LIRR Watchman Crossing Shanties
ICC Division of Valuation LIRR Watchman Shanty Type W-96 page 26 8/26/1916  Archive: Dave Morrison

Holban Yard Lumber Shop - Crossing shanties under construction Photo: LIRR valuation 6/12/1919
Archive: Dave Morrison

Crossing Watchman Cap badge c.1920s
Archive: Yardgoat

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LIRR Crossing Shanty- Cannonball by Dave Morrison 11/2005

Watchman Crossing Shanty - Ocean Ave, Malverne view N Archive: Dave Morrison


Map design: Steven Lynch    Research: Dave Keller  

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View west of 4 stall engine house from the roof of the brick freight house  
c. 1910 W. J. Rugen Collection: SUNY, Stony Brook, NY
West Avenue was ORIGINALLY on the EAST side of the crossing as is evident in the Ackerly Piano shot of the engine house. Once the Hostler's House was moved to the end of the siding adjacent to the turntable, the crossing shanty was moved/rebuilt where you've got it indicated on your map.  I have no  idea when the transformation took place.  THEN . . after 1963, a NEW, metal crossing shanty was erected at West Avenue again on the EAST side of the crossing. . . . All shanties at West Ave. were NORTH of the tracks.  Research: Dave Keller
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West Ave Replacement Shanty view NW 1968
Photo/Archive: Dave Keller


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River Ave view E to PELCO Plant  4/24/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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River Ave View S 10/1943
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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River Ave Underwood Coal & Coke View W 10/1943
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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West Ave view N Coaling Ramp 05/1943
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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West Ave view E Freight House 09/1944
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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Railroad Ave view W 03/02/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

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Railroad Ave view N 05/1943
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

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Railroad Ave view S 03/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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Railroad Ave close-up view S 03/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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Rider Ave view SE Photo: R. Ziel

Rider Ave - View N  1968
Photo/Archive: Dave Keller

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Bay Ave view N 4/24/1946

Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

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Bay Ave view N 1968
Photo/Archive: Dave Keller

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Bay Ave view S 4/24/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

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Bay Ave view E 4/24/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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Bay Ave view W 4/24/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

Ex-Bay Ave crossing shanty - Oyster Bay Railroad Museum 5/30/2021  Photo/Archive: Dave Morrison

Ex-Bay Ave crossing shanty sign with 1970 Dave Keller photo.
OBRM 5/30/2021  Photo/Archive: Dave Morrison
  Patchogue - South - South Country Road Xing Shanty - Closeup - 4-46.jpg (62418 bytes)
South Country Road view S
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller
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South Country Road view W, Mail Crane for the East Patchogue Post Office - 4/24/1946
Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

Each shanty had an electric box connected to the track circuit.  There would be 2 lights . . . one marked Eastbound and one marked Westbound.

When  a train entered the circuit, the light would go on emitting a noise to attract the attention of the crossing watchman.

He'd then go out and hold up his stop sign, or red lantern or lower the gates if his crossing was so equipped.  He had to be notified well in advance, because he'd have to have time to go across the tracks and lower the far side gates, by hand cranking them and then return and lower the near side gates by hand cranking them.

Assuming this was an express train traveling at 70 mph and not intending to stop, he had to move his ass.

Then there were the REALLY busy guards who worked double track territory, especially electric territory.  Trains ran along the Babylon-Jamaica portion of the Montauk branch every 30 minutes in each direction.  That was a lot of light indicators flashing, and crossing watchmen running back and forth to lower both sets of gates . . . especially when an eastbound AND a westbound passed each other at or near his crossing!

You may have fallen asleep on the job had you been guarding the crossing at South Country Road east of Patchogue, but you'd be quite awake if you were guarding the crossing at Little East Neck Road west of Babylon or even Deer Park Avenue for that matter with trains going in and out of the yard east of the station!  BTW: Each had its own pot-bellied stove. Research: Dave Keller

Multiple Crossing Watchman/Shanties - Patchogue

Hicksville and Babylon (1962-64 and 1963-64, respectively) were not the last locations of multiple crossing watchmen.

