Tag Archives: Metro North

Ted Aldrich: A Commuter’s Tale Of How George Marshall And Henry Stimson Won The War

As Metro-North trains grew progressively slower, Fairfield County commuters groaned.

When bad weather, aging infrastructure or acts of God turned delays of minutes into hours, men and women gnashed their teeth, or wished the windows opened so they could jump out.

Ted Aldrich was thrilled.

For 8 years, the banker used his time between Greens Farms and Grand Central not to try to answer emails, watch movies on a phone screen or wish he were anywhere else.

Aldrich read history books. He organized notes. Then he wrote a book.

Ted Aldrich

Not just any book. He wrote 800 pages — then edited it down to 500 — on the odd relationship, and amazing success, of George Marshall and Henry Stimson.

The general and diplomat, Aldrich says, are hugely responsible for America’s logistical success in World War II. It’s a fresh area of study, one no historian has previously examined.

Yet Aldrich is not a historian. He’s a banker.

And this is his first book ever.

The Rowayton native and former Brien McMahon High School all-state soccer player has been a history buff as long as he remembers. But after playing at Colgate University, living and working in Europe, then moving to Westport in 1999, that passion was limited to reading on trains.

In 2008 he realized he could put that commuting time to productive use, by writing a book he’d long thought about. He had a subject: the collaboration between the unlikely duo of the U.S. Army chief of staff and President Roosevelt’s Secretary of War.

From adjoining offices at the Pentagon, the career military man and the Wall Street lawyer — both from vastly different backgrounds — created and led a war machine that helped crush a powerful enemy.

Blending politics, diplomacy, bureaucracy and war fighting, they transformed an outdated, poorly equipped army into a modern fighting force.  They developed strategy and logistics, coordinated with allies, and planned for post-war peace.

General George Marshall, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson.

Aldrich had the idea for the story. But with Metro-North’s spotty cell service, conducting the all-important research — during the only time he had available — was impossible.

Then he stumbled on Stimson’s 10,000-page diary. Because the men occupied adjoining offices, most of their collaboration took place in conversations. Little was written down — except in the diary.

It was housed at Yale, but not digitized. Aldrich paid to have it converted, and put it on a thumb drive. Suddenly, the train became his office.

The longer the commute was, the more productive and happier he became. Research took 3 years. Writing took 5 more.

Adlrich looked forward to to long business flights to Asia too. While most passengers slept or watched movies, Aldrich wrote, edited, and wrote some more.

That was the easy part. Selling his work to publishers seemed impossible. Major houses were not interested in a long book by a non-historian who had never written anything before.

Neither were smaller publishers.

Finally, Stackpole Books responded to Aldrich’s cold call. Three days later, they offered him a contract.

The Partnership: George Marshall, Henry Stimson, and the Extraordinary Collaboration That Won World War II will be published April 15. Best-selling author Walter Isaacson calls it “a valuable addition to history.”

Noted writer Evan Thomas adds:

The contrast to the current day will pop out at readers. Aldrich writes with a confident, readable style that carries you along. Through these men we remember how America truly did become great. At the same time, Aldrich has a clear eye about their foibles and blind spots. Stimson and Marshall were Olympian figures, yet in Aldrich’s capable hands, human and relatable.

Unlike many writers who head out on book tours, Aldrich has a full-time job. His personal promotion will be limited to groups in the tri-state area, and Washington — talks he can give while still working his day job.

Meanwhile, he’d love to write another book. But he has to find the right subject — and make sure much of the material is available on a thumb drive.

On the other hand, at the rate Metro-North is going, Aldrich may have even more time to write than before.

(For more information and to order Ted Aldrich’s book, click here.) 

Train Trees Cut Down

Private property is not the only place where trees are being cut in Westport.

Earlier today, Eversource and Metro-North took down trees in the right-of-way at the railroad station.

Matthew Mandell — an RTM member for the district, and director of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce — called it “a great loss to the community. A number of these trees are beautiful in summer. They also obscure part of the tall electric gantry.”

