NEC Herring run...plus..a ferry ride!

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by MARC Rider, Aug 7, 2019.

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  1. Aug 7, 2019 #1

    MARC Rider

    M

    MARC Rider

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    In early June, I get my annual email from the Grand Central Oyster Bar that the New Dutch Herring are going to be in later that month. So it's time for a trip to New York! My add-on for this trip was to ride the ferry over Long Island Sound from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport.

    In order to do all of this, I had to take a very early morning train from Baltimore. I had to get to the station at about the same time I used to do when I was working. In fact, I arrived at the station at 0526 and had plenty of time to catch Northeast Regional 180, due to depart at 0605. I traveled business class, mostly to get a few more AGR TQP. I think i'll be able to make select Plus, even though I'm not riding Amtrak as much as I used to.

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    The train came in on time, and I was soon zipping up the NEC. I enjoyed a cafe car breakfast of a bagel (toasted!)with a schmear, yoghurt, and (free for BC) coffee. The billboards near Philadelphia expressing dissatisfaction with Amtrak's CEO are still visible.

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    We seemed to be running slowly (no faster than 110 mph) for most of the trip, and after New Brunswick, it seemed that we were being held up for NJT commuter trains. I was starting to worry that we would be getting in late, which might jeopardize my Long Island Railroad connection, but in the end, we only got in about 5 minutes late, but we were going really slowly through the Hudson River Tunnel.

    Being at the end of the train, the stairs brought me up into the new concourse on the west end of the station. I made my way over to the Long Island Railroad concourse and was immediately assaulted by the hordes of commuters (it was about a quarter to 9). I've never been in Penn Station at the height of the weekday rush hour, and it was indeed a novel experience. I checked to make sure the timetable I downloaded was consistent with reality and found the Ronkonkoma train and also verified the Port Jefferson connection. I then bought a paper ticket at the vending machine, and soon, the train was ready to board.

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    One thing that impressed me about the LIRR was how slowly they run the trains. The first segment on the Ronkonkoma train was a limited stop express, but boy did we creep along. To be fair, it looked like they were doing a good bit of track work. Eventually, we got to Hicksville (yes, that's the name of the place), where I changed to a diesel powered train to take me to Port Jefferson. Apparently, they have some dual-power locomotives that provide a one-seat ride on select trains, but mine wasn't one of them.

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    The consist was 3 bi-level cars pulled by the diesel locomotive, and soon were were rolling along a very curvy track through what appeared to be very rural countryside (although maybe it was just the dense foliage that hid the houses) past quaint looking towns and some charming old station buildings. I think it would be a great route to run scenic train excursions on the weekend with heritage equipment, maybe even dome cars. Eventually, we got to Port Jefferson. It's about 60 miles from Manhattan, and it took us about 2 hours to get there.

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    Now that we're here, the only problem is that the ferry dock is about a mile from this train station. There is a bus, if you want to wait for it, or you could call an Uber, I guess. But what I did was walk. Fortunately, the walk was downhill all the way, which is why I recommend that if you do this trip, you do it in this direction and not ride to Bridgeport first.

    Will I make my ferry and keep to my schedule? (I still have to eat my herring when I get to Grand Central and get back to Penn in time for my 6PM train ride home to Baltimore.) Stay tuned for the next installment.
     
  2. Aug 7, 2019 #2

    jazzpianoman

    jazzpianoman

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    Nice. I rode the Carolinian from New York to Charlotte NC. I remember seeing those signs, although I was more focused on the equipment sitting there and than what they said. Looking back at the photos, there is a old amtrak engine in phase 1 paint, possibly an E8, along with a coach, baggage car, flat car with some old wheels, and a caboose. Looks like they aren’t moving for a while. 569A217A-4096-4F6C-81CF-B7E02E2B4954.jpeg EC692494-0A53-4886-93CF-6AD989E19B53.jpeg
     
  3. Aug 8, 2019 #3

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    OK, so here I am at the Port Jefferson Station. Google maps says it's 1.3 miles to the ferry dock and a 23 minute walk. Fortunately the walk is downhill. The town gets nicer as you get closer to the docks. A shame I don't have more time, as it might be nice to explore some of the shops and restaurants. After 23 minutes of walking, yes, there's the dock. And there's a ferry coming in.

