When the M-1s first came, many attempts were made at operating two car trains. That didn't go well. For many years, four car units were regularly run, but as the battery and motor-alternator conditions of the cars deteriorated, brakes would sometimes apply (and wouldn't release) when the units gapped, so four-car trains were eliminated.

The MP-54's were very simple machines and any motorman/engineer could coast them through long gaps. The M-1/M-3 electrical systems tend to make brake applications when gapped if battery voltage isn't sufficient to maintain the release in control circuits. It's safe to say, though that a modern MU train in good condition is capable of coasting long distances also, but there are just too many variables in their complexities (motor/alternators, inverters, control circuitry, a/c pumps) involved to tolerate the risk.

The Special Instructions can be found in any pre-1980 Timetable, if I remember correctly. I have never seen a photo of the gap jumpers, and I'm sure they are all gone by now, stolen for the copper. The Instruction warned engineers in M-1 equipment "not to exceed the P-1 power position" when using the jumpers. They were usually kept in red-painted wooden boxes at an interlocking, often lettered "Gap Jumper".

The one I used was kept in the wooden box that was used to held rock salt for deicing walks and platforms in the snow. Not a very good place for a 600-volt cable. Now those boxes are made of Fiberglas and reside on station platforms, filled with bags of rock-salt. I think common sense won out and the gap jumper concept was quietly retired around 1982.

Gap jumpers (snakes) were stored at many interlockings which were named in the Special Instructions. One particularly sorry set we were called to use was stored in the salt box at Valley. The asbestos insulation was crumbling off it as were the rotted and split wooden handles at each end. Or once, in Hall, a newspaper was stuffed to bridge a small gap between a third rail shoe and the third rail. A pail of water was thrown on it and with a smoky exploding flash from hell, it provided enough of a path to propel the cars a couple of feet back onto the rail. The Mechanical Department manager responsible for this pyrotechnic technological feat was, for the remaining 30 years, known to everyone as "Flash". As we used to say, "That's railroading"  Info: A former LIRR Trainmaster.


My first day as an L.I. Employee January 24, 1944, I was sent to the Bay Ridge Yard to break in as a Switchtender. There was a period of about two weeks of daylight hours to get to know the track layout, practice getting on and off moving equipment, climbing ladders, walking catwalks while in motion, applying various kinds of handbrakes, a knowledge of hand and lantern signals and operating rules and a constant awareness that there was an 11,000 volt catenary about three feet above when you were on a boxcar and lower in some places where you had to duck down.

Bay Ridge at the time was a beehive of activity, a bridge route from the south and west to New England via the PRR Greenville, New Jersey, to Bay Ridge car floats. There were four drill crews around the clock plus extras, all powered by pairs of LIRR B-3 0-6-0 electrics 324-327. The New Haven moved the trains with its class EF-1 2-4-4-2 electrics **O73-0111 usually in three or four unit lashups or one of the huge EF-3 4-6-6-4 **O150-0159. However, when an EF-3 had a heavy train, a pair of B-3’s pushed to about Sixth Avenue where they were cut off on the fly.

The practice at Bay Ridge was for the B-3’s to pull the string of cars up Second Avenue where they could be switched to any of the 24 tracks in the yard. The conductor would tell the brakeman what track he would be headed for and how many cuts of cars he should wait for before riding them all the way in. This particular rainy night I rode the first car of three cuts headed towards “Benny” yard and stopped it just to clear the ladder tracks to hold the second cut of two loaded hoppers. Then when the third cut coupled, I released the brake so that I would ride all four cars down the track and couple to the two cars that were in the track all the way down at the float bridge end.

Well, the brake I had was an old ratchet type that had a great amount of slack in the chain and we had picked up momentum before I could get it all rewound. I realized we were going to couple up hard to the two cars that were in the track so I got up on the catwalk where I could do some fancy footwork when we hit. However, we still didn’t stop; the brakes on those two cars didn’t hold and I was rolling towards the water with six cars and no carfloat was in the bridge. I jumped down to the hopper car and it seemed like eternity as I wound that brake on another notch and yet another notch and we finally did stop less than a car length from the water. It was a harrowing experience to say the least.

**In steam days the New Haven electrics and diesels all had an “O” before their number. Near the end of steam this was omitted and the few remaining steam with conflicting numbers were given “S” before the number.


Jeff Skinner had a friend (a "rabbi" as they were once referred) on the LIRR who got him hired on in 1917 as a summer extra trainman (age 17). As Jeff used to say, "I came to the LIRR as summer help and stayed 48 summers."

He was working a freight train one of those early days (many guys started out in freight service as training in coupling/ uncoupling/riding cars/operating handbrakes and connecting/disconnecting air hoses.

