Monday, September 21, 2009

Working on the Railroad

Ten-fifteen on Sunday morning is the optimal time for finding a parking spot, or it was for me yesterday. I’d spent Saturday night in Rockaway, where a crew is laying new track on the elevated A train (see below, where I took a major detour on a Friday night). In addition to all their trucks and cranes, there was another piece of heavy equipment parked on our block when I arrived on Saturday morning: a thing they use for “milling” the pavement, which is like plowing asphalt. Opinion was divided as to the desirability of having our block milled. My neighbor T. said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they did some actual work on our little street?” The Catwoman said, “Wheah are we gonna park?”

The road miller disappeared, but I found it later, in the church parking lot. (Seriously, look at this thing.) The train operation went on all night. On the street there was a stack of new sections of track, which comes preassembled, as for a model railway. There was a crane that was hoisting the sections up onto the elevated.

On the elevated was a whole string of yellow cars, the kind you dread seeing because it means there is a free shuttle bus in your future. One of these cars had a crane mounted on it to lift the section of track, move it down the track, and drop it into position. I stood below, taking pictures for a while. It can’t be often that they lay new track for the Iron Horse. One of the men, who I took for a supervisor, told me that they would be there for three weekends in a row, working around the clock, and planned to replace the track at both the Beach 98th Street and the Beach 90th Street stations. Next year, they will lay new track between the stations. Then, he said, from Far Rockaway to Beach 116th St., we’ll have a whole new railroad.

I watched as the men on the ground prepared these PVC joints and pounded them into the track sections. It was hard to get a good picture of the yellow car as it moved along the tracks, but I kept trying, until the man at the rear of the car yelled down, “Hey, Bobby, what is this?” and pointed at me. I guess he thought I was a terrorist or was somehow a threat to the future of the railroad. “I’m just having some fun,” I said. The supervisor said, “You can take all the pictures you want.” By then, my battery was beginning to flicker and the light was waning. Here is the crew, moving out, as I went home.

The next morning, the pile of new track was gone and there was a stack of old track, waiting to be trucked away. I took a quick walk to the beach, packed the car, and got back to the city just in time to snag the most beautiful parking spot in the world, one of only seven in what I like to call the Sanctuary (though it has no official recognition from the Vatican). There were actually two spots on this exquisite Monday-Thursday, 8:30-9 A.M. block, as somebody was leaving just as I arrived. I wished I could think of a friend to call who could use the other spot. Alternate side is suspended today, for Idul Fitr, so the Eclair is golden until Thursday, when I have to sit in it for only a half hour, and a civilized half hour at that.

Thanks to the railroad for all the heavy lifting.

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