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Last Friday, around 7:30PM, something momentous occurred. To thousands of financial services employees, it was not just unremarkable, but unnoticed. To the subset who commute home to Westchester and Connecticut nightly, it was nothing short of a death in the family.
It was the last time there was an official spot on the train to get drunk and fraternize on the way home from work; the bar car was saying good-bye.
…for the final commuter rail bar cars believed to be operating in the United States, it is indeed the end of the line. The last of Metro-North’s old car fleet, introduced in the 1970s, has aged out of the system; the 7:34 p.m. train on Friday from Grand Central Terminal to New Haven was the bar car’s final ride before its retirement at the hands of a new, barless model…On Thursday, the regulars were left to reminisce, toasting the traveling Christmas parties and medium-stakes sports wagers, softball league allegiances forged on the rails and love stories that owed their start to the spirits of the New Haven line. “There’s also been affairs,” said Terri Cronin, chairwoman of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council and a bar car veteran from the East Norwalk stop. “I’ve heard.” Aboard the 5:26 p.m. train to Bridgeport, riders traded hugs, fist bumps, tales of golf course conquests. Somewhere near South Norwalk, the bartender, Danny Wickline, 55, hushed the masses as they held cups aloft, interrupting a well-attended dice game on his countertop. “You’ve taken very good care of me,” Mr. Wickline said, looking up and down the bar. “I appreciate it. I love you all.” The people loved him back, they said, many forming a line to kiss the bartender on the cheek, mouth or both.
Oh sure, you can still buy a beer before boarding and drink on the train but doing it alone in your seat is not the same. What’s more, you have to deal with riders who may not share the same enthusiasm for getting bombed and exchanging business cards.
“They’re putting us out in the general population,” Paul Collins, 60, from Monroe, Conn., said by way of a warning.
Still, there is a faint, flickering glimmer of hope.
Officials in Connecticut have summoned a team of consultants in a bid to conceive an affordable bar car that could be retrofitted on the new models, known as M-8s, though it is unclear if this is feasible.
And until then?
…the regulars have designated an unquiet car, second from the head, as the de facto bar on each train, with promises of shared six-packs and undiminished cheer.
See everyone there tonight. Raise your giant Coors Light and trip over someone’s briefcase so we know it’s you.