Evolution of Hicksville Station: From Its Origins as a Stop on the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line to a Modern Transportation Hub

LIRR Hicksville Station north platform, view east (May 31, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station north platform, view east (May 31, 2015)

Hicksville Station in the town of Oyster Bay in Nassau County is the busiest station on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) outside of Pennsylvania (Penn) Station in Manhattan and Jamaica in the Borough of Queens. It currently serves over 6,400 rush-hour commuters daily, almost 1,000 more than it did in 1980 and over 3,000 more than it did in 1970. Whether its midday or midnight, there are more people at Hicksville than any other station system-wide. One of the earliest stations, the LIRR was brought to the community in 1837 by Valentine Hicks three years after the railroad was chartered. It remained the terminus until the railroad reached Farmingdale in 1841. Facilities at the station grew from a small wooden-frame building to an elevated two-platform transportation hub. For many, downtown Hicksville is the train station since the elevated track bisects the triangular central business district. The following is the history of Hicksville Station from its humble beginnings to its status as one of the largest transit centers on Long Island. It also includes an overview of the short-lived Grumman Station.[1]

Beginnings

Hicksville lies on the former Hempstead Plains. The sixty-thousand-acre flat, treeless grassland was once considered the largest prairie in the eastern United States.[2] Following the purchase by Welsh settler Robert Williams in 1648, the plains lay vacant for almost two centuries until Jericho businessman Valentine Hicks, son-in-law of the nationally-famous preacher Elias Hicks, acquired it. In 1834, Hicks formed a land association to create a town on the plains. However, it was the LIRR that made the area “in the middle of nowhere” accessible to New York. It’s possible the route through current Hicksville was selected because Hicks was a member of the railroad’s board of directors and later its second president. Nevertheless, Hicksville was dormant until German and Irish refugees began farming nearby and drilling wells for water. The railroad station turned out to be a convenient location for produce and a small community developed around it. By the 1890s, in addition to farms, there were several pickle works companies in Hicksville, including the H.J. Heinz Co. Blights forced farmers to sell their land in the early twentieth century and Hicksville turned into a residential area after 1945.[3]

LIRR Hicksville Station central building north side entrance (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building north side entrance (August 7, 2015)

There have been five Hicksville depot buildings since the first wooden structure and platform opened on March 1, 1837 at the Broadway crossing. It unfortunately was destroyed by fire on July 5, 1864 and replaced by a shed. Nine years later, under railroad president Oliver Charlick, a new wooden building and platform was erected in September of 1873 between Broadway and Jerusalem Avenue north of the tracks. It was thirteen-by-sixty feet and one-and-a-half stories in height, and formally opened on October 1, 1873. Adjoining the building to the west was a freight house with a high-level platform.[4]

Hicksville Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station and depot building opened March 1, 1837 (timetable)
Depot building destroyed by fire July 5, 1864
Wooden passenger shelter shed erected July 1864
Depot building erected September 1873
Station relocated and depot building opened October 1, 1873
Depot building sold and relocated May – October 1909
Depot building replaced May – October 1909
Three-sided, saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter erected (on the eastbound platform) May – October 1909 (author’s analysis)
Station relocated and depot building opened October 30, 1909
Wooden passenger shelter remodeled (shed roof replacement) Mid-twentieth century (author’s analysis)
Station grade crossing elimination project began October 1961
Depot building closed Mid-November 1962
Temporary depot building opened Mid-November 1962
Depot building and wooden passenger shelter razed November 30, 1962
Station completed (with elevated, twin island-type concrete platforms and central building) August 18, 1964
Temporary depot building closed September 1964
Station grade crossing elimination project completed September 10, 1964
Rail service electrified October 19, 1970
ADA station enhancements completed Spring 1993 (author’s analysis)
Temporary depot building opened January 2000 (author’s analysis)
Central building renovated January 2000 – January 2002 (author’s analysis)
Temporary depot building closed January 17, 2002 (author’s analysis)
Central building reopened January 17, 2002 (author’s analysis)

The railroad was double-tracked to Hicksville in 1890 and a new relocated station west of Jerusalem Avenue was outlined in 1908. New land was needed and acquired through condemnation. The plan included a new brick depot building, platforms, freight yards, double tracks, and an interlocking system. The old depot building was moved to the Sutter Monument Works as a storage shed. The new depot building was built between May and October of 1909 a few yards west of Jerusalem Avenue on the north side of the double tracks, 800-feet west of the old building. It was thirty-by-sixty feet and featured a shingle, hip-roof with both a large and small ridge-roof dormer. There were canopies on either side that were also hip-roofed with double columns on single pedestals. The building opened on October 30, 1909 and was accompanied by a 600-feet long westbound concrete platform extending westward from the Jerusalem Avenue crossing. The eastbound concrete platform extended westward from the Jerusalem Avenue crossing and featured a three-sided, saltbox-roofed wooden passenger shelter a few yards west of the road. The intervening tracks were separated by a short fence. Both platforms were extended westward in 1951. An express house and freight house were located to the west of the new depot building on the same side of the tracks. At the junction with the Port Jefferson Branch a few yards east of the Broadway crossing, a switching tower designated as HX was erected. It was later changed to HN in 1929, and Divide in 1939.[5]