I photographed the crossing shanties at Patchogue between 1968 and 1972 on multiple occasions (i.e. 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972) with the exception of South Country Road because I never knew there was one there at the time.  Perhaps there wasn't and it was already gone . . . who knows.  I never ventured that far east from PD tower as a teenager on my bike.

I believe the shanties were all gone starting sometime in 1973.  I stopped hanging around the tower after 1972 and was full-time as a junior at SUNY @ Stony Brook and no longer had the free time to hang out, otherwise I'd have been made privy as to when the shanties were being removed and I'd have made it a point to get some photos of their removal.

Also, it was one of those quick changes where I drove by the crossing one day and the shanty and watchman was there and I drove by it a week or so later and said "WTF?  Where'd the shanties go?"

There were simultaneously-manned crossings one avenue apart from each other:  River Ave., West Ave., Ocean Ave. (PD tower), Rider Ave., Bay Ave.

Railroad Ave. no longer existed as a crossing after the 1963 rebuild of the station facilities and yard, however West Avenue got a new metal shanty as a result of the rebuild.  Perhaps the West Ave. shanty was more decrepit than the others and needed replacement, or perhaps it fell apart upon removal.

You'd think they would have saved a buck and moved the Railroad Ave. shanty one avenue over to West as the replacement, but they didn't.

River, Rider and Bay all retained the original wooden shanties, but they were well out of the rebuild zone.  That may have had something to do with their original structures being left in situ. 

There was NO buzzer or communication between the crossing shanties at PD tower. No, there was no crossing watchman. 

The towerman had the model board that showed the approaching trains with lights that lit up on the board.  The block operator flipped on the Ocean Ave. flashing lights by switch and hand-cranked the gates down from the 2nd storey of the tower until the manual gates were replaced by automatic ones with flashing lights in 1969.  Then the old cranking assembly and linkage was removed from the tower. Technically, as block operator, he had the power to stop said trains if required. 

All material above thanks to Dave Keller for the contribution/research/archives.

LIRR South Country Rd Crossing, Patchogue

“… As for the crossing shanty at South Country Rd, It didn’t exist as of 1962; if it ever existed. I hit my first car there, on a rainy night in ‘62, while bringing in the L-50 (west bound Montauk Freight). A young kid had taken his Father’s brand new station wagon for a ride.

I could see from a distance that he was going to try to beat the train. There was a speed restriction from that point into the station and I was already slowing down (Note*), so when I put the train into emergency I only went about 10 or 12 cars past the impact point. At the time, we had an Engineer, Fireman, Conductor, Flagman and Head end man (Pin Puller).The Head end man and I walked back and found the car that just cleared the ROW. (Note**)

The car was hit about a foot in from the rear. The windshield was blown out and the kid was still sitting in the driver’s seat. When I looked at him through the open windshield he asked me, "What’s my father gonna say?” I told him he was gonna call him a s**t head and I grabbed him to pull him out.

When the cop drove up and asked ME what I was going to do. I told him that the kid wasn’t hurt, but I was going to beat the crap out of him. Funny, this was one of the few times I wasn’t sued or threatened with arrest…”

Note: *  When I was new on the RR, there was a speed restriction on all trains coming into Patchogue, I believe it was 40 mph, due to the many unprotected close crossings.

Note: **  It was not unusual to have a large crew on double ended freights. This is at a time before radios, when hand signs had to be used with 70 or 80 cars when switching. We had large trains with roofwalks on top of the cars that allowed the men giving signs to be up high, very helpful around curves. Thanks to Ed Schleyer for the contribution.

Central Islip

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Central Islip, Carleton Ave view E
 c.1918 Photo: George G. Ayling Archive: Dave Keller

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Central Islip, Carleton Ave view E
 c.1918 Photo: George G. Ayling Archive: Dave Keller

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Central Islip, Carleton Ave view E
E51sa Camelback c.1918 Photo: George G. Ayling 
Archive: Dave Keller

The sign on the structure states the crossing is protected between certain hours.  Mail crane in the center background in line with the locomotive.  Express house beyond shanty.  Central Islip State Hospital siding/spur coming off main just east of the crossing.

