Poignant Memories of another Day: History of Rail Service to Richmond Hill and the Former Communities of Clarenceville and Morris Park

LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train 562 to Oyster Bay on track 2, view east: Last eastbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train 562 to Oyster Bay on track 2, view east: Last eastbound station stop (March 13, 1998)

Like most communities in New York City, the development of Richmond Hill was aided by the expansion of public transportation.  Initially, other than the stagecoach, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) provided the only means to reach Brooklyn or Long Island City.  After Richmond Hill became part of New York City, rapid transit lines to Manhattan replaced the railroad as the primary source of public transportation.  Today, the community is served by two transit lines and LIRR service is no longer provided.  The following is a history of Richmond Hill and how LIRR service was outmoded by the times.  It is a story of railroad service that once was the latest move of progress and ceased to exist because of the very things that made it a necessity.[1]

Early Communities

In the early 1600s, the Rockaway Indians sold a big part of what is now Central Queens to the Dutch reportedly for a bit of wampum and rum.  After the English seized control over New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, Central Queens became part of the town of Newtown which covered the area from Jamaica to the Long Island City waterfront.  The land south of present-day Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was called Whitepot.  It remained sparsely populated farmland for the next few centuries.[2]

The story of Richmond Hill begins with Albon Platt Man, an American of English ancestry of the New York-based Man & Parsons law firm.  He can be called a pioneer, predating A.T. Stewart’s Garden City, who planned to create a garden community for workers of congested Manhattan.  With the services of Edward Richmond  a community was laid out with a post office, a school, and a railroad station, on a tract north of the Jamaica Plank Road (Jamaica Avenue) as far as Union Turnpike.  Land acquisition began in 1868 when Man purchased the Lefferts farm which extended from Jamaica Avenue northward to Forest Park.  An old farmhouse stood on the north side of the Plank Road between modern-day One Hundred Fourteenth and One Hundred Fifteenth Streets.  From 1868 to 1870, Man purchased an additional four hundred acres: the Welling farm on the west side of the Lefferts tract, the Robertson farm northward to Union Turnpike and eastward to modern-day Kew Gardens, the Hendrickson and Welling land along Williamsburg Turnpike (Metropolitan Avenue), and the Bergen farm which lay to the east of the Lefferts farm.  The land south of Jamaica Avenue was the farm of Captain Jeremiah Briggs.[3]

One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)

The new community was named Richmond Hill either after a famous area near London or after Edward Richmond.  Considering Man’s English roots, the former is most likely.  It was later incorporated in 1874.  With Richmond’s guidance, the present roads extending from One Hundred Tenth Street on the west and Lefferts Boulevard on the east were quickly laid out and improved.  The post office was built on the northwest corner of Myrtle and Park Street (Hillside Avenue).  The future sites of the railroad station, public library, and the Richmond Hill Republican Club were on the former Bergen farm.  Sadly, Richmond died in 1870 and Man engaged Oliver B. Fowler as manager of the farms and woodlands.[4]

Holy Child Jesus Church, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Holy Child Jesus Church, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Church of the Resurrection, Richmond Hill (March 26, 2016)
Church of the Resurrection, Richmond Hill (March 26, 2016)

Early Railroad Stations

A competitor of the older LIRR, the single-track South Side Railroad was built from Brooklyn to Jamaica and onward to Patchogue in the late-1860s.  It traversed the new Richmond Hill area and a station was set up at the intersection of Park Street in July 1868.  The station was first called Clarenceville after a small settlement established in January 1853 about a mile to the west.  Clarenceville was laid out on the former site of the Jacob Pecare farm by a group led by the prominent lawyer T.B. Milliken.  It extended from about One Hundred Tenth Street to One Hundred Twelfth Street and was later absorbed into Richmond Hill.[5]

Richmond Hill Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station opened as Clarenceville Station by the South Side Railroad July 1868 (timetable)
Depot building erected April – May 1869
Renamed Richmond Hill Station October or November 1871
Shelter shed erected (on the westbound platform) After April 1871 (author’s analysis)
South Side Railroad merged under the LIRR Spring 1876
Station grade crossing elimination project began Mid-1923
Station grade crossing elimination project completed March 18, 1924
Station completed (with elevated, island-type concrete platform and waiting room) June 18, 1924
Depot building and shelter shed razed After June 18, 1924
Agency closed By the 1940s (author’s analysis)
Waiting room razed By the 1960s (author’s analysis)
Hillside Avenue entrance closed By the 1980s (author’s analysis)
Last Passenger Service March 13, 1998
Station closed March 16, 1998
Staircases removed Early-2000s (author’s analysis)

Clarenceville Station was changed to Richmond Hill Station in October or November of 1871.  A depot building was erected during April and May of 1869 partly with funds raised by citizens.  It had a gable roof with defined eaves and was at the time considered the largest and finest on the railroad.  It was located on the south side of the track just east of the Park Street crossing in the heart of the new community.  This area was called the Triangle after the intersection of Lefferts Avenue (Boulevard) with Myrtle and Jamaica Avenues.  It featured an inn and restaurant known as the Triangle Hofbrau that opened in 1864 and closed in 1999.[6]

Jamaica Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, view northwest, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Jamaica Avenue at Myrtle Avenue, view northwest, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
The Triangle looking up Myrtle Avenue, view northwest, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
The Triangle looking up Myrtle Avenue, view northwest, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Former Triangle Hofbrau, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Former Triangle Hofbrau, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)

The depot building also served as a chapel on Sundays beginning July 25, 1869.  Adjacent to the depot building’s east side was a freight house.  Many shade trees were added to the area’s landscape in a small park adjacent to the depot’s south side.  After another track was added on the north side of the right-of-way in April of 1871, a shelter shed was erected in the center of the new westbound low-level platform, which ran between the crossings at Hillside Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard.  The original platform was now the eastbound platform and stretched westward across the Park Street crossing.  The railroad station was part of Man’s original concept as residents came from the crowded areas of Brooklyn and New York to the west.  It not only served passengers traveling to and from the inner city but also allowed goods to be delivered by rail freight.[7]

The South Side was not the first railroad to traverse what became Richmond Hill.  Chartered in 1832, the Brooklyn & Jamaica Railroad built a single-track road along what is now Atlantic Avenue between Jamaica and downtown Brooklyn.  It was later leased to the LIRR in 1834 and became the Atlantic Branch.  Two stations were set up when the area was developed.  Lefferts Avenue Station was located at the intersection of One Hundred Eighteenth Street.  It was short-lived, first listed in 1867 and last in 1870.  To the west was Clarenceville Station at the intersection of One Hundred Eleventh Street in the community of the same name.  It also first appeared in July of 1867.  The station remained Clarenceville even though the local post office was changed to Richmond Hill in September 1872 and the community was absorbed into the larger village.[8]

Lefferts Avenue Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station opened 1867 (timetable)
Station closed After June 1870 (timetable)
Location of the former LIRR Lefferts Avenue Station, Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Lefferts Avenue Station, Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)
Clarenceville Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station opened 1867 (timetable)
Rail service electrified August 1905
Twin high-level platforms erected (with a long saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter erected on the westbound platform and gable -roofed wooden passenger shelter erected on the eastbound platform) By 1905 (author’s analysis)
Last passenger service October 31, 1939
Station closed November 1, 1939
Location of the former LIRR Clarenceville Station, Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Clarenceville Station, Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)

At the intersection of the South Side Railroad and LIRR, both lines set up stations.  The South Side’s was Van Wyck Avenue Station in 1867.  A gable-roofed depot building was erected in July of 1870 at the intersection of Maure Avenue (One Hundred Thirtieth Street) and the tracks.  The station’s name was later changed to South Side Crossing in October 1870.  It was last listed in South Side timetables in November 1874.  The LIRR’s station at the junction was Berlin Station and was first listed in timetables in 1870.  It closed in 1878.  By this time, the South Side Railroad was consolidated with the Long Island and other smaller railroad companies to form one rail line.  The former South Side right-of-way became known as the LIRR’s Montauk Branch.[9]

