Monday, May 23, 2005

I've been working on the railroad...

Although a ride on the subway is always interesting, at night it becomes a whole different experience. Now I'm not talking about the changes in service and trains that chose to run at night. This is more of an experience that I don't believe every subway rider sees.

It was about 12:30 at night and all I wanted was a train going uptown from Penn Station. This proves to be more difficult than imagined because of the men who were walking on the tracks. Clothed in their orange vests and hardhats.. the men assured me that a train would be along soon despite the fact that they were currently taking the tracks apart with jack hammers. I understand that they have to do track repairs at night when there are less trains but they were acting so calm about the whole process. One man was drinking his coffee on the platform and then one second later he was down on the tracks still sipping out of his styrofoam cup. He was standing with one foot on each side of the third rail!! This was a tad bit creepy for me and I was shocked that he just was hanging out there taking his time telling the other men what to do.

The other workers were taking apart the latches on tracks. One man was using a sledgehammer to bash the locks while a man behind him took a jackhammer and took out the bolts. This was almost an interesting process to watch but I began to get impatient and worried. What was going to happen when a train came? So I looked down into the tunnel and there was a person standing in there with a flashlight. There is a lot of trust between that one man the conductor and the workers. A couple minutes later I saw the glow of the train lights in the tunnel. They didn't look like they were slowing down. Suddenly they stopped. The men took the big tools away from the track and left all the small pieces. Then they stood in the middle of the two tracks on a beam and let the train pass through. They even waved to the conductor. I boarded the train and wondered about the strangeness of the subway at night.

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