Buffalo Will See It Through

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Concrete, Railroads

One of the best things about going with new explorers is, you can be at a place for the 10th time and it’s still an adventure, there’s still more to it than going through the motions and taking the same photos over again. So here I was, back at Buffalo Central, and maybe things changed, maybe not…

At least there’s some new art to take in… seems like Buffalo’s graffiti scene is finally taking off!

This part here is the departure hall, separated by the tracks and a now missing bridge from the rest of the grand concourse (not included here since it takes a tour to see!)

Even the freight warehouses were interesting this time…

Take The Last Train

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Gary, Railroads

After my amazing trip to Providence, and the flurry of bans and blocks and deleted “friends” that brought on, I spent most of the next month afraid to explore again, abandoning my idea of a new place every week and canceling what would have been my grand finale meet, realizing that despite my best efforts no one would show up. I was surprised enough to even have a chance to explore again that of course I took it when an explorer I hadn’t seen in over a year invited me for a very sudden trip to Gary, Indiana, which I’d at least been told was a wonderland of abandonment.

Going on the trip at all was ill-advised at best, considering I have to move in a week (the house I live in has problems typically reserved for abandoned buildings, like leaning downhill badly enough that a bowling ball dropped in the living room will enter every room on its way to the kitchen!) and have no idea where I’m going yet, but it’s not like I’d have this opportunity again, and it’s only a weekend, so off we went, spending a seemingly endless night on I-90, finally getting to Gary just before sunrise.

Our first destination was Union Station, formerly Gary’s rail station when there were still more trains here than the South Shore Line commuter rail, and there was still a city here, besides rotting husks of buildings and the insipid hum of a steel mill.

This place was nothing if not trashed and burned out, but that’s the way I like to explore things, with nature (and human nature) having taken the building far beyond what it once was.

What do you think, are these stairs safe?

I want to play a game.

A Bridge Too Far

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Fuck It Tour, Industrial, Providence, Railroads

Stop #6, so to speak, on my Fuck It Tour was another try at an online meetup at midnight on a miserably cold January night a few days after Philadelphia. We weren’t plagued by technical difficulties this time, but only Craig, Justin and the Providence crew showed up, out of 30 or 40 people who seemed interested in the last one (where one could only see, hear or speak, but not all three at once!), I still considered it more or less a success though, considering that I got a somewhat surprising invitation out to Providence, where Charles was going to create a meetup just for me so I could finally complete that years-long quest!

Everything seemed straightforward enough at first; I took the train out through Boston (stopping for breakfast at Bagel Rising Allston, which was just as delicious as I was told it would be!) to Attleboro, and (this still surprises me every time…) Ryan was there at the station to meet me, on an unseasonably warm bluebird’s day! We walked back to what Ryan said was his house, which seemed believable enough, every inch of wall space is covered in memorabilia from abandoned places and punk bands, and met his girlfriend and a few other friends there.

I first started to wonder if something was wrong when I found out that for some reason Charles who organized this whole thing decided to go off to Philly for the weekend, and wouldn’t be joining us, which I thought was only minorly problematic, considering that I was supposed to stay with him the next two nights, but Ryan assured me it would all get figured out, and there would be someone at the party that night who could at least give me some couch space. He asked me what I wanted to explore, and I said I’d be glad to do just about anything but climbing, but I’d prefer to save the drains and tunnels for night and not waste daylight where I could be taking photos. So he tells me we’ve got a plan, and off we go, stopping by a Taco Bell on the way.

After a bit of traffic on the 95, and some wandering around in circles undoubtedly intended to make sure I had no idea where we were, or what the location even was, we arrived at our first explore: an abandoned railroad bridge. Now, didn’t I just mention I didn’t want to climb bridges?!

The approach to the bridge wasn’t too bad overall, walking on rotting railroad ties high above the Seekonk River, in a slightly gusting wind, but I never particularly thought I’d fall in. At the end, where the drawbridge is permanently drawn into a state of rictus, there was a bit of a crawl under the rails, and onto the stub end of the track under the mechanisms, and we chilled there for a while. Ryan wanted to climb, more than anything, and so he did, up this thing. And expected me to follow.

