2012-06-20 / Features

The Trains Stopped Running Here 50 Years Ago


Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder toured the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line to explore ways to restore service to the more thancentury old track. Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder toured the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line to explore ways to restore service to the more thancentury old track. There’s a ghost spur on the Long Island Railroad, just west of the Forest Hills station.

Glance to the right from the window as you ride the train going east from Woodside and coming into Forest Hills. Look quick just after Rego Park at 63rd Drive as the train is slowing down to stop at Forest Hills.

Did you see the abandoned tracks with the weeds and trees growing all over them?

That’s called Whitepot Junction.

Forest Hills was known as Whitepot in the 19th century. Legend has it that the name comes from when the land was secured by the trade of a white pot with the Native Americans.

Whitepot Junction, also known as Glendale Junction, is the place where 50 years ago this summer, the northern part of the LIRR Rockaway Branch was discontinued. It came as the result of declining ridership and cutbacks at many other Queens stations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Service at Rego Park, where passengers changed to go to the Rockaways, was also ended at the same time. Several other Queens stations would also go in the same general period, including Corona, Woodhaven and Elmhurst.

As I write this, there’s a movement to restore service at Elmhurst on the LIRR’s Port Washington branch.

Even after a half century of deterioration, one can still see remnants of the abandoned tracks, which were the northern half of the Rockaway line. Some of the stops were demolished. At others, nature is taking its course on what is left of the stations.

The first stop after Whitepot Junction at Forest Hills was Parkside, which is the same name of a nearby branch of the United States Post Office on Metropolitan Avenue. The Parkside stop was on Metropolitan Avenue near Woodhaven Boulevard and the Trader Joe’s market. There is nothing remaining of the station.

Parts of the abandoned railroad are still visible as one goes south under the trestle on Yellowstone Boulevard near Kessel Street, about a quarter mile north of Woodhaven Boulevard.

The line continued on to Jamaica Avenue between 98th Street and 101st Street at the Woodhaven/Richmond Hill border. Here the stop was called Brooklyn Manor, which was about a mile east of the Brooklyn/Queens border. Again, there is no trace of the station. The branch then extended a quarter of a mile to the Woodhaven Junction station on Atlantic Avenue. It is one of the stops that still has part of a platform and a few broken lights left from its glory days.

On might ask, why was the stop originally called Woodhaven Junction?

That’s because this is where the Rockaway branch connected with the LIRR’s Atlantic Avenue service at its Woodhaven station. The trains were put below ground during World War II after decades of complaints about noisy, sooty locomotives running along Atlantic Avenue at all hours of the day and night.

This Atlantic Avenue branch, in the 1880s and 1890s, was the LIRR’s Main Line. There were stops every half mile. It was originally projected to go into New York City. Brooklyn was a separate city until 1898. It, along with a collection of Queens municipalities, gave up its independence. It voted to join New York City. At its height in the late 19th century, trains ran along Atlantic Avenue every 10 or fifteen minutes. Freight trains sometimes ran in off-peak hours.

The LIRR’s Atlantic Avenue branch is a shadow of what it once was. It has only a few stops remaining. It continues to function. But it no longer has a Woodhaven stop. The latter was discontinued in 1976. Part one of three. Story to be continued.

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