Tag Archives: subway

Hurricane Sandy and South Ferry Subway Station


Sandy damaged the New York City subway worse than anything else in its 108-year history, flooding eight tunnels and shutting service for millions of commuters. Recovery efforts began even before the storm was over, and extraordinary work by New York City Transit brought lines back into service rapidly.

Yet while the subway seems back to normal for most of the 5.6 million daily riders, the damage behind the scenes remains extensive – nowhere more so than in the South Ferry electrical room.

Soon after South Ferry was pumped out and drained, crews removed hundreds of relays and tried cleaning them by hand to return them to service – a task that turned out to be futile, as seen by heavy corrosion marks visible on the banks of relays.

On Friday, March 8, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that 1 Line icon train service will return to one loop platform of the storm-ravaged South Ferry subway station in the first week of April, making commutes easier for more than 10,000 daily riders at the southern tip of Manhattan while a full rebuilding continues.

“The MTA has a long, tough job ahead as it tackles the immense job of virtually rebuilding the new South Ferry terminal station that was flooded 80 feet deep during Superstorm Sandy,” Governor Cuomo said. “For the extended period of time it will take for this work to be completed, we are returning the old station in the complex to service, making travel easier and more convenient for Staten Islanders and others who work and visit this area.”

Sandy’s storm surge sent a torrent of salt water into the South Ferry station on October 29.  Some 15 million gallons of water filled the area from the track level to the mezzanine, destroying all electrical and mechanical systems and components and rendering the station unusable. As a result, 1 Line icon trains now terminate at Rector Street, a major inconvenience for thousands of daily commuters and sightseers.


Faced with an estimated two-year timeline for restoring the new South Ferry station, MTA New York City Transit studied the former loop station directly above it which served South Ferry until 2009. The station is on a sharp curve and requires moveable platform edge extenders to bridge gaps between the platform and the cars, and it can accommodate only five cars of a 10-car subway train.

The authority said a decommissioned station had never been reopened in its history.

“We didn’t think that was even an option,” Carmen Bianco, the authority’s senior vice president for subways, said of reviving the old station. “But you start exploring, ‘Well, what other options do we have?’ ”

As recently as January, officials said, the prospect still seemed remote. The station is not merely old — it opened in 1905 — but antiquated even by mid-20th century standards. While many stations were enlarged in the 1940s and 1950s to accommodate 10-car trains, the length and configuration of the South Ferry platform prevented any change, allowing only passengers in the first five cars to exit.

The quirk survived until 2009, when a glossy new station replaced the old one at a cost of over $500 million. The authority has estimated the new station will cost $600 million to rebuild.

Though the agency has occasionally used the old station’s loop track for work trains — and as a turnaround point for No. 1 trains since the storm — the station itself has been almost entirely ignored.



Another Historic NY City Building Celebrates 100 years


This isn’t a post about Grand Central Terminal. It’s about the New York, Westchester & Boston Railway Administration Building at East 180th Street and Morris Park Avenue in the Bronx, built in 1912. The railroad went out of business in 1937, but its distinctive home serves as the entrance to the East 180th Street station for No. 2 and No. 5 trains.And it received a kind of 100th birthday gift last year: a $66.6 million renovation by New York City Transit.

Full article:
http://cityroom. blogs.nytimes. com/2013/ 01/31/100- years-later- a-railroad- landmark- is-revived/

Sandy’s Effects Still Evident at Coney Island Rail Yard


A news item posted on the MTA’s website says that there are still roughly 50 switches that have not been repaired following Sandy! And to make Coney Island Yard work, they have to hand crank the switches the old fashioned way. Kinda interesting, hunh?Read more here:

MTA wrote:Sandy’s Effects Still Evident at Coney Island Rail Yard

It takes a lot to turn a modern railroad back into a 19th century operation—but, about four feet of salt water, mounds of storm-driven sand, sustained high winds and the absence of electrical controls did just that.

Those are the conditions out at MTA New York City Transit’s massive Coney Island Rail Yard after Superstorm Sandy blasted through the City last year. The storm left the track-switching operation at the world’s largest rapid transit maintenance and storage facility unable to be controlled remotely. The yard has track capacity for 1,800 subway cars, but all were moved to higher ground in anticipation of a weather event of truly historic proportions.

“It’s like the old days of railroading with individual switches had to be hand thrown because the capability of operating from the tower was completely wiped out,” said Senior Vice President, Department of Subways Carmen Bianco. “Coney Island Yard is vital to New York City Transit’s subway operations. This facility supports a very large car maintenance, inspection and overhaul program, as well as being the largest car storage facility in the system.”

Coney Island Yard is a huge and complicated operation generating hundreds of train movements each day. Changing switch positions is necessary on the maintenance side of the house in order send trains in and out of the barn. Switches also guide train movement on outside storage tracks where trains are threaded through a labyrinth of tracks and switches as they approach and leave their lay-up positions for morning and evening rush hour service out on the main line.

Normal operation is a wonder of automation, requiring the tower operator to use the interlocking machine to position switches to move a train to where it needs to be. Depending on where the train is headed, several switching moves will have to be performed to give the train the proper line-up. Not too difficult when the switches are remotely controlled by pressing buttons.

But, how do you accomplish the same task when there is no electricity to the track switches? “Signal Department personnel are sent to the field to crank switches by hand,” said Paul Camera, General Superintendent, Electrical, who went on to explain that some moves may require the hand cranking of ten to 15 switches to guide the train to its proper path.

Through the entire move, someone is walking in front of the train, and with no signals, the train operator is also following hand flagging directions as he makes his moves.

The yard sits in a major flood zone vulnerable to the water flowing in from nearby bodies of water, including Coney Island Creek. Areas from the Rockaways to the Battery were swamped with raging floodwaters and the Coney Island section of Brooklyn was also hit hard, especially with the storm surge driven by the full moon. Coinciding with the high tide, the storm washed in water and debris which quickly inundated the tracks, switches, motors and signal equipment.

In Sandy’s wake, the yard more closely resembled a lake than a storage area for subway trains. It took several days for the yard to drain and that process was aided by pumping in strategic areas. The removal of water from some of the flooded equipment was done with small hand pumps or vacuums.

Throughout the 75-acre complex, more than 190 individual switches were flooded in the wake of the storm, which also damaged signals and wiring. A combined workforce of in-house personnel and contractors washed salt water and sand from the switches and replaced switch motors where required and that work is ongoing.

In fact, more than two full months after the storm, 50 track switches still cannot be moved remotely and must be hand thrown by workers. The manual operation is labor intensive and complicated.

Of course, like just about everything else in the subway system, necessary jobs must proceed simultaneously. “We don’t have the luxury of focusing on one thing at a time,” said Wynton Habersham, Chief Electrical Officer. “For the past several weeks, it has been necessary to balance the restoration of the system and the hand switching with our ‘day job’ of maintenance and testing of the remaining signals and switches.”

Compounding the problem is the scarcity of replacement parts. Many of the switch motors are currently back ordered and won’t be delivered until the end of January.

Have we come a long way since the storm? Yes, NYC Transit has made tremendous strides forward in recovering from the most devastating storm to hit the region but as in the Coney Island Rail Yard, the system is still not whole as we move forward with repairs to the Rockaway Line and the South Ferry station.

So a bit longer we will wait until we can “return to normalcy” completely following Sandy. You can read more on MTA’s website and even see some photos here: Sandy’s Effects Still Evident at Coney Island Rail Yard.