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 Terminal Proceed
 
By Mark Ginocchio
Staff writer

Published August 23 2005


On Metro-North Railroad, hole punches are a lot like snowflakes. No two are alike.

"This is our signature," says Thomas Wyen, an assistant conductor on the New Haven Line.

He unleashes his hand-held silver puncher faster than a cowboy in a Wild West shootout. With three quick clicks, Wyen showcases his prized punch on a sample ticket.

"Have you seen 'Lord of the Rings?' " he asks. "Because I think it looks like the sword."

He holds the ticket to the light, and the hole does look like a sword -- a moon-shaped blade guard and a rectangular handle -- although likeness to anything in the "Lord of the Rings" films is debatable.

"I think mine looks like a little airplane," conductor Tom Wnek says. "We're guaranteed that no two conductors have the same one."

That's because a conductor's hole punch is a vital form of identification for the railroad. Conductors use the punches to track tickets they've checked. If a passenger says they've already had their ticket punched, but the shape left behind doesn't belong to anyone working the train, he'll know someone is trying to cheat the railroad, Wyen says.

The railroad's revenue accounting department also keeps a record of the shapes issued to each conductor. That way, the punch mark can provide evidence in case of employee misconduct.

Ticket punching began in the 1860s and is unique to railroads in the United States, Metro-North spokesman Dan Brucker said. Once conductors were able to request punch marks, but now they are issued at random.

Ensuring each punch is unique is a challenge for the die-maker, Brucker said. Once the common shapes, such as diamonds, hearts and spades, were distributed, the manufacturer had to tweak some of the shapes in minuscule yet identifiable ways.

Conductors develop an attachment to their punches, which they use almost 2,000 times a day. Wnek has had his mini-airplane for eight years and doesn't plan to turn it in for a new one.

Not all punches were built to last, especially when the die wears away.

"Sometime it sticks when it punches, or it doesn't take it out clean," conductor Clement Clarke says. "That's when you know you have to get a new one."

Wyen, who has worked with the railroad for 17 years, says his sword is his third hole punch. Clarke has gone through four punches in eight years.

Passengers rarely notice the punches, although some children are fascinated by them, Wyen says.

"I see kids collecting the tickets," he says. "It's fun. I'll sometimes make a smiley face for them."

He demonstrates, clicking furiously until the ticket grows two sword-shapes eyes, a nose and a toothy smile.

The hole punch can bring joy to conductors, too, if they're lucky.

"I like to play the four numbers," Wnek says, turning the puncher upside down to show a four-digit serial number. "But I haven't had a hit yet."

  by Lackawanna484
 
Two thousand punches daily.

That's an impressive number, more than I would have guessed

  by mncommuter
 
Source of this article?

  by Terrapin Station
 
mncommuter wrote:Source of this article?
Google is your friend :) - the third result

  by mncommuter
 
Terrapin Station wrote:Google is your friend :) - the third result
Not my point! All articles posted are supposed to be summarized and linked to.

(There Otto, I beat you to it :wink:)

  by Terrapin Station
 
mncommuter wrote:
Terrapin Station wrote:Google is your friend :) - the third result
Not my point! All articles posted are supposed to be summarized and linked to.

(There Otto, I beat you to it :wink:)
How was I supposed to know that's what you meant? It seemed like you really wanted to to know the source...

Anyhow, I don't see / can't find any forum rules/policies that say "All articles posted are supposed to be summarized and linked to." I do agree that it is the proper thing to do though.

  by Tadman
 
I read once you can recognize a corvette drive because his right arm and left leg are built from working the heavy shifter and clutch. Is it true you can recognize an MNCR conductor from his built hand/wrist, from punching so many tickets? Seriously I can't believe these guys don't have carpal tunnel...

  by checkthedoorlight
 
I've seen this conductor plenty of times. I always thought it was cool that he managed to get a sword-shaped punch. One of the disadvantages of having monthly tickets is I never get to see any of these punches first hand.

  by Nester
 
Every so often there is a "real" punch day that the trainmen and conductors observe where they lift and punch tickets. There was one in July. If you are curious about punch patterns, you can always grab your seat check (assuming that your crew uses them -- some don't).

Nester

  by checkthedoorlight
 
In my two and a half years of being a daily commuter, I have NEVER had my weekly/monthly ticket punched. Maybe they only do it in the peak direction?

Since I take express trains from GCT to Stamford, I usually don't get a seat check either, since I'm usually the first or second stop outside NYC....sometimes when going Stamford-bound, rather than punching the seat check, the conductor will instead rip it.

  by pnaw10
 
Terrapin Station wrote:Anyhow, I don't see / can't find any forum rules/policies that say "All articles posted are supposed to be summarized and linked to." I do agree that it is the proper thing to do though.
It's in the sticky note from Otto at the top of this forum:
Any members who wish to reference a current news article from another site are encouraged to summarize the article in their own words, and provide a link back to the original.
Some may argue it's a point of keeping the forum tidy... you can argue either way. But more importantly, it's a matter of copyright. Even though it's not common, the newspaper (or other copyright holders) COULD take action if it wanted to. They could claim loss of revenue as a result of people being able to read the article here, without seeing the banner ads on the paper's own website. Yes, it's small potatoes, but it's the principle, and I'm sure the owners of the site wouldn't want to deal with a lawsuit.

  by Nester
 
checkthedoorlight wrote:In my two and a half years of being a daily commuter, I have NEVER had my weekly/monthly ticket punched. Maybe they only do it in the peak direction?

Since I take express trains from GCT to Stamford, I usually don't get a seat check either, since I'm usually the first or second stop outside NYC....sometimes when going Stamford-bound, rather than punching the seat check, the conductor will instead rip it.
I'm starting to think that MN crews only do it when ordered to do it by management, which usually comes in response to a counterfeit ticket being detected. There seems to be no pattern as to when they occur.

As for getting a "punch", I am sure that you could ask a conductor for a seat check with a punch in it, or you could check a train at GCT. Discarded seat checks usually wind up in the trash anyway.

Nester

  by Terminal Proceed
 
Punch Days are conducted on a very regular basis now. Every so often, once a month or so, a train service notice will come out ordering conductors' to do a Punch Day and on which trains they will be done.

They are conducted rather randomly, (as to the day), so that no set pattern can be established when it might be happening, thus increasing the chance of finding fraudulent tickets.

Also, punch days are never announced. The whole rationale behind punch day is the element of surprise.

Kevin

  by Nester
 
Punch days on the sister RR (LIRR) were supposed to be up to four times each month, at random days assigned by management. Each time they send out a new notice it seems to happen for a month or so, and then disappear.

When I started to ride MN, I noticed that there was no ticket-lifting at all (even for weekly tickets or to endorse monthlies), and assumed that crews either received no instructions to lift tickets, or they collectively decided to disregard the instruction. In 11 months, I've experienced only one punch day. I don't take many days off, and I ride (basically) the same 5-10 trains on the timetable.

Even if they days chosen have no pattern, there should be a pattern as to how many times each month a ticket is lifted for inspection (two times, four times, etc.) Going months at a time without checking tickets seems like a waste to me. Punch days only catch the truly naive, and most criminals would rather use a stolen credit card over a counterfeit ticket.

Nester

  by huntersails23
 
heh.... me and my friends used to wonder the same thing until we asked a conductor...every now and then we get a fish,or a rocket/firework shape...i'll find some and scan 'em onto my computer when i get the chance.