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

(Photo/Matthew Mandell)

(Photo;Monica Buesser)

 

Wheels2U: New Train Station Service Rolls Out In Westport

Since COVID struck, commuter traffic is down dramatically. Train station parking lots are nearly empty.

But some folks still need Metro-North. Not all of them can — or want to — drive to Saugatuck or Greens Farms. Westport Transit has been an alternative.

But the shuttle service has not worked for everyone. The schedule did not cover all peak trains. Not everyone lives close to the routes. Supply and demand were not always in sync.

On Monday, Westport Transit introduced “Wheels 2U Westport.” The new on-demand, door-to-train platform shuttle service will operate in nearly all of Westport, and provide rides to both the Saugatuck and Greens Farms stations. Riders can be picked up at home or their place of business.

Nearly all of Westport is included in the service area.

The new service will operate weekdays, from 5:45 to 9:45 a.m., and 4 to 8 p.m.

Commuters can schedule rides shortly before their desired pick-up time through an app (click here, or search for “Wheels2U” on the Apple or Google Play store). The $2 fare can be paid via the app or a Metro-North Uniticket (rail and bus pass).

Wheels2U Westport uses Norwalk Transit’s comfortable blue vehicles and white shuttle buses. It replaces Westport Transit’s 7 commuter shuttle routes, and the temporary on-demand commuter service begun in March during COVID.

Norwalk Transit introduced Wheels2U in that city in 2018.

For more information, click here or call 203-852-0000 (choose option 3).

 

[OPINION] Slow Trains Cost Big Bucks

An alert — and frustrated — “06880” reader writes:

When my wife, daughter and I moved to Westport in the 1980s, the main reasons were the schools, and amenities like Longshore.

But another major reason was that my wife’s commute to the city would work (barely). It was about an hour on Metro-North.

However, as the real estate agent explained to us, houses closer to the city cost more. Her rule of thumb was that for every extra minute of commuting time, homes were $10,000 less expensive. For us, Westport was the “sweet spot.”

Commuting looks pleasant in this image. (Photo copyright Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

It now takes about 20 minutes longer to get to New York City by train than it did back then. That means our house (the same one) is worth $200,000 less than it would if the trains ran on the same schedule.

Westport has about 10,000 homes. If they’re worth $200,000 less on average, that means they’ve lost $2 billion in value due to slower trains.

That $10,000 figure was in 1980s housing dollars. It might be 3 times that much now.

And we were looking at lower-priced houses in Westport, so that $10,000 figure for the lower-priced houses in Westport we were considering was probably twice that for higher-priced houses. So perhaps the real cost of slow Metro-North trains might be 6 times as much: $12 billion.

That’s real money!

The train to New York was quicker in 1949 than 2019.

Metro-North Scores With Hockey Fans

If you ride Metro-North long enough, you see everything.

But until yesterday, Tom Feeley had never seen the Stanley Cup.

The longtime Westporter — whose own sport at Staples High School was wrestling — was heading home on the 4:11. As the train left Grand Central, the conductor said the National Hockey League’s most famous trophy was along for the ride.

Tom thought he was kidding. But sure enough — in Greenwich — a big white-gloved guy walked through, carrying the cup.

It was headed for Stamford. NBC Sports is headquartered there, and they’re promoting the playoffs.

Let’s go to the video!

Most people seem blase. But look closely at the end.

You’ll see Tom touch the Stanley Cup.

Railroad Parking: Less Is More

The other day, an alert “06880” reader asked if the recent renovation of the train station’s westbound parking lot (#1) resulted in the loss of any spaces. (He was pretty sure it did.)

I did not know the answer. But I knew who would.

Foti Koskinas — who as Westport’s police chief is also responsible for railroad parking — responded (as usual) almost immediately.

He said: Yes. The original plan would have meant 6 fewer spaces. When another exit was added, an additional 2 were lost.

