

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