Ass Transit: The Seat Chronicles

A seat on the train.

It is where we yearn to be each morning and each night. We must be first on the train so we can find one. And, when we do, we pounce like a hungry fisher in a farmer’s hen house. We will walk an entire train, searching like a lost child looking for mom in a department store, for that elusive last open spot. We all want a seat by ourselves, and we are annoyed when we have to share. But, no matter the circumstances leading to our acquisition of said seat, the deepest and most interconnected relationship we have each commute is with the seat itself. And, like a lot of relationships, this one can be quite the pain in the ass.

There are some insane intrepid souls that ride the train from far reaches of the metro area like Speonk on Long Island or Port Jervis in Orange County or Bay Head down the shore that spend around two hours each way on the train. Most of it in a seat you will likely never see utilized as a seat anywhere else. Raymore and Flanagan does not make furniture based on some of these torture device seat designs. But, how do they compare? This is the first installment of what I am calling Ass Transit: The Seat Chronicles.

NJ Transit/Metro-North Port Jervis Line Comet V Coach

Metro-North Seat - Port Jervis Train

Isolated stations and limited train selection are just facts of life on the Port Jervis Line when compared to its more popular and ultra-trendy half-brother, the nearby Hudson Line. Towns like Otisville, Campbell Hall and Salisbury Mills aren’t exactly turning into trendy meccas.

What the line lacks in style makes up for it in substance. Its seats are pretty comfortable for a commuter train. The cars, known as Comet V’s to real train folks or the ones with the maroon seats to rest of us, were rolled out in 2002. The seats themselves are covered in what is best described as a thin trampoline-like synthetic material. Lively springs in the seats continue the trampoline-like feel and each seat has its own head rest, for I’d assume, resting your head. Oh, the luxury.

But, it is one simple attribute – the high arm rest – that put this train seat among the finest. Each seat has two arm rests, one on the inside and one on the outside. Who knew something as simple of an arm rest could make such a difference.

The train cars also include bigger windows than previous cars for a great view from the Moodna Viaduct, the I-87 underpass and boarded up factories in Paterson.  Since the last version of the Comet, the door button was moved to the right of the door from on the door. This apparently was part of a larger study by the MTA and NJ Transit to confirm that Pavlov’s theory was correct as the shift caused quite a bit of confusion on how to open a door. So much so, the button had to be labeled after the fact with the words PUSH TO OPEN.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Springy seat that do not stick you. Head rests. Arm rests.
On the The Commuter Daily seat scale I give the Comet V Coach seat 4/5 rear ends.



  1. Hilarious! Thank you for that great article.

    I rode the Boonton line between Mountain View and Hoboken for two years (1974-5) in the original Comet cars made by Pullman. To me, these were beautiful trains, representing the best of the old Erie tradition of excellence. The locomotives had a unique chugging sound unlike any other diesel, with that sound echoing back long after the clickety-clack of the train’s wheels had faded away.

    I ran into your article while searching for HO versions of the Comet cars . . . Three coaches and one cab car. So far, I found the U34CH diesel in HO scale and have an excellent copy of the sound this loco made in the form of an ESU sound decoder, but no reasonably-priced comet coaches are available (sob!). I do have some 85′ Budd metro liners I can run in this train (sacrilege, I tell you!).

    There are some Comet II cars and Horizon cars available for less than $40 each on eBay, but these would require repainting and decaling to be representative of the real deal, which are the Erie Lackawanna version with the dark blue “bandit” window stripe and the EL diamond on one end of the stripe and the “shaftless arrow” of the NJDot symbol in the middle on the silver body.

    Bach to trying some more (sigh!).

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