When the trains stopped: Getting from New Haven to New York

A Post-Sandy Odyssey

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Stamford's Rush Hour
All commuters got off the train at Stamford on Thursday. Photo:Dru Nadler
A Post-Sandy Odyssey
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A Post-Sandy Odyssey

I don’t normally think of commuting as an adventure. But it did seem a little like one yesterday morning as people got word that they could finally take the train from Stamford into Manhattan once again. Trumbull resident Brian Keane usually commutes from Westport into the city. Today, he drove to Stamford’s train station – and was ready for a little adventure when it came to parking.

“I actually have a bike in my car, because I figured if there wasn’t any parking, I’d park up on Bedford Street and bike down," he told me.

As it turns out, Keane got a parking spot – and so did I – just minutes before the main parking garage was full, around 9:30 in the morning on Thursday. Both of us hopped on the 9:45 local train to Manhattan – where commuters were just happy to be back on the train again. After all – the trains have power.

“I don’t have power," said Dennis Tracey, who has lived in Weston for 8 years. "80 percent of Weston doesn’t have power.”

Tracey and his neighbors have done their best to try and work from home in the dark: “They’re working on their blackberries, and then they go out to their car, plug the blackberry into the car, and sit in the car while it recharges.”

Maria Shuck of Rye, New York, has been walking around her darkened home with a headlamp. She was relieved to be able to commute into the city today – to put it more accurately, she was thrilled.

“This morning I turned on the radio, and I said, ‘I’m just going to go to the station,’ and the train shows up, and this is great," she said. "This is a new train, and everything seems like it’s going back to normal.”

Commuters swapped stories of the days the train stopped. Some had no choice but to drive, taking three or more hours just to enter Manhattan. Others without power or cell service tried to get in touch with their bosses and wandered from Starbucks to Starbucks in search of wifi. Joan Poulton just worried about when she’d be able to get to work again.

“I came down to the station last night, and they said to call the number on the back of the timetable they gave me, so I called at about 4:30 this morning and I heard that it was back to almost normal," she said.

Commuters on the early trains into Manhattan did experience some delays because of what’s known as “slippery rail,” which happens when leaves on the tracks mix with mud and slime and force the rail cars to travel at much lower speeds. But other than that, getting from New York to Stamford and back was pretty normal. The real adventure was leaving the parking garage at Stamford’s train station – which was full of commuters who don’t usually park there.

Read more, and check out more photos, in the Connecticut Mirror's Rant&Rail blog here.