Van Wyck Avenue/South Side Crossing Station
South Side Railroad Company of Long Island
Historical Fact
Date
Station opened as Van Wyck Avenue Station 1867 (timetable)
Depot building erected July 1870
Renamed South Side Crossing Station October 1870
Station closed After November 1874 (timetable)
Berlin/Berlin Switch Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station opened 1870 (timetable)
Station closed 1878

Village of Richmond Hill

The growth of Richmond Hill was stymied by the 1873 country-wide financial crisis.  However, by 1878, development continued.[10]  Most new residents were Manhattan businessmen who erected large houses in the Queen Anne Victorian style that cost from $2500 to $5000.  Prevalent at the turn of the twentieth century, Queen Anne Victorian was a unique style that combined different ages of architecture.  It used gable next to gable, wing touching wing, verandas, balconies, bays, oriels, and towers topped with finials.  The towers, or turrets, reflected a Jacobean design.  Some were round, some were square, some were three-sided, and some were octagonal.  Most of the houses boasted a front porch and a few had porch cocheres where carriage passengers could alight directly.[11]

One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Homes, One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Homes, One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Home, Eighty-Sixth Avenue, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Home, Eighty-Sixth Avenue, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Home, One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Home, One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Home, One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Queen Anne Victorian Home, One Hundred Fifth Street, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)

Smaller communities also sprung up adjacent to Richmond Hill.  Morris Park was developed by the Long Island Improvement Company in 1884 in the area from One Hundred Thirteenth to One Hundred Twenty-Sixth Streets between One Hundred First and Eighty-Ninth Avenues.  It later extended as far as Liberty Avenue.   Development was slow until a tract was acquired by William Ziegler, president of the Royal Baking Powder Company, who entrusted it to Jere Johnson, a prominent Brooklyn real estate agent.  John incorporated the Morris Park Improvement Company in 1892 and sold off lots.[12]

The name Morris Park was taken from a picnic park on the south side of Atlantic Avenue between One Hundred Twenty-Fourth and One Hundred Twenty-First Streets called Morris Grove.  In operation since the 1840s, the grounds were owned by the Brooklyn Central & Jamaica Railroad who inherited it from the Brooklyn & Jamaica Railroad.  After foreclosure sales in 1865 and 1867, the park fell out of railroad hands but was later leased by the LIRR in 1879 as an excursion attraction.[13]

After the consolidation of the South Side Railroad with the LIRR, the former depot building at South Side Railroad Crossing Station was moved two blocks to present One Hundred Twenty-Fourth Street in July 1878 and a station named Morris Grove was established.  The station was moved once again in 1886 westwards to a one-block square park between Lefferts Avenue and One Hundred Eighteenth Street where it was renamed Morris Park Station.  The depot building and platform were located just east of the crossing on the south side of the tracks.[14]

Morris Park Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station and depot building opened as Morris Grove Station July 1878
Station relocated and renamed Morris Park Station 1886
Rail service electrified August 1905
Long saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter erected (on the westbound platform) By 1910 (author’s analysis)
Twin high-level concrete platforms erected (westbound shelter moved onto platform) By 1914 (author’s analysis)
Last passenger service October 31, 1939
Station closed November 1, 1939
Location of the former LIRR Morris Grove Station (first location), Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Morris Grove Station (first location), Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Morris Park Station (second location), Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Morris Park Station (second location), Atlantic Avenue, view west (March 26, 2016)

By 1890 another station was added east of Morris Park Station.  Built by Frederick Dunton as a gift to the railroad, Dunton Station’s depot building was located just west of Van Wyck Avenue south of the tracks.  The building was a classic example of Queen Anne architecture featuring a pyramid hip roof and wooden canopy.  It was moved in mid-April of 1897 to the north side of the tracks between the “Y” formed by the LIRR’s Main Line and Atlantic Branch.  Threatened with the loss of its western terminal in Brooklyn, the LIRR built its new Main Line in 1860 from Jamaica to Long Island City where passengers connected with a ferry for Manhattan.  For the new Dunton Station, a passenger overpass was built to allow passengers to cross over.  The new location permitted riders from both lines to use the station and accommodated residents of the rapidly growing sections of West Jamaica.  The Atlantic Branch portion was located east of the Van Wyck Avenue crossing between the two Atlantic Branch tracks on a single low-level platform while the Montauk Branch portion was just north of the Montauk Branch tracks on a westbound low-level platform adjacent to the depot building.[15]

Dunton Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station and depot building opened By 1890
Station and depot building relocated Mid-April 1897
Station closed 1910
Depot building demolished 1911
Temporary station erected (with twin low-level platform and an enclosed saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter on the westbound platform) 1910
Temporary station erected (with a single low-level platform and enclosed saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter) November 30, 1912
Station and new depot building opened erected (with elevated twin high-level concrete platforms with canopy overhangs on both the eastbound and westbound side) Fall 1913 – Spring 1914
Station relocated By April 1914
Last passenger service October 31, 1939
Station closed November 1, 1939

City of New York

When Man died in 1891, his son Alrick Man took charge of the family’s interests.  It was under Alrick that the portion of Richmond Hill in the town of Jamaica and the community of Morris Park, as well as the former settlement known as Clarenceville, were incorporated into the village of Richmond Hill in 1894.  Alrick became the first village president and was succeeded by Henry Willett in 1897.  After village incorporation, over 500 acres of woodland on the summit of the hills extending from the Brooklyn city line eastward to Richmond Hill was purchased by the County of Kings for a community park subsequently known as Forest Park.  Along the easterly end of the park from Myrtle Avenue to what was then Grand Central Boulevard (Parkway), a marginal street one hundred feet wide called Park Lane was laid out and constructed.[16]

Richmond Hill War Memorial, "My Buddy," Forest Park (March 18, 2016)
Richmond Hill War Memorial, “My Buddy,” Forest Park (March 18, 2016)

Richmond Hill as a separate identity was short-lived.  At midnight on December 31, 1897, it became a part of the Borough of Queens in City of New York.  While it went on to be an integral part of the city, the community’s future initially looked bleak.  For the first eight years, there was no adequate appropriation for roads, and no police service.  The tide began to turn in 1906 when Maurice E. Connolly became Queensborough president.  Under Connoly, millions in external capital appropriated from the greater city allowed for road improvements, a sewer system, electricity in homes, and an extensive of elevated rapid transit from Brooklyn.[17]

In essence, Richmond Hill came into its own under the city of New York.  Two famous landmarks were opened, the high school in 1900 and the Republican Club building in 1908.  Another famous location and favorite meeting spot for residents, especially teenagers, first opened its doors in 1923 as Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor.  It became the local hangout on Hillside Avenue.  Old-timers from the area still recall the peculiar jargon used by the waiters and waitresses calling orders to the fountain, such as “One Tall in the Saddle” and “One Screwball’s Delight.”  Famous early area residents included the Marx Brothers and Danish immigrant Jacob Riis, who was a journalist, author, and fighter for the urban underdog.[18]

Former location of movie theatre and Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Former location of movie theatre and Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)

 

Railroad Electrification

When control of the LIRR passed to the Pennsylvania Railroad at the turn of the twentieth century, there was discussion of building East River tunnels to bring the railroad’s Main Line from Jamaica to Long Island City to Manhattan on electrified tracks.  The right-of-way traversed through the northern edge of Richmond Hill in what is now Kew Gardens and was the railroad’s main line in Queens until the South Side Railroad was absorbed into the system.  From that point, Montauk Branch from Jamaica through Richmond Hill and onward to Long Island City became the primary line.  However, when the tunnels were built to Manhattan, the route through current Kew Gardens was electrified and selected as the railroad’s main line.  The Montauk Branch through Richmond Hill and the Triangle became a secondary right-of-way and not electrified, relying on steam locomotives for passenger and freight service.[19]

