Friend sent me this photo of the “old” Long Island Railroad. Copyright in 1946 by Fred Weber. This ancient photograph of a scene he visited over and over again every day from Kindergarten (1947) through 6thgrade (1953) on the way to school and on the way home. The shack on the right was for the guy who lowered and raised the gates all day long with the hand crank you see just in front. Since it would easily hit -20°F day after day in the winter, he had a coal-fired pot belly stove inside along with a pint of blackberry brandy from which I would occasionally see him taker a swig. The shack and the operator were both eventually replaced by an automated system. The structure on the left by the track (westbound) was for the RPO that would stop at about 5:00PM. There was also a similar structure on the eastbound track past the large brick station building.
Long Island Railroad
When the Long Island Railroad extended its third rail electrified service to Ronkonkoma in 1988, it expected ridership to creep up slowly. But only a week of all-electric operation saw 2,000 additional riders. A 6:40 am train with 1,200 seats was carrying almost 1,600 riders. The reason was that travel time to New York City went from 97 minutes to 71 minutes and no more need to change at Jamaica.
Long Island is not an isolated example of commuter railroad growth. More cars and more service are needed as the population expands beyond the old suburbs. Highways in outlying areas become even more crowded. Parking facilities fill up from patrons ten or more miles from the station.
The early 1950’s saw the Long Island Railroad in deep trouble. Legislation establishing a Railroad Redevelopment Corporation provided a dozen years of solvency and some equipment improvements. Over 200 new cars were purchased and almost 700 cars were rehabilitated. While the railroad returned to acceptable standards, the program was really only a holding pattern. The rehabilitated equipment had come on the property between 1908 and 1930.
In 1966, New York State purchased the property from the Pennsylvania Railroad and threw 360 million dollars into an upgrade program. Budd’s Red Lion plant began what eventually turned into a 620 car order for new M-1 “Metropolitan” cars. As well as the new cars, the MTA’s program included: double power supply; extend third rail into Suffolk County growth areas; construct high-level platforms; improve signaling; and reconstruct track to 100 mph standards. Much of the funding came from a 2.5 billion dollar transportation bond issue in 1967.
In 1968 M-1 cars began replacing rolling stock, some of which dated back to 1908. At the same time, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen staged slowdowns while operating employees staged wildcat strikes over timetable changes. February 1969 saw a blizzard shutting the railroad. The LIRR always seemed short of the 643 cars required which meant train cancellations.
Public ownership spelled “embarrassment” to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Just before election day, he blurted out his now-famous statement that “within two months the Long Island’s commuter service was going to be the finest in the country.”
60 days got enough cars in service to keep the trains running, but, except for the Metropolitan fleet, it was pretty much the old Long Island. The M-1 fleet broke the LIRR policy that any new equipment must be compatible with older equipment. This policy had frozen equipment limits to a 1905 standard. The 85-foot, 46 ton M-1’s are semi-permanently coupled pairs. Construction is of stainless steel. Cars seat 122 or 118 (in cars with aircraft-type chemical lavatory) passengers in a 3-2 seating arrangement.
Not all of the system is electric. Diesels (mostly ALCO at one time) are required for the eastern portion of the system. The Long Island maintains just about every type of passenger car except sleepers. The late 1960’s saw the Long Island purchasing a number of streamlines coaches from other railroads such as the New York Central. Parlor cars run to the Hamptons and Montauk on weekends. The road used to own double deck suburban coaches seating 134 passengers. Two Budd RailDiesel Cars (RDC’s) lasted only from 1955 to 1967.
The old Long Island, before MTA control, had been strongly Pennsylvania RR. LIRR bought most of its equipment from the Pennsylvania to PRR specifications. Fairbanks-Morse’s best customer was the PRR. Therefore the LIRR bought F-M too – 21 in all (for commuter service). Over the years there were several unusual locomotives on the LIRR such as a Baldwin storage battery electric used in the Morris Park shop complex. It was later replaced by a GE 25-ton shop goat. There was also a 250 h.p./80-ton Brill from 1926. Almost total dieselization occurred between 1948 and 1951. The last of steam left in 1955, as did electric locomotives. Ex-D&H diesels replaced F-M and Baldwin diesels in the early 1960’s.
Traditionally the Long Island received between four and six times as much income from passenger as from freight. The Pennsylvania bought control of the LIRR in 1900 to have a partner in Penn Station expenses. 600-volt d.c. M-U cars began to run in 1905. Two-mile tunnels (4 tracks in all) went from Sunnyside Yard to mid-town Manhattan.
The LIRR had several 11,000-volt boxcab electric switchers. They ran on its 12-mile freight-only Bay Ridge Branch. This branch connected to the New Haven.
