With service down to one train each way per weekday, it's not easy for someone living in Westchester to find time to ride from Long Island City to Jamaica via the Lower Montauk. For me, Good Friday seems to work the best and I think I've made the trip about three out of the last four years. For my money, since they discontinued the old Bayonne Scoot many years ago, the ride from LIC to Jamaica via what employees call the Lower Montauk, is the best railfan ride going in the NY area.
As usual, the Good Friday weather was pretty crappy, gray and rainy. Hey at least it was warm! I rode the No.7 out to Hunterspoint Avenue and then walked back to LIC. I had time to spare and I enjoy the walk. Especially the pedestrian bridge over the Hunterspoint Avenue leads off 21st St.
I boarded the train at the high-level island platform at LIC, a 3-car Oyster Bay train (562?) with a 500-series diesel up front, the 519 I think. About four or five other people boarded and away we went. One thing was different right away about this year's trip -the asst conductor collected my ticket!
We made the low speed crawl up to the interlocking by the 11th Street grade crossing. As always I thought for a moment the train was taking the switch to HP Ave - either I was on the wrong train or it doesn't go Lower Montauk anymore - but then I could see the HP lead out the coach window and we weren't on it! Whew! One odd thing, there were three cars and a truck waiting at the 11th Street grade crossing for us to clear. I was surprised a little dead end street could get that much traffic.
Then we stopped by the little yard office at the interlocking, maybe the crew needs a clearance card? Then we proceeded east past the "Begin Secondary" sign. There was a train holding in what I think is a pocket track east of the yard office. 500 on the west end then about six coaches and the 516 on the east end. (I saw it later at Jamaica, as Train 2734 to Speonk.)
We moved at very low speed until we passed the "End Secondary-Begin Block" sign east of the Montuak Cut-Off switch. I thought back to trips made many years ago when the train still made stops along the line. It does get kinda lonely on board since they discontinued stops like Habermans and Penny Bridge. (Wonder what all those people did when their service ended?) Of course back in the 70s - when the OB train parked on the northernmost track along Borden Avenue in LIC, the rear car about at 5th St. (you just walked into the yard and climbed on!) - there used to be a good 50-60 people on board out of LIC.
We were on Tk 2 and I noticed from my upper level window Tk 1 looked a little rough. (Of course I don't know what Tk 2 looks like since we were on it!) The ballast looked a little thin, it was jointed rail and some of the ties looked pretty beat up. Is it still considered a main track? I also couldn't really determine if Tk 2 was stick or cwr. The ride was pretty smooth, at least until we got close to Fresh Pond where I'm sure I heard clickety-clack and the car swayed and rolled a bit. There was a train or cut of cars up on the Fremont track when we went under it. And some NY&A power sitting by the embankment. One MP15 in NY&A livery, one MP15 in LIRR paint and very very dirty.
Then we were rolling along past the old Rockaway Branch and through Forest Park. Another thing I like about the Lower Montauk. The changing scene. All LIRR on the west end, the heavy industry along Newtown Creek, then lighter industry in what I guess is Maspeth, the freight yard and then you're in the country! A few more minutes and you're back in the City, barreling through a real urban scene at Ozone Park - Hey what happened to the high-level platform? - and then a very different look at Jamaica as you arrive on the high embankment past the bi-level coach shop and the diesel train storage tracks. Nice bird's eye view of Morris Park engine termnal out the right hand side too.
I spent a few minutes trainwatching at Jamaica. What a place during a rush hour. All the different routes, eastbounds coming down the hill, up from the 'hole'. Watching the Oyster Bay train I rode climb up to the Main Line while an MU train went under it. Seems like there's always three or four trains in view.
Most interesting train I saw -a 6-car MU. First two were M3s, rear four were M1s! 9331-9332 and 9609-9610. The rear pair still in the old blue stripes. Then, because I had to surrender my ticket on the way out (Seven bucks Ouch!), I decided to take the E train back to Manhattan. Hey there's more girls on the subway anyway.