Hillside - Hollis - Holban Yard


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Ticket - Jamaica- Hillside c.7/1929+ Archive: Brad Phillips

Ticket_NY-Penn-Hillside-Weekly_6-22-1936_BradPhillips.jpg (80892 bytes)
Ticket - NY Penn-Hillside Weekly 6/22/36 
Archive: Brad Phillips

Hillside Station - View E 2/28/1931 William J. Rugen collection-Queens-Library

On this date, the Jamaica East grade elimination/elevation project was almost complete. The permanent Track 2 here is still being installed. The temporary Track 2 is next to the eastbound platform here and temporary Track 4 is on the other side of the platform. A little over a week later, on March 8, the permanent Track 2 will be placed into service and temporary Track 2 will become Track 4. The new Montauk Branch overpass is on the right and Holban Yard on the right side of the right of way. Jeff Erlitz

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Hillside Yard PNC GP7 #1503 view E 1/1977 
Photo: Tim Darnell from M-1 on the viaduct

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Emery Map Hillside - Union Hall St. (MP10) to Brenton Ave. (170th St.) 1905-06

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Emery Map Hillside MP10 past Hillside station 
& Liberty Ave. 08/1958 - Depicts the Main Line tracks to Hillside, with the Holban Yard approach tracks north of Liberty Avenue and the curve of the "Springfield Branch" tracks towards St. Albans.  Info/Archive: Dave Keller

Timetable Hillside Facility 3/06/2021 Archive: LIST


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Depicts the Main Line approach tracks to Hillside 2/26/1931. There was a "main track" signal on 6 secondary that was used to hold out trains until the yardmaster and yard crew was ready to handle it. That was right by substation 4 and only displayed stop signal or restricting. I have included a print of that signal which I believe was still around until Holban's operations were moved to the west end.
Archive/Info: Richard Makse

Hillside Station abandoned 178th Place view W - 8/30/2007 Photo/Archive: Kevin Wong

Hillside Maintenance Complex: The complex is on a 30 acre site four miles east of Jamaica Station. The maintenance facility is 560,000 sq. ft. with the support complex a 340,000 sq. ft.4 story building. The wheel truing and under car cleaning facility is 26,000 sq. ft. The complex has a 102 car lay-up yard with a capacity of 60 cars maintained at one time indoors utilizing an automated storage and retrieval system with an automated Guideway vehicle system.

There is an overpass for employees to access the facility from a station with both direction platforms of the Main line. Thus, the station has an employee only timetable as access to the facility is guarded. The design objective was to create a facility arranged to: foster efficient work flows, reduce the need for excessive movement and transfer of materials and to utilize computers and robotics for efficient inventory management and delivery. In addition, it was designed to provide easy access to all levels of railcars and create a safe clean working environments by automated cleaning of cars and components before they enter the main work area.  Construction began in January 1984 and was completed in 1991. Steve Quigley

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View E from the pedestrian overpass at Hillside Station.  You see a two track Main Line and Holban Yard to the right. - c. 1920s  (Dave Keller archive and info.)

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LIRR S2 #452 #454 Hillside Yard

Station-Hillside-Hi-Level Platform Const-Holban Yard-East-8-18-30.jpg (162048 bytes)
View E from the elevated Montauk ("Springfield") branch, showing the Jamaica East Improvement project underway at Hillside.  The station is at the far left.  The Main Line is still only two tracks wide.  Framing for the new high-level platforms is visible at the left, as is the old pedestrian crossover.  Holban Yard is off to the right and, buried under the dirt of the curved embankment at the right is the curve of the old Main and third rail guard of the "Springfield" (Montauk) branch - 8/18/30  (LIRR valuation photo, Dave Keller archive and info.)
Station-Hillside-4-track Main-Hi Platforms-Elev Mtk Br-Holban Yard-East-4-30-31.jpg (110465 bytes)
View E from the elevated Montauk ("Springfield") branch, showing the new, high-level platforms and shelters at Hillside station, the new four track Main Line and Holban Yard to the right - 4/30/31  (LIRR valuation photo, Dave Keller archive and info.)

Hillside facility - View NE 6/20/2019
Photo/Archive: Andy Ciavarella



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Emery Map Hillside Hollis - Holban Yard to MP12
Depicts the Main Line tracks between Hillside and Hollis, and MP 12 showing the upper portion of Holban yard. Notice the curved tracks at the bottom left crossing over Liberty Avenue. 
Archive: Richard Makse Info: Dave Keller

Hollis Station - Tower #43 in the background - View W c.1900
Archive: Art Huneke

Hollis Station - View E from Tower #43 1901
Photo: Hal Fullerton Archive: Suffolk County Historical Society

Hollis Station - "IS" Tower 7/1936 Archive: Dave Keller
Note: Renamed “HOLLIS” Tower 4/23/37