He had to climb to the top of a moving boxcar to get to another part of the train, and just as his head cleared the top of the car, he took a mighty whack from a tell-tale. It was thickly coated in soot from years of steam locomotives passing under it. He said it took him nearly a month of scrubbing to get all the black soot out of the pores of his forehead because he got whacked so hard.

He also said that had his head cleared that car a moment later, we'd not be discussing this event. Thereafter, he very carefully approached the top of subsequent moving freight cars.  Archive/Info: Dave Keller
  Tell tales at Union Course Station, Woodhaven - View E 7/27/1930 (Sperr-Keller)

Tell-Tales: For many years tell-tales were important structures that could be found all along railroad rights-of-way.  Prior to the modern era of air and pneumatic brakes a crewman known as a brakeman was required to scale the tops of freight cars, while the train was at-speed or in motion, and manually set the each car's braking system.  Obviously, this practice was not only tedious but also extremely dangerous making the position of brakeman one of the most dangerous within the industry at that time.  The purpose of the tell-tale was to warn the man, who was usually predisposed at the time and concentrating on the job at hand, that an impending obstacle was imminent down the line.  Thanks to the invention of the airbrake the practice was ended and so has the need for tell-tales.  Interestingly, however, many of the structures could still be found along railroad tracks for decades and even today you can still find a few here and there; a historical reminder of the early years of the industry and its dangers.  Source:


1. I got to ride the Bridgehampton freight in one of the newly-arrived IC hacks, now painted bright yello0w. I got on at Patchogue and rode out to Bridgehampton. We switched the stinky duck farm(s) in Eastport and stopped on a siding there to eat lunch (really? No appetite after THAT stench).

We made it to Bridgehampton, and the freight conductor was on the bottom step of the hack ready to step off at the switch target. He forgot he was already on the bottom step and stepped down one more step . . . which wasn't there. He went off the hack, hit the ground, missed the switch target and the wheels of the hack and rolled for quite some distance. He was a stocky guy and no kid . . probably in his late 50s or early 60s . . . and apparently was lucky as he suffered no injuries that he was aware of at the time. Got up, cursed, brushed himself off and got back to work.

I rode back sitting in the cupola seat up top. Not much of a view westward as a boxcar was ahead of the hack and it was taller than the cupola windows. I got side views and a rear view only.

2. When I was about 7 my father put me in the hands of the engineer of the BUDD RDC which at the time was running the SCOOT as a 2-car train. I rode with the engineer to Babylon, and pulled the horn a few times. My father drove to Babylon and met the train, gathered me up, we walked over the pedestrian crossover to see the tracks and other trains, then drove me home. Babylon was at grade back then.

That was it. I never got a cab ride when I was actively taking photos...EVER. Not even when employed by the LIRR. 

I got several cab rides with the Boston & Maine guys in Holyoke, Mass, on several trips there to visit my half-sister in Chicopee, but with all my interest in the LIRR and with all my time spent unofficially in towers, cabins and ticket offices, I was never invited for a cab ride on the one railroad that interested me the most.

I heard years later how all these railfans got cab rides and it really irked me. Dave Keller


My father worked for Piel Brothers in East New York. When he drove me (a teenager) around to various locations to take photos (1966-67), he'd have some 6-packs in the trunk. When I tried to gain access to the interior of interlocking towers, he'd use the beer to bribe the block operator into letting me get some photos inside.  Dave Keller


Sunrise-Special-playing-cards_c.1921.jpg (68424 bytes)You could play cards in any of the cars . . . SCOOT or otherwise. However, when the LIRR welded the seats fixed with half the seats facing west and half the seats facing east, it pissed off loads of commuters who faced the seats towards each other for decades so as to play cards on the trip to and from work. The LIRR had even issued lap boards so commuters didn't pull the advertising signs down from the cars and use THEM as lapboards! 

By permanently welding the seats and later purchasing the "new" M1 cars with no moveable seats, it reduced the number of commuter card games rather abruptly. The only seats facing each other were at the vestibules and fit three commuters on one side and two on the other, facing the three. 

The reason the LIRR welded the seats half facing one way and half facing the other way, was because it was too much of an effort on the part of train crews to flip all the seats facing the opposite direction after the trip as was done from time immemorial. Guess they felt $1,000 a week back then (1970s) wasn't enough to include flipping the seats as part of their job description. The Union felt it should be the job of the car cleaners, a separate union.  Dave Keller
 Sunrise Special playing cards c.1921


Re: The zip cars. I was always amazed the cars didn't buckle and derail with the weight of an ALCO FA on the point and a C420 shoving from behind. A few did, but overall, these trains were successful. I imagine the exchange on inertia through the car frames was a "shock" to the car structures.