In the early 1970’s, GE scoured the country snapping up FA car bodies. 19 ex-NYC, L&N, WM & BN cabs were used for control when push-pull trains headed west-bound. Rebuilt 600 h.p. engines provided “head-end” power. The 1970’s saw eight gas turbine test M-U cars tried in revenue service.
Almost 300,000 daily riders over 334 route miles makes the LIRR our busiest commuter railroad. Freight is not a big ticket item. The Long Island Railroad was chartered in 1834 and completed a line from Brooklyn to Greenport in 1844. For a brief period, New York-Boston traffic used this route (Stonington ferry/Old Colony Line). Pennsylvania Railroad bought the Long Island Railroad in 1900 and electrification began in 1904.
The railroad connects New York City with the Long Island suburbs. The hub of the road is Jamaica, 11 miles west of Penn Station. From Jamaica, eight lines diverge to: Oyster Bay (24 miles), Port Jefferson (48 miles), Greenport (85 miles), Montauk (106 miles), Hemstead (11 miles), West Hemstead (11 miles), Long Beach (13 miles), Far Rockaway (11 miles), Hunterspoint Avenue (9 miles), and Flatbush Avenue (9 miles). The Port Washington branch (20 miles from Penn Station) does not operate via Jamaica. Jamaica is a transfer station with two trains a minute running over the eight tracks during rush hour.
The fact that the New York Public Service Commission didn’t allow any commuter fare rate hikes between 1918 and 1948 was bad news. 1933 was the last dividend and 1949 saw bankruptcy. The 1954 Railroad Redevelopment Corporation legislation saw the Pennsylvania Railroad agree to terminate the Long Island’s bankruptcy and begin a 12-year 58 million dollar improvement program. The LIRR gained exemption from much of its tax burden and freedom to charge realistic fares. By 1964, Governor Rockefeller had begun action to create a Metropolitan Transportation Authority to operate the Long Island. As well as the immediate goals mentioned earlier, the MTA wanted to accomplish some “stretch goals”: upgrade service in non-electric areas; reconstruct trackage at Jamaica to minimize changes; and modernize terminals and repair facilities. Some goals that never really made it were: a new East River tunnel at 63rd Street; and a link to JFK International Airport.
The last few years have been a huge transformation into a different railroad for the LIRR. The “old” Long Island was an integral part of the Pennsylvania. Pioneer third rail d.c. electrification which once ran west to Manhattan Transfer still exists. The “new” Long Island is an arm of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority running sleek, modern commuter trains.
Radio traffic on the Long Island is on their road channel (160.380) with the dispatcher using 161.445 and maintenance 160.395.
Freight On Long Island
New York & Atlantic Railway began operation in May 1997 of the privatized concession to operate freight trains on the lines owned by Long Island Rail Road. The railway serves a diverse customer base and shares track with the densest passenger system in the United States. Its innovative labor agreements permit efficient operations.
Read about NY & Atlantic in the Wiki
See more about the New York & Atlantic Railway
Detailed System Map With Connections
Long Island ALCO 420
Eben Pyne, a patrician banker who helped Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller mold New York’s suburban transit system from a tangle of decrepit railroad lines, died in April, 2007, at his home in Hobe Sound, Fla. He was 89.
Mr. Pyne was a senior officer of a New York bank that grew into Citicorp when Governor Rockefeller recruited him in 1964 to help rescue the failing Long Island Rail Road. That railroad, the largest commuter line in the country, carrying 260,000 passengers a day on several branches, had been in a financial tailspin for years.
By the early 1960s, its principal owner, the equally moribund Pennsylvania Railroad, was looking to unload it.
The governor appointed Mr. Pyne to a panel of New York lawyers, bankers and business executives whose mission was to come up with a plan to salvage the line. Mr. Pyne was a natural choice for the task: he was a well-connected investment banker who knew about public financing, as well as a regular Long Island Rail Road rider.
Under the chairmanship of William J. Ronan, the secretary to the governor, the panel came up with a $200 million modernization program, which formed the basis of a proposal that the governor took to the State Legislature in 1965, winning its approval.
The state bought out the railroad whole — rolling stock, real estate, bridges and a tunnel — for a bargain $65 million. It also created a Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (“Commuter” was later dropped from the name), of which Dr. Ronan was chairman.
Mr. Pyne was appointed to a seat on the transportation agency’s original five-member governing board. In that post, which he held until 1975, he helped steer the agency’s acquisition of other ailing suburban lines that had been merged into Conrail and later formed Metro-North.
He was also a commissioner of the New York City Transit Authority, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Authority, the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority and Stewart International Airport, near Newburgh, N.Y.