Hollis Station - "IS" Tower view W  6/1920
Archive: Art Huneke

Hollis Station - "HOLLIS" Tower  - LIRR #41 Train #524
3/11/1942 (Boerckel-Morrison)

Hollis Service Facility (HFS)
HSF 1.jpeg (156621 bytes) HSF 2.jpeg (158518 bytes) HSF 3.jpeg (213401 bytes) HSF 4.jpeg (198156 bytes) HSF 5.jpeg (206482 bytes) HSF 6.jpeg (203759 bytes)
The Hollis Service Facility (HSF) is located on a 30-acre site in Hollis, NY with construction commencing in 1982 thru 1991, at an estimated cost of $380 million. Brochure: LIRR/MTA Archive: Mike Boland 
HSF Back cover.jpeg (175800 bytes)


Holban Yard
Opened in 1906
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Emery Map - Holban Hump Yard south of Liberty Ave and extending to MP12 on the "Springfield branch." 08/1958
The tracks curving off to left of the yard are the "Springfield branch" tracks between Hillside and St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, connecting to the Montauk branch. Info/Archive: Dave Keller


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Holban South Yard - View NW 12/1976 
Photo/Archive: Tim Darnell

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Holban Yard sign 1980 Photo/Archive: Steven Lynch

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BLW DS4-4-1000 #450 Holban Yard Hollis 03/24/1963 
Archive: Dave Keller

LIRR Holban Yard  2019 N is at left.

Making up Freight in Holban Yard

Hillside-Yard-Shanty_viewE_mid1950's_MartinQuinn.jpg (320452 bytes)Holban Yard Freight Switching: #7 track was the running track to get through the yard on many occasions. It was usually kept clear for this purpose. The sorter tracks from #8 to #14 were used for making up work trains and trains destined to south side locations: L-46 to Far Rock, West Hempstead and Long Beach, or Babylon Freight which did Lynbrook to Babylon and return. The low ladder tracks were longer and usually trains had to be doubled over as it was easier for the yard crew doing the doubling to pass signs into the low ladder tracks. In the fifties and sixties, the east end freights would leave Holban with fifty or sixty cars and return with a like number.

As far as switching cars into trains as per location: This was true on long haul jobs, such as Greenport and Montauk, but on jobs like the Babylon job, cars had to be placed into the train placing cars ahead that would be dropped off first, next and so on. We didn't have time between following trains to switch on the main track. On the Babylon freight, the first stop was Lynbrook Team yard to put the train in order. In later years, Lynbrook could not be used and the train was made up "in spot order" by the Holban yard crew.

As for doubling the train, as for the east end jobs, their trains would not fit all into one track and they would be doubled over when their time was next to leave the yard. Many times when freight was heavy, these jobs would have their engines up on the hump, while the hack was down around St. Albans end of the yard.  J.J. Earl 2012 email correspondence



Holban Yard Shanty - View E  c.mid-1950's Archive: Martin Quinn


Anyone driving up the hill off Liberty Ave. at 184th Street into Holban yard these days would hardly think that Holban was once the main hub for freight on Long Island. Today it is a parking lot for employees in the Hillside facility.

When I retired in 1995, the “yard” consisted of six tracks. One track held forty stone cars and one track had to remain clear so that moves could be made from one end of the yard to the other. That left four tracks for any other cars that might come our way for the engineering Dept.

It was not always this easy.

In the late fifties and through the seventies the yard was a sorting place, or marshaling yard for all freight destined for east of Jamaica.

During the day, sixty car hauler freights came in from Yard A and set their cars of onto Holban Hump.

These trains came in through Jamaica and Hillside to set their cars off onto one of nine hump tracks. It was impossible for the crew to relay hand signs (no radios) to the engine crew as the train traveled east on Hollis lead to clear the switch leading to the hump. When the switch was clear the conductor “pulled the air” on the hack. When air came back up, the engine crew started to shove west. The first train in the day would shove right to the hump, stopping on the bridge over Liberty Ave., where the conductor pulled the air once more.

Subsequent trains would of course stop their trains to clear the adjacent track.

By ten thirty at night, the hump tracks were full of freight and the hump crew was ready to “Roll’em” as the conductor would call out in a rather loud and boisterous voice “ON THE HUMP”. This was after one of the brakeman would walk the length of each line of cars and bleed the air from each car. He would close the angle cock on the fifth or sixth care from the east end so that air could be used to help the engineer better control the brake. If this was not done, it was very possible for the weight of the line of cars to pull the whole drag, engine and all, over the hump and into the yard. Hopefully the conductor realized what was happening and was able to alert the crew to run down and line the yard for a clear alley (track).

At this time, Holban Yard had twenty-six tracks to make up trains and a double end “runaround” track where hacks were stored.

