Just a ‘train-iac’ riding the rail trails


Always loved trains. Crazy about them. A maniac about trains. Call me a train-iac. Yeah that’s it. A train-iac.

Had a Lionel modern train set  in the basement when I was growing up. My father took the train from White Plains each day to work in Manhattan. Every once in awhile, he took me to work with him. When I got my driver’s license, my job was to pick up Dad on the 5:19…and be on time.

About 10 years ago, I rode the Hiawatha Trail, an abandoned part of the Milwaukee Road that snakes through the states of Montana and Idaho. It’s a 17-mile ride one-way, and features nine tunnels and at least seven trestle bridges. The first tunnel is nearly two miles long, and a headlamp or bike light is required.

Right now I’m living in a town called Hopewell Junction, New York, a quiet village that grew up around IMG_0103a railroad more than a century ago. There’s a depot in Hopewell Junction that was built in 1873 and is currently being restored. through some herculean volunteer efforts.

Milk trains
Hopewell was once home to a Borden’s creamery, which opened in 1901. Before trucks become a more efficient form of transportation, the trains would pick up the big 10-gallon tins of milk from farmers throughout the area, bottle it, and send it to the New York City. Refrigeration was blocks of ice cut from local ponds in the winter.

Other trains rumbled through Hopewell bringing goods — and troops during World War II —  to New England before the tracks on the Poughkeespie Railroad Bridge (now the Walkway over the Hudson) burned in 1974. The last train from Poughkeepsie to Hopewell ran through the village 30 years ago.

Soon after the tracks were torn up. One of the lines remains, it’s runs right past my house. But it’s been years since it’s seen any traffic.

However, some of the old rail lines in the area have been converted into rail trails. They are wide, flat, IMG_0099paved surfaces that extend through woods, with remnants like old rail bridges, signals and telegraph poles still visible

No more trains
Trains no longer ride these trails, and haven’t for a long time. But people walk them and roller blade them and pedal them. Recently, I bought a new  bicycle, a Giant hybrid. Felt like a kid on Christmas morning. Got that Woody Guthrie urge, wanted to ride the rails.

This weekend, I rode the trails. Took the Dutchess Rail Trail from Hopewell over the Hudson via the Walkway and up into Highland on the west side of the river on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. Out and back. There are still a couple of short gaps to be filled in on the Dutchess Rail Trail — the biggest chore is going to be spanning a creek and six lanes of Route 55 near Manchester.

On Sunday, rode the Harlem Valley Rail Trail from Wassaic station, the end of the Metro North Harlem line, to Millerton, a bit more than 93 miles north of Grand Central Station.

All told, that’s more than 70 miles of pedaling this weekend. And although the trains no longer travel these routes, if you listen closely you can still hear the lonely sound of a whistle

Is this the worst Yankee team in 20 years?

Losing Mariano River may turn out to be the defining moment of the Yankee season.

In 1992, the New York Yankees finished with a 76-86 record, 20 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays and tied for fourth place in the AL East. It was Buck Showalter’s first year at the helm

That year, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the 11th year in a row. Since 1992, they’ve missed the playoffs just twice.

That was 20 years ago. That was then and this is now, But a quarter of the way through the 2012 season, we may be looking at the worst Yankee team since 1992.

Here’s 10 reasons why:

1. No Mo — For 15 years, the Yankees have had the biggest security blanket in the history of baseball. Then Mariano Rivera injured his knee shagging fly balls in Kansas City. No more. No Mo.

2. RISP means RIP — Yankees routinely get into scoring position, then die at second and/or third base. Worst in the majors this month in hitting with runners in scoring position.

3. Warning track power — They’re not playing A-Rod $30 million a year to be a singles hitter. The ball doesn’t explode off his bat they way it did a few years ago. The days of 35 homers, 120 RBIs are history.

4. CC and pray — Reloaded in the off-season, the Yankee rotation was supposed to be a plus. But outside of CC Sabathia there are a lot of inconsistencies, older arms and question marks.

5. HR or bust — Only once all year have the Yankees won a game in which they didn’t hit a home run. Only twice this year have they won a game in which they scored less than five runs.  Which leads to….

6. Slow stripes — Without Brett Gardner, the Yankees are plodding along, showing their age. It’s pretty much station to station. There’s very little little ball in the Bronx.

7. Tex mess — Mark Teixeira is a wreck. He’s battling a bronchial illness, his average has gone down each year he’s been a Yankee, and he absolutely refuses to hit against a shift.

8. Home groan pitching — Been an issue for many years. Hughes, Nova, Joba, the Killer Bs…and they let the best one, Ian Kennedy, get away. The Yankees haven’t developed a Cy Young winner since Ron Guidry in 1978.

9. Joe must go — In the Steinbrenner-Martin salad days, George would have already fired and re-hired Billy. If the Yankees don’t make the playoffs with the highest payroll in baseball, Girardi will be on the hot seat in New York.

10. Injuries — Not an excuse, but the Yankees have been hit hard by injuries. Mariano, David Robertson, Michael Pinieda, Gardner, Joba, that’s a fifth of the roster right there.

Stemkowski’s OT goal was one for the ages

Pete Stemkowski (21) scored in the third overtime to lift the Rangers past the Blackhawks.

When Marian Gaborik scored late in the third overtime to beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 in game three of their Eastern Conference semifinal the other night , it marked the fourth longest game in New York Rangers history, and the longest since 1939.

The last time Rangers skated this long into the night, Richard Milhous Nixon was President, gas cost 40 cents a gallon and the voting age in the USA was lowered to 18. It was 1971, April 29 to be exact.

That was the night when Pete Stemkowsi knocked in a rebound of a Teddy Irvine shot to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-2, and force a seventh game.

There were no smartphones or ESPN in 1971, and computers were bigger than dinosaurs. The Rangers-Blackhawks game was televised somewhere, but not in hockey-mad New England.

However, some enterprising students at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, an industrial city in central Massachusetts, rigged up an antenna to a hi-fi system and picked up the radio broadcast out of New York..

Two score or more students, many of them New Yorkers, crowded into the tiny dorm room, and erupted like it was  Madison Square Garden when Stemkowski beat Chicago goalie Tony Esposito  to avert elimination.

It was Stemkowski’s second game-winner of the series; he also scored an OT goal in game one.

Despite the Stemmer’s heroics, the Blackhawks went on to win the seventh game, 4-2, and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. There they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in seven games.

The Habs, led by a rookie goaltender from Cornell named Ken Dryden, had shocked the defending Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games in the quarterfinals, then toppled the Minnesota North Stars in the semifinals.

Longest games in Rangers history

1. Montreal 2, Rangers 1, 4 OT,  (128:52), 1930.

2. Rangers 4, Montreal 3 NY, 3OT (119;32), 1932

3. Boston 2, Rangers 1, 3 OT (119:25), 1939

4. Rangers 2, Washington 1, 3OT (114:41), 2012

5. Rangers 3, Chicago 2, 3OT (101:29), 1971