Port Jefferson Station (from my postcard collection)
Long Island Railroad and Golf’s US Open
Special LIRR train service operated to the 95th U.S. Golf Open, June 15-June 18 at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton. While tickets for the Open were sold out, golf fans were urged to take advantage of the premium service to avoid traffic nightmares in the Southampton area. Round trip tickets were $25 from Penn Station, $20 from Jamaica/Mineola, Hicksville, $15 from Babylon and $10 from Patchogue.
Normal trains did not stop at the Southampton Campus-LIU station during the Open. The special trains were scheduled as follows:
Mileage on the LIRR is measured from “HAROLD” (Long Island City) which is 3.7 miles from Penn Station.
Important points on the East End of the Montauk Branch are:
Sayville (“Y”) is mile marker 50.0 and is the end of double track main. Electrified trackage ends at Babylon.
Patchoque (“PD”) is 53.9 miles out and controls block limit stations the rest of the way to Montauk. “PDOPS” at 161.445 on your scanner dial is a strong station which can even be picked up in Connecticut.
“XR” interlocking at Mastic-Shirley is 62.4 miles from “HAROLD”.
Speonk (“PT”) at mile marker 69.0 has a 30-car siding as well as a small yard where several passenger runs originate into Jamaica or Babylon. Note: all trains from the east end require a change of trains by passengers in Jamaica or Babylon before reaching New York City. Also note: sidings are expressed in terms of 50-foot cars and don’t necessarily reflect number of passenger cars that could be sided.
Hampton Bays (“ND”) is 81.2 miles out, has a 54-car siding, and is the site of a “7-11” convenience store that serves crews in need of refreshment/supplies.
Southampton College-Long Island University – LIU is 85.8 miles from “HAROLD” and has no siding.
Southampton (“SN”) at 89.3 miles has a 43-car siding.
Bridgehampton (“BH”) at mile marker 94.0 has a 22-car siding in addition to an industrial track where ballast cars are loaded for system use on the Long Island RR.
Finally, Montauk is 115.8 miles out at the far eastern end of Long Island.
I had intended to report on this train (type of equipment, timeliness, how many riders, etc), but it didn’t work out that way! I got a job at the Open and was busy all week. However, because of knowing the layout of the stations, etc. I was able to piece together what was going on by listening to the whistle signals (backup, crossing, etc.). It appears trains either proceeded to Southampton to let scheduled trains pass or went back west, probably to Speonk. The only special I actually saw was Sunday night. This train was led by a single MP-15 as a control cab and with double-headed GP-38 power bringing up the rear. There were ten coaches with one being a red-striped parlor coach.
The Long Island Railroad offers premium parlor car service to the Hampton’s and Montauk. This service offers reserved seating in a comfortable easy-chair environment with at-seat beverage service. It is available on select east-bound trains Thursdays and Fridays with return service on Sundays and Monday mornings. Eastbound parlor car service costs $16 plus applicable fare and westbound is $11.25. Trains depart Hunterspoint Avenue – easily accessed from Manhattan’s East Side via the #7 subway. Customers from Penn Station and Flatbush Avenue board at Jamaica.
In 1895, Austin Corbin, LIRR president, developer and financier, extended the road from Bridgehampton to Montauk and talked about making Montauk a port of entry for overseas shipping.
There are some new developments on the Long Island Rail Road. It has signed a contract with the Diesel Division of General Motors (GMDD/EMD) for 27 new DE30AC units (DE=diesel/ electric), all to be constructed in Schenectady, New York, using part of the old American Locomotive Company plant. The units are being constructed in New York as part of a “buy New York” clause stipulated by the Transit Authority, who oversees the LIRR. The new units will be able to run off a 12-710 prime mover, or off 3rd rail electric power. These will be EMD’s first official order for AC passenger power (the previous Amtrak F69AC’s were considered experimental). Body style for the units is as yet unknown. Note that the “30” in the unit designation represents “3000” horsepower, not “30 -series” as previous EMD numbering schemes have implied.
Winter on the Long Island Railroad
It’s approaching winter again and time for me to think about snow and it’s impact on railroading. I ran across a December, 1957 article in TRAINS magazine about the Long Island Railroad. Not only did it portray a different railroad than we are used to hearing about, but it talked about their elaborate plans to handle both snow and hurricane emergencies.
The early 1950’s saw the Long Island Railroad in deep trouble. Legislation establishing a Railroad Redevelopment Corporation provided a dozen years of solvency and some equipment improvements. Over 200 new cars were purchased and almost 700 cars were rehabilitated. Most of these cars were retired in the 70’s. Wonder why they didn’t last? While the railroad returned to acceptable standards, the program was really only a holding pattern. The rehabilitated equipment had come on the property between 1908 and 1930. A lot of double deckers seating 134 passengers which had been purchased between 1932 and 1947 were also modified.
