10:10 to Nowhere

Posted on 17. Apr, 2011 by in Endnotes

A sleek fleet of new train cars! Illustration by Clare Randt

I dream about trains. I ride the rails, shooting across continents and coasting through dark tunnels under city streets. Ticket stubs are my bookmarks and timetables, my wallpaper. One recent evening, some local news piqued—and off-peaked—my interest.

I was sitting in a library window seat when I saw that first train car’s interior shine forth from my laptop screen. Suited commuters scanned legal briefs, green coats dangled from sleek overhead luggage racks, a bearded man slept peacefully. The blurred scenery through the windows could have been anywhere. Was this France’s TGV? Japan’s Shinkansen? The Orient Express? Another photo showed this same silver bullet shooting across a familiar concrete landscape of parking garages and office buildings: this was New Haven.

This was Metro-North!

Metro-North, that carrier of commuters and concertgoers, that purveyor of sticky linoleum and sweaty vinyl seats, has a new look. Eight new Kawasaki M8 cars on the New Haven line debuted this March, replacing a small slice of the existing thirty-year-old fleet. By the end of spring, 26 scarlet-striped carriages will be rolling into stations from here to Grand Central. There will be eighty in use by the year’s end. Eventually, 380 shiny cars will make up the fleet. Enlarged bathrooms, speckled floors, electronic destination signs, seat-side power outlets, and thrones of sumptuous red leather will propel Metro-North’s riders into the future.

Realizing this could be the most exciting news in locomotion since the first train ran from the Elm City to the Big Apple in 1849, I checked the day’s rail schedule at bettermetronorth.com. There was a train leaving at 10:10 p.m. There would be enough time for me to make a round trip to Bridgeport—or even across state lines to Grand Central—before the night was through. With excitement, trepidation, and not a single doubt, I hopped in a taxi and paid my fare upon arrival at Union Station.

As I shuffled to the ticket machines, the 10:10 listing flipped to “ALL ABOARD” on the old analog departure board, which is slated for replacement this spring. I purchased my ticket and eagerly made my way to track 14.

But the old yellow headlights in the distance told me all I needed to know: There would be no rendezvous with the Kawasaki M8 this evening. As the veteran cars rattled into the station, I wondered what had come over me. I did not want to go to New York.

I ran back through the tunnel and up to the street. Not even stopping for a consolation treat from Dunkin’ Donuts, I boarded the Yale shuttle and headed back to campus. There were no plush seats or sleek screens for comfort, but this old Blue-line bus was taking me where I wanted to go.

I tucked my rail ticket into my wallet. Another day, perhaps, I’ll ride the train of my dreams.

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