How equipment enters MOW service makes for an interesting story. There have been periods when certain types of equipment became surplus either by law or by the advent of more modern equipment. As streamline passenger equipment appeared, surplus heavyweight cars were often turned into employee bunk cars. In the late 1940s, as diesels replaced steam locomotive, tenders were often salvaged to store water or fuel. It seems the LIRR owned at least one example of each of the AAR classifications of MofW equipment.

Early Practices

 Earlier years on the Long Island witnesses a variety of practices and equipment associated with MOW. A ballast train headed up by an E-7 steam engine number 9714 and brought up from the rear by a caboose appeared on page 5 of Ron Ziel and George Foster's Steel Rails to the Sunrise. As late as 1922, LIRR employees operated an oil train to spread oil on the railroad's right of way both to retard vegetation and control dust (see Ziel, pages 70-71). Work trains even used wooden coaches at one time as evidenced by a 1904 photo in Ziel page 79. G-53 (4-6-0 Camelbacks by Brooks) steam engines were often used to pull work trains (Ziel, pages 110-111) and saw much service with the Jamaica grade-crossing elimination. Besides H-6sb Consols, at least one G-52 also saw work train service (see Ziel, page 130).

 A great deal of information about LIRR work equipment in 1916 is available but was omitted from this article for the sake of brevity and on the assumption that most modelers are interested in more modern eras.

Work Equipment owned by the LIRR  as of October 1, 1956 included:


Unit  Numbers


Burro Cranes

432, 85207, 85208


Locomotive Cranes

171, 172, 184, 198


Instruction Car                                                                                                                                 



Wreck Derrick                                  



Work Train Cars                   

W50, 492512, W51, W52, W53, W54, 489589                           


Boom Cars                                       

241, 491577, 491986


Jordan Spreader-Ditcher - Snow Plows

497498, 497499


Steam Rotary Plow & Water Tender                                 

193, 499151


Snow Plows (Rae Type)

497750, 497751, 497760, 497761


Snow Flanger Cars

495744, 495745, 495746, 495772, 495773, 495791,  
495792, 495793                                          


Work Train Cars                   

W11, W12, 491598, 491600, 491976, 491985, 494954,  
494955, 494956


Train Riding Car



M.W. Camp Train Cars       

492761, 492763, 492764, 492765, 492766                                            


Tool & Supply Cars              

498571 to 498574 inclusive


Carrier Car for M.W  Burro Crane                          



Float Bridge Reach - In Cars

434903, 497?83, 497993, 497999                                                           


Hopper Car for Cinder and Ballast            



Steel Ash Cars          (For Flatbush Avenue Station)        

494781, 494782


Gondola Cars (For Rubbish, Scrap, etc.)

494905, 494912, 494923, 494925, 494934, 494950, 494951, 494952, 494957, 494953, 494961, 494963, 494964, 494965, 494966, 494967,  
494968, 494969, 494970, W1, W2, W3, W4, W5, W6, W7, W8, W9, W10



Total Work Equipment, cars, etc                   


P. H. Hatch, General Mechanical Superintendent

Until the mid-1950s one of the LIRR cabin cars, which had been box cars, was painted grey and used on work trains, Huneke recalls.  

By October 1, 1965, the era I model in HO-scale, burro cranes, tool & supply cars, the rotary steam plow, hopper car, steel ash car, and all camp train cars were gone from active service on the LIRR. Art Huneke identified at least one burro crane being on the LIRR property as late as 1971 and a Jordan Spreader, W93, surviving into 1981. One reacher car was added between 1956 and 1965. James Gillin supplied this roster of work equipment as that date:  


Unit Numbers


Locomotive Crane



Wreck Crane



Wreck Train Cars

W-50*, W-56, W-57


Tool Cars

W-55, 491985


Jordan Spreader



Boom Car



Steam Rotary & Water Tender

W-14*, 193*                                      


Snow Plow

W-80, W-83*                         


Instruction Car



Snow Flanger Car

W-84*, W-86, W-89, W-91


Float Reach-In Car

W-23, W-27, W-29, W-39, W-70    


Gondola Car

W-1, W-4, W-5, W-8, W-9, W-10, W-12, W-17, W-19, W-28, W-32, W-35, W-37, W-38, W-60, W-61, W-62, W-63, W-64, W-65,
W-66, W-67, W-68,W-69                                        


Welded Rail Car                  

R-3, R-6, R-7, R-15, R-18, R-30, R-31, R-33, R-34, R-40, R-41, R-42, R-43, R-44,
R-45, R-46, R-47, R-48, R-49, R-50, R-51, R-52





Equipment marked with an "*" appear in color in Volume 5: N.E. Railroad Work Equipment, Classic Freight Cars, The Series

Ballast Spreader

As late as 1956, the Long Island had a Jordan spreader available to serve as a ballast spreader and trimmer (AAR classification MWE).

Boarding Outfit Cars

By 1965, boarding outfit cars (AAR classification MWX: includes kitchen, bunk, and other cars used for employee living) were absent from the roster due to the mobility of the work force on an island the size that the LIRR served. However, they were in use on the Long Island as late as 1936 (see Steel Rails to the Sunrise photo, page 216 showing wood coaches "downgraded to crew car service") and appeared on the roster as late as 1962.


LIRR "crane" number 197 is more properly called a derrick as the 1956 roster described it because of its short boom style. Cranes differ from derricks (MWW: Wreck Derrick, propelled by locomotive, used for heavy lifting) in several ways. Cranes have long spindly booms for use with drag lines, electromagnets, and clamshells. Whereas derricks are husky, short boom style cranes one would see cleaning up a train wreck and sometimes known as the big hook or auxiliary. Cranes are typically used for everyday maintenance work while Derricks are used only for emergency work.