Location of the former LIRR Hicksville Station (third location), Jerusalem Avenue grade crossing, view west (August 7, 2015)
Location of the former LIRR Hicksville Station (third location), Jerusalem Avenue grade crossing, view west (August 7, 2015)

Grumman Station

Hicksville also had another railroad station that served employees of the Grumman Engineering Aircraft Corporation for a little over four decades. With the outbreak of war in Europe, the small aircraft plant at Grumman began getting federal contracts to build war planes and by 1940 employed 2,000 persons. At war’s end, the Long Island defense industry employed 100,000 people in three plants including Grumman. Although the company was located within the community of Bethpage, Grumman Station was on the Hicksville border at the South Oyster Bay Road crossing.[6]

Location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (first location), view east (March 29, 2015)
Location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (first location), view east (March 29, 2015)

Announcement of the planned station was made on January 22, 1942. Since rubber tires and tubes were rationed during the war and Grumman was increasing in size, the station was expected to attract riders. Details were released when Captain John A. Baumann Jr., commanding officer of Nassau’s Second Precinct, appealed to town officials for restrictions on parking along South Oyster Bay Road. A hearing was later held on February 3 for a parking ordinance to be adopted. Station construction within a few hundred feet of Grumman Plant 2 began the last week of January 1942. The westbound platform at grade extended west of South Oyster Bay Road and the eastbound platform extended east of South Oyster Bay Road. A three-sided wooden passenger shelter was erected on each platform close to the grade-level crossing. Train service began on Monday, February 2, with two morning eastbound station stops and two evening westbound. By the fall of 1942, service expanded to several trains a day in both directions. Saturday service was also provided as well as select Sunday trains.[7]

Grumman Station
Historical Fact
Date
Station erected Late January 1942
Station and two wooden passenger shelters (one on each platform) opened February 2, 1942
Station relocated (with one three-sided wooden passenger shelter on the eastbound and two on the westbound) February 1951 (author’s analysis)
Station opened February 19, 1951 (author’s analysis)
Wooden passenger shelters razed Early 1960s (author’s analysis)
Three-sided, shed-roofed metal passenger shelter erected (on westbound platform) Early 1960s (author’s analysis)
Metal shelter razed Late 1970s (author’s analysis)
Last passenger service November 29, 1985 (author’s analysis)
Station closed December 2, 1985 (author’s analysis)

The need to extend Grumman’s airfield runway after the Korean War outbreak prompted a slight controversy between the LIRR and local government since it necessitated the relocation of South Oyster Bay Road and its railroad grade crossing. In the plan, there was an exchange of property whereby the county abandoned a section of the road to the east of Plant 5 and in return Grumman dedicated a section of its property for the road’s new path a few hundred feet to the west. The railroad felt an extended runway so near the tracks increased the chance of a collision between a train and a plane. It attempted to halt the plan by taking the case to the State Appellate Court in Brooklyn. However, in December the Appellate Court unanimously confirmed the county’s decision to relocate the road and grade crossing, and the LIRR lost its case. In the meantime, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) held hearings on the matter and approved construction in July of 1950. Work began on September 5. The new road and crossing opened on February 19, 1951 allowing for the 1,200-foot runway extension.[8]

New South Oyster Bay Road grade crossing with location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (second location) eastbound platform in the center background, view east (December 24, 2015)
New South Oyster Bay Road grade crossing with location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (second location) eastbound platform in the center background, view east (December 24, 2015)

The railroad station was also relocated. The new eastbound platform was a few yards east of the new South Oyster Bay Road crossing and extended eastward to the old crossing, with one three-sided wooden passenger shelter in the center. A new westbound platform extended west of the new crossing and included two three-sided wooden passenger shelters, one in the center and one adjacent to the road. All shelters were razed in the early 1960s and a three-sided, shed-roofed metal passenger shelter was built on the westbound platform several yards west of the crossing.[9]

Location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (second location) platform, view east (March 29, 2015)
Location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (second location) eastbound platform, view east (March 29, 2015)

Although there was never any incident between a plane and train after the Grumman runway was extended, a single-engine plane crashed at the former site of Grumman Station on August 16, 2015 killing the pilot and critically-injuring the sole passenger. The crash, and subsequent explosion and fire just east of South Oyster Bay Road, destroyed signal lights at the grade crossing and damaged the rails. Luckily there was no train in the vicinity of the area at the time of the incident. The cause of the disaster was attributed to engine failure. Prior to the crash however, an air traffic controller at LaGuardia Airport recommended alternate runways to the pilot who was desperately looking for a place to land. One choice given was Grumman’s airstrip which was closed and removed years earlier.[10]

Location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (second location) westbound platform and three-sided metal passenger shelter, view west (December 24, 2015)
Location of the former LIRR Grumman Station (second location) westbound platform and three-sided metal passenger shelter, view west (December 24, 2015)

Despite the downsizing of the Grumman facility, the station continued to serve the remaining employees who used the railroad. By 1958, service was reduced to one morning eastbound and one morning westbound station stop as well as one afternoon westbound flag stop. In 1970 service was further reduced to only one morning eastbound station stop and one afternoon westbound station stop. A second afternoon westbound train was added in 1979.[11]

