Camp Upton in World War I
1916ValuationMapCampUpton.jpg (90928 bytes)
1916 LIRR Valuation Map  Collection: Richard F. Makse


01-15-1918johnfusto1.jpg (45547 bytes)
January 15, 1918 Collection: John Fusto

camp upton.JPG (88696 bytes)Old-style covered supply wagons are loaded piggy-back on removable-side gondola cars at Camp Upton, Yaphank, NY.  The image isn't too clear but it looks like each wagon is loaded with what may be building supplies and the fact they were loaded in individual wagons would allow for easier distribution of construction materials at the various areas of the camp once off-loaded from the railcars. Major construction was between June and September, 1917, so this image could have been photographed anytime during that window. The other alternative is that this image was photographed when the camp closed.  At this time, all the buildings were broken down, sold and materials, including items such as stoves, etc. were shipped to the purchasers.  If that is the case here, then this image would have been shot during 1921 - 1922.  The LIRR ceased operations at the camp on April 15, 1922.  The following is from Thomas R. Bayles' brief history of the camp:

“The 1,660 buildings, utilities and improvements in the camp were sold at auction on August 21, 1921 by the auctioneers Smith & Jaffee.  Everything was to be removed within 60 days and the purchasers took down the buildings and salvaged the lumber in them.  Hundreds of carloads were shipped around the country as far west as Indianapolis, Indiana.  Some of the smaller buildings were moved to various location on Long Island.”

“The pot bellied stoves that were used to heat the barracks were sold and shipped to Pittsburgh, Pa. to be reconditioned and sold by the mail order houses, as were the army cots, by the thousands.”  (Dave Keller data)  

(The following is copied from a historical pamphlet published by retired L.I.R.R. ticket clerk Thomas R. Bayles in 1974 and handed out gratis to anyone interested in Long Island history.)


          “Camp Upton was located on the site of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, on a tract of about ten thousand acres, east of the William Floyd Parkway and extending from the Middle Country Road to the Montauk Highway.  Later, several thousand acres were purchased north of the Middle Country Road and west of Lake Panamoka for a rifle range.”


          “On June 21, 1917, Col. Frank M. Lawton, of the Department of the East and Ralph Peters, President of the Long Island Rail Road, made an inspection of the property, which had been determined from a U. S. Geological map of the area.  The location of the camp was approved and the contract for the construction of the camp was let to Thompson Starrett Co. on June 24th.”


          “Work during that summer was very difficult, with extreme heat, rain and millions of mosquitoes, which made working conditions almost unbearable.  Rates paid for labor were $.375 an hour for laborers and $.625 per hour for carpenters.  The men were fed in commissaries operated by the contractor and the prices charged for meals were $.25 for laborers and $.35-$.40 for mechanics.  The largest number of men employed on any one day was 15,000.  A total number of 5,742 carloads of lumber and other materials were used in the construction of the camp.”


          “The Long Island Rail road extended tracks for the two miles into the camp from the main line, with tracks running to the passenger station, the freight yards, coal trestle and to the ten warehouses where merchandise was received for the operation of the camp.”


          “The first 2,200 drafted men arrived on Sept. 10th and up to the end of October about 30,000 men arrived.  The camp was built to accommodate 37,000.”


          “A station called Upton Road was built on the railroad east of the present William Floyd Parkway and a shuttle train was operated into the camp from the Main Line that met the trains, in addition to the trains operating into the passenger station in the camp.  Trains were operated on Saturday mornings to New York about an hour apart for the thousands of men on weekend passes, and returned Sunday night.  Also, visitors’ trains from New York came into the camp on weekends, bringing thousands of the relatives and friends of the men in the camp.  Tickets for the soldiers were sold at $1.30 for a round trip to New York.  The railroad station was a busy place in those days.”


          “That first winter of 1917-1918 was a hard one with lots of snow, ice and muddy roads in the spring, as most of the roads were not hard surfaced at that time and the only hard surfaced road out of the camp was the one to the Montauk Highway, four miles distant.  The Barrett Company had the contract for building the roads in the camp.  The Longwood Road and the old “Hay Road” that came into the camp from the Middle Country road were dirt roads and became almost impassable that winter.  At one time the mud was so bad that autos and trucks could not get around and mule teams were used for trucking.”


          “Irving Berlin, the famous songwriter, was an early soldier in Camp Upton, and with all the other men hated to get up in the morning when the bugle blew, so he wrote the song “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” which became an instant success.  He got many Broadway performers to come out to the camp and entertain the soldiers in the camp theater and he directed a musical comedy called “Yip Yip Yaphank,” which soon became famous and had a short Broadway run.”