I probably could have done it, but I really didn’t see the reason to, and I’d already specifically asked not to climb, and still got taken here, so I let him do his thing while I enjoyed the view further down the river.

And, I’ll admit, I eventually went up a little bit just for a better view.

On the way back, the winds increased to an entirely new level, giving the bridge an unsettling shake, and to make matters worse, I broke through one of the railroad ties, becoming rather stuck in an awkward half-split, ripping my pants in the process, and yelled for a little help from Ryan or Sam. Neither one wanted to assist me at first (“you can do it!” is the last thing I want to hear when I’m one slip away from an 80-foot fall into the river!) but Ryan finally did, calling me a pussy-wuss for it, and for being a bit shaken up for the rest of the walk off of the bridge span. At the time I thought he was at least part sarcastic, but I think now he’s serious that’s what he thinks of me, just because I basically fell through a rotten floor that wasn’t my fault!

After that, we went on to a train tunnel that was recently re-barred shut (which apparently they already knew, but just wanted to show me the entrance, or something?), which required walking through this slushy creek bed. Of course they had extra shoes in the car for the inevitable wet feet… probably just wanted to get me cold and wet so I’d (1) complain more, or (2) want to quit exploring.

From there, after a stop at a grocery store for snacks, we went on to (of course) a drain. Not just any drain, but Ryan’s admitted least favorite one. Complete with 6-12 inches of fast flowing water, and ice-cold gushers to walk through. I didn’t even bring my camera in, out of protest, but once I realized what was going on, I insisted on leading everyone as far into the drain as we could possibly go… I wasn’t about to let 33 degree water stop me, especially when I already had a bit of a scarlet letter from earlier in the day, so I thought I had something to prove.

After the drain, everyone else was cold and wet and wanted to go home, and there was less than an hour until sunset and I’d yet to even see an abandoned building. So I insisted to Ryan that we stop by one, just until dark, so I could at least get a few pictures out of the first day of our little meetup. Just to shut me up I guess, he agreed, and showed me the entrance, saying I had 8 minutes to explore as much as I could, and if I wasn’t back to the car in 8 minutes, they’d drive off and leave me there.

So I ran around furiously for a few minutes, shooting more or less blind.

It was one of the worst abandoned factories I’d ever been in, but at least it was something, and walk-in easy.

This is the only interior shot I kind of liked from the place. And only because it’s the best of what I had.

I happened to find the roof on my way out…

I just barely made it to the car on time. Apparently I’d taken 8 minutes and 20 seconds, although the timer on my phone had yet to ring when I got back to the street. I had to wonder if they would really have left me if I took any longer. I think now they probably would have.

We went back to Ryan’s house, which wasn’t actually Ryan’s house apparently, changed into drier clothes, got stoned in the basement, and as far as I knew were getting ready for some rooftopping and a tunnel party later on. I thought it seemed a bit odd that Samantha reminded me to get my backpack when we went on a beer and dinner run, but once we loaded up on 30-racks of Narragansett (that I had to pay for, of course) and ate our fill at Taco Bell, we pulled into a Dunkin’ unexpectedly, and Ryan went in for something or other, and came out saying he had to work that night. Mind you, I’m pretty sure Ryan doesn’t work at a Dunkin’ Donuts. At least he never told me that…

Sam then checked her phone, and apparently got “called in” too. Bullshit, I say.

Ever the ray of sunshine, Ryan advised that I’d have to find my own place to spend the night, and there wasn’t really anywhere suitable to be homeless in Attleboro since the police have really cracked down, and even in Pawtucket it was no place to be alone and white. Well played, Ryan. Obviously I wasn’t planning to spend the night alone on the streets of Attleboro, asshole.

So after a bit of a kerfuffle they agreed they had enough time before “work” to drop me off at the Attleboro metro station. I waited there for about 20 minutes before a southbound train came by, I asked someone who got off it when the next northbound was (I couldn’t figure out for myself with a dead phone, undoubtedly intentional too since Ryan insisted we use it for music in the car all day), and there wasn’t one. Luckily, one of the commuters at the park-and-ride was nice enough to bring me a few miles over to a station that DID have trains, and lacking any better option I went to Boston.

