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E6s with a PRR tender 09/21/1936. 
Photo: Robert Emery 
Data: Dave Morrison
Oyster Bay Turntable

Panorama View c.1900
View the center to see the turntable with roundhouse to the left (east)

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Oyster Bay Turntable 02/1992
 Photo: Steve Torborg

LIRR RS3 #1560 Oyster Bay turntable Photo/archive: ArtHuneke

 Oyster Bay Historical Society Spring 2001 Edition of the Freeholder
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Oyster Bay Historical Society Fall 2006 Edition of the Freeholder
Oyster Bay’s Historic Turntable – Part II
by David D Morrison

Part I was written by Walter Karppi

In the Spring 2001 edition of the Freeholder, Walter Karppi wrote an interesting article explaining the history, function and operation of railroad turntables.  In essence, the turntable was used to turn steam locomotives in the opposite direction for a return trip.  Walter discussed the Danbury Railroad Museum ’s turntable and the way crowds gathered around to watch the operation.  He likened the Danbury turntable to what the Oyster Bay turntable will be when it is restored and placed into service as part of the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum’s facilities.

As a follow-up to Walter’s article, this article will delve a bit deeper into the history of the Oyster Bay turntable, its relationship to other turntables on Long Island , and the part that railroad historians have played in helping to preserve the history of the hamlet’s turntable.

The Oyster Bay turntable

Oyster Bay drwg turntable.jpg (113439 bytes)The turntable now in the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum’s yard is actually the second turntable at this location. The LIRR reached Oyster Bay in 1889, having been extended from Locust Valley . That turntable had been in Locust Valley since 1869 and after 20 years, it was moved with the expansion of LIRR service to Oyster Bay . A four stall enginehouse was built in the same year. The turntable was located northwest of the enginehouse. In 1904 the old turntable was torn out and a new 70 foot long turntable was installed north of the enginehouse. In this connection, see the sketch below drawn by the late LIRR Conductor Bob Emery, whose collection of maps, drawings and photographs is at Stony Brook University

OBayturntable2008.jpg (71373 bytes)The turntable restoration now at the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum’s yard. 07/27/2008 Photo: JJ. Earl  



JJEarlandMarkSmithLIRR35scab.JPG (100982 bytes)JJ. Earl (l) and Mark Smith (r) 07/2008

OB enginehouse D56 out front 4-4-0 steam locomotive 27 showing.jpg (64110 bytes)The enginehouse lasted until it was demolished on August 4, 1929 .  No enginehouse was built afterwards.  There is only one known existing photograph of the  Oyster Bay enginehouse. Collection: David Keller




lirr29OBayJohnKrause08-12-48.jpg (62092 bytes)The 1904 turntable was originally powered by a pneumatic motor.  The turntable operator would hook up a hose from the air compressor of a nearby steam locomotive to the turntable motor, which then could be operated by air pressure.  Railroad historian Art Huneke has an LIRR 1945 Depreciation document showing that the Oyster Bay turntable was electrified in 1932.  It was operated by electric motor until it was taken out of service sometime in the 1970s.  The photo, taken by John Krause on August 12, 1948 shows steam locomotive #29 being turned on the Oyster Bay turntable. 

The Oyster Bay turntable, is in the planning stages of a full restoration. For the years that this turntable was in operation, it was basically open to public view.  Engineers such as the late Cecil Craft would often allow eager kids to ride on the front running board of his steam locomotive from the station down to the yard and then he’d allow them to stay on the locomotive while it was being turned on the turntable.  In fact, the LIRR made it a policy to allow children to view the turntable operation.  In LIRR Transportation Notice #1330 issued on August 3, 1965 the LIRR employees were advised as follows:

Oyster Bay Turntable * Station Agent will meet group [school children from Queens Public School #40] and conduct tour of Oyster Bay facility where they will witness the turning of Engine #516.  Crew should be advised to delay the turning of Engine a few minutes to allow the group to get down to the turntable.  110 containers of milk at 10 cents each…

Image 05 children turntable.jpg (144931 bytes)Significant to this article is a photo that appeared in the Summer 2002 Freeholder article on the history of the Oyster Bay Train Station.  That photo shows school children at the Oyster Bay turntable in the mid 1950s. Collection: Arthur Huneke




Fieldtrip_OBay_viewSW.jpg (102008 bytes)Another photo that shows a field trip of school children at the Oyster Bay turntable c.1953-54. Collection: Gary Frakas



Letter when cleaning up my office inside the Oyster Bay ticket office during the late 1990s. It has been damaged, but I guess that adds an air of authenticity to the document.