The conductor controlled the move from the hump by means of a signal that he operated from a shanty on top of the hump. The signal was back far enough for the engine crew to follow the command. The signals were position type with three vertical shove ahead, three diagonal back up, and three horizontal meant stop.  

A list of riders was kept by the conductor to record the responsibility of each rider to ascertain they were doing their job properly. Any damage to a car was listed by who rode the car off the hump. *** Note 1

One night, I looked at the list and wondered why I was taking many more rides then the other men. A little later on as I was walking, lantern under my arm, from riding a car safely into a track, I noticed two brakeman were standing and talking while bobbing their lanterns up and down. They told me that they were doing that so it would appear from up on the hump that they were walking back. A lot of the brakeman were always getting out of the way to let the other guy go first.

Two switch tenders and five brakemen were employed to cut the freight all into the proper tracks for the morning trains.

Usually the cars on the hump were all rolled by 2:00am when we were free to relax for a while. Many of the crew liked to play cards; I would rather take a nap.

One night when I was a switch tender, I had made myself a bunk in the switch tender shanty. This bunk was only about a foot wide, but if I didn’t move around while I slept, I’d be all right. It was bitter cold that night and the fire in the pot-belly was going dim. Before I lay down, I climbed onto a coal hopper in the yard to acquisition some fuel.

I didn’t know about kettle coal at the time. It was a very soft and oily coal. Before I knew it, I had a roaring fire in the little pot-belly and I went right to sleep. About a half hour later, I woke up in a sweat. The pot-belly was glowing red--the stove pipe was glowing red—I grabbed my jacket and ran out the door and when I looked back—the metal stack on the glowing red roof was glowing red. I learned a lot about kettle coal that night. I learned that you could start it with a match.

Needless to say, the crew got a good laugh at my expense that night.

Well, here we are halfway through the night so I think I’ll tie-up now if the card game is over so I can sleep on the table.

See ya after tie-up.

THE HOLBAN HUMP … part 2 by J.J. Earl
SEMAPHORE April 2011

Well, the shanty that I wrote about last month did not burn down and the rest of the boys were playing cards in the crew room so I didn’t get any shut-eye that night.

It wasn’t long before the “Night Freight” was reported with sixty cars. The night freight was officially the MA-22; MA was short for Metropolitan area.

This area stretched from Long Island City to Holban and on the Montauk to Valley. Any job with the MA prefix could only work these west end jobs. Outside of those limits, freight was worked with the “L” prefix.

The conductor on the MA 22 rode the hack to the hump where he “pulled the air” so that the hack was on the downward side of the hump. The hump engine was waiting in the track alongside of the track where the train came in and the brakeman would uncouple the hack and bleed the air allowing the car to coast downhill and when it was clear of the switch ahead, the engine followed it down and coupled to it and took it back up the hump to put on the rear, or east end of the westbound train waiting for the ‘22’ to run them back to Yard A.

To clarify these moves let me explain the layout of the yard. The hump had nine tracks that curved around the Hollis (east end) to the Liberty Ave. bridge at the top of the hump. Tracks three through nine were used for placing inbound trains. The first train of the day shoved their train onto number nine taking the rear car all the way to the bridge. Three to eight were filled up as the day went on. Track two remained clear so that moves being made between Holban and Hillside had a clear track to move through. Track one was a single end track that was used for the storage of cars that would be used occasionally, such as snow fighting equipment and cars slated for scrap. 

The new train was rolled much like the previous lines of cars and soon they would finish. By that time, the L-2 was reported. They brought more carts from Yard A or Fresh Pond, but their primary job was to pick up refrigerator cars (reefers) to add to their own meat cars. In switching the hump, many reefers were sent along to be picked up later. The L-42 then proceeded to deliver to several meat houses along the main line as far as Mineola and back.

Just about 6:00am, the hump crew was just finished (many times they were not and worked into overtime). At that time, an engine and crew were on the hump with about five or six hacks. This was the Hillside job waiting for a chance to go down through the yard to St. Albans end of the yard. (Since the yard ran between HOLlis and st.alBANs, the yard was named--well--look close.

The Hillside job coupled the rear of freights for the morning and added the proper cabin cars (PRR designation) to the right trains. Mostly, cars switched at the St. Albans end were let go on the fly. In 1960 a young conductor on the Hillside job let fly for the far end of the yard with one off the brand new steel hacks when he was horrified to see the cars in the track next to the track he was aiming at were rolling back and the new hack received a long gash in its brand new side.

Needless to say, the trainmaster was furious; however the hack lasted another forty years and so did the young conductor.

I’ll tell you more about Hillside next time.

*** Note 1: Retarders were a later day invention. Riders (i.e. brakemen) manually handled the hand brakes off humps long before retarders were invented. These were skilled and relatively hazardous jobs. That's the way Yard A was handled. Input: Richard Makse