LIRR Road n' Rail

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Intact Road n' Rail Bus Stop sign over 40 years old 
Jericho Turnpike, South Huntington 8/2012
Photo: Gary Farkash

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Road n' Rail Bus Stop sign Route 25 Southold 1980 
Photo: Bob Bender


LIRR Road n' Rail GM 5300 Suburban Bus #367 Corgi O scale model/photo by Steve Hoskins Archive: Daniel Marra
 LIRR Road n' Rail bus service to Greenport ended with the weekday schedule change of September 8, 1981 and with the weekend schedule change of October 17, 1983.  Research: Mike McEnaney
The weekend Road n' Rail service to Greenport lasted for 2 years after weekday service was terminated. Info: Jack Deasy
LIRR Road n' Rail Stories Part I
By: Daniel Marra, Sr.
 

lirrRoad-n-Rail_no.500_c.1972.jpg (81620 bytes)It was Spring of 1974, and the Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority, aka “MSBA” had been operating Nassau County's Bus System for 10 months, with the exception of LIRR’s Road n' Rail buses from Babylon to Montauk & Greenport.  

Note: The original Road-n-Rail buses were operated under contract with LIRR, by Huntington Coach Corp., From Huntington Station to Greenport, and from Amityville to Montauk. Some of the buses bore the name “Bay Hunt” on their sides, for, I believe,tax purposes.

MSBA contracted with Schenck Transportation to continue operating the two routes until MSBA could purchase new GMC Suburban coaches for the Road n' Rail, and Charter operations.  






Photo: LIRR Road-n-Rail #500  c.1972  The freight building at the right is today the home of the RMLI Greenport facility. The vehicle has a 1966-1973 era NY Blue license plate on the 1970 Ford Torino.

Note: Huntington Coach Corp., was the original Road n' Rail operator, of which Schenck was a partial owner. In June 1973, MSBA became owner of LIRR Road n' Rail, as “Town Of Huntington” took over HC routes as HART (Huntington Area Rapid Transit).  


The Summer (July & August 1974) MSBA Run Pick was posted first week of June.

I was fairly high in seniority, and picked an open early A.M., run on Babylon-Greenport with a 4:00 am report time at MSBA’s Zahn’s Airport Depot in North Amityville. Pull out time at 4:10 am leaving Babylon Rail at 4:30 am (contingent on arrival of the connecting train from NYC Penn Station) arriving Greenport at 5:50. The train was only late once, but at 0430 there was very little, almost non-existing, traffic and easy to make up the lost time.

Babylon-Greenport was the best of the two Express routes like driving “Over-The-Road” through New England towns. At Schenck; I always preferred the long distance charters and Greyhound + Adirondack Trailways rental jobs, as opposed to local transit runs.

As a Bus Operator, driving the Road n' Rail buses afforded us a few titles:
Engineer/Operator, as we stopped at all designated stations
Conductor, in charge of our riders
Trainman, as we sold & collected Tickets to NY
Now that was Multi-Tasking!!

The Road n' Rail route was nice, but it had its good, and bad points. Leaving Babylon, the route went east on Union Blvd, north on NY Rte 231, to NY Rte 27 (Sunrise Highway) east. Back in the early 1970’s, the new six lane limited access portion of NY 27 ended at Saxon Ave Bay Shore, then it was down to four lanes & traffic lights for about 12 miles.

After NY Rte 112 (Patchogue), it was back on the new Four lane highway for 25 miles to Suffolk County Rte 51 northeast to Riverhead, my first drop-off stop. From there, it was NY Rte 25 two lanes, all the way to Greenport. Not bad at 5:15 am, with only five drop-off points, easy to stay on time. At 4:30 am, most times I had no passengers. Once or twice a week, I would get one to three or four riders.

Note: The Road-n-Rail buses stopped at stations to drop off Pax from LIRR trains. From Greenport, we made all designated Station stops to pick up pax to Babylon only. Pax=Passengers.