February 1969 saw a blizzard shutting the railroad. The LIRR always seemed short of the 643 cars required which meant train cancellations. In December 1947 there was also a big blizzard. Other area railroads suspended service but the Long Island Rail Road tried to operate despite 26″ of snow that buried the third rail. Passengers were stranded in unheated cars as long as twelve hours. Other than these two blizzards, the railroad did a great job with weather disasters. As well as snow, the island itself has 125 miles of coast vulnerable to hurricanes. The railroad maintained a 41 page “snow program” which was a detailed plan for mobilization of equipment and manpower to meet snow conditions. It also served as a plan of action for hurricanes or other storms. A running log was kept as an aid in making future revisions. The LIRR had the only rotary plow in the area. Purchased in the 1930’s, it was steam powered. The road also used 6 conventional plows and 8 flangers. “Jet Trains” were used to clear the third rail. It was a work car with either steam or air jets to melt or blow away snow. Major interlockings had electric or gas heaters.
Since not all of the system is electric, diesels (mostly ALCO at one time) were required for the eastern portion of the system. The Long Island maintained just about every type of passenger car except sleepers. Parlor cars ran to the Hamptons and Montauk on weekends. Two Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDC’s) lasted only from 1955 to 1967. The old Long Island, before MTA control, had been strongly Pennsylvania RR. LIRR bought most of its equipment from the Pennsylvania to PRR specifications. Fairbanks-Morse’s best customer was the PRR. Therefore the LIRR bought F-M too – 21 in all (for commuter service). Over the years there were several unusual locomotives on the LIRR such as a Baldwin storage battery electric used in the Morris Park shop complex. It was later replaced by a GE 25-ton shop goat. There was also a 250 h.p./80-ton Brill from 1926. Almost total dieselization occurred between 1948 and 1951. The last of steam left in 1955, as did electric locomotives. Ex-D&H diesels replaced F-M and Baldwin diesels in the early 1960’s.
Traditionally the Long Island received between four and six times as much income from passenger as from freight. The Pennsylvania bought control of the LIRR in 1900 to have a partner in Penn Station expenses. 600-volt d.c. M-U cars began to run in 1905. Two-mile tunnels (4 tracks in all) went from Sunnyside Yard to mid-town Manhattan. The LIRR once had several 11,000-volt boxcab electric switchers. They ran on its 12-mile freight-only Bay Ridge Branch. This branch connected to the New Haven.
Almost 300,000 daily riders over 334 route miles makes the LIRR our busiest commuter railroad. Almost 50,000 passengers leave Penn Station every afternoon. In 1957, 311 of the road’s 640 daily trains terminated or originated at Penn Station. The Long Island Railroad was chartered in 1834 and completed a line from Brooklyn to Greenport in 1844. For a brief period, New York-Boston traffic used this route (Stonington ferry/Old Colony Line). Pennsylvania Railroad bought the Long Island Railroad in 1900 and electrification began in 1904. In 1895, Austin Corbin, LIRR president, developer and financier, extended the road from Bridgehampton to Montauk and talked about making Montauk a port of entry for overseas shipping.
The railroad connects New York City with the Long Island suburbs. The hub road was and is Jamaica, 11 miles west of Penn Station. From Jamaica, eight lines diverged to: Oyster Bay (24 miles), Port Jefferson (48 miles), Greenport (85 miles), Montauk (106 miles), Hemstead (11 miles), West Hemstead (11 miles), Long Beach (13 miles), Far Rockaway (11 miles), Hunterspoint Avenue (9 miles), and Flatbush Avenue (9 miles). The Port Washington branch (20 miles from Penn Station) does not operate via Jamaica. Jamaica is a transfer station with two trains a minute running over the eight tracks during rush hour. A typical movement is three trains on parallel tracks. Two of these might be M.U.’s from Penn Station and the other from Brooklyn. The third could be a diesel from Long Island City. Each train has a different destination. The center train acts as a “bridge” train and passengers make a platform level change to the correct train. The stationmaster’s “track designator” sheet was very important in probably the busiest thru station in America. The dispatchers at Jamaica had enough train movements to fill the longest train sheet in U.S. railroading: 8 feet long. Now it is computerized.
