July 22, 2007

Nostalgia Train Ride

I joined the Transit Museum a few months ago so I could take a tour of the abandoned City Hall station, and now that I'm a member, I might as well take advantage of other cool stuff they do. Today I took a "Nostalgia Train Ride" - on the vintage R1/9 car fleet that was manufactured in the 1930s and 40s and were finally put completely out of commission by the late 70s. Starting at 42nd Street / Port Authority, a huge group of us rode the train all the way down the A line to the Rockaways.

Ceiling FanThe train FLEW down the tracks, and being an older model (to put it nicely), it was a bit more rickety than we're used to. Even without stopping at any stations, it still took us over an hour to get to the end of the A, and we were going really fast. The speed helped cool us off, though, since those old trains aren't air conditioned and actually have ceiling fans, windows, and vents that you rely on for air.

No SpittingWe'd seen this train before, actually at the Transit Museum. The seats are kind of wicker and cushioned but still really uncomfortable. All of the signs discourage you from smoking, spitting and throwing your trash on the floor. All of the passengers I saw were so geeked out (like us) that they were very well-behaved. But there were a few crazies...Thank God they didn't spit.

Today's event was meant to highlight the 75th anniversary of the opening of the first section of the IND subway on September 10, 1932, and today's ride to Rockaway Park also celebrated the 70th birthday of the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the 75th Anniversary of Jacob Riis Park.

I'd been down to that area of Jamaica Bay and the Gateway National Recreation Area last October, when we visited Floyd Bennett Field, but we never actually crossed the bridge to the park. Today we decided to check out Rockaway Beach first, which in retrospect was probably a mistake. We literally saw trash bags floating in the water. The sand was also really sharp with shells, and big ones too. Our game of badminton was particularly feeble because of the danger lurking in the hot sand below.

So we decided to head over to Riis Park which is lovely and historic. There's actually a golf course down there, from which you have a great view of the bridge. And the water is so clean, with calmer waves. By the time I took my dip there, the sun had started to go down behind me so I could bob along the waves without my sunglasses (and this time without my contacts).

The train ride back was lovely too, with a view of the Manhattan skyline as the sun set - which is crazy because the Rockaways are really far away. When the train dipped underground and we sped down the tracks, bypassing all the stations I'd only seen for the first time on my way down, I fell asleep to the wonderful rumble that surrounded me. When I woke up, we were back in Manhattan, and I looked out the window at all the curious faces staring at us from every platform we bypassed. No, it wasn't a Ghost Train, but it was a nice step back in time...for one afternoon....

This makes my second trip to the beach this summer so far. I must be working on some kind of record. No weird sunburn this time, though.

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