Nevertheless, the MTA raised Nassau County’s station maintenance bill from $5.4 million to $9.5 million in 1981. Unhappy with the hike, a team was formed by Nassau County Executive Francis T. Purcell to inspect stations countywide. In the final report, there were “unacceptable conditions” noted at twenty stations. Grumman was described as not appearing to be a station at all. In an October 30, 1981 statement, Purcell demanded that the MTA upgrade stations and added that “there [was] no Grumman Station.” He felt that the county was unnecessarily charged $1,382 a year for maintenance and operation for what was only a wide spot along the right-of-way, with no platform, no shelter, and no facility to speak of.[12]

In the end, Grumman Station was discontinued. At a meeting with Farmingdale village officials on March 28, 1985, railroad management said that plans to electrify the Main Line to Ronkonkoma necessitated closing either the Farmingdale, Bethpage, or Grumman Station. Studies were later conducted to determine potential ridership and availability of parking at all three sites. With less than ten passengers, all of them employees, Grumman Station was closed effective December 2, 1985. The last day of service was Friday, November 29. Final eastbound service was provided by train number 236 at 7:04 a.m. The last two westbound trains left at 4:22 p.m. (train number 255) and 5:13 p.m. (train number 257).[13]

Grade Crossing Elimination

Hicksville’s location, not only at the center of Nassau County’s postwar population expansion but as the site of where the Port Jefferson Branch diverges from the Main Line, created havoc for motorists at Hicksville’s grade crossings. Traffic often backed up in both directions when a train pulled into the station and the crossing gates were lowered. The situation needed to be rectified either with track elevation or depression of the tracks below ground. Elevation was eventually selected and Hicksville received a modern station with improved service. In fact, as one of the busiest stations, Hicksville has received several service upgrades, in both station facilities and rail service.

New York & Atlantic Railway EMD MP15-AC number 155 (former LIRR locomotive) and freight consist, Main Line viaduct east of LIRR Hicksville Station, view northeast: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977 (August 25, 2015)
New York & Atlantic Railway EMD MP15-AC number 155 (former LIRR locomotive) and freight consist, Main Line viaduct east of LIRR Hicksville Station, view northeast: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977 (August 25, 2015)

Prior to track elimination, Hicksville was the site of “the end of steam” ceremony upon which the LIRR discontinued steam locomotives. Termed Operation Changeover, on Saturday, October 8, 1955, two steam locomotives met at Hicksville and a special one-car train was hooked up to a brand-new diesel locomotive. Diesel fuel was the modern and sensible approach to non-electrified railroading over wood and coal used in steam locomotion. On display at the ceremony was an old locomotive bell weighing 600-pounds.[14]

LIRR Hicksville Station central building and viaduct, view southwest (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building and viaduct, view southwest (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building and viaduct, view northeast (December 24, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building and viaduct, view northeast (December 24, 2015)

In the immediate station area, the grade crossing elimination program included Broadway, Jerusalem Avenue, and the extension of Jackson Place as a new Newbridge Road that connected with Broadway north of the tracks. The new station was built at Newbridge Road. On the western approach to the station, the tracks were set on an embankment that led to a viaduct of concrete pillars with trestles over Newbridge Road, Jerusalem Avenue, and Broadway. East of Broadway was a new Divide tower. On the Main Line, the tracks ran on a viaduct of concrete pillars that crossed Marie and Nicholai Streets on trestles, and then were set on an embankment that crossed over Old Country Road. To the east of Divide tower on the Port Jefferson Branch, the tracks ran on a viaduct of concrete pillars that crossed the intersection of Barclay Street and Bay Avenue via a long trestle, and then on an embankment that crossed Bethpage Road. Bids on construction began in March 1961. In October, Hendrickson Bros. Inc. of Valley Stream won the job at the cost of $8,760,040.50. Work began shortly thereafter and was scheduled for completion on July 1, 1964.[15]

LIRR Hicksville Station central building west side entrance and vendor kiosks (December 24, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building west side entrance and vendor kiosks (December 24, 2015)

By mid-November 1962 the rails were switched over to temporary tracks constructed north of the right-of-way.[16] As the last obstacle to the project, the former 1909 brick building was razed on November 30 and a temporary building put up in its place adjacent to the redirected right-of-way.[17]

Oyster Bay Town Councilman A. Carl Grunewald told commuters and residents in August of 1963 that the project was on schedule. However, by April the following year, Grunewald reported that November rather than June was the completion date. It was also at this time that the State Legislature approved a bill to make the station part of an elevator district that provided for two sets of escalators, one for each platform.[18]

LIRR Hicksville Station south platform, view west (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station south platform, view west (August 7, 2015)

In the meantime, the two platform and three track railroad station was taking shape. Support columns were in position and ready for girders at Newbridge Road, Jerusalem Avenue, Broadway, and Marie Street. Divide tower, which resembled an air traffic control tower, was also ready for glass windows. All train traffic, as well as other train movement from Westbury to Smithtown, would be monitored at Divide. Upon completion, it was one of the most modern of the railroad’s twenty-eight towers. Inside, workers monitored a “model board” that showed the status of signals and trains under their control.[19]

LIRR Divide Tower, view south (May 29, 2015)
LIRR Divide Tower, view south (May 29, 2015)