During the project however, realignment of spaces and crosswalks added 2 back. So the 1st number stands: There are now 6 fewer spaces than before.

The reason for the loss, Foti noted, is that the old lot was non-conforming to current regulations. Spaces were too narrow, resulting in many dented doors.

Pre-renovation: an aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

Pre-renovation: an aerial view of train station parking lot 1 (center).

But Foti added lots (ho ho) more information. And it’s all good.

Throughout the summer, the Police Department examined every parking area. New spaces will appear, sometime before the holidays:

  • 12-14 additional parking spots in Lot #2 (the smaller westbound lot, just up the hill from Lot #1 and Luciano Park)
  • 8 new spots on Park Street (coming down the slight hill from Exit 17, opposite the old Blu Parrot/Jasmine/Arrow restaurant)
  • 15-17 more spots on one side of Franklin Street, under I-95
  • 54-60 additional spots in Lot #7, off Franklin Street (due to leases the town took over from the state — not easy, but they got it done!).

But wait! There’s more!

The department has contacted the next 150 commuters on the wait list. They’re in the process of getting their permits.

And more permits may come, once the projects in the bullet list above are completed.

Now, if only Metro-North could respond as quickly and efficiently as the Westport Police…

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.

Click on or hover over to enlarge this railroad station parking map.

Next Stop: Willoughby?

Metro-North riders were pleased to note that the rail line provided “good service” on March 9.

Metro-North -- good service

Unfortunately, yesterday — when this photo was taken — was August 16.

Rod Serling would be proud.

Metro-North Fire: “06880” Readers Help Each Other

The fire that disrupted last night’s Metro-North commute played havoc again today. Delays may continue for 24-48 hours.

Train riders have tried many alternatives. If you’ve got a solution — or want to offer, or seek, riders for your drive to and/or from work — click “Comments” below.

If appropriate, please offer “06880” readers a way to contact you.

And as always, mind the gap.

Johanna Rossi took this photo this morning. "40 minutes and counting," she said.

Johanna Rossi took this photo this morning. “40 minutes and counting,” she said.

Ticket To Ride

The ticket machines on Metro-North’s New York-bound platform are quick and convenient.

According to one “06880” reader, they’re also a death trap.

She writes: “2 ticket machines are positioned so closely to the open track that if the line exceeds 2 people (as it often does), the 3rd person stands at the edge of the track. Quick purchase of a ticket is also impeded because sunshine obscures the screen.”

Train station ticket machine

She proposes a “no-brainer” solution: moving the machines inside the waiting room.

Oh yeah — one more thing. Our safety-first writer says, “Directly adjacent to the ticket machines is a high-voltage pillar.”

All the more reason to have that 1st cup of coffee before you get to the station!

Tooting MTA’s Horn

On March 1, Westporters living near the railroad tracks — and even not so near — started hearing train horns. Loud horns. And lots of them.

Several readers did the natural thing: They asked “06880” what’s up. I contacted my go-to-guy — MTA spokesman and 1994 Staples graduate Aaron Donovan — who reported that it’s part of a Connecticut Department of Transportation project to replace all New Haven Line overhead wires, first installed in 1907.

For the safety of personnel who are on or near the tracks, trains must sound their horns when approaching work zones. Work will continue through September 2017.

Well, at least we knew…

The other day though, an alert — and very frustrated — “06880” reader emailed me. Though no work was being done near Hillspoint Road, equipment had been left near the tracks. For quite a while, engineers had been honking for no reason.

Engineers were honking at this -- with no workers in sight.

Engineers were honking at this — with no workers in sight.

The reader had called the police, fire department and Metro-North. But the horns kept blaring.

I told her to contact Aaron.

He gave her a number to call — with step-by-step instructions for navigating the dreaded phone tree. Aaron assured her she’d wind up in the right hands.

She did. The Hillspoint resident reports today that the weekend was quiet.

And though work resumed today, things are much better than they were. And she says, “for the first time, they were very helpful.”

Count your blessings. And count the days — just 810! — until September 2017.