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    Our boat is the Grand Republic. A little disappointing, as I had hoped I could sail the P.T. Barnum. (Barnum was one of the original owners of the ferry company back in the 1800's.) It probably doesn't really make any difference, as I believe both vessels are more or less identical. After the foot passengers disembarked and the cars drove off, they let us board.

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    The vessel had an auto decks and a gallery deck on each side for the cars and 2 passenger decks. One is inside with reasonably comfortable chairs, some with tables, the other is open to the elements. Given that it started spitting rain soon after we shoved off,the top deck didn't get that much business during this crossing.

    We departed some time after noon. If your were doing this as a loop trip from New York City without the distractions of wanting to eat New Holland Herring at Grnad Central and get back to Baltimore before 9 PM, I would recommend staying in Port Jefferson and having some lunch before taking the ferry. I, of course didn't follow my own recommendation, so I had to eat on board. The fare is a bit limited, but the precooked hamburger I had was OK. They also have a bar with a panoramic view, but it was a bit too early in the day to imbibe ethanol. The crossing is 18 miles and takes about an hour and 15 minutes. On my trip the seas were pretty calm, but it fogged up a bit, and in the middle of the crossing, you couldn't see any land at all.

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    After a while, we finally got to see Bridgeport, and we were soon in the harbor and docking. The ferry dock is about a block from the train station, you just walk along the wharf a bit, and if you're headed for New Haven, you go up a flight of stairs to the eastbound platform. If you're headed to New York, like me, you go under the RR bridge and then up a flight of stairs to the westbound platform, walk along there to the waiting room, where you can buy a ticket and sit out of the rain. And it did start raining just about the time I was walking off the boat. Fortunately, it was a drizzle until I reached the stairs and was under the platform canopy. Then the skies opened up for a while.

    While researching the Port Jefferson-Bridgeport Ferry operation, I read that the company is planning to move the Bridgeport operations to the other side of the harbor. This is to give better vehicle access to I-95, but it will mess up the pedestrian intermodal connection. I believe they're planning to run either water taxis or bus shuttles over the the old dock to allow connections with the train and also facilitate tourist access to downtown Bridgeport. There is apparently a museum dedicated to P.T. Barnum.

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    As you can see from the pictures, one of the tracks is out of commission for some sort of track work. I ride this stretch between New Rochelle and New Haven about once a year, and I've been doing it since 2004, and it seems that there's always track work going on.

    I bought a ticket back to Grand Central, and waited for my train. And you, dear reader, will have to wait for the next installment which includes my rutrun to the Big Apple, a herring lunch, and my return to Baltimore.
     
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  4. Aug 9, 2019 #4

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

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    Long way to go for some Fish, but when you're Retired, these kind of trips are possible.:D

    And isn't Baltimore known for its Sea Food? It used to be when I lived in DC back in Ancient times when it was a Food Black Hole!:(
     
  5. Aug 11, 2019 #5

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    Baltimore seafood is limited to crabs and oysters. Occasionally you will find rockfish (striped bass) on restaurant menus. All other seafood offerings aren't any different than you would find in any other big city. As far as I know, the new Holland Herring is available in the US only in New York, at the Grand Central Oyster Bar and Russ and Daughters in the lower East Side. I can get all the herring I want at the kosher market near where I live, but it's either pickled herring (which is good, but different) or matjes herring that has been curing for some time, and comes in a sealed package.

    Anyway, the herring run is basically an excuse for me to ride the train to New York for the day. On this trip I also added a ride on one of the Long Island Sound Ferries.
     