Final construction work for the grade crossing project was as follows. On November 21, 1963 the new Bethpage Road elevated crossing on the Port Jefferson Branch carried the first locomotive on a test run. On December 12, 1963, two large steel spans were suspended over Broadway. On July 1, 1964 the first passenger train, powered by a diesel locomotive on its way from from Jamaica to Ronkonkoma with a three-car consist, crossed the viaduct at 8:39 a.m. Construction was finally completed on September 10 at 9:46 a.m. when a Port Jefferson-bound train utilized the viaduct rather than the grade-level tracks. On hand for the formal ceremony were many local politicians, LIRR President Thomas Goodfellow, three ladies dressed in mid-nineteenth century costumes to symbolize the 1837 arrival of the first train, and the Hicksville High School performing music. To the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” the orange-colored diesel engine train number 205 nudged a paper banner that stretched across the tracks reading “A New Break-Through for Hicksville and Your LIRR.”[20]

In the end, the grade elimination program cost $15 million. Work on the Charlotte Avenue crossing, to the west of the station where the railroad freight house was relocated, was completed in 1969 after the PSC called for its elimination.   In addition to the removal all grade crossings in the area, the new Hicksville Station was completed on August 18, 1964.[21]   Located under the viaduct a few yards west of Newbridge Road was a central building, containing a large ticket office, waiting room, and restrooms. Atop the viaduct extending west across Newbridge Road were three tracks and two island-type florescent-lit platforms that were each 1,235 feet-long, or twelve to fourteen car lengths. Each platform had two enclosed ten-by-fifty-foot waiting rooms and a flat overhead roof that covered approximately three-quarters of the length of each platform. Seven staircases, three on the north platform and four on the south platform, linked to street-level. Two escalators were located near the central building and brought riders to the center of each platform. The LIRR later accepted title to both escalators on April 13, 1977. New station colors were selected through a ballot box, the first elimination project of its kind on the island where residents and commuters determined colors. Out of six choices and two type of brick selections, the decision called for a speckled a white-glazed brick exterior and a “dusty” blue ceramic tile interior.[22]

Less than a year after the project was completed, a five-foot high Roman eagle statue that once adorned the entrance to Penn Station in Manhattan was installed in the north parking lot adjacent to the station. The idea to bring the statue to Hicksville came from High School Latin teacher Samuel A. Goldberg as a civic project designed to boost the study of high school Latin and ancient history. After eighteen months of prodding the railroad for the eagle, Goldberg succeeded in attaining the three-ton marble statue. The unveiling of the new station addition took place on May 15, 1965 in a dedication ceremony held by the railroad and the Hicksville High School Latin Club. A local businessman donated a pedestal for the eagle and a bronze plaque was added with the inscription “A Roman Eagle Once Vrban Is Now In Hicksville Qvite Svbvrban.” In the ceremony, the eagle was draped in a ten-foot long toga as the Star-Spangled Banner was sung in English and Latin. Then, three runners trotted into the lot carrying torches and wearing signs that read “I’m running to catch an eagle at Hicksville.”[23]

LIRR Hicksville Station Goldberg Eagle (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station Goldberg Eagle (August 7, 2015)

Over the years, weathering severely damaged the eagle’s beak. In the new millennium, the Hicksville Historical Society held a fundraising campaign to preserve the statue. After receiving help from local groups especially the Northwest Civic Association, the beak was preserved and is now named in honor of Goldberg. An official dedication ceremony following restoration was held on October 28, 2010.[24]

LIRR Hicksville Station Goldberg Eagle pedestal inscription (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station Goldberg Eagle pedestal inscription (August 7, 2015)

Track Electrification

The next upgrade for Hicksville Station came about after New York State acquired the LIRR. Seeing the railroad’s importance to the growth of the Metropolitan area, Governor Nelson Rockefeller authorized a new state board to supervise the LIRR. The new state body, the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (MCTA), met for the first time on June 29, 1965 and recommended that the state purchase the financially-troubled railroad. Under the direction of Chairman William J. Ronan, it authorized engineering studies for extension of electrified service and procurement of 500 high-speed cars in a $200 million modernization program.[25]

LIRR EMD GP38-2 number 257, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 2, view west: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (Circa Winter 1998)
LIRR EMD GP38-2 number 257, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 2, view west: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (Circa Winter 1998)

Since non-electric diesel-hauled trains were not equipped to use the East River tunnels into Manhattan’s Penn Station, passengers were forced to change trains at Jamaica. The MCTA’s proposal to modernize the railroad within a decade focused on eliminating bottlenecks at Jamaica Station and Hunterspoint Avenue Station in Long Island City, and reduce running times between Huntington and Penn Station through electrification.[26] The project began in earnest on June 13, 1967 when the railroad received a $22,697,500 federal grant dedicated towards electrification of the Main Line from Mineola to Hicksville and the Port Jefferson Branch from Hicksville to Huntington. The money came from the Urban Transportation Administration of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Total cost was estimated at $45 million. The remainder was to be funded through the issuance of bonds. It was the LIRR’s first new electrification since the Main Line was electrified to Mineola in 1925.[27]

LIRR P72 Coach and EMD GP38-2 number 257, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 2, view east: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (Circa Winter 1998)
LIRR P72 Coach and EMD GP38-2 number 257, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 2, view east: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (Circa Winter 1998)