The opening of the East River tunnels and the new electrified Main Line brought the northern part of the Man tract, later called Kew Gardens, into the real estate market.  It was named after the area known as Kew that was close in proximity to the Royal Botanical Gardens in London.  The significance was that Kew was adjacent to a point known as Richmond Hill which had inspired the name of the early community.  Thus, the area which Man called Richmond Hill became Kew Gardens and the former name continued to apply to the southern slope and plain that contained the Richmond Hill post office and railroad station as well as the former communities of Morris Park and Clarenceville.  The emergence of the new name was necessitated by the LIRR.  The railroad found it impracticable to have two stations of the same name about a mile apart on different lines.[20]

The Extension of Rapid Transit to Richmond Hill

Between 1920 and 1924, the population of Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens grew eighty-seven percent from an estimated 40,000 to 75,000.  The rise can be attributed to the expansion of rapid transit lines into Queens.  The first was the Kings County elevated road from the borough line to Lefferts Avenue along Liberty Avenue.  Construction of the two-and-a-half mile, three-track elevated structure began in April 1914.  Costing about $1,500,000 it was hailed as a “much neater looking [‘el’]” than former types of construction.  Built of concrete and fireproof material, stations were located below the tracks on a mezzanine level which permitted passengers to either ascend to the platform or descend to either side of the street.  The new stations within Richmond Hill were Greenwood Street (One Hundred Eleventh Street) and Lefferts Avenue.  The terminus at Lefferts Avenue was located above the tracks and was less costly than other stations because it was planned to be removed when the line was extended.[21]

The new line, also known as the Liberty Avenue extension or Fulton Street line, operated its first train on September 25, 1915.  A celebratory event was held that afternoon to mark the advent of rapid transit service and the five cent fare zone to the Morris Park section of Richmond Hill.  It was organized by the Liberty Avenue “L” Celebratory Committee of One Hundred.  Several hundred invited guests were on the first train and festivities included a parade of automobiles and floats, and over 1,000 school children.  The sale of lots adjacent to the line greatly increased during construction.  Although there were few residents in 1915, it was predicted at the time that there would be phenomenal development as the new road “open[ed] up a big area of virgin land.”[22]

Jamaica Avenue at One Hundred Fourteenth Street, view east, Richmond Hill, (March 18, 2016)
Jamaica Avenue at One Hundred Fourteenth Street, view east, Richmond Hill, (March 18, 2016)

The other new transit line opened in mid-1918.  While initially it was scheduled to be completed January 1, 1917, owing to war conditions, lack of steel rails and other materials, and a labor shortage, it was delayed.  Additionally, a 41-ton girder, sixty-five feet long became lost for two weeks holding up construction.  It was later found thirty miles out on Long Island.  As to how it got there, nobody knew.[23]

New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 104 Street Station, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 104 Street Station, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 104 Street Station, Jamaica Avenue north entrance, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 104 Street Station, Jamaica Avenue north entrance, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 104 Street Station, Jamaica Avenue street level, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 104 Street Station, Jamaica Avenue street level, view west (March 26, 2016)

Constructed along Jamaica Avenue, the new addition was called the Jamaica Avenue line to distinguish it from the Fulton Street line on Liberty Avenue.  It was an extensive of an elevated road that ran as far as Cypress Hills.  The physical connection between the two was made in mid-May 1917 but the elevated structure was only completed as far as Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica just a quarter mile short of the proposed terminus at Grand Street.  In lieu, initial service was only as far as Richmond Hill.  The first train to Spruce Street (One Hundred Twenty-First Street), Richmond Hill on Sunday, May 27.  Regular service to the Greenwood Avenue terminus commenced the following day.  The elevated structure was built to accommodate a future LIRR viaduct erected several years later to eliminate the grade crossing at Jamaica Avenue.[24]

New York City Subway 111 Street Station, view east (March 18, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 111 Street Station, view east (March 18, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 111 Street Station, One Hundred Eleventh Street north entrance, view south (March 18, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 111 Street Station, One Hundred Eleventh Street north entrance, view south (March 18, 2016)

The completed Jamaica Avenue line opened in a public ceremony on July 2, 1918.  Invited guests and committee members rode the first train as factory whistles, automobile sirens, and church bells throughout the area rang.  Regular train service began the following day.  It was hailed as a boon to real estate men, who anticipated a big influx of city dwellers from the congested sections to the “suburbs” in the general direction of Jamaica.  Like the Liberty Avenue, line considerable building activity followed.  Many rows of stores with living apartments overhead were built along Jamaica Avenue and houses were also erected in large numbers along the side streets.[25]

New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 121 Street Station, One Hundred Twenty-Third Street north entrance, view south (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 121 Street Station, One Hundred Twenty-Third Street north entrance, view south (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 121 Street Station, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 121 Street Station, view west (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 121 Street Station, view east (March 26, 2016)
New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line 121 Street Station, view east (March 26, 2016)

Railroad Electrification on the Atlantic Branch

 Like the Main Line, the Atlantic Branch was also electrified at the turn of the twentieth century.  In fact, the section between Woodhaven and Richmond Hill, and onward to Jamaica, was the railroad’s second electrification project, completed in August of 1905.  The first was the Atlantic Branch from Brooklyn to Woodhaven and onward to Rockaway Beach.  Prior to electrification, a second track was installed between Woodhaven and Morris Park in 1882.[26]

Double-tracking had a direct impact at Clarenceville, Morris Park, and Dunton.  Each station now had both eastbound (south track) and westbound (north track) platforms.  By 1905, Clarenceville had high-level platforms and a long saltbox-roofed wooden shelter midway on the westbound platform.  The eastbound platform had a gable-roofed wooden shelter at the midway point.  Both Morris Park and Dunton had low-level platforms upon completion of electrification in 1905.  At Morris Park, the platforms were just east of the grade crossing at One Hundred Eighteenth Street.  A long saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter was located midway on the westbound platform.  The depot building was adjacent to the eastbound platform.[27]

Grade Crossing Elimination

One of the biggest undertakings while the Pennsylvania Railroad controlled the Long Island was the elimination of grade crossings.  In a mammoth project to run trains to a new Jamaica transfer station, the Jamaica yard was elevated onto an embankment and a new masonry office building was built.  Work to eliminate crossings in the area just west of Jamaica Station in Richmond Hill began in 1910.  The Main Line tracks were the first raised, onto an embankment with viaducts at both the Van Wyck Avenue and Jamaica Avenue crossings.  At Van Wyck Avenue, one viaduct carried the two westbound tracks and another, the two eastbound tracks.  They joined together on an embankment for a four-track Main Line that crossed over Jamaica Avenue via a trestle.[28]

LIRR Atlantic Branch (center) and Montauk Branch (top) viaduct crossings at Van Wyck Expressway, view north (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch (center) and Montauk Branch (top) viaduct crossings at Van Wyck Expressway, view north (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch and Main Line junction (top) over the Atlantic Branch viaduct crossing (center) at Van Wyck Expressway, view northeast (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch and Main Line junction (top) over the Atlantic Branch viaduct crossing (center) at Van Wyck Expressway, view northeast (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of the Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, Montauk Branch viaduct in view, track view east (April 1, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of the Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, Montauk Branch viaduct in view, track view east (April 1, 2016)

For grade crossing elimination on the Atlantic Branch, Dunton was closed, the depot building removed, and a temporary station erected just west of the Van Wyck Avenue crossing on the Atlantic Branch, complete with an enclosed saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter on the westbound track.  When an embankment and four-track viaduct over Van Wyck Avenue was completed, the temporary Dunton Station was closed and a second temporary station with a single low-level platform, and enclosed saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter, was setup on the right-of-way along the new embankment.  The westbound track was put into service first on November 30, 1912, accessible from the former westbound platform by ascending the embankment.  An eastbound express track and local track began service later.  A staircase entrance to the platform from Van Wyck Avenue was available beginning May 26, 1913.[29]

