Discussion relating to the operations of MTA MetroNorth Railroad including west of Hudson operations and discussion of CtDOT sponsored rail operations such as Shore Line East and the Springfield to New Haven Hartford Line

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, nomis, FL9AC, Jeff Smith

  by njtmnrrbuff
The demand might not be there to run re-extend the Harlem Line up to Chatham. The MTA has other priorities to take care of much much closer to NYC. It's not in the MTA contract to provide service to Columbia County where Chatham is located. Almost everyone has a car up there and are willing to travel a distance to drive to a train station. I think while there are a lot of people who might live in and around Chatham who drive to Wassaic, there are many others who will drive to Hudson to take a more expensive but faster and a little more scenic ride to NYC on Amtrak. In fact, if you book your Amtrak tickets well in advance from Hudson to NYC and back, then you probably aren't paying that much greater than if you take MNR from GCT-Wassaic.

The LIRR Ronkonkoma-Greenport route is very slow and I am very surprised that year round weekend service was reinstated. Plenty of people who live way out east toward Greenport take the Hampton Jitney when heading to NYC. If they want more to drive to a station with more frequent train service, then Ronkonkoma is the answer. You have a million times more rail options there. The train ride west of there, minus the number of stops that it makes, is fast. There is a one seat ride to Manhattan. I don't know the ridership figures on those very short KO-Yaphank trains. There are trains that run between Ronkonkoma and Riverhead and back. I took one of those and I think the ridership was ok but many of those people weren't traveling to the city.

Ronkonkoma and Yaphank are about 12 miles apart from each other while it's 46 miles from Chatham to the Wassaic Train Station so that is a huge difference.
Buff: I want to correct and further clarify some of this post
(off the MNCR topic) concerning the LIRR:

1-The 45 MPH speed limit on the Ronkonkoma-Greenport route is a
limitation to speed up service especially with the long open line
segment between Yaphank (58.6) and Riverhead (73.3) of 14.7 miles.
Increasing the speed limit to 65 MPH (MAS in LIRR diesel territory)
where it is possible can improve Scoot service running times.

2-The Hampton Jitney service to the North Fork (which was the former
Sunrise Coach Company operation) is merely just a fraction of what HJ
provides in service to the South Fork. The North Fork (primarily eastern
Riverhead and Southold Towns) has not only a much smaller population
than the South Fork Towns of Southampton and East Hampton - there
are far fewer second residences on the North Fork.

3-Ronkonkoma by design is the ultimate "magnet station" drawing from
all of central and eastern Suffolk County thanks to its through electric
service and its proximity to the LIE (I-495) nearby.

4-There is currently just one round trip in the regular schedule
between Ronkonkoma and Yaphank (distance 10.1 miles) in the
PM Peak. In the past there was once an AM Peak run that ended
up being extended to Greenport. These two PM Peak trains are:
#252 east: Ronkonkoma 5:21; Medford 5:32; Yaphank 5:40 PM.
#253 west: Yaphank 5:56; Medford 6:04; Ronkonkoma 6:16 PM.
#253 was once a deadhead equipment train that was changed
to a regular scheduled run when Ronkonkoma service changed
after the completion of the Second Track Project. All other
Ronkonkoma-Greenport "scoot" trains run the entire route.

Back to the original topic: The MNCR ticket "advantage" is that
there is the weekday peak and off peak fares that are constant
comparing to Amtrak in which the differential is substantial
unless tickets are purchased well in advance. The "flexibility
factor" is the key point here...MACTRAXX
Last edited by MACTRAXX on Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by njtmnrrbuff
I agree with the statement about comparing the two Forks. Now the stretch of Duchess County and Columbia Counties combined between the Wassaic Train Station and Chatham probably almost has the same number of people living in the region as in Eastern Long Island. Yes, MNR's ticket policy involves having both peak and off peak tickets. It looks like between Wassaic and Chatham, you have very few villages. The only ones are Amenia and Millerton. I don't think many people would make a big deal about the Harlem being reextended to Chatham. Almost everyone has cars and by now, don't mind driving to Wassaic Station when needed. If you are in Millerton, then it makes sense to take MNR since it's a pretty short drive-almost 20 minutes. Whatever train route people who live in Duchess and Columbia Counties probably depends on the roads that are available to take to a station. Not many direct roads from the center of Columbia County to the Amtrak stations at Hudson and Rhinecliff. Wassaic Station is where the space was available to build the yard and station and the arrangement works out well there.
  by NaugyRR
Millerton's super covenient as far as roads to train stations go. It sits at the intersections of 22 and 199. 22 pretty much follows most of the Harlem Line, and 199 (via 308) will dump you out into Rhinecliff. I live in Pine Plains and it boils down to preference of Amtrak or Metro-North as I'm 25 minutes from either.