Boom Cars

Typically, railroads supply each crane with a boom car to protect its boom while it is lowered and in transit. Railroads select boom cars first for the necessary length to accommodate the boom. Then they are fitted with hardware and needed appliances. In 1973, LIRR management kept Wreck crane W-75 along with idler car W-50 at Morris Park Engine Terminal.

Flat cars

While they surely appeared earlier, Flat cars, known as AAR classification MWF, have been with the LIRR's MOW fleet since 1955. Today's parent company of the LIRR, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, acquired welded rail cars in 1974. These had been built in 1924.

Wreck Train Cars

W-56 (See photo 1) appears to be a baggage mail car, it was carried on LIRR records as a MWT, a tool and block car. Mike Boland wrote that enthusiasts can model it in HO-scale using Bethlehem Car Works' flat-pack plastic model of a B60. Other MWTs were W-50, W-57, W-59, and W-60. Were all other wreck train cars also baggage mail cars or can any reader identify any box cars, flat cars or other types among this category?

Tool Cars

The AAR has assigned the classification letters MWC to Caboose and tool cars which were generally used as a lookout on wreck trains. On other roads they would be fitted with bunks, stove, and water storage.

Many tool cars never leave their assigned location, especially if the gang they are assigned to has a small territory and is highly mobile. I have assumed the LIRR also followed this practice. Anyone with contrary information is encouraged to respond.

Store supply cars

These cars, known as AAR classification MWM were usually a box car, assigned to transport company material. The LIRR used this classification to refer to a car used for fuel storage.

Snow Removing Equipment

The AAR classifies snow removing cars, whether rotary, wedge, flanger, or Russell Type as MWK. Today, railroad infrequently call upon rotaries to clear their tracks. The LIRR's rotary plow was retired about 1967 after 68 years of service. Today, the LIRR's rotary plow is awaiting restoration at Steamtown. A plastic model of this plow painted in grey/orange has been lettered by F & F Custom Trains. I hope to review it in a future issue.

LIRR Snow flanger car W-84 is a converted electric MU coach that sprays alcohol on third-rails as a de-icer. Huneke recalls that the LIRR had a tank car in recent years to store the alcohol used in W84. Two other alcohol cars were ex- Boston & Maine and later LIRR coaches.

Track Inspection Car

Just as other railroads have chosen, the Long Island owns no Track inspection car (AAR classification MWG). Instead, Sperry Rail Service would send a track inspection car to inspect LIRR rails annually (See photo Steel Rails.., page 206).

Reacher Cars

The Long Island used its five reacher cars at its Long Island City and Bay Ridge float bridges. A reacher car was coupled between the switcher and the freight cars to be loaded or removed from the cars floats. Their purpose was to allow switchers working these yards to avoid entering upon the car float and causing an imbalance of load. When a reacher was in the shop and thus unavailable, the Long Island would often borrow a foreign road gondola for this purpose. The LI would pay the foreign road a per diem charge. Employees preferred drop-ended gondolas as they made it easier for them to board.

Instruction Car

In 1953, Pullman Standard delivered as lot 6911, plan W52354 twenty 128-seat commuter coaches for intermediate (non-control) use. All were retired save for one retained as instruction car I-121, according to Randall's Official Pullman-Standard Library, Volume 10 Northeast Railroads. Can any reader identify how long this car served and what sort of instruction was offered?

Gondola Cars

The AAR lists at least two type of cars carrying ballast (MWB: Ballast cars, hoppers or gondolas that dump their contents from the bottom and MWD:      Dump cars, mostly gondola-type cars dumping sideways by air pressure). LIRR gondolas now in service are classified as MWF, sharing that classification with flat cars.

Sand Service

Preston Cook (see "Sand Service Cars", RMC, August 1987 pp.86-87) writes that "most railroads have fleets of specialized covered hopper cars set aside strictly for the transportation of locomotive sand. These hoppers are generally two-bay, or very small three-bay cars." I uncovered no such covered hoppers in use with the Long Island. Instead, the LIRR carried locomotive sand on at least one hopper dedicated to this service, Art Huneke recalls. Huneke also recalls a tank truck which delivered diesel fuel and sand to Baldwins at Fresh Pond. Can any reader tell us whether sand vendors delivered their product by truck to LIRR facilities at other times?

Paint Schemes

Mike Boland, the foremost expert on this subject, authors "Long Island Railway Modeler" a monthly column in the Long Island Sunrise Trail Chapter - NRHS Semaphore. Mike Boland writes that "the Long Island used a Pennsy-style method of numbering M/W equipment; gondolas were assigned a six-digit number that began with a 494. Cars such as these could regularly be seen behind steam or diesel power in work train consists. Several 'gons' were usually in the consist." Into the 1960s a small number of these cars remained on the Long Island in work train service. Cars surviving into the 1960s wore Goodfellow Grey sides with orange ends and white lettering. "By this time they had a simpler numbering system with a W and a two-digit number." Boland advises that gondolas that entered MOW service earlier could be painted in the 1950s-era PRR M of W light grey.


James Bradley's book provided me with a great deal of general information on MofW equipment. Fred Twombly of F & F Custom Trains shared with his copy of a "Record of Work Equipment as of October 1, 1956". Art Huneke provided valuable additional information. Research assistance was provided by our own Edmund McGill of Arlington, Virginia.


Boland, Mike. "Modeling LIRR Pennsy Class GR Gondolas" Semaphore April 1993 page 6.

Bradley, James T. North American Maintenance of Way Equipment 1992.

Gillin, James. "Work Equipment Roster" Semaphore January 1993, page 2.

Volume 5: N.E. Railroad Work Equipment, Classic Freight Cars, The Series