Commutation fares had been frozen from 1918 to 1947 with a consequence of lots of rundown equipment. World War II’s record traffic levels further aggravated equipment problems. In 1947, the Pennsylvania gave the LIRR money for 50 new double deck cars and 40 diesels. By 1949 the road was in bankruptcy. In 1950, the road experienced the first fatal wreck in 24 years when two M.U.’s collided at Rockville Centre resulting in 32 deaths. Nine months later a M.U. experienced mechanical failure at Kew Gardens and the M.U. behind it stopped at a “stop then proceed” signal; then proceeded to run into the first train causing 77 deaths. New York’s Governor Dewey formed a Long Island Transit Authority to write a redevelopment plan. As an outcome, the existing fleet was repaired and 184 new cars were purchased. After the 1950 crashes, Automatic Speed Control (ASC) was installed. Coded rail circuits told operators to stop, go 15 m.p.h., go 30 m.p.h., or go MAS (maximum allowable speed).
The publicly subsidized NY Transit Authority competed with the LIRR for riders at close-in stations. By the 1950’s many of these stations had few riders.
The Long Island Railroad offered in the 1950’s and still offers premium parlor car service to the Hampton’s and Montauk. This service features reserved seating in a comfortable easy-chair environment with at-seat beverage service. It is available on select east-bound trains Thursdays and Fridays with return service on Sundays and Monday mornings. Trains depart Hunterspoint Avenue – easily accessed from Manhattan’s East Side via the #7 subway. Customers from Penn Station and Flatbush Avenue board at Jamaica.
As one of several efforts to improve public relations, the road had an “Engineer-for-a-Day” program in which a commuter rode the head end with one of the railroad’s officers or supervisory personnel along as a host. They received an engineer’s cap and “Engineer-for-a-Day” card as souveniers.
In 1966, New York State purchased the property from the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1968 M-1 cars began replacing rolling stock, some of which dated back to 1908. The M-1 fleet broke the LIRR policy that any new equipment must be compatible with older equipment. This policy had frozen equipment limits to a 1905 standard. The 85-foot, 46 ton M-1’s were semi-permanently coupled pairs.
Picture shows the Long Island Railroad storage yard after a blizzard in early 2011.
The West Side Yard (officially the John D. Caemmerer West Side Yard) is a rail yard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the west side of Manhattan in New York City. The 26.17-acre (110,000 m2) yard is used for the storage of commuter rail trains operated by the Long Island Rail Road and is situated between West 30th Street, West 33rd Street, Tenth Avenue and Twelfth Avenue. The West Side Yard is also located at the north end of the High Line, a former elevated rail line used for freight service that has been converted into a park, and to the south of the truck marshalling yard used by the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
The West Side Yard is named after John D. Caemmerer, a New York State Senator from East Williston that was instrumental in obtaining $195.7 million in funding needed to construct the yard, which includes storage tracks, a six-track indoor shop for light maintenance, a 12-car long platform for car cleaning, and lockers and a break room for employees. Before the yard opened in 1987, trains arriving at Penn Station during the morning rush hour would have to deadhead back to locations on Long Island for midday storage. The West Side Yard also increased the LIRR’s peak period capacity at Penn Station.
For nearly 19 hours, all LIRR service between Penn Station and Jamaica was down, stranding much of Long Island from 12:45 p.m. Sunday all the way until yesterday morning’s rush hour, when most service finally resumed.
It took even longer for the LIRR’s Port Washington branch to come back, finally getting back on track at 2:19 p.m.
With Metro-North and NJTransit having comparatively few problems recovering from the big storm, the LIRR’s troubles stood out.
In hindsight, a strategic decision by LIRR to continue running electric-power trains on regular weekend service Sunday instead of switching to diesel-powered trains apparently led to the long-lasting hassles.
Five of the electric-powered trains got bogged down in the Woodside and Forest Hills areas of Queens when snow and ice covered the third rail.
Unable to get power, the idle trains remained stuck for hours on the four tracks connecting Queens to Manhattan, blocking specialized track-clearing equipment, called snow brooms, from doing their job.
“They [LIRR officials] perhaps may have been a little overzealous in trying to maintain their normal service,” said Bob Evers, chairman of the Locomotive Engineers and Conductors. “You had some [electric] trains that became stuck in very strategic areas of the operation that led to the total downfall of the service.”
But LIRR spokesman Brian Dolan denied suggestions the railroad was caught off guard. He said service was fully restored quicker than in the blizzard of 1996.
Dolan, however, said the LIRR is looking to buy another snow broom for the future.
