As we continue moving up towards the middle of New York Penn Station's platforms, we arrive at the long platforms. Tracks 9-14 can be found bordering platforms E, F, and G at Penn Station and they are the most central and the longest station tracks in Penn Station.
A train traveling from line 1 or 2 of the East River Tunnel to the two North River Tunnel tubes will have an almost perfectly straight shot through the station on track 11 or 12. For through trains that are continuing to destinations on the other side of either tunnel, these three pairs of tracks offer the most clean pass through the station. The diagram below makes this particular characteristic fairly clear (draw your attention to the neon green colored tracks):
While these three platforms are the most central of the lot, they are also the longest platforms found in Penn Station.
Coming in at over 1,400 feet long, these platforms can hold trains that can be as long as 17 cars. While there are not any trains out there today which crack 17 cars (a doubleheaded NJTransit train with 12 MLV's is probably the closest thing we get these days). At their significant length, these platforms come in among the longest high-level platforms in North America.
Considering the central location of these platforms coupled with their considerable length gives some interesting insights into Penn Station's past. When Penn Station was first constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad, trains of such a length were commonplace and the PRR used these three central platforms to host their most prestigious trains. Trains passing through the station would be able to do so with little lateral movement over bumpy switches and a train platforming on the middle platforms would be able to get in and out fairly quickly.
There is even a bit of history as to why the Pennsylvania Railroad picked the somewhat obscure 1,475 foot platform length. It is suspected that the PRR designed these three platforms to roughly match the specifications of those at Manhattan Transfer. Over at Penn Station, the platforms were roughly the same length and just a little bit wider than those at Manhattan Transfer.
Today, Amtrak continues this tradition, to some extent. While the days of 17 car trains are gone (and while there might be demand for consists of such length at times, equipment constraints on Amtrak's end make trains that long impractical), Amtrak still seems to understand the value of the long platforms. Glancing over at NJTransit's DepartureVision page for Penn Station shows that, at the time of my writing this post yesterday afternoon, there is an Acela Express train boarding on 12 track and a Northeast Regional on track 9, so it appears Amtrak has adopted a similar tendency to have its through trains scheduled on these tracks.
To cut this post short, as the time for me to run out and catch my train home is fast approaching, the long platforms have their own unique characteristics (as do all the other six bunchings). And for the next time that you are sitting in Penn Station aboard a train on one of the long platforms, you now have an interesting couple bits of trivia to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you!
Jump to other posts about New York Penn Station's Tracks:
Tracks 1-4, Tracks 5-8, Tracks 9-14, Tracks 15-16,