          “Thousands of men were trained at Camp Upton during 1917 and 1918 and went overseas.  The men of the 77th Division were trained there and most of them were from the New York and Long Island area.  After the war ended in November 1918 the camp was made into a debarkation camp, as the men returned from overseas to be discharged.  The American Railroad Association had an office with 24 hour telephone switchboard service and handled all the railroad operations for the troop movements in and out of the camp.  The railroad ticket clerks worked nights making up the tickets for the lists of men who were being sent out the next day to their homes all over the country.”


          “The army had thousands of mules that were kept at the old ‘Remount’ in the part of the camp near the main line of the railroad.  These were sold at auction and shipped around the country.  We had a train of 50 stock cars with engine attached backed to the loading platform and, as the mules were sold, they were lassoed and the government brand burned off, then herded up the loading platform and loaded 21 mules in a car.  As each car was loaded the train moved ahead to the next car until the train was loaded.  The waybills were given to the train conductor and the train departed.”


          “The 1,660 buildings, utilities and improvements in the camp were sold at auction on August 21, 1921 by the auctioneers Smith & Jaffee.  Everything was to be removed within 60 days and the purchasers took down the buildings and salvaged the lumber in them.  Hundreds of carloads were shipped around the country as far west as Indianapolis, Indiana.  Some of the smaller buildings were moved to various location on Long Island.”


          “The pot bellied stoves that were used to heat the barracks were sold and shipped to Pittsburgh, Pa. to be reconditioned and sold by the mail order houses, as were the army cots, by the thousands.”


          “I was employed by the Long Island Rail Road in the freight department at Camp Upton for the five years the railroad operated there, from August, 1917 to April 15, 1922 and was the last man on duty when we closed the freight office in April, 1922.  I could write a great deal about those years in Camp Upton but space forbids.  A detailed report of the construction of the camp by Major O’ K Myers, the Construction Quartermaster, is in the Middle Island Public Library and may be inspected by anyone interested.”          Thomas R. Bayles, 1974


Unfortunately, Tom Bayles never wrote down that wealth of Camp Upton information he mentioned as having and it is now lost to history.  D.K.


Art Huneke has kindly provided the following list displaying some of the amazing numbers of people, trains and freight handled at the camp during WWI:


1.  543,830 tons of freight handled

2.  Over 1 million troops handled on 1,954 trains

3.  Over 1.1 million furloughed troops and visitors handled on 2,040 trains


Article added on the war-time construction of Camp Upton from the Engineering News Record, August 23, 1917.





by Dave Keller


          Upton Junction was the connection off the L.I.R.R. Main Line into Camp Upton during both World Wars. The block office cabin during WWI had the call letters "WC" and the cabin during WWII had the letters "CU".


          “WC” cabin was originally built at Central Islip in 1914 and given the call letters of “CP”, however it was decided not to be put into use, and remained at Central Islip, out of service, until it was loaded on a flatcar and moved out to Camp Upton for use during WWI. A photo of that cabin accompanies my railroad vignette about Central Islip Station Agent George G. Ayling.


As mentioned by Tom Bayles in his “Camp Upton in World War I” pamphlet, there was a station just west of the junction on the Main Line called Upton Road, which was named for the main road going into the camp.  The remains of this bridge used to be visible from the William Floyd Parkway overpass at the Main Line. I don't know if it's still there or not, as I no longer live on Long Island.  I photographed it in 1968.


The Upton Road station building which was put into service on 5/24/18 was moved to Yaphank for use as the agent’s residence (1922 – 1948). The Upton Road newsstand was purchased by Tom Bayles and moved to his property in Middle Island for use as a work shed.


When in use, the junction had a wye and a water tower north of the tracks and west of the west leg of that wye leading into the camp.  The west leg of the wye continued for a good distance before connecting with the Main Line . This westward connection was removed in May, 1968. The eastward connection was retained for access into Brookhaven National Laboratory, which occupied the site in later years. That connection is still in use.

During the summer of 1968, at age 16, I slung my camera over my shoulder and rode my bicycle from my house in Holtsville, along the yet unopened and semi-paved stretch of Long Island Expressway out to the site of the “junction”. (The LIE crosses the LIRR Main Line just slightly west of where the junction was.) The water tower and two metal crossing shanties were still standing. The west leg of the wye had been disconnected from the Main Line and from the spur going into Brookhaven National Laboratory. The water tower toppled over a number of years later as a result of a forest fire that swept through the scrub pines.