I hated the new paint scheme, except when it first came on line. Then it was a novelty, but I wish, wish, wish, the MTA had the courage to allow the LIRR to maintain the individuality it historically deserved. The original Parlor trains coming out of Jamaica, with 17 blue striped heavyweights, was a wonderful sight which I was fortunate to see and record. These cars were luxurious in a 1950's sense, with overstuffed swivel seats and bronze luggage racks.

Standing at Nassau Tower on a Friday night, camera in hand, you could hear two ALCO c420's on the point and the rumble was a precursor. At high speed, they'd hit the crossing and the "chunk" of the weight on the rails was immediately followed by the baritone singing of six-wheel trucks in rapid succession. You had just enough time to snap your picture, wind the thumb lever, spin around and take in the train while you simultaneous looked over your should for the open-end observation car on the tail, and then a whirl wind of newspaper pages and dust. After that, you couldn't catch "The Cannonball" again, so you waited for the twin RS2's on the "Shelter Island Express". Great days for teenage railfans. Info: Richard Glueck

Long Beach Station - Ticket case 7/12/1972 Photo/Archive: Dave Keller











Ticket-case_Babylon_2001_Kevin Fehn.jpg (60941 bytes)One story about the ticket cases. I had worked at both Flatbush and Jamaica. We got a new clerk who had just finished posting at Jamaica and she got used to the way the tickets were set up in the case. Her next assignment was Flatbush which of course, had the tickets set up differently. She decided to re-arrange every ticket to the way it was in the Jamaica cases. Unfortunately, when she cut the case, every ticket she listed was wrong. The bookkeeper was pulling his hair out when we realized what she did and when she came in she had to put everything back the way it was. Just one of those little experiences from a long time ago.  

Babylon Ticket case: Photo/Info: Kevin Fehn 


I can give one story on myself for this. As a young extra agent covering Mastic on the AM, I had to get orders ready for the westbound. As I am writing and finishing up the orders and card, I hear a man telling someone that I will have to go outside and give the papers to the engineer so he can go further. When I look at the ticket window, I see the man and a young boy about 7 years old.

Now I decide I am going to be Joe Cool and do this right. I wave to him and tell them I have to close the window to go outside. I go through the whole thing of locking the ticket case, window, etc and wait for the engineer to acknowledge the order board. As I hear him, I lock up the office, really taking this too far, and go outside to hoop up the order and cards. As the the train gets closer, I see the engineer motioning that he wants both sets up on the engine. I get the sticks together and just as the engine gets to me, a gust of wind comes up and blows the orders off the sticks and down towards William Floyd Pkwy. I didn't tighten them too well.

Now I have the engineer pissed at me since he has to wait for me to get the orders and the poor kid is standing on the platform while his father explains that this is not how it done. I could only laugh and shrug my shoulders. I never played Joe Cool again. Info: Kevin F.

More LIRR Hooping Orders

LIRR #113 H10s at DIVIDE Tower, Hicksville - Engineer Robert Creighton Photo/Archive: Art Huneke


Captree_State-Park_Special_Fishing-Trip_1970.jpg (172814 bytes)Home to the largest public fishing fleet on Long Island, Captree State Park is a fishing haven and a picnicker's delight, located on the eastern tip of Jones Island at the end of the Ocean Parkway. Open and charter boats are available for saltwater fishing. No license or equipment is necessary as the boat staff provides everything you'll need for a day on the Great South Bay or the Atlantic Ocean.
If you are unfamiliar with that Park, its main function is to serve as one of the largest places on the Island (save perhaps Montauk) to grab a "party" boat to go fish. Also a great spot for crabbing and fishing off a dock. Just watch the tide, it just whips through there except at slack water. The only way I could think of is that the LIRR offered a package to go to Babylon and then a bus to Captree.

The Fish trains were once a big deal, a very early express train to go out East to drop off fishermen. A box car loaded with ice was provided for the trip home for the angler and his catch. Must have been a fun train for the CAMs (Car Appearance Maintainer = Coach Cleaner) to clean back in Richmond Hill. I didn't know they also made a stop at Canoe Place (seen from your page), that's great. Once a fantastic place for fish such as Winter Flounder and Weakfish (Sea Trout), and a easier walk than what you find at Montauk. I believe before the hurricane of 1938 (LI Express), the bulk of the fleet docked near the older station in the area called Navy Dock, so picking up the party boats was much easier then.