Location of the second temporary LIRR Dunton Station central platform, track view east (April 1, 2016)
Location of the second temporary LIRR Dunton Station central platform, track view east (April 1, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of the Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, Montauk Branch embankment in view, track view east (April 1, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of the Van Wyck Expressway viaduct, Montauk Branch embankment in view, track view east (April 1, 2016)

By December 1912, trains were running over the first and second decks of the three-levels of viaduct bridges over Van Wyck Avenue.  An underpass subway carrying Maure Avenue (One Hundred Thirtieth Street) under the Atlantic Branch tracks was also nearly finished.  The unusual construction required a retaining wall under the tracks.[30]

One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass, view north (March 26, 2016)
One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass, view north (March 26, 2016)

Pressure from Richmond Hill residents for a station along the new Main Line right-of-way mounted during 1913 and 1914.  To their delight, in March 1916 the State Public Service (PSC) ordered for station construction at the Jamaica Avenue viaduct.  The railroad suggested the name Westbridge, which residents accepted, and it opened June 28, 1916.  The station featured a small brick depot building with a hip roof on the south side of Jamaica Avenue just east of the viaduct under the elevated rapid transit tracks.  Behind the building a staircase led up to the small, two car-length high-level westbound platform built on the embankment south of the viaduct.  The platform had an enclosed saltbox-roofed passenger shelter near the staircase to Jamaica Avenue.  The eastbound high-level platform was also built on the embankment south of Jamaica Avenue and was accessible from a staircase on the west side of the viaduct.  Initial service in the fall of 1916 were flag stops primarily for local electric service to and from Jamaica and Long Island City or Penn Station.[31]

Westbridge Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station and depot building erected (with elevated twin high-level concrete platforms and enclosed saltbox-roofed passenger shelter on the westbound side) Spring 1916
Station opened June 28, 1916
Last passenger service December 31, 1938
Station closed January 1, 1939
Station and depot building razed After January 1, 1939

Between late 1913 and early 1914, the permanent Dunton Station was erected at the One Hundred Thirtieth Street undercrossing.  It was just east of the undercrossing on the four-track embankment, complete with high-level concrete platforms and depot building.  Built at the same time as the LIRR headquarters at Jamaica Station, the reversed L-shaped masonry building was similar in appearance with a projecting cornice trim.  The south side of the building faced Atlantic Avenue and had doorways with concrete tile awnings.  Accessible by a set of stairs on the southeast side of the One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass, the eastbound platform on the south side of the tracks projected eastward from the depot building.  The section of the platform adjacent to the building had a canopy overhang that extended from the building to the edge of the platform.  The westbound platform on the north side of the three tracks was accessible from a set of stairs and underpass within the depot building.  A canopy extending from the exit staircase eastward provided shelter for most of the platform.  Another set of stairs on the west retaining wall within the underpass led to the Dunton switching tower.  The station opened by April 1914.[32]

Former LIRR Dunton Station (third location) staircase to eastbound platform, view east (March 26, 2016)
Former LIRR Dunton Station (third location) staircase to eastbound platform, view east (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Dunton Station (third location) westbound platform, track view northwest (April 1, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Dunton Station (third location) westbound platform, track view northwest (April 1, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Dunton Station (third location) westbound platform, track view east (April 1, 2016)
Location of the former LIRR Dunton Station (third location) westbound platform, track view east (April 1, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of the former Dunton Station (third location) westbound platform, Dunton Tower and closed staircase to One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass in center, track view east (April 1, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of the former Dunton Station (third location) westbound platform, Dunton Tower and closed staircase to One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass in center, track view east (April 1, 2016)
Closed staircase to LIRR Dunton Tower from the One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass (April 1, 2016)
Closed staircase to LIRR Dunton Tower from the One Hundred Thirtieth Street underpass (April 1, 2016)

By the 1920’s there were as many as 130 trains that traversed Richmond Hill along the Atlantic Branch.  Morris Park received the most service, with twenty express and 110 local.  To speed boarding and exiting the train, high-level platforms were erected at Morris Park Station by 1914 and the westbound shelter was moved onto the platform.[33]

Grade Crossing Elimination on the Montauk Branch

Discussion of grade crossing removal on the two-mile stretch of the Montauk Branch in Richmond Hill began in 1911.  In fact, on July 21, 1911 the work contract for track elevation was signed between the city and the railroad.  Nevertheless, construction progressed slowly.  By late 1916, the eastern portion was set on an embankment from Van Wyck Avenue to Jamaica Avenue where a retaining wall was built.  Steel for the remainder of the structure through the Triangle and onward to Forest Park was ready and in the hands of the American Bridge Company.  However, the United States War Board stopped further production of steel for non-essential construction and work stopped.[34]

LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct: American Bridge Company steel showing 1916 date (January 8, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct: American Bridge Company steel showing 1916 date (January 8, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct: Eighty-Fourth Avenue crossing showing 1923 date (January 8, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct: Eighty-Fourth Avenue crossing showing 1923 date (January 8, 2016)

Thanks to the efforts of local organizations, such as the Richmond Hill Civic Association and their slogan “Keep Plugging,” construction resumed in 1923.  All crossings between Lefferts Boulevard and St. Anne’s Avenue (Eighty-Fourth Avenue) were eliminated and the tracks elevated above street level on a two-track span.  In fact, the Hillside Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard locations were termed “danger spots.”  The new structure, still in service today, was concrete and steel ornamental in design and “substantial in character.”  Leaving the embankment at a clearance of fourteen-feet above street level, the right-of-way first crosses over Jamaica Avenue on a 100-foot trestle and then Lefferts Boulevard on an 80-foot trestle.  A 100-foot trestle crosses over Hillside Avenue at a fourteen-foot clearance with columns on the curb lines and in the center of the street.  Further northwest, Ashland Street (Eighty-Fifth Avenue) became an open road under an eighty-foot trestle at a sixteen-foot clearance with columns on the curb lines.  Lastly, the Eighty-Fourth Avenue trestle is 100-feet in width at a clearance of twelve-feet.  Between the street crossings is a series of decorative arches nicknamed “a railroad on stilts.”  In fact, one review called it “one of the handsomest elevated railroad structures in the country.”[35]

Lefferts Boulevard at the Jamaica Avenue intersection, view north: New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line over LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct (January 8, 2006)
Lefferts Boulevard at the Jamaica Avenue intersection, view north: New York City Subway Jamaica Avenue Elevated Line over LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct, Bessemer Street, view east (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct, Bessemer Street, view east (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct, Babbage Street, view east (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct, Babbage Street, view east (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Eighty-Fourth Avenue, view west (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Eighty-Fourth Avenue, view west (January 8, 2006)

The length of the entire road improvement was 4,300 feet, of which about 2,300 feet consists of the viaduct structure with a solid concrete floor that is supported on steel girders and enclosed in a solid concrete fence.  The new streets created on either side from north to south were Babbage and Bessemer, replacing the former Railroad Avenues.  The project was said to have been a great relief to automobile drivers because it eliminated the problem of waiting for long freight trains which sometimes held up traffic for a half-hour or more.  Additionally, stone ballast was used under the tracks to make train movement practically noiseless which eliminated the cause of frequent resident complaints.  The structure was officially opened on Tuesday, March 18, 1924 when a train of cars passed overhead for the first time at 10:46 a.m.  There were no accompanying festivities.  Sone railroad officials attended to see that all was in readiness.[36]

A new passenger station was erected on the viaduct between the Lefferts Boulevard and Hillside Avenue trestles, complete with an island-type, center platform.  The platform was of regulation Long Island-type with access to trains going in either direction.  It was accessible via a staircase on the northwest corner at the Jamaica Avenue and Lefferts Boulevard intersection.  Another staircase was under the viaduct on south side of Hillside Avenue.  Located in the center of the platform was a rectangular, enclosed multi-window waiting room with a flat roof.  Described as “spacious and comfortable,” the waiting room featured a ticket agency.  On the waiting room’s west end, a flat-roofed canopy set on six posts extended over the staircase leading to Hillside Avenue.[37]

