MTA’s Linden Yard

I took another fun, educational tour with the New York Transit Museum. This tour was of MTA’s Linden Yard where they rehabilitate and replace subway track and switch gear. I have been on several yard tours, and this one was very different. There were no cars being repaired. It was strictly rails. There are three types of rail areas: underground, aboveground on the surface, and aboveground on a structure (elevated). They repair and build rail differently depending on where it is.

In some areas, they can lay continuous welded rail, which speeds up replacement. They weld long lengths of rail together in the yard and then transport them to the location to be laid.

A continuous welded rail is laying on the ground in the middle next to the stacked rails

The continuous welded rail is transported in specialty rail cars that are joined together and can transport eight of these continuous welded rail.

Specialty rail car for laying continuous welded rail

Specialty rail car for laying continuous welded rail

They use thermite to weld lengths of rail together. The process is awesome to watch.

Using thermite to weld two pieces of rail together

Using thermite to weld two pieces of rail together. Molten metal is pouring out the sides.

They also rehabilitate frogs, aka rail switches.

Frog rehabilitation area

A “frog”, switching track so named because it is said to look like a frog laying down with limbs spread out

They build complete segments of rail attached to the ties. For curved sections of track, they have to rip the ties at precise angles to give the rail curve whatever angle it needs for the train to take the curve safely.

Stacked rails on ties. Note that some of the ties are cut at an angle to lay in track curves. The metal plates used to join the rail and ties have a rubber bottom to cushion the train and reduce noise.

They also build the more complicated rail junctions.

A rail switch or junction being built in the shop

Fully assembled track lifted by crane

Rubber plates used to hold rail to ties. Rubber reduces the noise of the train.

Rail being curved by mechanical force in this machine

They also repair the third rail. Third rails are not welded together but are joined using a very thick copper wire that is welded to each segment.

Copper wire being attached to two third rails with thermite

Newly attached copper wire to serve as junction between two third rails


I’ve never been to Chicago before until I did extended layovers between train rides out west and back. Chicago is a pretty neat city. It has a nice mix of old and new buildings. At least one really neat park. [There are probably more, but I didn’t get to them.] It also has a really nice riverwalk along parts of the Chicago River. It is definitely a city that I need to get back to and explore more. Note to any engineers or geeks reading this: If you are in Chicago, go see the historic water tower. It is a gorgeous building that was built to house a standpipe. Across the street is a pumping station in an equally gorgeous building. You can actually go into the pumping station and walk along a small portion of a balcony to see the pipes and pumps.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion

The “L” goes by a downtown office building

Floating gardens on the river walk

On the river walk underneath a bridge

River walk

Historic water tower near the John Hancock Building

Historic water tower

Pumping station building across from the water tower

Inside the pumping station building

Oak Street Beach

Buckingham Fountain

Black Hills

I have said it before, and I will say it again, the Black Hills are gorgeous. I have posted some of my photos in their respective blog posts: Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, 1880 Train ride, Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, and Deadwood. Here are just a few more photos that didn’t fit anywhere because they weren’t in any particular park. Of particular note are three tunnels on US 16A that were made by tunneling straight through the rock for only the small amount needed for a (single) car to go through. That in itself is an engineering feat, considering when they were built, but also they were built to frame Mt. Rushmore. It is not easy to see in the photo, but with all three, depending on the direction you are driving, you can see Mt. Rushmore, and it is really neat. Consider also the crazy route that the road had to take to get to those exact angles to frame Mt. Rushmore.

Horse Thief Lake

US 16A, the scenic drive

Black Hills

Tunnel that frames Mt. Rushmore

Tunnel that frames Mt. Rushmore

Tunnel that frames Mt. Rushmore

Black Hills

Black Hills

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Delta-09

Previously I visited the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Delta-01 which was the launch control center as well as where the crew lived. Yesterday, I visited the Delta-09 site, which was where an actual missile was. The missile with the nuclear warhead has been removed, but there is an unarmed missile in it now, so visitors can see what it looked like. You can walk around the surface, which is a fairly small area, but you can see some of the support infrastructure like an antenna and manholes.

Missile in silo

Missile in silo with basket for a person to do maintenance


Tracks to move cover

Missile silo is under glass room. Manholes for maintenance are on right.

Utility pole

In the photo above, you can see lines of vegetation. The entire area was mainly devoid of vegetation, but the vegetation it did have followed neat lines. I can’t figure out why, and I presume it has nothing to do with the site. I considered if the site had water pipes, perhaps if they were leaking, then vegetation might follow along the pipes, but I am fairly sure there are no water pipes. I know some plants develop root runners, but I have never seen any that are that linear. If anyone knows why plants would do this, I would love it if they would leave me a comment.

Custer State Park

I am probably prone to superlatives on my blog, but Custer State Park is, in fact, stunningly gorgeous. It has lovely grasslands where you can find bison, prairie dogs, and donkeys and probably others. Those are the ones I saw. I have to also admit that I am a little sketchy on wild donkeys being in a park, but I digress. The park also has the granite peaks and spires that make the Black Hills so famous. There is a manmade lake called Sylvan Lake that has the granite spires lining it and popping out of it. There is Needles Highway, which is an engineering feat of wonder, where you drive around the granite spires and in two cases drive through them in the most ridiculous small, just cut out the exact space needed for a car, tunnels. There is the Wildlife Loop where you can see the wildlife and just take in the gorgeous grasslands. My photos probably don’t do it justice, but if you are ever in the area, make time and go to this park.

