In our Danbury, CT metro area which includes Danbury, Brookfield, Bethel, Newtown, New Fairfield, Ridgefield - all in Fairfield County, as well as New Milford which is in Litchfield County, we have a lot of transplanted New Yorkers who work in New York City.
Lots of folks also commute from this area to Southern Westchester towns such as White Plains, Yonkers, New Rochelle or Mount Vernon.
Many drive their cars to and from work, but many of them prefer to commute by rail using Metro North Railroad.
What is Metro North?
Metro North Railroad is part of the NY/NJ/CT Metropolitan Transportation Association (MTA) which operates a number of mass transit operations helping commuters in the tri-state area get to, from and around New York City.
The flagship and focal point for Metro North is Grand Central Terminal. One of the most famous rail stations in the world, Grand Central (GCT) was first constructed in the 1870s in mid-town Manhattan as an above ground train station where several different Railroad lines could provide access to their riders, eliminating the need for passengers to travel from one station to another by foot or wagon when changing lines for continued travel.
It went through several evolutions until the early 1900s when the platforms and tracks were moved underground allowing for the now familiar GCT building to be built above the platforms.
Some Grand Central Lore
GCT has been the backdrop for many memorable motion pictures throughout its history. Two of the most well known were in Alfred Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST - Grand Central was the starting point for Jimmy Stewart's character as he escaped New York City.
Also -who could forget Lex Luthor's lair in the secret tunnels underneath Grant Central in the first SUPERMAN movie starring Christohper Reeve with Gene Hackman as Luthor. It is true, BTW, that there are subterranean levels of GCT below what is accessible to the general public.
Currently there are 57 tracks and platforms operating in Grand Central. They are about equally divided between the upper and lower level platfoms. Originally the division in levels was determined by having the primary rail lines operate on the upper and commuter lines running on the lower. In those days primary rail lines were the main mode of long distance transportation for Americans.
Coming out of GCT, the 57 tracks all merge into 4 feeder tracks which run beneath Park Avenue through Mid-Town, emerging into an elevated line just above 100th Street, which carries commuters north of the city.
Where Do The Trains Go?
The three Metro North lines running on these tracks are the Hudson Line, Harlem Line and New Haven Line. All three lines run together until the station at Fordham (The Bronx) where they split into three branches. Hudson runs parallel to the river carrying passengers as far as Poughkeepsie. For our purposes here we are going to look at the Harlem and New Haven lines.
If you are hoping to travel from Northern Fairfield County to Manhattan you have a number of options.
The New Haven line, which, oddly enough runs all the way to New Haven, has a few branches that split off along the way and turn in north, deviating from the line's general North East path.
The first branch, as you can see on the chart, splits from the main line at Stamford and continues north for 4 stops terminating in New Canaan. New Canaan is a great community in the SW part of Connecticut. The train station itself if located right in the main area of the village. Some commuters from northern parts of Stamford prefer to come to this station as an alternative to driving into downtown Stamford.
The second branch splits off the line at South Norwalk and runs to stations in Branchville (Ridgefield), Redding, Bethel and Danbury.
The number of trains running on these branches each day is less than on the main lines so commuters have to plan their commuting appropriately.
The other option for folks in the Danbury Metro area is to drive west on I84 about 8 miles into NY State and take the Harlem Line from the Southeast station. Southeast is a primary hub for trains into NYC and the ride is direct as opposed to the CT branches which mostly require a switch of trains where they connect.
Travelling by train from Southeast will become even easier soon for residents of Brookfield and New Milford CT when the extension of RTE 7 is completed in November. This extension will give residents an opportunity to travel on a straight shot from the beginning of the highway, on the Brookfield/New Milford line all the way across to NY and the Southeast station.
If you need specific information on schedules, check the Metro North Website. Generally speaking, though, the options are many based on exactly where you live.