LIRR Richmond Hill Station platform and canopy, view east: Staircase to Hillside Avenue in center (Circa 1996)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station platform and canopy, view east: Staircase to Hillside Avenue in center (Circa 1996)

 

The waiting room and agency was not ready for use as of March 1924.  Until it was completed, passengers purchased their tickets at the old depot building on street level.  The new agency was in service June 18.  The old building and the watchman’s shanty were later removed and the streets repaired.[38]

Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station platform and track 1, track view west (Circa 2003)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station platform and track 1, track view west (Circa 2003)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Hillside Avenue, view east: Former Richmond Hill Station entrance (January 8, 2006)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Hillside Avenue, view east: Former Richmond Hill Station entrance (January 8, 2006)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station east end staircase entrance, view west (March 18, 2016)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station east end staircase entrance, view west (March 18, 2016)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station staircase entrance at the Lefferts Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue intersection, view west (March 18, 2016)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station staircase entrance at the Lefferts Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue intersection, view west (March 18, 2016)

A few months later, one last crossing was eliminated north of Richmond Hill Station.  On January 17, 1925, the highway bridge which carried Park Lane South over the Montauk Branch was completed.  Work was ordered by the city’s Transit Commission a year prior and construction started on June 23, 1924.  Composed of concrete abutments and steel girders, it cost $50,000.[39]

Grade Crossing Elimination on Atlantic Avenue

As construction work neared completion on the Montauk Branch, there was serious discussion of the crossings along Atlantic Avenue.  The method to eliminate twenty to twenty-five grade crossings was depression of the LIRR tracks and the four-tracking of the railroad to Flatbush Avenue Station.  As one of the important business thoroughfares in Richmond Hill, Atlantic Avenue was envisioned as one of the city’s main boulevards, from the Brooklyn waterfront to Jamaica, a distance of ten miles.  It afforded another outlet for Brooklyn to all parts of Long Island.[40]

Politics and disagreements on who would foot the bill delayed progress.  The LIRR refused to agree to depression unless its share of work costs did not exceed its share of the cost of an elevated structure.  In January of 1924, a special committee of the New York City Board of Estimate conferred with LIRR officials to iron out details but no agreement was reached.  Additionally, Queens Republican State Senator John L. Karle rejected a $2,500,000 offer from Republican state leaders to elevate the tracks over Atlantic Avenue.[41]

Serious discussion reconvened in 1937 when New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses proposed a plan.  Under it, the right-of-way would be placed underground as a double-track railroad and seven local stations would be abandoned, including Clarenceville, Morris Park, and Dunton.  Buses would replace LIRR service on Atlantic Avenue.  The argument was that a double-track line was estimated at $23 million while a four-track route, necessary to maintain the local stations, was $4 million more, or close to $30 million.  Moses declared that the added expense wasn’t warranted.  Although the railroad’s revenue as a whole had decreased thirty-seven percent since 1929, income from the local Atlantic Branch stations decreased sixty percent.  In fact, statistics taken in October 1937 showed that 3,795 passengers boarded trains daily at all seven stations (386 at Clarenceville, 628 at Morris Park, and only 87 at Dunton) compared to only 3,000 ten months later, a twenty percent drop.[42]

In early September of 1938, Moses outlined the immediate steps necessary.  First, the project had to be adopted by the city’s Transit Commission based on a recommendation from the Planning Commission and the Board of Estimate.  Second, contract specifications on the part of the railroad needed to be ironed out.  The remainder of the steps centered on a state constitutional amendment which required passage on the November ballot.  If made into law, it guaranteed that most of the cost, eighty-five percent or more, would be borne by the state.  If it failed to pass, the railroad would be required to pay half the cost under existing law which Moses felt doomed the project.[43]

A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article published on August 17, 1938 compared Moses’s plan to the famous literary quote claiming Homer’s death.  “For like the seven cities that claimed Homer dead, the seven small stations have risen to claim the glory of the LIRR dead in the midst of subways, elevated [rapid transit lines], automobiles, and swift highways.”  Indeed, progress brought two transit lines to Richmond Hill, outmoding the Atlantic Avenue line.  The result was a drop in ridership.  The article added that many citizens remembered the right-of-way with “considerable awe and admiration.”  If the tracks were to be depressed, the event “[should] be attended by poignant memories of another day.”  Lastly, it remarked that the abandonment of the stations marked the end of a chapter in New York history.[44]

Some area residents fought the pending closures to who Moses called out to “sit down and keep quiet.”  He was particularly bothered by those who squawked at the Transit Commission over station eliminations, claiming they were “obstinate people.”  Nearly 100 residents stormed the first public hearing.  While Transit Commissioner M. Maldwin Fertig said that they had a substantial grievance, Major Clarence K. Conard, an assistant engineer in the Board of Estimate, declared that elimination of the local stations was essential.[45]

Leading the charge to save the stations was the Atlantic Avenue Subway League of Brooklyn and Queens under the direction of chairman James Meade.  Meade who said that the proposed plan gave the “the hole in the doughnut” and compelled them to walk a half-mile to a transit line.  In its fight, the league attempted to collect protest signatures from over 10,000 people.  It also said it would resort to the courts if needed.[46]

LIRR Atlantic Branch west of Atlantic Avenue tunnel entrance, view east (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of Atlantic Avenue tunnel entrance, view east (March 26, 2016)

Despite their efforts, the Transit Commission gave final approval to the project.  Subsequently, the amendment was passed in the November election and the stations were due to close.  Construction started on October 13, 1939.[47]  Effective 2:00 a.m. on November 1, 1939, the stations were abandoned under General Order Number 1204.  Completed three years ahead of schedule, the four-and-a-half mile tunnel opened on December 28, 1942.  The first eastbound train entered the tunnel at 2:47 a.m. and the first westbound at 4:27 a.m.  Still in service today, the tunnel begins just west of the intersection of One Hundred Twenty-Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue.  It eliminated twenty grade crossings and cut travel time by three to four minutes.  At the same time, it made Atlantic Avenue available for a surface express highway as far as East New York Station.[48]

LIRR Atlantic Branch west of Atlantic Avenue tunnel entrance, view west (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of Atlantic Avenue tunnel entrance, view west (March 26, 2016)

Westbridge Station was also closed effective January 1, 1939.  No doubt the opening of the Queens branch of the Independent Subway to Jamaica in April 1937 affected LIRR ridership in central Queens.  By this time, there were only two trains each way daily at Westbridge, Monday through Saturday.  On the eastbound schedule, train number 1752 ran local to Jamaica, stopping at 5:43 p.m., and number 1770 ran local to Floral Park, stopping at 6:41 p.m.  In the westbound schedule, number 85 from Babylon to New York stopped at 6:52 a.m. and number 1731 from Jamaica to New York stopped at 8:35 a.m.[49]

Location of the former Westbridge Station depot building and westbound platform, view east (March 26, 2016)
Location of the former Westbridge Station depot building and westbound platform, view east (March 26, 2016)

Richmond Hill Station on the Montauk Branch

After the opening of the East River tunnels and the start of Main Line electric service to Manhattan, passenger service on the Montauk Branch between Jamaica and Long Island City remained steadfast.  Acces to Manhattan was available at the Long Island City terminus by subway or ferry connection.  In fact, there were 5,000 riders on the Montauk Branch in Queens in the summer of 1912 and more than 3,200 in winter.  On the 1914 daily schedule, there were as many as fourteen eastbound trains that stopped at Richmond Hill, with at least six during the afternoon and evening rush-hour.  Nine trains provided westbound service, five during the morning rush.  On Sundays, about a half-dozen trains stopped at the station in both directions.[50]