I was the 5:55 out of Greenport, picking up commuters, many from Shelter Island, & Greenport, Southhold, Mattituck, Aquabogue, & Riverhead. Staying on time was an unrealistic breeze, as the westbound traffic on 2-lane Rte 25 moved along at 55 to 60 Mph, all the way to Babylon Rail.

Upon leaving Riverhead, it was a clear sailing south on County Rd 51, & west on Sunrise Hgwy. 95% of the time I would get to Babylon ahead of time. My riders were happy, as they could catch the “Seaford Express” which left 15 minutes before their scheduled local train.

The Bad part: I cannot say the same for my next round trip to Greenport which was an absolute disaster. 8:45 out of Babylon, and 10:19 out of Greenport, never happened. The connecting train from NYC, was always late due to LIRR westbound trains having priority over eastbound trains.

Leaving Babylon 15 to 20 minutes late put me 20 to 30 minutes late in Greenport. On a good day I would get out of Greenport around 10:45. By that time of the day, traffic on (2 lane) NY 25 was horrendous, with tourists, farm wagons, and tractors, etc.

The scheduled 10:19 from Greenport, never happened while I had the run. I seriously doubt anyone else got out of Greenport at 10:19 either. My License was more important to me than the LIRR’s impossible to adhere to schedule.

At every pick-up point, passengers would complain they would not make their train. My best answer: “Yes, I’m late. There are 88 trains a day from Babylon to NY. You missed #1 and maybe #2. That leaves 86 more. Pick one!!”

Most days I would arrive Babylon at 12:50 nearly 1 hour late. A few unhappy riders.

I drove this route during July, & August 1974, and picked it again for the Fall/Winter pick, from September through December.   Daniel Marra, Sr. 

lirrRoad-n-Rail_SDM4501-365_ beingletteredHuntingtonGarage.jpg (68317 bytes)
LIRR Road-n-Rail SDM4501 #365  being lettered at Huntington Coach garage
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LIRR Road-n-Rail buses  #371-375 Publicity Shot Huntington Station c.1964

The first batch of 35ft suburban coaches were purchased new by Schenck Transportation for Huntington Coach. Schenck was part owner of HC.

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LIRR publicity photo of bus #371 at Huntington Station displaying a 1964 World's Fair destination sign.  While it may have been the initial intent, Road n-Rail service was never offered to the NY World's Fair

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LIRR Road-n-Rail SDM4501 #366 Christening ceremony, Riverhead
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LIRR Road-n-Rail bus #370 Departing Riverhead 1968
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LIRR Road-n-Rail bus #224 Greenport 5/17/1970 Photo: Steve Zabel Archive: J Testagrose
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LIRR Road-n-Rail Amityville 06-1964
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LIRR Road-n-Rail news article Start of Montauk Day Service 
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LIRR C420 #219 Greenport "Scoot" 1973 LIRR Road 'n Rail bus, which operated between Huntington and Greenport, is visible left. Photo: Brad Phillips

 

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MSBA #104 Greenport 08/1974

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MSBA #119 Greenport 1978

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MSBA #114 Greenport
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MSBA #118 #120 Babylon Station 08/01/1978

LIRR Road n' Rail Stories Part II
By: Daniel Marra, Sr. 

The Seaford Express - The Blockade of Babylon Station
LIRR Conductors, vs. MSBA Bus Operator & Passengers

In Part I, I stated: “My first trip from Greenport to Babylon was a breeze.” Leaving Riverhead (the last pickup point) on time allowed me to arrive at Babylon a few minutes earlier than the schedule indicated.

My passengers were happy as they were able to catch the earlier “Seaford Express”, instead of the next scheduled Local train.

Correct me if I am wrong here. The Seaford Express made all stops to Seaford, then ran non-stop to Jamaica, then non-stop to Penn Station. This was a better choice than the All Stops Local 15 minutes behind the express.

Two to three weeks into this early arrival, I pulled into Babylon Rail, deposited my passengers, and was confronted by two burly & unhappy LIRR Conductors. They told me “You are getting here too early, and your passengers are getting on the wrong train.” I replied, “What do you mean the wrong train?”

