Hudson Line

The rescue train is on its way…again.

A P32AC-DM locomotive heading south to Cold Spring station on the Hudson Line/Tim1337 via Wikipedia

“Train is dead folks. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Those are words I never heard a conductor say before.

“We are getting pushed back to the platform.”

The locomotive leading a 7:21 pm Hudson Line express north to Poughkeepsie broke down moments after it left Grand Central Terminal.  The engine is one of Metro-North’s GE P32AC-DM locomotives; the regular power for Hudson Line trains heading north of the end of the electrification at Croton-Harmon Station.  It is something that happens more than Metro-North would like.

The railroad’s latest operations report shows the P32’s 2015 goal for something called Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) is 35,000 miles.  The engine averaged 16,250 MDBF in July; a number that accounted for 12 engines breaking down while hauling passengers.  In June, it averaged 21,124 with 9 breakdowns.  Since the start of 2015, its average was 22,186 MDBF, with its 12 month rolling average 22,316 MDBF.

This compares to June 2014 when its MDBF was 26,516 with 7 breakdowns.  In July 2014, the P32 averaged 19,361 MDBF and had 10 breakdowns.

Given their recent performance, Metro-North’s MDBF goals seem a bit ambitious for the P32.  One could hope it is just overconfidence by the goal setters or an anomaly in the average (one locomotive breaking down repeatedly).

If they are failing because of age that is  more troubling seeing the oldest of bunch ordered by both Metro-North are just turning 20 and no new ones are on the way.  There is no mention of P32 replacements in the MTA’s capital budget for 2015-2019.  Amtrak also owns P32s and it is not planning on buying any new diesel locomotives until 2024.  That is not surprising, though, as these engines should have a lot of life left in them.

Ultimately, we did not get moved back to the platform.  Problems with the rescue train prevented it from taking us back to Grand Central.  Instead, we were drug north to 125th Street by a different train an hour and half after we first broke down.

“Train will be across the platform. We apologize for the inconvenience. We are doing the best we can.”

As I was writing this, my wife’s train broke down in the tunnel.  It was also being hauled by a P32.

 

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Sorry about the delay. Everything is wrong.

Below is what I remember from the message the Metro-North conductor gave us last Wednesday.   We were stopped south of Croton-Harmon.  It seems like a good time to reminisce as the Hudson Line trains are running late again tonight.

“Sorry about the delay everyone.  We’ve got a delayed train in front of us, signal problems, and speed restrictions.  Again, sorry about the delay.”

It summed it up; single tracking, track work, delayed trains ahead, and speed restrictions.  Here are some of my personal observations:

Monday:  The 5:32p arrived in Cold Spring after 7p.  Schedule arrival 6:46p.

Wednesday:  The 5:53p arrived in Cold Spring 12 minutes late.

Thursday:  645p train arrived late in Cold Spring.  I can’t remember but it was late.

Friday:  The 10:16a from Cold Spring arrived at Grand Central 10 minutes late.

According to June’s numbers, Metro-North had more than 1100 trains late or cancelled across the system.  In May, it was worse, with more than 1400 trains delayed or cancelled.  For late trains, Metro-North only counts trains that are more than 5:59 late, as umm, late.

And you can add the 6:15p Hudson Line train to Poughkeepsie to the late list.  We are now 20 minutes late.

Groundhog Day is her favorite holiday

Ground Hog copy

Groundhog Day is in February.  On Groundhog Day, February monthly passes are accepted.  In July, February monthly passes are not accepted. But, don’t tell that to one woman I recently heard about trying to ride Metro-North.  The woman, who claimed she spoke very little English, presented the February monthly to the conductor.  The conductor wasn’t going for it.

The conductor asked for a different ticket.  She said this is what had come out of the machine.

15 minutes into the trip he returned to the lady and told her she would either need to buy a ticket or face the consequences.

The woman – now grasping the English language – paid for a ticket.  The conductor said this isn’t the first time this woman has tried to pull this scam.

 

Lawmakers could boil the frog

By James Lee FormerIP at en.wikipedia [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYou have heard the metaphor about a frog placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the trouble it is in and is boiled alive.

That metaphor can be used about Albany’s dealing with the MTA Capital Budget.  Newly reappointed MTA boss Tom Prendergast has been sounding the alarm about the $14 billion budget hole.  But, of course, the New York State legislature just hasn’t gotten around to it; seeing how busy they’ve been with the important stuff that just needed to get done before session ended.

The reality is Albany rarely boils the frog.   It is only $14 billion over five years.  The New York State budget is $142 billion this year alone.  Plus, the MTA still has money left over from its last capital budget.  State lawmakers historically tackle big problems just as the water in the pot begins to bubble and our scaly friends realize it is time to take action.  Of course, I am talking about the frogs, not the lawmakers.

“There was a pregnant girl sitting on the floor.”

I knew it was going to be an odd night when I got in line at Rite-Aid with the following two people in front of me:  A man with a small pony tail buying six umbrellas and a woman who needed change for a five dollar bill.