However, at the time of the grade crossing elimination in 1924, there were as few as six trains daily in both directions.  While the Port of New York Authority reported a steady rise in railroad commuters for the entire metropolitan region from 1925 to 1929, LIRR ridership on the Montauk Branch dropped.  Statistics from 1930 reveal that there were only forty-two regular Richmond Hill commuters in winter and twenty-three in summer.  No doubt, a subway ride to New York was preferred over a combination rail and subway fare from Richmond Hill Station.  Another factor was that the tracks were never electrified.  Rail service remained steam locomotion only, later replaced by diesel.  At a 1925 meeting of the Richmond Hill Board of Trade, members suggested contacting the LIRR in order to hasten the electrification but nothing materialized.[51]

By 1928 service was reduced to the daily rush-hour period with no service on Sundays.  Furthermore, ferry service at Long Island City Station was discontinued on March 3, 1925.  Remaining afternoon eastbound service from Long Island City Station was train number 558 to Oyster Bay at 5:40 p.m. and number 266 to Riverhead at 6:10 p.m.  On the morning westbound schedule to Long Island City, number 503 from Oyster Bay stopped at 6:38 a.m., number 223 from Ronkonkoma stopped at 6:55 a.m., number 263 from Riverhead stopped at 7:26 a.m., and number 517 from Oyster Bay stopped at 8:41 a.m.  By 1942, only one train stopped daily in Richmond Hill in the afternoon, eastbound number 554 to Oyster Bay.  In the mornings, there were two westbound trains: number 263 from Riverhead and number 517 from Oyster Bay.  The new schedule was in effect for more than thirty years.[52]

The Great Depression caused a system-wide decline in ridership which lasted until World War II.  A rise in ridership during the war was attributed to gasoline rationing and restrictions on automobile production.  However, by 1947 the number of LIRR riders began to decline again.  Experts attributed the overall long-term decline from 1929 to the increase in automobile and bus transportation on new highways, bridges, and tunnels.  Other reasons for the low commuter numbers was the extension of the city’s rapid transit system into Queens, complaints on high rates, and poor service on the railroads.  While there were fewer commuters, the same number of trains provided service.  Rider complaints of poor service were attributed to rush-hour congestion.[53]

LIRR Richmond Hill Commemorative Timetable for Service between All Stations Long Island City to Jamaica via Montauk Branch, 1973
LIRR Richmond Hill Commemorative Timetable for Service between All Stations Long Island City to Jamaica via Montauk Branch, 1973

One solution was to use Long Island City Station as a terminus for passenger trains.  Naturally, better facilities in Long Island City were needed to relieve congestion at Penn Station.  The question was how to finance construction especially after the LIRR plunged into bankruptcy on February 2, 1949.  Although the railroad was revamped after the passing of the Railroad Redevelopment Corporation Act in June of 1954, the Montauk Branch right-of-way in Queens remained unchanged for decades with the exception of diesel locomotion replacing steam in 1955.[54]

LIRR Amtrak Strike Timetable Effective September 22, 1997: Aerial map of Richmond Hill Station highlighting its proximity to rapid transit service in lieu of a pending Amtrak strike
LIRR Amtrak Strike Timetable Effective September 22, 1997: Aerial map of Richmond Hill Station highlighting its proximity to rapid transit service in lieu of a pending Amtrak strike
LIRR Amtrak Strike Timetable Effective September 22, 1997: Revised westbound rush-hour Port Jefferson Branch schedule and supplemental service to Richmond Hill Station in lieu of a pending Amtrak strike
LIRR Amtrak Strike Timetable Effective September 22, 1997: Revised westbound rush-hour Port Jefferson Branch schedule and supplemental service to Richmond Hill Station in lieu of a pending Amtrak strike
LIRR Amtrak Strike Timetable Effective September 22, 1997: Revised westbound rush-hour Montauk Branch schedule and supplemental service to Richmond Hill Station in lieu of a pending Amtrak strike
LIRR Amtrak Strike Timetable Effective September 22, 1997: Revised westbound rush-hour Montauk Branch schedule and supplemental service to Richmond Hill Station in lieu of a pending Amtrak strike

One goal set as early as 1959 was for diesel locomotives to utilize third-rail power so that they could run to Manhattan in the East River tunnels.  The materialization of this dream coincidentally lead to the abandonment of Richmond Hill Station.  In the mid-1990s the LIRR prepared to replace its diesel service with a fleet of both diesel locomotives and dual-mode diesel engine locomotives capable of running on both fuel and third-rail power.  The new bi-level coaches that accompanied the engines had no stairs to low-level platforms so four-foot high platforms were needed at all stations.  For stations that didn’t have them, the construction cost was between $232,000 and $2 million.  Although Richmond Hill Station indeed had the high-level platforms it was considered a “little-used” station like other Montauk Branch stations in Queens that had low-level platforms.  All five stations had under six passengers daily with Richmond Hill only serving one regular commuter.  In lieu of low ridership and the fact that all other local stations would be abandoned, Richmond Hill was closed.[55]

LIRR March 16 Station Closings Notice
LIRR March 16 Station Closings Notice
LIRR March 16 Station Closings Notice: The announcement provided customers with an alternate transportation guide
LIRR March 16 Station Closings Notice: The announcement provided customers with an alternate transportation guide

By the 1990s, station service was a shell of its former self.  The agency closed and the waiting room was removed, most likely in the 1950s when vandalism began to spread at LIRR stations.  The platform only featured a six-post canopy for shelter at the east end staircase to Hillside Avenue.  This staircase was also closed later in the twentieth century leaving only the west end entrance.  By 1951, the three trains that stopped at the station were from or to Oyster Bay and Long Island City.  Beginning at this time, timetables notified customers that Kew Gardens Station was nearby and an adequate substitute.[56]

LIRR Long Island City Effective September 9, 1951: Note the advisory to use Kew Gardens Station rather than Richmond Hill Station
LIRR Long Island City Effective September 9, 1951: Note the advisory to use Kew Gardens Station rather than Richmond Hill Station

In May 1974 a new timetable structure was established system-wide.  One of the Long Island City-bound trains was cut on the Montauk Branch leaving only a single round-trip from and to Richmond Hill.  Westbound train number 507 from Oyster Bay stopped in Richmond Hill at 8:18 a.m. and eastbound train number 562 to Oyster Bay stopped at 5:45 p.m.  The schedule persisted for over two decades with only slight changes in time.  By 1989 the morning train originated from Patchogue (first designated as train number 41 but later renumbered 2761).  The last day of service was March 13, 1998.  Train number 2761 from Patchogue stopped at 8:21 a.m. and train number 562 to Oyster Bay stopped at 5:50 p.m.  The east end entrance was now closed.  No doubt in lieu of vandalism, both staircases were removed in the early-2000s.[57]

LIRR Jamaica Station and train number 2761 from Patchogue on track 1, view east: Last westbound local train to Long Island City on the Montauk Branch (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Jamaica Station and train number 2761 from Patchogue on track 1, view east: Last westbound local train to Long Island City on the Montauk Branch (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train number 2761 from Patchogue on track 1, view east: Last westbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train number 2761 from Patchogue on track 1, view east: Last westbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train 562 to Oyster Bay on track 2, view east: Last eastbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train 562 to Oyster Bay on track 2, view east: Last eastbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train 562 to Oyster Bay on track 2, powered by MP15-AC number 172 , view east: Last eastbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
LIRR Richmond Hill Station and train 562 to Oyster Bay on track 2, powered by MP15-AC number 172 , view east: Last eastbound station stop (March 13, 1998)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station atop Montauk Branch viaduct, view west (August 11, 2013)
Former LIRR Richmond Hill Station atop Montauk Branch viaduct, view west (August 11, 2013)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Hillside Avenue, view west: Consist of LIRR bi-level C-3 coaches powered by EMD DM30AC number 509 at former Richmond Hill Station on track 1 (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Hillside Avenue, view west: Consist of LIRR bi-level C-3 coaches powered by EMD DM30AC number 509 at former Richmond Hill Station on track 1 (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Hillside Avenue, view west: Consist of LIRR bi-level C-3 coaches at former Richmond Hill Station on track 1 (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Montauk Branch viaduct crossing at Hillside Avenue, view west: Consist of LIRR bi-level C-3 coaches at former Richmond Hill Station on track 1 (March 26, 2016)