In addition to electric service, the railroad wanted cars that could reach the speed of one-hundred miles-per-hour to reduce the forty-seven minute ride from Hicksville to Penn Station to twenty-two minutes.[28] On August 28, 1967 the state authority, now restructured as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), announced that it awarded a $57,341,085 contract to the Budd Company of Philadelphia for 270 high-speed air-conditioned electric cars. The order was financed through the state commuter car program, administered by the Port of New York Authority.[29] The order was increased to 620 new cars the following August with total cost estimated at $130 million. The expanded order was made possible by a $2.5 billion state transportation bond issue. Twenty-eight cars were planned to be delivered each month for twenty-two months. To allow for extra power so that new trains could run at peak performance with greater speed, sixty-two new power substations were installed on various branches by the end of 1969. The new “Metropolitan” cars began to replace old electric cars beginning December 30, 1968.[30]

EMD GP38-2 number 264, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 3, view west: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (Circa Spring 1997)
EMD GP38-2 number 264, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 3, view west: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (Circa Spring 1997)
LIRR EMD F7Am number 620, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 2, view east: Class PC-7, built December 1950, former Milwaukee Road 85A, out-shopped September 1980 (Circa Winter 1998)
LIRR EMD F7Am number 620, LIRR Hicksville Station south platform on track 2, view east: Class PC-7, built December 1950, former Milwaukee Road 85A, out-shopped September 1980 (Circa Winter 1998)

The electrification program coincides with a downturn in service for the LIRR. Both old and new equipment failed. During an attempt to run on a new timetable in the first week of December of 1968, everything from engines to signals delayed at least forty-five trains each day. The new schedule was adopted over objections of LIRR labor unions since it ran five more trains but used one-hundred fewer cars. Railroad officials said it would work by not letting cars stand idle and by shortening station turnaround times. The unions disagreed. The feuds between the two escalated and delays mounted. The situation prompted Governor Rockefeller to assure the public that the LIRR would be the finest commuter railroad in the nation by October 7, 1969.[31]

LIRR EMD MP15-AC numbers 160 & 150, Main Line embankment west of LIRR Hicksville Station, view west: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977 (September 20, 2014)
LIRR EMD MP15-AC numbers 160 & 150, Main Line embankment west of LIRR Hicksville Station, view west: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977 (September 20, 2014)
LIRR EMD MP15-AC numbers 171 & 168, LIRR Hicksville Station north platform track 1, view west: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977, number 168 converted to power cab option August 1983, and number 171 converted to full power cab in January 1982 and power cab option February 1982 (September 19, 2015)
LIRR EMD MP15-AC numbers 171 & 168, LIRR Hicksville Station north platform track 1, view west: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977, number 168 converted to power cab option August 1983, and number 171 converted to full power cab in January 1982 and power cab option February 1982 (September 19, 2015)

It would take a little longer than that to rectify the railroad’s inefficiencies. Since the top speed of new equipment was eighty rather than the envisioned one-hundred miles-per-hour, the railroad devised a system to improve running times with express service. For the fall of 1970, the railroad planned to create a new timetable based on a zone structure. Hicksville was chosen as the prototype zone. Formerly, westbound trains stopping in Hicksville originated in Port Jefferson or Ronkonoma. Typically, by the time they got to Hicksville they were laden with passengers and stopped at several stations before Jamaica where passengers needed to change trains. Under the proposed system, Hicksville’s zone included Hicksville, Westbury, and Carle Place. Some trains would originate in the Hicksville zone, stop at Westbury, and Carle Place, and then bypass Jamaica on their way to one of the three western terminals at Penn Station, Hunterspoint Avenue, and Brooklyn. It guaranteed most commuters a seat. On the eastbound return trip, commuters could board a train and ride nonstop to the zone. If the system worked well, the LIRR planned to institute it system-wide.[32]

New York & Atlantic Railway EMD GP38-2 number 270 (former LIRR locomotive), LIRR Hicksville Station track 1, view east: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (May 18, 2012)
New York & Atlantic Railway EMD GP38-2 number 270 (former LIRR locomotive), LIRR Hicksville Station track 1, view east: Class E-20mc, built January-February 1976 (May 18, 2012)
New York & Atlantic Railway EMD MP15-AC number 155 (former LIRR locomotive), LIRR Hicksville Station track 1, view east: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977 (May 18, 2012)
New York & Atlantic Railway EMD MP15-AC number 155 (former LIRR locomotive), LIRR Hicksville Station track 1, view east: Class E-15mc, built March-April 1977 (May 18, 2012)

In the end, a revised version of the zone structure was implemented for the inauguration of electric service to Huntington on October 19, 1970. For the morning rush-hour from Hicksville Station, a 7:33 a.m. train from Huntington to Penn Station stopped at Hicksville and Jamaica, and arrived in Manhattan at 8:46 a.m. An 8:00 a.m. train from Huntington to Penn Station stopped at Hicksville, Westbury, Carle Place, Mineola and Jamaica, and arrived at 9:02 a.m. A 7:15 a.m. train from Hicksville stopped in Carle Place and Jamaica, arriving at Hunterspoint Avenue at 8:03 a.m. For the evening rush-hour, one train left Penn Station at 4:23 p.m., stopped at Hicksville, Syosset, and Cold Spring Harbor, and arrived in Huntington at 5:14 p.m. A 5:47 p.m. train from Penn Station stopped at Woodside, Jamaica and Westbury, and arrived in Hicksville at 6:34 p.m. A 5:18 p.m. train from Hunterspoint Avenue Station arrived in Hicksville at 5:58 p.m., and lastly a 6:39 p.m. train from Jamaica stopped in Mineola, Carle Place, and Westbury and arrived in Hicksville at 7:08 p.m.[33]