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  by njtmnrrbuff
Yes, 22 does indeed follow the Harlem Line for much of the route. In fact, Wassaic Station is within sight of 22. I have family friends who live in Great Barrington and they live extremely close to the downtown area. They are about a 50 minute drive to Wassaic Station. They are almost 45 minutes from the Hudson Amtrak Station. Considering that they live in the countryside, they are almost equi-distance from both Wassaic and Hudson. They have used both stations many times but wherever their destination is depends on where they go out of. If they are going as far as Manhattan, more often than not, they will take Metro North. However, when they are visiting their family who lives outside of DC, then they will take Amtrak out of Hudson so that way, they can switch to another Amtrak train under one roof. It's possible that I may visit our family friends in Great Barrington in the next few years and I would love to use that as an incentive to take a train ride. I may end up taking Amtrak both ways though to and from Hudson bc my ride will be passing through there to get me.
  by Backshophoss
Millerton was a retail and farm supply center in the past retain it's agent/operator after PC's court trick to kill the Chatham passenger trains.
The passing siding was the longest on that part of the upper Harlem line,just north of town there was a CNE diamond crossing headed west to Hopewell Jct from Canaan Ct
Agway was the biggest customer there as well.
If the yard at Wassaic can be expanded for 2 more Maxi-bomb sets, part time service could be started at Millerton to GCT as the town grows into a upscale town like Chappaqua or Bedford Hills.
The Rail trailhead can be moved to the site of the CNE diamond,
  by njtmnrrbuff
If in a very remote chance the Harlem Line were to ever get extended to Millerton, that would mean the trains would have to run as super expresses-following the same stop patterns as many of the current Wassaic rush hour through jobs, otherwise the ride will probably take extra long.
  by cle
I have a home up near Chatham. It's a great little town, and hub for the area. With all this Covid talk of everyone flocking upstate, perhaps.

But the journey would be slow, versus Millerton, which is in Dutchess County at least. The approaches to Chatham itself have been build upon (sidewalks mainly!) and some other works would need to be done.

Hudson is much faster, and more comfortable (vs a MN train, most with a change at Southeast) - but it is pricey. I'd love it, but can't see it happening.
  by Rockingham Racer
But you're getting a weekend through train from New York City, via Renssalaer, on its way to Pittsifeld and vv. [with no plans to stop in Chatham, AFAIK]. Or is that plan dead?
  by J.D. Lang
Rockingham Racer wrote: Fri Jun 19, 2020 5:07 am But you're getting a weekend through train from New York City, via Renssalaer, on its way to Pittsifeld and vv. [with no plans to stop in Chatham, AFAIK]. Or is that plan dead?
I was wondering about the Berkshire Flyer which was supposed to run weekends starting this summer. My guess is that it's not going to happen but if it goes next summer I would think that Chatham would be a logical stop but the the Flyer is a Mass. funded endeavor.
  by cle
I haven't seen anything on that plan, and it didn't mention Chatham, even though it would pass through slowly.

Perhaps if a very modest station was opened up (it's there, but repurposed) - then the Lake Shore might add a stop there too, and make it more viable. It can hardly impact the schedule.
  by pnaw10
One main item that people often forget (this certainly isn't the first time people have fantasized about the Harlem Line reclaiming old mileage) is that the MTA charter only goes as far north as Dutchess County. Metro North can't expand to Columbia County unless voters agreed to become an MTA-serviced county -- and to pay the additional taxes that come with.

That leaves you with Millerton as the only potential terminus for expansion, but the ROW has already been converted into a rail trail. I don't remember whether MNR retained the right to switch it back to an active rail line... but even if they could, it's very unlikely to happen. First, they'd have the negative PR of taking the trail away from the non-profit that spent so much time and money on developing the trail. Second, they'd have to justify the high expense of laying down another 11 miles of track (and signals and PTC and grade crossings and another station). How many people out there are really, seriously saying, "I absolutely refuse to drive all the way Wassaic, but if the train came up to Millerton, I'd ride it every day."

It's been suggested that many of the Wassaic riders are people driving in not just from northern Dutchess and Columbia Counties, but also from western MA and CT. If they're already willing to ride the train all the way up to Wassaic and then hop in the car for another hour or so to get home, the 10-mile difference in driving to Wassaic or Millerton isn't going to make or break anything. Not to mention, with COVID forcing many to telecommute, it will be interesting to see if there's a lasting impact on upper Harlem Line ridership. How many of these Wassaic commuters have been working from home since March, and will just continue to do so even after they don't need to anymore? They're saving a lot of money on gas, parking and train fares, and their employers are likely crunching the numbers on how much they can reduce their high-rent footprint in NYC by letting staff telecommute permanently.
  by Jeff Smith
PNAW10 is spot on regarding the Upper UPPER UPPER! Harlem. There's not much up there, and the area is well enough served by Wassaic. I don't know what the legal status of the stretch as far as Millerton is. Did MNRR sign it over? Reserve it/land bank? Shared use?

Speaking of, the Beacon/Maybrook I believe is shared use, and the ownership is clear. There's a bridge out on Route 311 or 312 between Fishkill and Dykemans, and of course, the line would need MAJOR renovation. East of Dykemans to State Line is MNRR, west of State Line to Danbury is HRRC. Every once in a while you hear that talked about, usually by the Danbury Mayor. The line is used by Sperry for testing currently, and nothing else. I don't see any near term possibility for Danbury - Southeast; CtDOT has its hands full. I see nothing for the part between Dykemans and Hopewell Junction; it's within driving distance of places like Poughquag, and really no demand. I used to commute from Patterson in the 90's. The only part I see of any use is a shuttle from Beacon up to Fishkill and maybe Hopewell Junction. It would be nice to be maintained for intraline moves.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Even in pre-covid times, I don't think there were too many people commuting all of the way from Wassaic to GCT as well as many stations along the Upper Harlem Line. That's too long of a trip to do five days a week in each direction. I could see a few times a week. I'm sure that that will continue to be the case for those passengers who live along the Upper Harlem Line, especially when you are north of Pawling. There are absolutely no plans for the Harlem Line to ever get restored to Millerton. The MTA is in a lot of financial trouble right now and the ridership needs don't justify any more extensions upstate.
  by Rockingham Racer
You have to wonder, then, why there were what I'll call "super expresses" on the Hudson Line which made only Poughkeepsie, New Hamburg, and Beacon. I haven't lookied at a Harlem Line Schedule, but there must be a market for a similar service for the Wassaic area folks in terms of commuting.