What ‘The Girl on the Train’ Gets Wrong About Westchester

The novel The Girl on the Train takes place across the pond in the good old U.K., but the move adaptation imports it to Westchester County, NY. It’s a pretty good match for the subject matter, in that there is a train that runs alongside some big freaking houses, which is basically the main building blocks you need for the story. Since Westchester is my turf, I’m in charge of WC fact-checking,  just like I was with the X-Men movies. Here’s what they messed up.


You Can’t Live in Ardsley-on-Hudson

At least I don’t think you can. It my 20 years of living in Westchester, I never met anyone who said they were from Ardsley-on-Hudson. Ardsley-on-Hudson is more of a hamlet than a village. There is a college (that uses a Dobbs Ferry street address), a country club (home to Westchester’s only curling team), and, yes, a Metro-North station, but that’s about it. There’s no mayor. There’s no elementary school. If you look for Ardsley-on-Hudson real estate, you’ll find houses in Irvington.

It’s funny, because if the movie had transplanted the events of The Girl on the Train to any other “-on-Hudson” town, they’d be fine. Irvington-on-Hudson is a place, which is also just called Irvington. Hastings-on-Hudson is a wonderful village, and you can get away with calling it Hastings. But the village of Ardsley—which is a real village with its own mayor, school system, mailing addresses, and the like—and Ardsley-on-Hudson are two different places, and they’re in two entirely separate locations. Sadly, Ardsley has no Metro-North station of its own, so many times people hop on the train assuming the Ardsley-on-Hudson stop is close enough, only to wind up with an expensive cab ride. The New York Times even made this mistake.

That stuff about being a routine baby factory, though, is pretty spot-on.


For updates on the seedy crime that’s being investigated throughout the movie, the characters often turn to TV staton New York 1. NY1 is unavailable in the county. We’re a News 12 Westchester region all the way.


The Train Itself

Sometimes, the Metro-North seats looked a little off to me. Sometimes, though, they were dead on, so it could’ve just been the shooting angle. But the fact that I could see enough of the seats to scrutinize them is a fundamental mistake in the movie. If Rachel was really commuting at a time that would be convincing for someone who had a real job in a city, all those seats would be taken. And forget sitting in the same window seat in the same car every day—if she was getting on around Ardsley-on-Hudson, she’d either be squished in the middle, or standing.

And One Last Note

Ardsley is a teeny, one-square-mile village, and Ardsley-on-Hudson is less than that. It’s not odd to me that few movies are set in any of the Ardsleys. As far as I know, there are only two: The Girl on the Train, and Unfaithful.

In the cinematic world, “Ardsley” is shorthand for one thing: murderous infidelity. In our Tim Burton podcast, we talk about how the suburbs are usually only given one treatment in film: the whole American Beauty, materialistic souring-of-the-American-dream/seedy-underbelly thing. You go from zero to The Ice Storm in 60 seconds. (Though The Ice Storm took place just over the border in Connecticut.) That’s not to say that it never happens, or that it never works. (Cheever, man.) But I do hope that someday filmmakers find a different color to paint the suburbs in the way Burton does.