The letter had the ticket validator stamp on the reverse side 8/05/1965

The top of the letter has a pencil-hand-written note: Small girl injured while boarding train at Union Hall Street.  Fell between train and platforArchive: Dave Morrision

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Remaining railroad turntables

Just how unique is the Oyster Bay turntable?  How many turntables were in operation on Long Island and how many turntables exist on Long Island today?

A 1924 LIRR document from the collection of retired LIRR Maintenance of Equipment Supervisor Carl Dimino indicates that the railroad categorized turntables by number.  The numbers ranged from 1 to 17 with six blanks, to wit:

Turntable # Location
1 Bay Ridge
2 ________
3 Greenport
4 Jamaica Yard
5 ________
6 Long Island City
7 Dutchkills
8 ________
9 Morris Park Shops
10 Oyster Bay
11 Patchogue
12 ________
13 Port Washington
14 Riverhead
15 ________
16 ________
17 Whitestone Landing

The five locations on the list that are blank are a mystery, however both Art Huneke and Dave Keller advise that at one time there were turntables at these locations: Flatbush Avenue Terminal, Islip, Port Jefferson, Rockaway Beach, Brighton Beach, Sag Harbor and Hempstead. One turntable was located by the remains of the brick turntable pit wall in Old Bethpage State Park

The turntable at Morris Park is still operational and is used on a regular basis by the LIRR.  The turntable at Greenport is under the auspices of the Railroad Museum of Long Island (RMLI) and is pretty much intact and pending full restoration.  At their Riverhead facility, RMLI has a turntable that they purchased in 2002 from the upstate Arcade and Attica Railroad.  This 85 foot turntable was built in 1915 and weighs 60 tons.  RMLI will have to dig a pit, build a round wall and install circular ring rail in order to get the turntable operational.  The goal is to have steam locomotive trips between Riverhead and Greenport using Locomotive #39 with the ability to turn the locomotive on the turntable at each of the terminals.  That will truly be an exciting Long Island tourist attraction.

Taking into consideration the foregoing, it is evident that there are presently no operational turntables viewable to the public on Long Island .  The Morris Park turntable lies within a secure LIRR shop facility, out of reach of the public eye.  The two RMLI turntables are not yet operational.  That means if the Oyster Bay turntable is put into operation in the near future, it will be the only railroad turntable viewable to the Long Island public.

The oldest remains of a turntable on Long Island

bethpagettsign.jpg (127697 bytes)An article on Long Island turntables would not be complete if the old brick-wall turntable pit at Bethpage State Park were not mentioned.   This is one of the oldest surviving railroad structures on Long Island .  This turntable pit wall was found in 1988 by the team of Arthur Lubitz, Arthur Huneke and the author, who were walking the right-of-way of the old Bethpage Spur.  The pit measurements indicate that the turntable would have been a 50 footer, short by modern standards but common at that time.  It was built circa 1873 when A.T. Stewart built the Bethpage Spur of his Central Railroad to haul bricks from the Bethpage brickyards to Garden City for construction of homes in that community.  The turntable was only in use until 1879 when passenger service was abandoned on the spur.  This turntable pit is truly a relic from the past.  A plaque was installed by NY State prior to the 2002 US Open Golf Tournament in Bethpage State Park . 

Railroad historians role in preserving turntable history

A noted railroad historian and author, Vincent F. Seyfried, has often said, "If it weren't for the larceny of its own employees, the Long Island Rail Road would have no history."  Sadly, he is probably correct, although the "larceny" word should be considered as being used in a hyperbolic sense.  It is widely known in railroad history circles that the LIRR does not have a historic archives and most of the railroad's history lies in a few libraries and museums as well as being scattered in the hands of private collectors and railroad historians.  To that end, a wealth of thanks should go to persons who helped in the creation of this turntable history, to name a few:

Robert M. Emery, the late LIRR Conductor

Carl Dimino, retired LIRR Maintenance of Equipment Supervisor who also provided the Oyster Bay Historical Society with the only known railroad station pre-1964 interior floor plan.

Arthur Huneke,  retired LIRR Train Director who has an outstanding LIRR history website at:

Dave Keller,  a former Long Islander and the author of two LIRR pictorial history books and now residing in Florida whose fine website may be seen at:

Thanks to Art and Dave for their information and advice as well as their review of this article prior to submission.

It is hoped that this article complements that article written by Walter Karppi and that the reader has a better understanding of the significance of the Oyster Bay railroad turntable.