Richmond Hill Today

The population of Richmond Hill was 46,000 in 2000.  It remained a mostly German and Irish community until a flux of Latin Americans arrived after 1975.  In the 1980s, forty percent of the population was from Guyana.  To protect some of the Queen Anne Victorian architecture, the Richmond Hill Historical Society began lobbying for historic status in the 1990s but was denied by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission under the argument that too many houses were altered.  At this time, the former nineteenth century Briarwood pipe factory at One Hundred First Street was converted into a four-story brick structure of eighty-seven apartments.[58]  Across from the complex, Forest Park remains a picturesque wooded landscape.  At 538-acres, it boasts an eighteen-hole golf, tennis courts, ball fields, carousel, bridle paths, and an outdoor band shell that features live performances in summer.[59]

Former Briarwood Pipe Factory, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Former Briarwood Pipe Factory, Richmond Hill (March 18, 2016)
Sgt. Joseph Schaefer Oval, Forest Park (March 18, 2016)
Sgt. Joseph Schaefer Oval, Forest Park (March 18, 2016)

 

The LIRR still maintains an engine repair facility in Richmond Hill known as Morris Park shops that first opened November 1, 1889.[60]  Known simply as Shops or L.I.R.R. Shops, an employee-only stop was setup on the Montauk Branch in what is now Richmond Hill storage yard and a shelter shed was erected circa 1900.  It was no longer listed in employee timetables in August 1913.[61]

LIRR Morris Park Shops (April 1, 2016)
LIRR Morris Park Shops (April 1, 2016)

The shops were slated to receive a $177 million overhaul in the early-1980s but the LIRR decided to phase out most of the shop’s operations and switch to a new facility in Hollis that was completed in July of 1991.  Nevertheless, LIRR continues to use the Richmond Hill shop to repair the road’s diesel fleet.  In fact, an employee-only station stop was added on the Atlantic Branch just west of the entrance to the Atlantic Avenue tunnel in the early-1990s.  It has two-car-length wooden platforms on either side of the right-of-way and a pedestrian overpass.  It was named Bolands Landing after Al Boland, a road foreman who also was the LIRR’s first environmentalist.  Boland was responsible for monitoring the smoke emitted from steam locomotives and make sure it would not discolor neighborhood laundry.[62]

LIRR Atlantic Branch west of Bolands Landing Station (westbound platform in sight), view east (March 26, 2016)
LIRR Atlantic Branch west of Bolands Landing Station (westbound platform in sight), view east (March 26, 2016)

Next page: The History of Long Island City: Details of its Short-Lived Days as Both an Incorporated Municipality and the Major Western Terminus of the Long Island Rail Road

[1] “A Railroad is Dead, Long Live its Commuters,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 17, 1938.

[2] Staff of Long Island, Our Story, Home Town Long Island: the History of Every Community on Long Island in Stories and Photographs (Melville, NY: Newsday, 1999), 173.

[3] Staff of Long Island, Our Story, Home Town Long Island, 173.; Henry Isham Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924 (New York: Lewis Historical, 1925), 997-998; The Encyclopedia of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson (New York: New-York Historical Society, 2010), 1103.

[4] Staff of Long Island, Our Story, Home Town Long Island, 173.; Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 997-998; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 1103.

[5] Seyfried,  The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 1, South side R.R. of L.I. (Garden City, NY: Seyfried, 1984), 76; Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 6, The Golden Age 1881-1900 (Garden City, NY: Seyfried, 1984), 266; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 1103.

[6] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 997; Long Island Rail Road, 1834 – 1959: for 125 Years Long Island’s Main Line to the Main Land (Jamaica, NY: Long Island Railroad Company, 1959), 9; Seyfried,  The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 1, 76; Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 6, 266; David D. Morrison and Valerie Pakaluk, Images of Rail: Long Island Rail Road Stations (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 40-41; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 1103.

[7] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 997; Long Island Rail Road, 1834 – 1959: for 125 Years Long Island’s Main Line to the Main Land (Jamaica, NY: Long Island Railroad Company, 1959), 9; Seyfried,  The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 1, 76; Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 6, 266; David D. Morrison and Valerie Pakaluk, Images of Rail: Long Island Rail Road Stations (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 40-41; Box 8, Book 31, Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries; “The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, Part One: South Side R.R. of L.I.,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 16, 2016, http://www.trainsarefun.com/lirr/southsiderailroad/SouthSideRailroad.htm#chapter; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 265.

[8] Long Island Rail Road, 1834 – 1959, 3; Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 3, The Age of Expansion 1863-1880 (Garden City, NY: Seyfried, 1984), 202-203; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 265.

[9] Seyfried,  The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 1, 76; Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 3, 203; “Van Wyck Station – Berlin Station,” Arrt’s Arrchives, accessed March 6, 2016, http://www.arrts-arrchives.com/DUNTON2.html; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History,” Trains Are Fun, accessed February 22, 2016, http://www.trainsarefun.com/lirrphotos/LIRR%20Station%20History.htm; “Morris Park Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://arrts-arrchives.com/images3/LI1910MPStaR.jpg; Ron Ziel and Richard Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island (Bridgehampton, NY: Sunrise Special Ltd., 1988), 24-25.

[10] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 998.

[11] Mary K. Flanagan and Queens Historical Society, Victorian Richmond Hill (Queens, NY: Queens Historical Society, 1980), 2-3.

[12] The Encyclopedia of New York City, 855.

[13] Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 3, 203.

[14] Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 3, 203; Ziel and Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island, 24-25; “Morris Park Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://arrts-arrchives.com/images3/LI1910MPStaR.jpg; The Encyclopedia of New York City, 855.

[15] “Van Wyck Station – Berlin Station.”; Long Island Rail Road, 1834 – 1959, 7; Ziel and Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island, 71; Box 8, Book 31, Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries.

[16] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 999.

[17] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 1000-1001.

[18] The Encyclopedia of New York City, 1103; William. Krooss, A Peek at Richmond Hill through the Keyhole of Time (New York: Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, 1997), 68; Staff of Long Island, Our Story, Home Town Long Island, 173.

[19] Ibid.; Long Island Rail Road, 1834 – 1959, 7.

[20] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 1000-1001.

[21] Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 1006; “Liberty Avenue ‘L’ Line Soon to Open,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 4, 1915; “Extension of Fulton St. ‘L’ Assures,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 25, 1915.

[22] “Queens Sections in Gala Attire Celebrate Today,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 25, 1915.

[23] “‘L’ to Richmond Hill by Next October,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 4, 1916; “41-Ton Girder Lost on Long Island Delaying Work on ‘L’ Two Weeks,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 4, 1917; “Open ‘L’ Extension to Jamaica Today,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 2, 1918.

[24] “41-Ton Girder Lost on Long Island Delaying Work on ‘L’ Two Weeks”; “To Start Jamaica ‘L’ Service May 27,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 17, 1917; William. Krooss , A Peek at Richmond Hill through the Keyhole of Time (New York: Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, 1997), 68.

[25] “To Start Jamaica ‘L’ Service May 27”; “Open ‘L’ Extension to Jamaica Today”.

[26] “Branch Notes”; Ron Ziel and John Krause, Electric Heritage of the Long Island Rail Road 1905 – 1975 (Newton, NJ: Carstens Publications, Inc.), 4.

[27] “Clarenceville Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://arrts-arrchives.com/images3/elclvlle.jpg; “Morris Park Station”.

