A Train Station Long Abandoned

A detail of my painting Train Tunnel

A detail of my painting Train Tunnel

The following excerpt from my novel is from my young narrator, Brooklyn’s point of view. It was inspired by an abandoned subway station—Myrtle Avenue—a ghostly platform that the Brighton Beach Express sped past throughout my childhood.

 

At last I find a platform. I sit down on a bench and wait and wait, but trains just keep speeding by. Maybe I’m supposed to go back upstairs. I look, but the stairway’s bricked up, so I climb down the steps at the end of the platform and walk into the dark train tunnel. I walk and walk and as I walk I run my fingers along a snaking yellow pipe, like a handrail on the sooty wall. The tunnel gets narrower and narrower and then it’s painted with red and white stripes and the words: Danger, No Clearance.

 

The ground starts shaking. Two lights like yellow eyes rush at me, getting huge, filling the tunnel. I slam back into a niche just as the train rushes by, rattling and clanking. In the cars whizzing past I glimpse blank-faced people, mostly old, not one of them looking out of the dirty glass windows.

 

I couldn't find a photograph of the Myrtle Avenue stop, but here's another abandoned platform, the Hoyt-schermerhorn stop.

I couldn’t find a photograph of the Myrtle Avenue stop, but here’s a similar, but less shadowy, abandoned platform, the Hoyt-schermerhorn stop.

 

Another abandoned station: New York City Hall

Another abandoned station, prettier this time: New York City Hall

 

And while I’m at it:

 

Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue is the terminal stop—come here and you leave Manhattan behind, one reason it’s ideal for escapism.

 

The train to Coney Island wasn’t always elevated. It started out as a steam line in 1875, which opened the island to the millions. It was electrified in 1899, and elevated in 1919. I’m told that the inhabitants of the shantytown I described in a previous post came there to build it and stayed. There were also trolley cars. I remember seeing the tracks when I was a kid.

 

The attraction—

This is romantic, is it not?

Photo: Simon Pielow on Flickr

Photo: Simon Pielow on Flickr

 

And so is this:

Photo: Rondal Partridge, 1940

Photo: Rondal Partridge, 1940

 

These look something like the subway of my story:

 

Photo: James Gridland, Flickr

Photo: James Gridland, Flickr

 

CID 2 tunnels

 

 

There are literally hundreds of great train songs. I asked Jim to come up with a playlist, but he couldn’t get it down to less than thirty, so I took an ax to it myself. Please add your favorite train songs through comments.

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Blog & Stories

7 comments

  1. Jim says:

    Here is my photo, “Portrait of the Artist as an Abandoned Trolly Car” (2012). It isn’t a double exposure. The train part is one of the abandoned cars in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on the tracks behind Safeway. I’ve taken many close-ups of it.

    Actually, I came up with 42 songs for Sheila, and that was disciplining myself. There are just so many songs about trains, although many fewer from the past few decades. Here are just a few more. I’ve posted the complete list with links at http://goo.gl/GV6YVX.

    No New York train song list would be complete without The New York Dolls’s “Subway Train,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-K4FPGdXbE. Glam rock of the 1970’s was really the beginning of punk, but with a different aesthetic. I saw the Dolls more than any other group then, with the exception of Patti Smith. A highlight was the midnight Halloween Party at the Waldorf, which was oversold, forcing the excluded fans to break the doors down.

    Jean Ritchie, The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6nARSpM-0s&list=RDj6nARSpM-0s.

    Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMVokT5e0zs.

    Sheila included one Missisippi John Hurt song, but here is another, Waiting for a Train, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMlHgEmCW70. In my opinion, he is the greatest of the Delta singers (I don’t say blues singers, since that doesn’t really fit him). I tried futilely for years to play the guitar like him, but couldn’t come close (close to any decent player actually).

    And finally, Son House, Empire State Express, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwqeffiewBA. I saw him playing his metal-body guitar when he was very old at Penn State when I was an undergraduate. Blues had not yet caught on to a middle-class audience, and despite his importance the audience was small.

  2. Jim says:

    And here is a close-up of the trolley.

    • ai kon says:

      Holly molly!
      Spectral photography!
      The crowd thickening at the ghost station.

      Thanks Jim!
      Honey and molasses!
      My Lost cousins pressing against the window!

    • ai kon says:

      Holly molly!
      Spectral photography!
      The crowd thickening at the ghost station.

      Honey and molasses!
      Thanks Jim! Thanks Sheila!
      My Lost cousins pressing against the window!

  3. Marilyn Jones says:

    Wow! This is a multimedia experience! It is awesome. I love your art at the beginning, Sheila. I love seeing your artwork. The writing drew me in – “two lights like yellow eyes rush at me.” And I love the music. I felt really enmeshed in this posting and really want my facebook friends to see it. Thanks.

  4. Parlin says:

    This is really uipnftlig *sigh* I dont like that I have this problem and I try to keep things in perspective because I know the world doesn’t revovle around myself but at times I just get the feeling that everyone is looking at me and judging me for my every mistake, it makes it hard to even interact with people without being even in the least anxious. This is uipnftlig though and I will def turn my problems to the Lord because at this point he is the only one that can help me. Thanks for the post and your helping people like us by just talking about your situations and giving us all courage.

  5. Thanks meant for supplying this kind of terrific write-up. http://bit.ly/2f0xJ92

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