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By Jack M. Turner

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    Round trip rides on the New Jersey Transit line from Hoboken to Port Jervis and Long Island Railroad's route from Manhattan's Penn Station to Montauk and an excellent two night stay at the Affinia Manhattan Hotel highlighted our two full days in New York City.  Before we departed the city, John and I took a ride on the subway and walked across Central Park for a whirlwind tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This world renowned museum contains paintings by all the great masters and a variety of other cultural gems.  We had parted ways with our friend Eric who caught the Silver Star back to Florida.

Central Park, New York City

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ancient jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pieces of an ancient Egyptian pyramid

The Framer Herman Doomer by Rembrandt

The Haystacks by Claude Monet

    After our museum visit, John and I returned to the hotel and collected our luggage before taking a taxi to Grand Central Station.  Though the Affinia Manhattan is directly across from Penn Station, we determined that the short trip to Stamford, CT would be cheaper from Grand Central aboard a Metro North commuter train even with cab fare added in as opposed to taking Amtrak.  We reached magnificent Grand Central with about 20 minutes to spare before the 1:34pm departure of train # 1532.  Had we missed it, there would have been another departure in about a half hour which made this a good routing. 

    Our Metro North train made only two stops, Harlem-125th Street and Greenwich before arriving in Stamford at 2:21pm.  The Stamford station is a beehive of activity with Amtrak and Metro North trains arriving and departing every few minutes.  We had called for the courtesy van from the Stamford Marriott shortly before arrival and the van arrived almost simultaneously with our train.  The hotel was just a few blocks from the train station, walking distance without luggage but not so easy with a couple of large bags.  The Stamford Marriott is a four star hotel with comfortable rooms, an attractive lobby, and a swimming pool that we regrettably did not have time to visit.  Several restaurants, a shopping mall, and movie theater are within walking distance though the hotel shuttle also is available to transport guests to those establishments.  Our southward facing room had the added benefit of a perfect view of the multi-track Northeast Corridor rail line and the Stamford station.

The Stamford Marriott as seen from a train on the Northeast Corridor.  This hotel is close to the Stamford Amtrak/Metro North station and offers courtesy transportation.

    After a brief rest in our hotel room, it was time to take the shuttle van back to the train station to take a ride on a couple of Metro North commuter branch lines.  First up was the 4:00pm to Danbury and train # 1838 would depart right on the button.  The Metro North ticket agent had advised that it is wise to listen for announcements concerning track changes and this was good advice as a last minute change placed us on track 4.  This was directly across the platform from the original track assignment so there was no need for a dash up the escalator to the waiting room then down to another platform.  Two tracks over an Amtrak Acela Express boarded several passengers while Metro North locals were busy on other station tracks. 
Southbound Acela Express at Stamford, CT
A southbound Metro North train at Stamford

   As we departed Stamford, our Marriott hotel appeared on our left directly across Interstate 95 from the railway.  A Connecticut DOT rail car wash soon came into view then our train zipped northward through Darien and onward to South Norwalk which was reached at 4:15pm.  Many trips to Danbury require a transfer at South Norwalk, however train # 1838 was a through run to Danbury.  The three car train was fairly crowded with afternoon commuters heading home from work.  Up front a BL20GH engine wearing the original New Haven paint scheme looked resplendent in the throwback colors. 

Passengers at South Norwalk board the Metro North train to Danbury

    Leaving South Norwalk # 1838 crossed over to the southbound track then curved northwest onto the Danbury branch line.  This line was not electrified hence the assignment of the diesel powered engine. Our departure from the Northeast Corridor was both literal and figurative as the scenes outside the window almost instantly turned rural.  A rippling woodland stream played hide and seek with the railway much of the way to Wilton, the first stop past South Norwalk.  Between Wilton and Cannondale thick woods ensconced the tracks and cute colonial buildings in that burg reminded that we were indeed in New England.  Rock cuts with wooded embankments were followed by a paralleling country lane lined by attractive houses.  Soon a ridge to the north provided the imagination with images of the Revolutionary War soldiers who may have once trod this land. 

Leaving the Northeast Corridor just north of the South Norwalk station

The wooded rail line to Danbury as seen from the rear of northbound Metro North train # 1838

One of many colonial homes seen along the line to Danbury, CT

A pond near Branchville

   After a stop in Branchville, a large pond framed by hilly terrain evoked memories of western North Carolina or Vermont.  More charming homes and another placid stream preceded our stop in West Redding and a marshy area and more hills separated that village from Bethel, our next stop.  After crossing another rocky stream, train # 1838 pulled into Danbury at 4:59pm.  Directly across from the station several historic pieces of railway equipment compose the Danbury Railway Museum.  Included were a New York Central engine, a Pennsylvania Railroad railway post office car, several coaches, and a turntable.  The short turnaround time before my return prevented a close look but did allow time to walk to the front of my train and photograph the BL20GH engine.

Hills and a lake near West Redding

The classic New Haven paint scheme worn by the engine on train # 1838 at Danbury, CT

The train during a short layover at the Danbury station

A Pennsylvania Railroad railway post office seen from the Danbury station

New York Central E unit at Danbury

   The return trip began at 5:10pm after just 11 minutes in Danbury.  Train # 1851 employed the same equipment as on the outbound trip with the engine now in push mode on the rear of the consist.  The 55 minute trip to Danbury was uneventful save for a hard stop as we departed Merritt due to the rear of an automobile hanging over the tracks at a grade crossing.  The head end crew was obviously none too pleased by this motorist's stupidity as we could hear some understandably annoyed words from the cab at the head end of our coach.   Since the train had not attained full track speed, there had been no need to slam the train into emergency and the oblivious driver escaped unscathed.

The cab control car on Metro North train # 1851 at Danbury

Cannondale station

A westbound is met at Wilton

   A transfer was required this time at South Norwalk and the 12 minute connection yielded views of a couple of northbound commuter trains.  Metro North train # 1551 soon arrived and 10 minutes later it was time to detrain back at Stamford.  A trip back to the ticket window produced tickets for the day's last trip, a short run on the New Caanan Branch and back.  Metro North # 1770 departed at 6:55pm and the electric powered train retraced our route past the Stamford Marriott then branched off from the Northeast Corridor two minutes later.  This route is mostly wooded and there are three station stops before reaching New Caanan 19 minutes past Stamford. 

Northbound Metro North train at South Norwalk

Another northbound Metro North train at South Norwalk

Coaches on the third Metro North train seen during the layover

The fourth Metro North train to stop at South Norwalk during the layover

A northbound Metro North train departs Stamford

Another Metro North train seen during the layover at Stamford

Train # 1770 arrives in Stamford en route to New Caanan

   The return train, Metro North # 1787, left New Caanan at 7:25pm and 18 minutes later arrived in Stamford.  The hotel shuttle van again was quick to arrive and this time the driver deposited me at P.J. Chang's, an excellent restaurant across the street from the hotel.  After dinner we relaxed by watching television and peering at night trains on the adjacent Northeast Corridor from our room at the Stamford Marriott.

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