LIRR Hicksville Station south platform and westbound train number 2033 on track 2, view east (November 27, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station south platform and westbound train number 2033 on track 2, view east (November 27, 2015)

While satisfied with initial results, the railroad sought further improvement. Scheduled to go into effect on June 26, 1972, a long-sought revised timetable was made possible with the approval of the railroad’s 600-member labor union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. In it, the railroad utilized all 770 new electric cars on all electrified branches, with rush-hour service being provided exclusively by new cars. Many “changes at Jamaica” were eliminated with more express trains bypassing Jamaica. Former diesel rush-hour trains were replaced with electric trains and arrival times were coordinated to the most common work hours. To serve riders during off-peak hours at non-electrified stations east of Huntington, Hicksville, and Babylon, a new technology called “push-pull” allowed an engineer to operate a diesel train from the rear car on a return trip. It eliminated the need to move a locomotive around. For the Hicksville rush-hour commute, ten electric trains and three diesel trains replaced nine diesel and four electric trains in the morning, and twelve electric and three diesel trains replaced ten diesel and four electric trains in the evening.[34]

LIRR Hicksville Station north platform and westbound train number 2301 on track 2, view west (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station north platform and westbound train number 2301 on track 2, view west (August 7, 2015)

Over the next two years the LIRR continued to tweak timetables as the conversion to all-Metropolitan cars was completed on October 31, 1973.[35] The zone structure system-wide was implemented on timetables effective May 20, 1974. Timetables were now color-coded with Hicksville as part of the Port Jefferson Branch in dark blue. Use of zones in fare collection was instituted two years earlier.[36]

LIRR Hicksville Station north platform and westbound train number 1203 on track 1, view west (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station north platform and westbound train number 1203 on track 1, view west (August 7, 2015)

Central Building Renovations

At the end of the twentieth century, a Hicksville downtown revitalization effort was undertaken by local organizations and government. A firm was hired to study the dormant character of the community and devise remedies to revive it. In its final report, Project for Public Spaces highlighted the undesirability and underutilization of Hicksville Station. Fred Kent, president of the firm, described the station as one of the worst he had ever seen but claimed that it could be turned around easily and quickly.[37] Indeed, the station deteriorated in the 1970s. One Newsday writer described it in 1979 as “not a particularly pretty place” and added that there was little color outside of the dull red plastic chairs, the blue tile walls of the main waiting room, and advertising posters. Vandalism had taken its toll with chairs thrown on the tracks and windows shattered. Restrooms were closed after 3:00 p.m. to prevent further damage.[38]

LIRR Hicksville Station central building waiting room and west side exit (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building waiting room and west side exit (August 7, 2015)

After the Project for Public Spaces report was made public, the LIRR stated that it hoped to begin station renovations within the following twelve months. While some federally-mandated work was undertaken in the spring of 1993 to make the station ADA-compliant and accessible to the disabled, new work was slated to include a new waiting and ticket area in the central building at street-level.[39] Funding was expected to come from the federal government. In a $203 billion highway and transit measure passed by Congress on May 22, 1998, Nassau County was expected to receive $40 million for five improvement projects, one of which was for a better link to the bus stops at Hicksville Station.[40] For the central building renovation, some money came from a $520 billion spending bill that was signed on October 21, 1998 by President Bill Clinton.[41]

LIRR Hicksville Station central building ticket area and waiting room (August 7, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station central building ticket area and waiting room (August 7, 2015)

Renovations began in January 2000 and were completed in January 2002 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on January 17 attended by LIRR officials and local leaders. The $5 million project was paid for through federal funding and the MTA’s capital program. Work included demolition of the former central building and construction of a new, larger building in its place. The building included new brick work, glass block window treatments, large glass storefront-type entrances, ADA-compliant doors and restrooms, and a larger waiting area and ticket area. Also installed were a new air conditioning and heating system, new tiled walls, terrazzo floors, and two new interior retail spaces. A mosaic mural was also designed in the waiting room area and was completed soon after the building was finished. Outside the central building were two new vendor kiosks, new curbs and new paving. In addition, seven station staircases were rebuilt in the spring of 2002, and new handrails and railings were installed.[42]

Morning Transit, Hempstead Plain glass mosaic mural, LIRR Hicksville Station central building waiting room (November 27, 2015)
Morning Transit, Hempstead Plain glass mosaic mural, LIRR Hicksville Station central building waiting room (November 27, 2015)
Evening Transit, Hempstead Plain glass mosaic mural, LIRR Hicksville Station central building waiting room (November 27, 2015)
Evening Transit, Hempstead Plain glass mosaic mural, LIRR Hicksville Station central building waiting room (November 27, 2015)