Note: Some of my daily riders told me about the Conductors not accepting their tickets from the buses. The Trainmen were charging them extra money for buying tickets on the train instead of from the Babylon Station Agent, which was open.

I found out that the conductors on the later train received additional pay for accepting the bus tickets, and only charging the extra fare that was due.

The two Conductors warned me; “There would be trouble if: "I did not comply with their request!!” I informed the two gentlemen: “I don’t work for you, and you need to have your Union delegate, and/or your Supervisor call my boss and straighten this out.” I will be here tomorrow, at the same time.

The next morning, as I pulled into the driveway at Babylon station, I was greeted by about six to eight irate conductors blocking the driveway. The LIRR Police and a Supervisor were also there, to keep order.

Due to my bus blocking the driveway, traffic behind me backed up quickly, bringing Suffolk County PD to the scene. I honked the horn and told the conductors to let me move to the waiting room.

I opened the door to verbal threats from the same conductors as the day before. They yelled to my passengers to stay in their seats, “You are not allowed to board this train.”

With that, two Lawyers on my bus told the Conductors if they did not let the bus move up to the station, they could and would be charged with unlawful imprisonment, detention without a warrant, and a few other charges.

By this time, the LIRR, Suffolk PD, and the Supervisor were at the door telling the conductors to let the bus through.  One of MSBA Supervisors arrived and said “We need to let the passengers off the bus, so we can discuss and solve these problems calmly.”

The outcome was that any conductors on the Seaford Express handling bus passengers tickets, would receive extra pay. Problem solved and everyone was happy!! Just another fine day in the country. Daniel Marra, Sr.  

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MSBA #113
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MSBA #116 in Phase II white paint scheme Greenport
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MSBA #703 SPECIAL run at Zane Airport Garage N. Amityville 9/18/1976 Photo: Ed McKeirnan

SPECIAL, indicates In Service on a special run/assignment. For example; not all of our buses had Greenport, Babylon, Montauk, signs due to the fact they were never used as “Line Buses.” #702 & 703, were ex-Bee Line buses used mostly on Charters, and therefore did not need other signs. If I remember correctly, the ex-Bee Liners, had only Charter, Express, & Special on their sign curtains.

Charter = Bus is rented by groups of people for the purpose of outings, i.e., Baseball & other sporting events, picnics, theater groups, other “Buses Are Fun” trips etc.

Special = Buses on Special assignment like carrying Baseball, Football, Hockey, teams to and from their hotels to arenas. Nassau County used MSBA buses transporting Police Officers to Parades, Funerals, and other important functions.

Express = Buses used on line runs to carry commuters from Hicksville to Flushing or Jamaica for example. When the LIRR has a major delay on one or more of its lines, Station Announcements’ advise passenger to board waiting Special, or Express buses at the station to other non-affected LIRR stations or Jamaica Subway.

LIRR Road n' Rail Stories - Huntington Coach Demise
By: Daniel Marra, Sr. 

To answer your question regarding Huntington Coach. When MSBA took over operations of all Nassau bus routes, Huntington coach was not included, but the MTA-LIRR terminated the Road n' Rail contract, and decided to run their own buses using MSBA buses and drivers. As it turned out, some paper shuffler at MTA HQ forgot that MSBA had no coaches or suburban buses needed on those two routes.

MSBA had to contract with Schenck to operate the Road n' Rail service until MSBA got delivery of new GMC Suburban’s. As for the Huntington Coaches GMC buses, the following list of Huntington Coach Transit, & Suburban Coaches, compiled by my good friend & fellow bus driver Fred McGullam, Motor Bus Society secretary depicts where the buses went. 

368-370 to Riverdale Transit as 381-383
371-372 to Riverdale Transit as 386-387
374-375 to Riverdale Transit as 384-385

500-502 to Riverdale Transit as 369-371
504-505 to Clausen Bus Service as 109-110

The 500 series buses were the suburban type buses painted and used on the LIRR Road n' Rail
service.
None of these old Classic buses have been preserved.