Custer State Park grasslands

Buffalo on the grasslands

Donkeys (or burros) on the grasslands

Buffalo on the grasslands

Custer State Park

Needles Highway tunnel

Needles Highway

Sylvan Lake

Sylvan Lake

Black Hills Train Ride

I took a ride today on the 1880 Train, whose route goes back and forth between Hill City and Keystone SD. It uses an old mining and mill railroad for its track. The round trip takes two hours, and it is a nice, relaxing ride through some beautiful countryside.

The 1880 Train engine

The 1880 Train on a curve

An old mine entrance

Views of the Black Hills

Views of the Black Hills

The 1880 Train having a blowdown

Chicago Architecture River Cruise

I’m traveling to the west for the solar eclipse and vacation, and I decided to take the train. I had to change trains in Chicago, so I decided to spend the night and have some time to explore Chicago. I decided to start with a river cruise focusing on the architecture. Like most old and big cities, Chicago has a lovely mix of old and new buildings. It has classic old stone buildings, modern buildings (as in the modern architecture era), post-modern buildings, and whatever era we are in now. I am also curious about the engineering that must have gone into many of the buildings as they were built right on the river’s banks. A cruise on its rivers is a great way to see some of them. A few photos I took are below.

Hive DC

Every year during the summer, the National Building Museum has a summer block party. They have had the Big Maze, the Beach, and last year Icebergs. This year is Hive DC. They used nearly 3,000 wound paper tubes that are normally used for pouring concrete in construction. Unlike at any construction site I have ever seen, these tubes were painted metallic silver on the outside and hot pink on the inside. The tubes were stacked and notched to allow interlocking. In a few places at least, it was evident they needed some reinforcement with screws and nuts and some tension wires for the highest hive. There is a xylophone in a small hive which appears to be made almost exclusively with construction material like tubing, canisters, and pipes. If nothing else, Hive is fantastic to photograph. There were so many cool angles, lines, and perspectives that were just plain fun to photograph.

Hive DC

Second largest hive

Largest hive

Largest hive

Largest hive

Hive DC

Hive DC

Hive DC


Hive DC

Hive DC

Largest hive

Hive DC

Hive DC

Hive DC

Hive DC

Hive DC

DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to visit the brand new DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage with Open House New York. The multilevel building houses three different garages, one each for Manhattan districts 1, 2, and 5. Each garage has its own floor, and there is a shared area for vehicle repairs. The building has LEED certification and includes many green features including a wonderful green roof also. Across the street is a salt shed built to resemble salt crystals. Both the garage and salt shed have really nice, innovative architecture.

DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Garage on left, salt shed on right, with Holland Tunnel ventilation tower in back

Salt shed

View of garage from salt shed, all floors of garage are different colors to emphasize different garages and functions

Slats in gate turned to spell DSNY

View from office area looking south, metal fins help let daylight in but keep building cool. The Statue of Liberty can barely be seen on the far right in far background.

View from garage office area of Hudson River and Holland Tunnel ventilation tower

Garage area

Shovel and broom storage (there must be a story for the front broom with the metallic confetti)

Ventilation and other mechanical structures in the repair area

Parking in the garage area

Mechanical penthouse

Green roof with Hudson River in background

Green roof

View from green roof of salt shed

Salt shed packed high with salt

DSNY Central Repair Shop

A couple of weeks ago, I got the chance to tour the Department of Sanitation of New York’s Central Repair Shop with Open House New York. The shop is huge. It several stories high and a couple of blocks long. The place is amazing, and DSNY does everything in house. The repair all vehicles there: heavy duty trucks, cars, etc. They have a woodworking shop, metal shop, sheet metal shop, upholstery shop, and all other types of shops, as well as a vehicle emissions testing facility. No, it does not smell of garbage as all vehicles are cleaned before going to the shop.

There were vehicles of all sort there. DSNY has a wide variety of garbage collection and transport vehicles. This no doubt makes it more difficult to repair as the workers have to know how to repair a multitude of different vehicles. They also repair pickup trucks, cars, and as far as I could tell, anything with wheels. I can’t say if they repair bicycles though. It won’t shock me if they did.

Parked garage trucks

Vehicles are parked everywhere but allow for traffic

Duel collection and compactor vehicles on lift

The shop also appears to be where they store most if not all, of their heavy equipment, such as equipment like snow shovels only used in winter.

Snow shovels waiting for winter

Built in road treater for winter

Impressive parallel parking both width and height wise

I don’t know what the transport vehicle below transport, but I assume garbage. I have never seen one up close, and I liked how it has a built in conveyor belt to allow for removal of its contents easily. This is one of the reason I assume this is for garbage as opposed to sand for road. The sand would get caught in between the slats of the conveyor belt.

Garbage transporter

Up close view of garbage truck to show conveyor belt to allow easier off loading

In some areas of the shop, there are similar parts sitting around. I presume some are waiting repair and others have been repaired. Most are tagged. I couldn’t identify half of them, but they were all cool looking.

Big engines for repair

Parts waiting repair/disposal/use

In one of the metal shops was this very cool, high tech, precise machine with very cool bits.

Cool machine with fun bits

Bits of some type for this cooling looking machine above

Stacks of metal pipes and bars

Sheet metal shop

Metal shop

One surprising area that the shop had was a place after my heart, an emissions testing facility. When I was there, they had a MTA bus in the testing area. MTA pays them to test some of their vehicles, but DSNY does not test private vehicles. The testing facility had a huge roller that allows testing of their large, heavy vehicles in real life conditions. There something about the contrast of this very high tech testing facility in the middle of a building that in some areas has some rather low tech repair areas that I found amusing and surprising.

MTA bus on emissions testing machine that allows for real life conditions

Piped exhaust for emissions testing

Collated emissions for analysis