Future of Hicksville Station

With renovation completed in the central building, much work still needs to be done on the viaduct platform area. It was announced by State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and LIRR officials on February 23, 2015 that the station would receive a $120 million renovation. The project will included the installation of new platforms, heated and glass-enclosed waiting rooms, lighting, a translucent canopy roof, video cameras, audio and digital communications systems, signs, stairways, elevators and escalators. There will also be a new entrance to the street-level waiting room and ticket office, and an art installation that will include ceramic mosaic murals and laminated glass. About $52 million of the project, which is being funded through the MTA’s capital program, will go toward installing more than 3,000 feet of new track to connect to nearby sidings where trains are temporarily stored. It will increase the LIRR’s capacity to operate more trains to and from the station coinciding with the projected completion of the MTA’s East Side Access project, which aims to link the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal by 2022.[43]

LIRR Hicksville Station south platform and LIRR EMD DE30AC number 423 of eastbound train number 606 on track 3, view west (November 27, 2015)
LIRR Hicksville Station south platform and EMD DE30AC number 423 of eastbound train number 606 on track 3, view west (November 27, 2015)

 

Next page: Change at Manorville or Eastport: The History of the Long Island Rail Road’s Manorville-Eastport Spur

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[1] Noel Rubinton, “LIRR Station Remains the Heart of Hicksville,” Newsday (1940-1987), September 24, 1979, http://www.proquest.com; Andrea Morale, “$5 Million Renovation Project Completed at Hicksville Train Station,” Hicksville Illustrated News, January 25, 2002; Laura Blackwell, “LIRR to Try New Express Run Plan,” Newsday (1940-1987), April 14, 1970, http://www.proquest.com.

[2] “A Brief History of Levittown, New York,” Levittown Historical Society, accessed May 11, 2014, http://www.levittownhistoricalsociety.org/history.htm.

[3] 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), 51.

[4] Rubinton, “LIRR Station Remains the Heart of Hicksville”; “Long Island Rail Road Alphabetical Station Listing and History,” Trains are Fun, accessed December 13, 2015, http://www.trainsarefun.comlirrphotosLIRR%20Station%20History.htm; Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road A Comprehensive History, vol. 3: Age of Expansion (Garden City, NY Seyfried, 1984), 188; Ron Ziel and Richard Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island (Bridgehampton, NY: Sunrise Special Ltd., 1988), 36.

[5] Morale, “$5 Million Renovation Project Completed at Hicksville Train Station”; Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road A Comprehensive History, vol. 6: The Golden Age 1881-1900 (Garden City, NY Seyfried, 1984), 261; Vincent F. Seyfried, The Long Island Rail Road A Comprehensive History, vol. 7: The Age of Electrification 1901-1916 (Garden City, NY Seyfried, 1984), 341; Ziel and Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island, 131; Box 4, Book 13, Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries; Ziel and Wettereau, Victorian Railroad Stations of Long Island, 171; “Station-Hicksville-D16b-223-Water Tower-1910,” Trains are Fun, accessed February 20, 2016, http://www.trainsarefun.com/lirr/hicksville/Station-Hicksville-D16b-223-Water%20Tower-1910.jpg.

[6] Jack Altschul, “The 40s: the War Years,” Newsday (1940-1987), September 7, 1982, http://www.proquest.com.

[7] “LIRR Builds New Station near Grumman Plant,” Newsday (1940-1987), January 22, 1942, http://www.proquest.com; “Long Island Rail Road Alphabetical Station Listing and History; Box 4, Book 13, Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection; Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Rail Road Time Tables, Schedule in effect 200 AM September 20, 1942 (New York: Long Island Rail Road, 1942).

[8] “Clear Way for Grumman Airstrip,” Newsday (1940-1987), April 11, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “LIRR ‘Gunners Asleep’ Chalks Up Coup,” Newsday (1940-1987), July 12, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “PSC Derails LIRR Runway Protest,” Newsday (1940-1987), July 20, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “Board, Court Aid Grumman in LIRR War,” Newsday (1940-1987), July 25, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “LIRR Hits Runway, Board Just Yawns,” Newsday (1940-1987), August 16, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “Court Ok’s County Plan for Extending Grumman Runway,” Newsday (1940-1987), December 20, 1950, http://www.proquest.com; “Roadway LIRR Didn’t Want Opened Today,” Newsday (1940-1987), February 19, 1951, http://www.proquest.com.

[9] Ibid.; Robert C. Sturm, The Long Island Rail-Road Company: A History 1834-1965 (Long Island, N.Y.: Long Island Sunrise Trail Chapter-National Railway Historical Society, 2014), 78.

[10] “Plane Crash on LIRR,” Newsday, August 17, 2015; William Murphy, Tania Lopez, and Nicole Fuller, “Call before Crash,” Newsday, August 18, 2015.

[11] Long Island Rail Road, Schedule in effect September 2, 1958, Long Island Rail Road, Time Tables (New York: Long Island Rail Road, 1958); Robert M. Emery Long Island Rail Road Collection, Box 14, Special Collections, Stony Brook University Libraries, Long Island Rail Road Timetables, Effective May 25, 1970, by Long Island Rail Road (New York: Long Island Rail Road, 1970); MTA Long Island Rail Road, Effective December 15, 1979, Ronkonkoma Branch, The Long Island Rail Road (New York The Long Island Rail Road, 1979).

