That 4″ by 12″ paper “BAR CAR” sign is a welcome sight to many commuters on Metro-North’s New Haven line. So much so that some riders adjust their New York City departure times based on which trains will sport it. The 5:26pm and the 5:48 are some of the usual suspects; so is the 7:05. If your destination is west of Stamford, it’s the 5:31 or 6:14 locals that will liven up your ride, sometimes both, sometimes neither.
While the Bar Car might be a fickle friend, its loyalists are anything but. If you ride it regularly, you’ll see the same familiar faces standing in the same familiar spots, and just as most people have ‘work buddies’ or ‘golf pals’, those who ride the Bar Car have ‘train friends.’ There’s even a Bar Car Twitter feed for the more tech savvy of the bunch. I can’t help but think its unique circumstances that bring them together: they all get off at different stops and work in different places. As far as I can tell, they don’t see each other at all outside of that one hour soiree home, yet you’d think they’ve been friends for ages.
Oh, there are games too. Liars, Poker, Spades, and those guys who throw dice at the end of the bar. There’s something especially “Connecticut” about the experience; men in suits drinking beers and playing games – maybe its the combination of business and leisure. It’s apt though, as the New Haven line is the only Metro-North line with the Bar Car. In fact, its the only commuter line in the country that still has one. I think it’s something special, a reminder of what I imagine working in Manhattan half a century ago was like. With train improvements coming soon to the line, the Bar Car might soon be history. Though I certainly hope not. I’m too young to remember the “good ‘ol days”.
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