Road n' Rail Tickets & Cash Fare Receipt Forms

The scanned cash fare receipts tell the story of how the service was initiated and was modified over the years. 

Form BS-1 shows the initial service points from Huntington to Greenport, including non-railroad related stops at several mid-island points (e.g., Ridge).  The date I have for the first run is April 7, 1962 (see first day ticket sold in Jamaica that day). 

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Form BS-2 (the scan is of my ticket for the first run on June 8, 1963) was used for the South Shore service to Montauk including stops at abandoned rail stops Eastport and East Moriches.  The railroad couldn't use Babylon as the (logical) transfer point due to the grade crossing elimination work in progress so Amityville was chosen for its large parking lot (for bus maneuvering) and propinquity to Sunrise Highway.  See scan of my first day tickets purchased at Amityville and Southampton.

In June 1964, stops were added at Hauppauge and Middle Island on the Greenport run and Watermill on the South Shore.  In issuing updated cash fare receipt forms, the railroad combined the north and south runs on one form (see BS-3).

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With the completion of the Babylon elevation and Amityville's now in progress, the railroad moved the transfer point for the Montauk busses to Babylon in 1967.  Form BS-4 was issued to reflect that change.

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In 1969, the Smith Haven stop was added on the Greenport run so Form BS-5 was issued to add that stop.

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In January of 1970, I was off to Navy service and don't have many specifics of changes made after that.  In 1973 some of the mid-island stops were discontinued (see scans of some tickets 
between some of those spots).

NOTE: The LIRR Road-n-Rail buses did not make all of their scheduled stops at LIRR train stations. For example, the buses for the Huntington - Greenport north fork service did not stop at the Cutchogue train station, but stopped at a location on Route 25 between New Suffolk Avenue and Depot Lane. I'd estimate that location to be about one-half a mile from the train station. I do not remember if the bus stopped at the Mattituck train station, or on Route 25, seeing that Route 25 was about one and one-half blocks from the Mattituck train station. Info: John Deasy

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I know that Huntington services were moved to Babylon and that the busses were eventually eliminated.  The open form of rail-bus tickets (see scan) had an option to route via Ronkonkoma as well as Huntington though I can't recall ever seeing that ever used in practice.

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Western terminal stations and those served by the busses issued the combination rail and bus tickets.  Bus-only tickets were sold there as well.  (See scans for examples of both.)

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For passengers boarding busses at non-rail stations, the bus drivers sold rail tickets to Jamaica, Brooklyn and New York (only) from pads clipped to the dash (see scans); no date validation was made.  In the 1970's, the large forms were replaced by smaller size tickets (see scan) similar to the 1H and 1BH rail forms.

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In my years of selling these tickets in Jamaica (primarily), Brooklyn and New York, the reactions of passengers to being routed by rail and bus varied from glee to despair!  People either loved the busses (the fares WERE cheaper) or hated them. Except were noted, all material/information: Brad Phillips

Road-n-Rail is an interesting chapter in LIRR history, I emphasize interesting, as it was not a good time frame for East End service. 

Road-n-Rail was born from the LIRR, like most railroads, loosing their postal transport contracts by the mid-60's. Carrying mail was one way to justify some of the east end services. With the mail contracts gone, bus service was one way to continue service to eastern stations. However, with the reduced train schedules came reduced maintenance, and extended trip times.

Yet, Road-n-Rail was becoming self defeating since areas of central Suffolk started to develop, and the busses started to have problems keeping to schedules. This was also the time frame when the Hampton Jitney started up as a village to village shuttle, but quickly discovered their Hamptons to Manhattan service was fast becoming popular, so popular that they dropped the village to village shuttle to focus on it, and it developed into what we have today.

Finally, after repeated threats of abandonment, the Speonk to Montauk segment was rebuilt in the late 1970's, and the project was completed in time for the summer timetable of 1980. All remaining Montauk Branch Road-n-Rail service ended with this timetable.  Research by: Ken Allan

All Info/photos courtesy of: Daniel Marra, Sr. unless otherwise noted.