The woman requested three dollars in quarters (she got two) and two singles (she got three).  Why would you need three dollars in quarters at Grand Central?  Maybe she was doing was laundry later?  How much laundry can you do with two dollars in quarters?  I should have asked her.  The man’s umbrella extravaganza went off without incident.  Maybe he’s got big plans for the umbrellas.

umbrella-corporation-goat-research-group_o_1163575

Now, the 6:45p Hudson Line express train to Poughkeepsie is not my normal train.  If I had to guess, it must be one of the more crowded Hudson Line trains of the night.  It is the first rush-hour express train to the northern part of the line (above Croton-Harmon) not paired with a super express train that skips all of upper Westchester and Putnam stops before hitting Beacon in Dutchess County.

johnny

Channeling Johnny Carson:

Johnny:  I tell you, this train was so packed.

Audience:  How packed was it?

Johnny:  This train was so packed the conductor mentioned to another conductor that there was “a pregnant girl sitting on the floor.”

ed hiooo

Wait Ed.  That’s not a punch line.  That’s just terrible.

On top of being crowded, it was the last day for April monthly passes.  And, if you are not familiar with how the monthly commutation pass works, on the first day of the new month conductors will let you slide with last month’s pass so you can get into the City and buy a new monthly.

A gentleman behind me – who had already complained about the announcements being too loud – decided to inquire awkwardly about why the May monthly passes were not good for the last day in April.  The logic of course is you can use the April monthly on the first day of May why not the opposite.  The conductor – a younger woman – shut him down with the, “that’s not how it works” and “that’s a great suggestion, not the first time someone has asked, but the higher ups don’t listen to me.”

He stopped talking and paid for a ticket.

As for the pregnant girl on the floor, the conductor let us know that he found her a seat.  But, he had to ask someone to get up.

ed hiooo

The Curry Palace Express is leaving the station

7:20 p.m.  Hudson Line.  The old trains with the wood-grain panels.

I’m on the inside of a two-seater.  My left foot firmly planted against the silver metal case that surrounds the floor heater. My right leg pressed against the seat in front of us, marking the edge of my personal space.

Green Henley and brown corduroy pants sits down. He removes his jacket and, with his satchel, places it on the luggage rack above our heads.  His leg is moving closer to mine.  I look over.  A yellow plastic bag remains on his lap.  His knee touches mine.  I know what is about to happen.

It is pretty normal this time of night for people riding home to eat on the train. It is not the simplest maneuver seeing a Metro-North Shoreliner coach was never meant for that purpose.  But, seeing cafe/bar cars have not been seen on the Hudson Line since the 1980’s – if you want to eat something you will be doing it right there with the rest of us.  No matter what you have decided to shovel into your gullet, we will be there for your feast.  And, because your fellow commuters are along for the ride, your choice for dinner will determine if you are that guy.  As I took a deep breath,  I knew.  Green Henley with brown cords was that guy.

The white plastic container with the clear top slid out from the plastic bag.  The steam from the hot food condensing on the lid.  I looked over.  Pop.  I waited.  It hit me as Green Henley pushed his plastic spoon in stew-like consistency.  My eyes watered.

Indian food, with a lot of curry.

My reaction:

Ron

Thanks, guy.

Next stop, Whoville!

Metro-North Railroad Assistant Conductor Thomas Yuen watches passengers boarding his New Haven Line train. Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / J.P. Chan

Metropolitan Transportation Authority / J.P. Chan

The first book I ever read (according to Mom) was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.  You know how it goes…

Do you like
green eggs and ham
I do not like them,
Sam-I-am.

And, it came to mind the other night as I sat on a 5:53 Hudson Line train and the conductor (not seen the picture) came on the loud speaker.

This is Peekskill.  What your step! Don’t take a spill.  The platform is slippery.  This is Peekskill.

I didn’t think much of it.  But, then it happened again.

Garrison.

Cadets on the hop, time to get up, this is your stop!

For the regular train rider, it brought a change to the routine that can be quite routine.  Board, ride, and depart.  Board, ride, and depart.  So, thank you rhyming conductor. You made me smile, at least for awhile.

There is no prize for being first to your car

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From Metro-North’s Facebook

This was the sage advice from our conductor tonight on the earliest Hudson Line train I’ve caught in ages.  I’ll decipher conductor speak:

It snowed.  It’s slippery.  Be careful.  Trying to get that extra minute back for being the first car out of the parking lot won’t do you a whole lot of good if you slip and crack your head open on the way to your Toyota Camry.

But, the impending doom winter storm made people leave even earlier than me.  The 4:45p Express was only three-quarters full as we pushed out of Grand Central.  It was in stark contrast to earlier trains, outlined in this report from a fellow commuter about her 1:43p train:

My train, standing room only.  Horrible!  Sandwiched in by a large woman in a puffy coat and a man! Can’t believe he squeezed in!

Ah.  The ol’ puffy coat is the bane of any commuter.  Apparently, some believe they need this type of coat just in case the train engineer finds a wrinkle in the universe and we end up on the ice planet Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back instead of Midtown.  For you information, the NYC median winter temperature clocks in above freezing.  So, easy Han Solo, our winter’s won’t make your Tauntaun freeze.

But, this storm will likely keep a lot of commuters home on Tuesday.  I mean, unless you have a Tautaun.