[12] Patrick Brasley, “Rail Station Upgrading Demanded,” Newsday (1940-1987), October 31, 1981, http://www.proquest.com.

[13] MTA Long Island Rail Road, Effective October 14, 1985, Ronkonkoma Branch, The Long Island Rail Road (New York: The Long Island Rail Road, 1985); Gwen Young and Dennis Hevesi, “3 Stations Studied for LIRR Hit List,” Newsday (1940-1987), March 29, 1983, http://www.proquest.com; “LIRR to Resume Regular Service,” Newsday (1940-1987), November 30, 1985, http://www.proquest.com.

[14] Richard and Anne Evers, Hicksville Traumas and a Dilemma: the Elevation of the Railroad, Destruction of West Broadway, and the G-1 Zoning Ordeal, 1961-1986 ([Hicksville, N.Y.] : Historical Committee, Hicksville Gregory Museum, 1988), 21.

[15] Ibid., 29-30.

[16] Ibid., 31.

[17] Ibid., 42.

[18] Ibid., 31-32.

[19] Ibid.; Rubinton, “LIRR Station Remains the Heart of Hicksville.”

[20] Ibid., 31-33; “Everything’s Top-Level Now in Hicksville,” Newsday (1940-1987), September 14, 1964, http://www.proquest.com.

[21] Ibid., 32.

[22] Ibid., 42-43; Ibid., 22; Ibid., 33; “Everything’s Top-Level Now in Hicksville,” Joseph M. Treen and Tony Schaeffer, “LIRR to Extend Four Suffolk Lines,” Newsday (1940-1987), April 14, 1977, http://www.proquest.com.

[23] “Vrban Eagle in Svbvrbia,” Newsday (1940-1987), April 29, 1965, http://www.proquest.com; Don Drake, “3 Tons of Latin Culture for Omnia Hicksville,” Newsday (1940-1987), May 17, 1965, http://www.proquest.com.

[24] Corey Twibell, “Eagle Has Landed: Renovated Statue Celebrated,” Hicksville Illustrated News, November 5, 2010.

[25] Stuart Dim, “LIRR Panel Seeking More Spark,” Newsday (1940-1987), June 30, 1965, http://www.proquest.com.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Paul Schreiber and Sylvia Carter, “LIRR Commuters Given New Power,” Newsday (1940-1987), October 20, 1970, http://www.proquest.com; Mike Unger, “LIRR Gets Grant to Speed Service,” Newsday (1940-1987), June 14, 1967, http://www.proquest.com.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Brad O’Hearn, “LIRR Orders 270 High-Speed Cars,” Newsday (1940-1987), August 28, 1967, http://www.proquest.com.

[30] Dave Behrens and Tom Morris, “The LIRR Looks to the Future,” Newsday (1940-1987), August 21, 1968, http://www.proquest.com; Andrew Mollison, “LIRR Finished its Conversion to New Cars,” Newsday (1940-1987), November 1, 1973, http://www.proquest.com; “RR to Juice Up N’Port Run by Fall,” Newsday (1940-1987), December 10, 1969, http://www.proquest.com.

[31] Jon Margolis, “New LIRR Timetable Multiplies Delays,” Newsday (1940-1987), December 7, 1968, http://www.proquest.com; Dave Behrens and Lewis Grossberger, “1st Riders Today Express Just a Bit of Skepticism,” Newsday (1940-1987), October 7, 1969, http://www.proquest.com.

[32] Blackwell, “LIRR to Try New Express Run Plan.”

[33] “LIRR: Current Event,” Newsday (1940-1987), October 9, 1970, http://www.proquest.com.

[34] Christopher M. Cook and Howard Crook, “LIRR Revamps Its Schedules; Adds Trains on Most Branches,” Newsday (1940-1987), June 18, 1972, http://www.proquest.com.

[35] Mollison, “LIRR Finished its Conversion to New Cars.”

[36] Kevin Lahart, “LIRR Expresses Intent to Speed Up,” Newsday (1940-1987), May 19, 1974, http://www.proquest.com.

[37] Michael Larkin, “Project Downtown Study Completed,” Hicksville Illustrated News, April 24, 1998.

[38] Rubinton, “LIRR Station Remains the Heart of Hicksville.”

[39] Larkin, “Project Downtown Study Completed”; Phillip Lutz, “L.I.R.R. Remodels 18 Stops for Disabled,” New York Times (1923-Current file), June 27, 1993, http://www.proquest.com.

[40] John M. Gonzales, “In Oyster Bay/Nassau Shares in Transit Windfall, Links to LIRR get Biggest Part of $40 million,” Newsday (Combined editions), June 28, 1998, http://www.proquest.com.

[41] James Toedtman and Ellen Yan, “Washington Briefing: A Weekly Report on People and Issues in the Nation’s Capital,” Newsday (Combined editions), October 25, 1998, http://www.proquest.com.

[42] Andrea Morale, “$5 Million Renovation Project Completed at Hicksville Train Station,” Hicksville Illustrated News, January 25, 2002.

[43] Alfonso A. Castillo, “‘Bright and Modern’ Plans for Hicksville Hub,” Newsday, February 24, 2015.

 

Next page: Change at Manorville or Eastport: The History of the Long Island Rail Road’s Manorville-Eastport Spur