Unfortunately, the fishing is a pale shadow of what it once was, but at the time it must have been great to have an express train take you out there and then a short walk to the fleet. Still some interesting fishing out there, including some great fresh water fishing a short walk away (don't mind the blue-green algae). The fleet now lies in present day Montauk Harbor near Gosman's and the main surf fishing is nearly 10 miles at the Point, so taking the train now isn't as attractive as it used to be. Unless you're sitting in the usual traffic on Rt. 27, which is almost enough at times to brave the Hipster parade and unruly teens from the Boardy Barn found today.   


More LIRR Fishing



 Fisherman's Special Fare Flyer  - May 28th thru September 7th, 1970


LIRR206_LIST-Greenport-viewE-Semaphore_Fall1774_ EdKoehlerJr.jpg (76859 bytes)For many years it was the practice of the Chapter to have an annual dinner; in the fall of 1974 this event was held aboard the Sunday round trip train to Greenport with a buffet style meal being served during the train’s layover in Greenport station. Most of the Chapter members boarded the train at Mineola; as was the practice at the time, member Gene Collora had organized this trip. The usual consist of this train was one of the Alco 2000 horsepower road switchers with three P72 coaches. To provide for the Chapter members, two of back to back observation cars were added to the east end of the train with a former Boston and Maine coach converted to a bar car (used for food service) between the Chapter’s reserved cars and the regular train consist. The picture above shows the train in question standing in Greenport station after the Chapter members attending had enjoyed their meal. Dinner and layover time over; the train departed on its westbound run, the fall sun having already dipped below the horizon. The train proceeded making all of its scheduled local stops; the trip was uneventful as far as the Yaphank station stop. Going west from Yaphank, the Long Island Rail Road climbs a slight grade known as the ‘Yaphank Hill’; on the south side of the tracks is a Suffolk County government complex which in 1974 included the county jail’s farm. Our Alco Product's L1 began to accelerate hard out of the Yaphank station stop in order to climb the hill. Suddenly the train had an emergency brake application and came to a sudden stop. The jail’s farm herd of cows had thought that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence and had crossed onto the Long Island Rail Road right of way to feed. Suddenly several of the cows came into the glow of the accelerating locomotive’s headlight. As the locomotive came to a stop several of the cows were deceased and others were mortally injured under the locomotive. The LIRR Police was summoned to the scene and made attempts to euthanize the wounded bovines with their .38 Police Special sidearms. The train was delayed at the location for about two hours that evening as the line was cleared. Six cars back in the rear observation, none of the Chapter members were injured in the sudden stop; and up to that point it had been a great day out on the line.  By: Ed Koehler, Jr., Semaphore January 2017 



Yard View-VD-East End of Yard-Bklyn-View SE- 05-11-79 (Madden-Keller).JPG (160562 bytes)I was posted by an old fart who remembered the EX yard when it existed, but sat unused, and was dark, stinky and "scary". A shame that it couldn't be used to get FBA a couple more tracks. Old Brook tower's model board showed where they existed at one time and the switches and signals that controlled it, but was long painted over. (At the time the track numbers were reversed, what is today's 6 was then 1 track, and so on. I forgot how many were there total if you include the EX Yard) When I started in the mid-90's the space was opened up and used by the TA for parking, etc. I owned a job down there for a while and would fight over parking there, but was told even though it had been LIRR property I was S.O.L. and had to walk from Van Yard. Now we don't even have that.

Now the space is totally enclosed and off-limits to all except the TA, so don't expect to see anything. One thing that's interesting about how much meat traffic there was at one time. Not only what went to EX yard but also what was served on the ramp that went from Van yard up to the meat houses that were on the ground level. At one time there was a nice old apple tree about 2/3 up the ramp from where someone working that job tossed his apple core. Again, all gone now...  Anonymous 

After looking at the maps, I didn't realize that the leads to the yard were so far east of the station. My mind is going.    FLATBUSH

When I worked there in the mid 70's, it was still open space. During the winter you had to walk all the way back to the boiler room by the last track to restart the 
boiler every other day during the winter when it crapped out. Next to the boiler room was an area where Civil Defense supplies were kept and then came the 
meat markets. As I said, I used one of the elevators back there once, and only once to go up to one of the markets.

As a side piece, I got the brilliant idea to save the company some money while I was there and had a cleaner go get some of the opened water barrels, cut a 
hole for a chain and then painted them blue. I used them to replace some of the bad garbage cans we had. The only problem was my boss wanted to kill me and 
made me put back the old ones. So much for saving money.

One other story, one of the cleaners used to feed all the cats that lived back there. It was another good idea, they kept the rats away, but, we got infested with 
fleas. I called purchasing for an exterminator. They guy told me to get rid of the cats and I told in no certain terms what to do. He then said get flea collars and put 
them on the cats. I told him to come down and put them on. He called the exterminator.  Anonymous