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MTA Metro-North Railroad

By Matt Van Hattem | July 3, 2006

The commuter railroad linking New York with New Haven, Conn., and suburbs north of the city

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On a July 1996 evening in New York City, Metro-North P32ACDM 202 wheels through Spuyten Duyvil with a northbound diesel-powered Hudson Line train, passing a now-retired 1100-series M.U. that has just departed the station.
Matt Van Hattem
MTA Metro-North Railroad provides commuter service on five routes covering 412 miles, serving 120 stations.

Metro-North is the third largest commuter railroad in North America, with a ridership that exceeds 240,000 trips on weekdays.

Three rail lines – the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven – provide direct service to Grand Central Terminal, the historic Manhattan gateway that Metro-North refers to as its “jewel in the crown.” Originally opened in 1913, the terminal underwent a 4-year renovation completed in 1998.

Metro-North’s “West of Hudson” service consists of two lines that originate at New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal, which have a significant portion of mileage in the Garden State before reaching the New York border. The trains are operated under contract by New Jersey Transit, with equipment and funding provided by Metro-North.

Metro-North’s ancestors include such legendary names as the New York Central, New Haven, and Erie Railroads, all of which (several mergers later) became a part of Conrail. The Northeast Rail Service Act of 1981 authorized Conrail to divest its commuter operations by the end of 1982. Metro-North Commuter Railroad (the “Commuter” in its name was later dropped) began operations on January 1, 1983, an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which also oversees the Long Island Rail Road, the New York City transit system, and the 14-mile Staten Island Railway.

The states of New York and Connecticut had previously acquired the New Haven Line right of way from Penn Central Corporation in 1971. A year later, the MTA leased the Hudson and Harlem Lines from Penn Central, and also leased Grand Central Terminal, which had come close to being redeveloped. In 1993, the MTA signed new long-term leases for all three properties with Penn Central’s successor American Premier Underwriters.

New Haven Line service is provided by Metro-North under contract to the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Because ownership of the line is split between the two states, ConnDOT subsidizes part of the service and also supplies rolling stock and locomotives, including dual-mode P32ACDM diesels adorned in a modernized version of the classic New Haven Railroad McGinnis paint scheme.

West of the Hudson River, NJ Transit owns the Pascack Valley Line to Spring Valley, N.Y., and the New Jersey portion of the Port Jervis Line. In New York state, Port Jervis Line trackage is owned by Norfolk Southern.

Metro-North trains operate with their own crews; Metro-North dispatchers (called RTCs – Rail Traffic Controllers) direct traffic on the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven lines, including trains operated by tenants Amtrak, CSX Transportation, Canadian Pacific, Guilford Rail System, and Providence & Worcester.

Since its inception, Metro-North has completed several capital projects to improve operations and service. Many have centered around Grand Central Terminal, from a reconstruction of the tracks, tunnel, and Park Avenue viaduct, to the opening of the North Entrance pedestrian walkways in 1999.

A project to extend the Harlem Line’s third rail electrification 30 miles from North White Plains to the Brewster North station was completed in 1984. On July 9, 2000, service on the non-electrified portion of the Harlem was extended 5 miles from Dover Plains to Wassaic.

Metro-North operates a varied fleet of passenger equipment. Electric M.U.s built by the Budd Company in the 1970s and 80s provide service on electrified portions of the Hudson and Harlem Lines. These have been supplmented by new M-7 electric M.U.s built by Bombardier, and first placed in service in 2003. (The M-7s sidelined older M.U.s built by Pullman-Standard in 1962-1965 for the New York Central.) New Haven Line M.U.s from three builders (General Electric, Tokyu Car, and Morrison-Knudsen), built in the 1970s and 90s, are equipped with both third rail shoes and pantographs; they draw power from the third rail as they leave Grand Central Terminal, then switch to overhead catenary near Pelham in the Bronx. Both Metro-North and ConnDOT own an assortment of New Haven Line M.U.s.

Diesel-powered push-pull trains with single-level Bombardier coaches are used on the non-electrified portions of all five lines. Metro-North stables a fleet of dual-mode, diesel-electric locomotives equipped with third-rail shoes for electric operation in the Park Avenue tunnel and Grand Central Terminal. The newest of these are A.C. traction P32ACDM’s from GE, similar to models purchased by Amtrak for its Empire Corridor trains. For shuttle service on the outermost reaches of its lines, Metro-North also relies on four F10A’s, ex-GM&O F3’s rebuilt by Illinois Central Gulf, that were purchased from the MBTA. Diesel-powered branches in Connecticut also see former Amtrak P40s purchased by ConnDOT, as well as six ConnDOT FL9Ms, dual-mode locomotives built by EMD for the New Haven Railroad between 1957 and 1960, and later rebuilt by ABB Traction and equipped with A.C. traction motors.

On its West of Hudson trains, Metro-North uses GP40FH-2’s – rebuilt GP40’s with F45 cowl carbodies-from Morrison-Knudsen, as well as a GP40PH-2, and two F40PH-2CAT’s, ex-Amtrak F40PH-2’s rebuilt at Norfolk Southern’s Juniata (Pa.) shop.

Grand Central Terminal lines

  • Hudson Line. New York Central’s historic route along the east bank of the Hudson River still sees frequent daily service. Electric trains operate to Croton-Harmon, with diesel service beyond to Poughkeepsie, 74 miles from Grand Central Terminal. Serves 27 stations on weekdays, 28 on weekends. (Trains stop at Breakneck Ridge on weekends and holidays.)
  • Harlem Line. Daily service. Electric trains operate to Brewster North, with limited diesel service beyond to Wassaic, 81 miles from Grand Central. Serves 36 stations on weekdays, 37 on weekends. (Trains stop at the Appalachian Trail station on weekends and holidays.)
  • New Haven Line. Electric service provided daily to New Haven, Connecticut, 72.5 miles from Grand Central, serving 28 stations. Trains also operate on three branches. Daily electric shuttle service provided on the 8-mile New Canaan Branch between Stamford and New Canaan, serving four stations, with through service to Grand Central Terminal during weekday rush hours. Diesel-powered shuttle trains operate daily on the 24-mile Danbury Branch between South Norwalk and Danbury serving 7 stations, with through service to Grand Central Terminal during weekday rush hours. Diesel-powered shuttle trains operate daily on the 27-mile Waterbury Branch between Bridgeport and Waterbury serving six stations.

West of Hudson lines

  • Pascack Valley Line. Weekday rush-hour service from NJ Transit’s Hoboken Terminal to Spring Valley, N.Y., 31 miles. Serves 16 stations, 3 of them in New York state.
  • Port Jervis Line. Daily service from NJ Transit’s Hoboken Terminal to Port Jervis, N.Y., 95 miles. Serves 22 stations, 9 of them in New York state.
Metro-North Railroad
347 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10017
(800) METRO-INFO (638-7646), and (212) 532-4900

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