Saturday, March 08, 2008

Metro-North Railroad Celebrates 25 Years

In 1852, when the Danbury & Norwalk Railroad started operation, a one-way trip on the 23.6 mile line took 75 minutes using two Hinkley Steam Engines named "The Danbury" and "The Norwalk." The route was electrified in 1925 and de-electrified in 1961. We've been talking about re-electrifying it for as long as I can remember. You can read the March 2006 Electrification Feasibility Study here in a 2.5MB PDF, and you can get an overview here at the Danbury Branch Electrification Feasibility Study website.

Over the decades, the operation of the line changed hands several times, and you can read more about the history of the Danbury Branch Rail Line here at the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials website.

In 1983, Metro-North Commuter Railroad was formed, and Connecticut's Department of Transportation became the owner of the Danbury-Norwalk Branch Line in 1985, with Metro-North operating the passenger service. In 2007, Metro-North ridership exceeded 80 million passengers, setting a new record. Many of those commuters are on the ten round trips per day between Danbury and Norwalk, and probably at least as many, if not more, drive from the Greater Danbury area to use Metro-North stations in Croton Falls, Katonah, Brewster, and Southeast.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am a fan of both public transportation and architecture, especially Art Deco. So of course I must also mention that Grand Central Terminal was showing the signs of years of neglect when, in 1988, Metro-North began a $200 million modernization, preservation, and redevelopment program. The building was restored, new retail and dining spaces were added, tracks were updated, and the utility systems were modernized. The Kodak photo marquee was removed to reveal more windows, and the ceiling was cleaned to reveal the constellations. Free tours of Grand Central are offered every Wednesday and Friday, and you can read more about them here at the Grand Central Terminal website.

To celebrate its 25th year of operation, Metro-North Railroad and the New York Transit Museum are presenting an exhibition entitled, "A Railroad Reborn: Metro-North at 25." This free exhibit is located in the New York Transit Museum's Gallery Annex next to the Station Master's office in Grand Central Terminal, and it will be open to the public through July 6, 2008. On Saturday, April 5th, the Transit Museum and MTA Arts for Transit will team up with Metro-North to present a unique tour of artwork at Grand Central Terminal and select stations along the Hudson Line. Arts for Transit staff will be joined by artists who will talk about art and design in transit facilities and discuss details of the transit art projects inspired by each community. You can find more details and learn more about the New York Transit Museum, located in Brooklyn Heights, and its Gallery Annex at Grand Central Station, here at the Museum's webpage.

Photo by David Iliff, for WikiMedia. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution license. Click here to see a larger image of the photo, and click here to see more awesome photos by David Iliff. Many thanks to Roxanne Robertson, Director for Special Projects for the New York Transit Museum, for bringing the 25th anniversary of Metro-North and the exhibit to my attention.

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