My apologies for becoming less than an every month writer but having moved from Connecticut to Long Island and having entered into a new business have been quite time-consuming. I now live on the “South Fork” between Shinnecock Bay and the Long Island Railroad’s Montauk Line. Unlike my former home in Connecticut, train service into New York City is decrepit diesels running “push me-pull you” with very worn passenger coaches. There is a poor passenger service schedule where I am but more frequent service exists from a place a few miles away called Speonk. The line east from Speonk features bus shelter type stations and lots of grade crossings. At Hampton Bays, the crew makes their food stop at a Seven-Eleven before proceeding to Montauk. The train into the City is slow but so is driving. The Long Island Expressway is known as world’s largest parking lot. The native’s alternative to the car is the Hampton Jitney, a bus that serves coffee to make you feel better about being stuck in traffic. On the Montauk Line, freight service exists as far as a building supply in Bridgehampton. I don’t know when freight runs occur, but suspect at night as I sometimes hear an unscheduled train go by. Living out here and needing to travel, I have become a big ferry user. The Port Jefferson ferry is an example of intermodal transit at its worst. A Port Jefferson bus which connects to the railroad always leaves just before the ferry docks. At Bridgeport, the Metro-North morning train to New Haven is scheduled just before the ferry. Fortunately, the ferry is usually early; probably because of delay’s at Bridgeport due to the “Peck” Bridge rebuilding project. This is a big reconstruction project with trains run on a temporary bridge. The last time the old bridge opened was in mid-Eighties and it stuck open for 12 hours. I travel a lot with the president and chairman of the company I am with. They are not rail-oriented (except the chairman rode the 3rd Avenue trolley many years ago). I haven’t convinced them to use rail travel yet. However, I have done something with subways in New York City. I’ve shown them that we can get from midtown to downtown faster than with a car. The biggest things I miss are some of the activities I like getting involved with like the Battenkill and Connecticut Electric Railway.
The LIRR is making an extra effort to prevent trains from starting brush fires between Amagansett and Montauk by borrowing a 10,000 gallon tank car from the Metro-North RR to spray a 50ft area on both sides of the track between scheduled trains.
LIRR spokesman Mike Charles stated that they began wetting down Hither Woods State Park, east of Amagansett last week as well as areas west of Jamaica. They’ve experienced a few brush fires in the Long Island City-Woodside areas earlier in the year due to unknown causes.
They have also ordered all trains making the Amagansett and Montauk runs to radio in if they have spark causing brake problems. A repair crew would be dispatched from the Jamaica yards.
Although East Hampton Town Supervisor Tony Bullock had requested the LIRR suspend service completely and use bus service instead, he is happy that the LIRR is taking some preventative measures but thinks they still should be more accommodating.
In a second article (from the Associated Press) it was announced that the engineers union and management have agreed to a $2 million settlement as a result of last May’s wildcat strike by the engineer’s union. The union agreed to pay that amount to the MTA if there any further job actions. If not, the union gets to keep the money. It isn’t clear whether the settlement will affect the $560,000 in refunds the LIRR promised its riders who were inconvenienced.
Part of the $2 million would have gone toward those refunds. The settlement is part of a tentative contract reached between the railroad and the engineer’s union, covering 1992 retroactively through 1998. The union’s rank and file will vote next week on the contract. A vote by the MTA board will follow.
Did you know the LIRR owns “fire cars”?
A Long Island Rail Road engine caught on fire on April 24. Said engine was reportedly throwing sparks and smoking as it came into the Southold station. The Southold Fire Department hosed her down, stopping the fire, but the engine had to be removed from the train. The train was then pushed the rest of the way on its run by the rear diesel. Said train ended up being nearly an hour late to Ronkonkoma and two other runs had to be cancelled. Passengers were put on buses instead. In addition, the aforementioned sparking engine caused a brushfire in Southold which took 60 men and eight trucks to contain.
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Sunnyside Yard on Long Island was the place this Spring to see Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey’s circus train. The train is broken up into several pieces, mostly 4-5 cars, on the north side of the yard (this is the area where the LIRR handled some freight in the 60’s & 70’s – there is a wall of boxcars parked on the first track to reduce accessibility). The bridge between Queens Blvd and Northern Blvd crosses directly over the train. THE TRAIN WAS NOT HIT BY GRAFFITI ARTISTS IN OVER TWO WEEKS.
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While passing Sunnyside Yard on the Long Island RR, the Vermonter/Yankee Clipper went through northbound: two AEM-7’s, 13 cars including a CAB CAR at the 4th slot for a backup move in Massachusetts. They STOPPED opposite “Q” Tower for a CREW CHANGE, spiking an eastbound LIRR MU train that had to wait to cross over behind them. Also saw the yard goat, #557 and E60 606 by the tower; lots of AMTRAK and the NJTransit evening rush-hour fleet waiting (it was just after 1PM) for the call.
Speaking of that area of Amtrak, nearby Hell Gate Bridge was the place of a collision about 10 years ago. It occurred on the west approach to Hell Gate while running on the left hand track as they were doing track work on the other track. One passenger was killed on the first car of the one train and both enginemen were seriously hurt. The cause was laid to human error on the part of a tower operator. These tracks were signalled in both directions but due to the track work and other renovations, they were operating under manual block. A similar incident took place on the line to Beverly MA a few years later. One track was out of service for track work. They were running manual block on the other. The dispatcher lost concentration for an instant, and…. 4 or 5 dead.
The Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson branch recently celebrated 125 years of service. On Jan 13, 1873, LIRR service began from Port Jefferson; the first passenger train, westbound to Long Island City, had 24 customers on board. To help commemorate the event, representatives from the LIRR, the United States Postal Service and the Long Island Cover Society were at the Port Jefferson Station waiting room from 6AM to noon on Jan 13. During that time, LIRR customers and the general public were able to purchase copies of a special issue cacheted cover (envelope) marking the event. The customized stamp postmark (cancellation) depicts an 1873-vintage steam train and 125th Anniversary Station 1873-1998 designation. In 1870, the LIRR formed a subsidiary company, the Smithtown and Port Jefferson Rail Road, to build a line from Northport to Port Jefferson. Construction was completed by the end of 1872 with passenger service starting on Jan 13, 1873. In 1834, the LIRR was chartered to serve as part of a railroad-ferry route from Brooklyn to Boston. It is the oldest and busiest commuter railroad in the United States.
On November 22, 1950, 79 died when one Long Island Railroad commuter train crashed into rear of another.
Read some recollections of the accident.
Updated again on September 19, 2011
Photo from New York Post
The MTA might never have existed had it not been for one nightmare Wednesday in 1950.
On Thanksgiving eve, the commute home was well under way. Thousands of train riders were heading from Penn Station back to Long Island, anticipating the long holiday weekend.
Then came the screech of steel against steel — and the worst accident in LIRR history.
“It was a scene of utter horror,” a reporter wrote of the carnage he witnessed after a Babylon-bound train rear-ended a disabled locomotive, which had been headed for Hempstead, just east of Kew Gardens, Queens.
Nearly 80 riders were crushed to death.
The mammoth crash of the two trains, then part of the privately owned Pennsylvania Railroad system, is rarely talked about today.
No memorial marks the spot.
But at the time, the crash was so horrific that it sparked a series of government takeovers, eventually forging the giant public authority known as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Today, as MTA travelers recover from their “Summer of Hell,” the agency is mocked as a figurative train wreck.
Its subways remain filthy, full of beggars and plagued by delays, while Penn Station repairs have caused canceled and diverted trains on the Long Island Rail Road, which the agency oversees.
And the MTA itself is mired in nearly $40 billion in debt.
But its founding idea was that a public agency could do a better job of moving commuters reliably and safely — even though, sadly, it was a notion that took an epic tragedy to begin bringing it about.
Susan Nelson says her father responded to the blood-soaked scene that night as a member of the NYPD’s first paramedic unit.
“My father distinctly remembered a gentleman sitting in a seat, holding a bouquet of flowers,” Nelson, 58, recently recalled to The Post, referring to her late dad, Andrew W. Eyell.
“He said when he went up to talk to [the man], he realized he’d been severed in half, his top from his bottom.
“He was just sitting there, holding a bouquet of flowers as if he was asleep.”
The outcry over the incident was near-instantaneous.
“People were furious,” said CUNY historian and librarian Derek Stadler, who has written about the horror and its aftermath. “How could something like this happen?”
It was the second massive fatal crash for the railroad that year.
On Feb. 17, 1950, 32 passengers perished when two LIRR trains collided head-on.
Another crash occurred on Aug. 5 that year when an LIRR train ran through an open switch near the Huntington station and smashed into a sidelined freight train. No one was killed, but 46 passengers were injured.
Then there was the Thanksgiving-eve horror.
Shortly afterward, the state Legislature created an oversight authority to monitor the bankrupt LIRR, nudging it toward systemwide modernizations.
But it wasn’t until 1965 that New York state purchased the railroad from its parent company, the Pennsylvania Railroad, and set up the MTA’s predecessor agency, the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority.
The brainchild of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, the authority within three years, in 1968, also took over operations of the New York City subway system, changing its name to the current one, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
From there, it would grow to be a public-transit behemoth, the biggest in the country, acquiring toll bridges, bus systems and still more commuter rail lines throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
But money was always an issue.
“Right after the MTA formed in 1968, that’s when the city hit its fiscal crisis” and funding for infrastructure for public services plummeted, recalled Chris Jones, chief planner for the Regional Plan Association.
“In the late 1970s, it was an everyday mini-crisis,” he said. “For many people who took the subways, there wasn’t a week that went by where there wasn’t a train taken out of service when you were on your way to work.”
Richard Ravitch, MTA head from 1979 to 1983, recalled, “There were daily derailments, fires and delays.
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign noted, “By 1981, ridership on the subways had dropped to the lowest point since 1917.”