[28] “Dunton Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://www.arrts-arrchives.com/images3/JA1410DEC10scan0008s.jpg; “Big L.I.R.R. Works to be Done in 1913,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 22, 1912.

[29] “Van Wyck Station – Berlin Station”; Box 2, Book 30, Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries; “Dunton Station”; “How It Was Done,” Arrt’s Arrchives, accessed March 6, 2016, http://www.arrts-arrchives.com/HOW_IT_WAS_DONE.html.

[30] “Big L.I.R.R. Works to be Done in 1913.”

[31] Long Island Railroad, Effective October 17th, 1916, Corrected to Dec. 6th, 1916, Long Island Railroad Schedule of Trains (New York: Long Island Railroad, 1916); Ziel and Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island, 89; Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History, vol. 7, The Age of Electrification (Garden City, NY: Seyfried, 1984), 340; “LIRR Westbridge Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://www.trainsarefun.com/lirr/lirrshelter/Westbridgevaluationphoto.jpg; “Big L.I.R.R. Works to be Done in 1913”.

[32] “Van Wyck Station – Berlin Station”; Ron Ziel and Richard Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island (Bridgehampton, NY: Sunrise Special Ltd., 1988), 166; “Dunton Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://arrts-arrchives.com/images3/elmpstamp41.jpg; “Dunton Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://www.arrts-arrchives.com/images3/DUNTONSTAc1920scan0029rc.jpg; “Dunton Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://www.arrts-arrchives.com/images3/DUNTONSTAc1920scan0029rc.jpg; “Dunton Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://www.arrts-arrchives.com/images3/DUNTONlkgW1-14-14scan0019aPSs.jpg.

[33] “Big Future for Morris Park Section to Follow Depressing of R.R. Tracks,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 8, 1925.; “Morris Park Station,” Trains are Fun, accessed March 5, 2016, http://arrts-arrchives.com/images3/elmpstamp41.jpg.

[34] “New LIRR Viaduct Ready in Two Weeks,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 6, 1924; “Two R.H. Grade Crossings are Things of the Past,” Richmond Hill Record, March 21, 1924.

[35] “New LIRR Viaduct Ready in Two Weeks”; “Two R.H. Grade Crossings are Things of the Past”; William. Krooss, A Peek at Richmond Hill through the Keyhole of Time (New York: Woodhaven Cultural & Historical Society, 1997), 68.

[36] “Over $9,000,000 Spent by L.I.R.R. for Improvements,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 29, 1925; Krooss, A Peek at Richmond Hill through the Keyhole of Time, 68; “Two R.H. Grade Crossings are Things of the Past.”

[37] Ibid.; “Over $9,000,000 Spent by L.I.R.R. for Improvements”; Hazelton, The Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, Counties of Nassau and Suffolk, Long Island, New York, 1609-1924, 998.

[38] “Two R.H. Grade Crossings are Things of the Past”; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History.”

[39] “New Queens Auto Road is Seen in R.R. Grade Ousting,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 18, 1925.

[40] “Big Future for Morris Park Section to Follow Depressing of R.R. Tracks.”

[41] “Berry Will Urge New Negotiations on Atlantic Ave.,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 7, 1926; “Queens Rejects $2,500,00 Offer to Raise Tracks,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 10, 1925.

[42] “A Railroad is Dead, Long Live its Commuters”; “Storm Hearing to Save L.I.R.R. Stops,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 12, 1938; Charles Grutzner, Jr., “Let’s Have a Highway,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 6, 1938.

[43] Charles Grutzner, Jr., “Quickest Way to Improve Atlantic Ave,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 5, 1938.

[44] “A Railroad is Dead, Long Live its Commuters.”

[45] Grutzner, Jr., “Quickest Way to Improve Atlantic Ave”; “Storm Hearing to Save L.I.R.R. Stops.”

[46] “A Railroad is Dead, Long Live its Commuters”; “Drive Pressed to Retain Local L.I.R.R. Stops,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 19, 1938; “League Hits Plan for Atlantic Ave,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 15, 1938.

[47] “City Fund Will Speed Program,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 8, 1938; “How Grade Crossing Elimination Affects Mr. Commuter,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 14, 1938.

[48] “Van Wyck Station – Berlin Station”; “Open LIRR’s New Tunnel 3 Years ahead of Schedule,” Newsday (1940-1987), December 28, 1942.

[49] “New Subway Link to Jamaica Opened,” New York Times (1923-Current file), April 25, 1937; Long Island Railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Zone, Long Island Railroad, Time Table No. 8, In Effect 2.00 a.m. Sunday, September 19, 1937, For the Government of Employes Only, Eastern Standard Time (New York: Long Island Railroad, 1937), Main Line; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History”.

[50] Somini Sengupta, “End of the Line for L.I.R.R.’s 10 Loneliest Stops,” New York Times (1923-Current file), March 15, 1998, http://www.proquest.com; Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Box 13, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries, Main Line & Montauk Division, Effective July 1, 1914, by Long Island Rail Road (New York: Long Island Rail Road, 1914).

[51] Russell Porter, “Rail Commuters Fewer than in ‘29,” New York Times (1923 – Current file), December 15, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; Krooss, A Peek at Richmond Hill through the Keyhole of Time, 68; Long Island Railroad, “Long Island Commuters,” Long Island Railroad Information Bulletin 8, no.1 (January – February 1931): 8.

[52] Ron Ziel and John Krause, Electric Heritage of the Long Island Rail Road 1905 – 1975 (Newton, NJ: Carstens Publications, Inc.), 10; Long Island Railroad, Taking effect May 23, 1928, Daylight Saving Time, Long Island Railroad Time Tables (New York: Long Island Railroad, 1928); Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Rail Road Time Tables, Schedule in effect 2:00 AM September 20, 1942 (New York: Long Island Rail Road, 1942).

[53] Porter, “Rail Commuters Fewer than in ‘29.”

[54] Ira Henry Freeman, “L.I.R.R. Highballing Up from Bankruptcy with 12-Year Plan,” New York Times (1923 – Current file), March 2, 1959, http://www.proquest.com.

[55] Freeman, “L.I.R.R. Highballing Up from Bankruptcy with 12-Year Plan”; John T. McQuiston, “Annoyance at L.I.R.R. Plan to Shut Stations,” New York Times (1923 – Current file), February 24, 1996, http://www.proquest.com; Sengupta, “End of the Line for L.I.R.R.’s 10 Loneliest Stops.”

[56] Long Island Rail Road, Schedule in Effect September 9, 1951, Long Island Rail Road, William H. Draper, Jr., Trustee, Time Tables (New York: Long Island Rail Road, 1951).

[57] Ibid.; Long Island Rail Road, Effective May 20, 1974, Oyster Bay Branch, The Long Island Rail Road (New York: The Long Island Rail Road, 1974); MTA Long Island Rail Road, City Terminal Zone Branch Timetable effective November 13, 1989 (New York: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 1997); MTA Long Island Rail Road, City Terminal Zone Branch Timetable effective November 17, 1997 (New York: Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 1997).

[58] The Encyclopedia of New York City, 1103; Steve Reichstein, Discovering Queens! (New York: Stephen Press, Inc., 2000), 149.

[59] Ibid., 153.

[60] Box 8, Book 31, Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries.

[61] “Branch Notes”; “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History”.

[62] “Long Island Rail Road: Alphabetical Station Listing and History.”; “LIRR Has Money Saving Repair Plan,” Newsday (1940 – 1987), June 2, 1982, http://www.proquest.com; Maureen Fan, “Cold Reception for Hot LIRR Shop,” Newsday (Combined Edition), July 23, 1991, http://www.proquest.com; “LIRR / Tracking Long Island’s History / and What a Cast of Characters,” Newsday (Combined Edition), April 19, 1998, http://www.proquest.com.

Next page: The History of Long Island City: Details of its Short-Lived Days as Both an Incorporated Municipality and the Major Western Terminus of the Long Island Rail Road