A great shot taken from in front of the depot and zoomed in.  Ayling probably had to snap the image then set the camera down and hold the order hoops up.  Couldn't do  it if he got closer to the crossing.  


Elevated Crossing Shanties

Autumn Ave. Brooklyn - Elevated Crossing Gate Tower
View SE 7/27/1930 (Sperr-Keller)
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Floral Park at Carnation Ave. 1951 Elevated crossing shanty so the watchman could see OVER the high-level platforms Info/Archive: Dave Keller

When Floral Park station was relocated and replaced in 1909, the platforms were low.  The crossing shanties at Carnation and Tulip Avenues were standard shanties built at grade.

When the high-level platforms were installed some years later, the visibility from these shanties was blocked by the high-levels, so the shanties were jacked up and the bottom enclosed. Dave Keller


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Guard at Union Hall Street Jamaica 12/16/1929

Floral Park - Pedestrian walk-under at Tulip Ave. crossing, view E,  with "PARK" tower in the right background and also visible is the branch to Hempstead. c.1944 (Weber-Morrison)

Tulip Ave, Floral Park  zoom Elevated crossing shanty View N/NW C.1950

Other Shanty Locations

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Amityville shanty 02/15/1946 Archive: Dave Morrison
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Bethpage 10/1944 Archive: Dave Morrison
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Greenpoint Ave Blissville 12/25/1970
 (Dave Keller photo and archive)
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Farmingdale c.1946 view E Photo: Fred Weber Archive: Dave Keller

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Watchman lowering gates at Broadway St. Hicksville 1959 Archive: MTA


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Crossing Shanty and Power Grid Plainfield Ave. Floral Park Hempstead Branch view NE 10/12/51 (Faxon-Keller)

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Crossing Shanty Plainfield Ave G5s LIRR #38 train view W at junction of Creedmoor Branch Floral Park c. 1950

 FM-CPA24-5-2401-Train-West Approaching Tulip Ave. Xing-Floral Park-View E-Park Tower-Hemp Br. at  R-1955 (Keller).jpg (129804 bytes)
FM CPA24-5 #2401 in Tichy color scheme is westbound approaching the Tulip Avenue crossing.  It's a 3-car train so most probably from Oyster Bay.  It's on the express track so it's not going to make the station stop, which was designated primarily for Hempstead trains.  The crossing watchman has just lowered the gates.  Shanty has been elevated to see past the station high-level platforms and give the crossing watchman better visibility down the tracks in each direction.  This was also done at Carnation Avenue, the first crossing west of the station.  Notice the crossing shanty has the letter "T" on the wall telling train crews that the telephone which is usually inside the "T" box with the letter "T" outside, is, in this case, located INSIDE the crossing shanty for train crew use.   View is east.  "PARK" tower and the junction of the Hempstead branch is visible in the right background.  c. 1955 (Dave Keller archive)
Richmond Hill Station - Crossing Shanty 1900
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Garden City shanty c.1940s 
Archive: Dave Morrison
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Holban Yard - Shanty production 1919
Crossing Shanty-Franklin Ave - Hempstead X-ing - Garden City - c. 1930.JPG (47317 bytes)
Franklin Ave., Garden City view E towards Hempstead Crossing  c.1930 Archive: Art Huneke

S1 #419 Laurel Hill - Phelps Dodge Plant private grade crossing and shanty.
View west 5/02/1974 Photo: Richard Makse Archive: Dave Keller
Note: Nichols Siding, named after the Nichols Copper Co In the 50's and 60's. 

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Laurelton shanty 4/30/1946 Archive: Dave Morrison

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Station crossing tower
5th Street LI City 01/1971
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Malverne shanty 05/1943 Archive: Dave Morrison
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ALCO S2 #445 pulling freight eastbound past crossing shanty and watchman at Maspeth Ave. crossing, Maspeth, NY - 9-18-69 (R. F. Makse photo, Dave Keller archive)
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Watchman at Osborne Ave, Riverhead view S  c.1946
Photo: Fred Weber, D. Keller archive