“People were abandoning the system,” he said. “I remember being on the platform and smoke wafting through and continuing to read my newspaper because it was just such a normal occurrence.”
In 1981, the average subway car made it only 6,994 miles between breakdowns. By comparison, today, cars make it an average of 112,208, according to MTA data.
In 1983, the agency acquired its final property, taking over all of the Metro-North lines.
For the next decade, the MTA would be mostly in triage mode, trying to put out figurative and literal fires and keep its trains from breaking down.
Today, every weekday, the MTA moves 11 million train, subway and bus passengers and charges bridge tolls on 800,000 vehicles.
Still, for all its good intentions and real improvements, the agency remains plagued by delays, deficits and accidents.
It’s a faint but persistent echo of the bad old days of almost 70 years ago — and the crash that started it all.
It was a mechanical problem — typical to the LIRR and the nation’s other railroads, all straining under the pressure of decreased ridership during the rising reign of the automobile — that set the Thanksgiving-eve crash in motion.
Train 780 from Penn Station to Hempstead had just passed through Kew Gardens, its seats and aisles packed with 1,000 commuters.
The motorman saw a caution signal ahead. He pumped the air brakes. But the brakes jammed.
The rear brakeman was sent outside to stand behind the train with a red lantern, to warn any approaching trains.
But soon, he heard his train powering back up.
“He thought the braking problem was solved and the train was about to get under way,” according to a comprehensive 2010 account by the Kew Gardens Civic Association. “So he extinguished the lantern and reboarded the rear car.”
“That was a mistake,” it says.
The brakes on the Hempstead train were still jammed.
It was around 6:30 p.m., the height of rush hour, a time when eastbound commuter traffic was four times heavier than during off-peak hours.
“Probably seconds after the brakeman extinguished the warning lantern, a New York-to-Babylon train came around the bend about 4,600 feet back,” according to the account on KewGardensHistory.com.
The oncoming Babylon train’s motorman saw a “Go Slow” signal due to the congestion ahead and cut speed to about 15 mph.
But then he caught sight of a second signal a half-mile ahead showing “all clear.”
So he sped up.
“It never dawned on him that the ‘all clear’ signal was meant for the Hempstead train stalled in darkness only a third of a mile ahead,” according to the account.
The Babylon train was going around 35 mph when the motorman saw the Hempstead train’s tiny red “marker lights,” and by then, it was too late.
“In the last seconds of his life, the motorman of the Babylon train had tried to apply his emergency brakes,” the account says.
“He succeeded only in slowing the Babylon train to about 30 mph before impact.”
The brakeman from the stalled Hempstead train, meanwhile, had realized that his train wasn’t ready to get under way after all.
At the moment of collision, he had just stepped back off the train, a move that saved his life.
“The rear brakeman,” notes the account, “was injured but survived.”
One image from the carnage stood out to a United Press reporter: a head that jutted from a window of the train wreckage.
Wide-eyed, and streaked with blood, it would stare lifelessly at rescuers as they struggled to reach the faint cries of “help” from those imprisoned inside.
“That horror-stricken mask stared at clawing workmen for four hours,” recalled the reporter, John Marka.
“Doctors hung precariously from ladders, from windows of the train, and they perched upon bent girders holding plasma bottles whose little red tubes fed to within the mass of steel where the injured lay pinned.
“Sturdy arms would reach into the twisted steel and pull out the body,” Marka wrote.
“They carried out a man who smiled after they amputated his leg to free him,” Marka wrote. “[Then] they carried out just a leg.”
On impact, the front car of the oncoming train and the back car of the stalled train had fused into a single mass of twisted metal and trapped bodies.
A witness described seeing riders “packed like sardines, in their own blood.”
It would take all night, in freezing weather, for emergency workers — working by floodlight with acetylene-fueled cutting torches and wooden ladders — to free the survivors and pull the 78 dead men and women from the wreckage.
The MTA was officially formed nearly two decades later — but it had been in the making since that tragic night.
People wanted answers, and they wanted their government to step up and give them some, mainly in the form of safeguards and improvements.
It’s a push that still exists today, Stadler said.
“It’s still not perfect,” he said of the city’s transit system. “Far from it.”
New York City storage at Penn Station for Long Island Railroad
Long Island Rural Station At Montauk
The Abandoned Rockaway Line
The Long Island Rail Road “Scoots”
Once shuttle service began in the early 1970s between Hicksville and Ronkonkoma using push-pull service, the unofficially-named “Greenport Scoot” ran a shuttle from Ronkonkoma to Greenport Monday to Friday only. It consisted of several cars pulled by one engine and operated in lieu of Jamaica to Greenport train 204 (eastbound) and Greenport to Jamaica train 211 (westbound).