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  6. Aug 11, 2019 #6

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

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    Thanks for the update, and we understand that any reason for aTrain Ride is Good!:cool:;)
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
  7. Aug 11, 2019 #7

    MARC Rider

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    MARC Rider

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    OK, moving on, it was time to catch the Metro-North express back to Grand Central.
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    This was supposed to be an express, and, indeed, it skipped most of the stations, but boy did we go slow for most of the ride. I guess it was the track work. I guess you can't complain that Metro-North is picking on Amtrak trains and making them run slow, too. We speeded up a little bit after New Rochelle, but never exceed 70 mph. Then, right outside Grand Central, in the tunnel, we just stopped for about 5 minutes. Anyway, eventually, we arrived, and I walked forward all the way to the absolute end of the line..

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    I went up the stairs, and, to my pleasant surprise, I was right at the entrance to the Oyster Bar!

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    Time for my New Holland Herring:

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    No, I didn't pick it up by the tail as is traditional. Here it is with an accompanying glass of genever, the Dutch precursor to gin.

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    It definitely has its own unique taste. It's raw, but not raw fish like sashimi, as it has been cured a bit with salt. On the other hand, it's definitely has a fresher taste than the longer-cured matjes herring that''s widely available. I also had a half dozen oysters selected for me by the oyster shucker, an assortment of New England and Long Island sources.

    It was getting a bit late, but I did take time to go through the main hall and Grand Central. Apparently, they're renovating the big departure boards. But I wanted to be at Penn Station in plenty of time for my train, so it was off to the subway. My senior Metrocard (which didn't arrive in time for the Gathering last fall) worked perfectly. First a ride on the Times Square Shuttle, and then one stop on the 7th Avenue line. Boy, it was hot in the subway stations! And crowded, as I was starting to hit the PM rush hour.
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    When I stepped through the subway turnstiles at 34th st., lo and behold, I was in from of the Tracks raw bar. Given that the place is an institution and on the endangered species list, I had to step in and have a few more oysters. Good oysters, even if the list is not as extensive as at Grand Central. And I got to overhear a little railroad shop from fellow patrons sitting a bit down the bar from me. There are some displays of railroad memorabilia that some here might find interesting.

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    Finally, into the lounge to wait for my 6 PM Acela. I was traveling first class on an upgrade coupon. We left on time and got in on time, but I was a little disappointed in the service. Being a 6PM weekday train, the FC car was full, which was OK. The attitude of the staff was fine, but, boy were they disorganized. They would take an order, and forget it, and then have to come back. And they kept running back to the galley to get stuff. Usually, the FC service is that they take everybody's order, then bring them all out in batches, not take the order, run to the galley and bring out only a drink for one person. Anyway, I didn't get my drink until we were passing Newark Airport, and I didn't get dinner until we got to Philadelphia. There were people who got off in Philly, and I guess they didn't get served. Other than that, the ride was fine and quick, and I guess it's a good thing that I didn't get the opportunity for a second stiff Acela drink pour, as I was driving home from the station. By the way, I complimented the attendant on the generous drink pours, and he told me that they don't pour the liquor by hand, as they do with the wine, they use airline size miniatures. I must say that they must use 2 or 3 of those miniatures per drink, at least when you order the bourbon on the rocks.
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    So, back at BAL at 8:20 PM, and a short drive home.

    I'm going to be doing the other Long Island Sound ferry soon. That's a longer trip, so I'll have to spend the night somewhere. Stay tuned.
     
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  8. Aug 12, 2019 #8

    anumberone

    anumberone

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    Couple of photos, looking off the stern of that ferry make me not really want to be the first couple of vehicles aboard. The Herring looks good, is it salty, and what was it served with.
     
  9. Aug 13, 2019 #9

    railiner

    railiner

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    Excellent report and photography...thanks for posting!
     
  10. Aug 13, 2019 #10

    MARC Rider

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    1. Yeah, maybe they put chocks under the wheels of those vehicles to keep them from rolling.
    2. The herring is a little salty, but not like the Vita or Acme picked herring you but in the supermarket. It's served with chopped onions, chopped hard boiled eggs, and chopped parsley.
     
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