On the train, I finally had a chance to charge my phone, and started asking everyone I knew in Boston if I’d be able to crash at their place, or maybe even explore the next day, and no one answered until my college friend Rachel suggested I join a LARP or at least meet at Denny’s afterward. I couldn’t help but notice that Ryan and Samantha were most certainly not at work, and were actually lighting up Instagram with one picture after another of their rooftop and abandoned factory adventures (and even a plan to bring a bunch of people to Norwich in the morning!) I spent the whole train ride rage posting at the lot of them. It truly takes a fuckwad to send me down shit creek on a douche canoe then have the gall to post about how they’re doing just what they were going to do anyway, just without me!

Unfortunately my journey on the T turned into something all too reminiscent of Charlie’s, and I ended up getting off the green line a few miles away from where I thought I was headed, but after missing the LARP (and taking an explosive shit in the woods somewhere along the River Charles — damn you Taco Bell) I eventually found the right Denny’s, and met up with my friend, who I am incredibly thankful for giving me a place to spend the night and a chance to regroup and get a ticket to Albany for the morning…

The Jaws Of Defeat

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Niagara, Railroads, Rochester

They say an adventure is a well planned trip gone awry — what the hell is it when a piss-poorly planned trip goes to hell? It seemed so easy in “Into The Wild”: get on the train, and wait for it to take me places. I decided to give it a try with a week of reading period and less than scholarly study habits, and packed my bag for some semblance of a backpacking trip. A little bit of research seemed to show that the westbound tracks led to Chicago, or at least Cleveland, or failing all else Buffalo, and I know people in any of those who would go on an adventure if I got that far. So Saturday night at around 3am, head still spinning from Phi Tau, I started walking toward the train yard, where a collection of corn cars was waiting enticingly. I picked one about two-thirds of the way through the train, climbed in, and waited.

4am passed, and 5, and 6 and the damn thing refused to move. I fell asleep on the heaping pile of corn, out of sight of anyone at track level, and half buried in the soft bed of grain for added protection. At some point in the morning, while I was still sleeping, the train started moving. By the time I woke up, it was backed up into a factory on some side track, getting devoured one car at a time by the jaws of an enormous crane that lifted and upended the cars, dumping the corn into giant hoppers.

FUCK!, I soon realized, my time was about to come! Those were grainers just like my seemingly ideal ride, and there was nothing else on the train. This thing wasn’t going anywhere but in, and one more car length and I’d be inside the factory gate, five more and I’d be buried alive in the silo, or crushed into chicken feed, or whatever happened next. This wasn’t Chicago. It wasn’t Cleveland. It was a grain elevator in the middle of fucking nowhere!

I threw my pack overboard, climbed off the abbreviated stub of a train, left my sleeping bag behind in the chaos, and ran into a marshy field of last year’s hay, hoping no one would bother to chase me. I could have made up something epic about what happened next, but I just walked through the farmer’s field for what seemed like far too long, trying my best to avoid the farmer, in case he was out there somewhere, and eventually made it to the road. Which was just route 31. I’d barely made it out of the county, let alone out of state.

The milepost said it was 41 miles back to Rochester, and about that much forward to Niagara Falls. If I really were Chris, if “Into the Wild” really were my story, I think I would have tried to go farther, hitchhiked or just walked it. But one defeat was it for me. Freight trains were off my bucket list, and pretty well off my to-do list too. Maybe if I had no destination, infinite time, and no fear of my parents wondering what became of me. Not sure what else to do, I called my roommate and had him see how I could get home. He found me a bus home from Albion, so after a cold, rainy walk of shame on 31 and a roundabout trip on city buses, I was back in my dorm about 12 hours after I left, down $8 and a sleeping bag, and more than content to just wait around for finals and get ready for my trip to the 46 peaks. Someday I may try again, but probably not even that… I’ll try anything once, but I think I know better than to do this one again!