The Highlands Current
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These rail-diesel cars, called “Budd Cars,” provided the main rail transport north of Croton-Harmon, which was the end of the electrified zone out of Grand Central. Some old-timers called them “B-liners.” This was during the bad old days after the bankruptcy of the Penn Central (old New York Central and Pennsy railroads) and right after the federal government created Conrail. Often, one wouldn’t know if the trains would appear, which side of the tracks it would be on and whether there would be heat or a/c, or rain would be pouring in. They were interesting days riding the rails. It wasn’t until 1983 when New York State and the MTA created Metro-North Railroad and started heavily investing in the northern commuter lines that we got good smooth track, new push-pull rolling stock and on-time and frequent service. This has been one of the main impetus’ to the resurgence of communities like Cold Spring, Beacon and Poughkeepsie.
Thanks for the note, Anthony. As a NYC resident since 1987 and a regular Metro North rider for 20 years, I had no idea that the northern commuter lines were so neglected not so long ago. Makes me appreciate the fine job MNR is doing even more (especially when comparing it to LIRR). It isn’t perfect, but it’s so much better than the alternative (no train) and than other commuter train lines in this country.
Ande, thanks for the somewhat bittersweet memories!In the 1970s, I rode the Harlem line from a flag stop where my friends and I waved at passing diesel trains to flag them down. Then we traveled to New York City in rickety cars that had cockroaches and ripped leather upholstery with the stuffing coming out. We often opened the filthy windows for some much needed fresh air. Do you remember bar cars where commuters drank, smoked, and played cards on their way home from work? Those were the days … of course, electrification eliminated the more colorful aspects of the train lines, including the flag stops and the quaint waiting rooms in rustic train stations.
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