Trestle-Upton Road-East of Yaphank-View E-1968 (Keller-Keller).jpg (105906 bytes)

Trestle-Upton Road-East of Yaphank-View NE-1968 (Keller-Keller).jpg (101985 bytes)

Upton Road Trestle, east of William Floyd Parkway, view E - 1968 

Hay Road crossed the LIRR's Main Line tracks at grade on the east side of where that bridge was later constructed.  When Camp Upton was under construction in 1917, the Hay Road crossing was closed, the bridge in question built over the LIRR's Main Line tracks, the main avenue into the camp greatly improved and renamed Upton Road. 

On 5/24/1918, the Upton Road station was built on the north side of the tracks, on the east side of that bridge. Part of the station platform extended across the former grade crossing of Hay Road.  This Main Line station was IN ADDITION to the station in the camp.  The stations closed in 1922 when the camp closed and LIRR service to the camp ceased in April of that year. 

Upton Road remained the main north-south avenue, following the path of the former Hay Road and, during WWII, became, once again, the main avenue into Camp Upton when it was rebuilt and reactivated.  This trestle and road was later made obsolete with the construction of the Wm. Floyd Parkway in 1959 and access into the former camp, now Brookhaven National Laboratory, made from the parkway.  I photographed this bridge in 1968.  It was torn down shortly after. Info/photo/collection: Dave Keller

List of illustrations: (All photos were taken by Tom Bayles unless otherwise noted.)

Sheet music to the song, “I Can Always find a Little Sunshine in the YMCA”, copyright, 1918 by Irving Berlin for his production of “Yip Yip Yaphank.”  (Collection of Geo. G. Ayling)

CampUpton-1918-Songsheet.jpg (71674 bytes)

Express house- rear view – 1918

CampUpton-ExpHse-1918-1.jpg (43317 bytes)

Express house – front view showing express cars at platform,
Yardmaster’s shanty (cabin) and doughboy walking with his rifle
shouldered - 1918

CampUpton-ExpHse-1918-2.jpg (49142 bytes)

Freight station – rear view – 1918 (this building was later broken down into sections and moved to Northport where it was again put into service as a freight station.)

CampUpton-FrtSta-1918-1.jpg (43238 bytes)

Freight station – side view – 1918 

CampUpton-FrtSta-1918-2.jpg (44606 bytes)

New York State historical marker for the Camp along William Floyd Parkway – looking north - 1987 (Dave Keller photo)

CampUpton-HistMarkr-1987.jpg (57694 bytes)

LIRR tar-papered bunkhouse for train and engine crews laying over at the camp – 1918

CampUpton-LIRR-Bunkhse-1918.jpg (65027 bytes)

Refrigeration house with Armour Star reefer car – 1918

CampUpton-RefrigHouse-Reefer-1918.jpg (46053 bytes)

Camp theatre – 1918

 CampUpton-Theatre-1918.jpg (49956 bytes)

  LIRR main ticket office – 1918

CampUpton-TktOfc-1918.jpg (49071 bytes)

LIRR train at platform – 1918

CampUpton-TrainAtPlatfrm-1918.jpg (40999 bytes)
LIRR train at platform with other (secondary?) ticket office – 1917 CampUpton-TrainAtSta-1917.jpg (37224 bytes)
Yard view – 1918 CampUpton-Yard-1918-1.jpg (47213 bytes)
Yard view – 1918 CampUpton-Yard-1918-2.jpg (38558 bytes)

  Upton Junction – looking east.  Water tower in background,
  remains of west leg of wye at left, Main Line at right, 1968 
  (Dave Keller photo)

UptonJct-1968.jpg (54236 bytes)

  Form 19 train order issued at “WC” cabin, Upton Junction, 
  on 10/23/17 (Dave Keller collection)

UptonJct-Form19-WC-Cabin-10-23-17.jpg (93155 bytes)
Cabin CU (former) west switch Upton Junction view W Upton 5/03/1964 (Makse-Keller) Cabin-CU (former)-W. Switch-Upton Jct-View W-Upton-5-3-64 (Makse-Keller).jpg (92178 bytes)

  ALCO RS-3 #1556 pulling railfan extra on west leg of wye –
  Upton Junction 4/21/68 (Wye was disconnected shortly thereafter)
  (Dave Keller collection) 

UptonJct-RS-3-1556-FanTrip-4-21-68.jpg (65237 bytes)

  1st crossing shanty looking northeast – Upton Junction – 1968
  (Dave Keller photo)

UptonJct-Shanty-1-1968.jpg (55387 bytes)

  2nd crossing shanty looking northwest – Upton Junction – 1968
  (Dave Keller photo) 

UptonJct-Shanty-2-1968.jpg (50625 bytes)

  Water tower – looking northwest – Upton Junction – 1968
  (Dave Keller photo)

UptonJct-WaterTwr-1968.jpg (70864 bytes)

  Disconnected west leg of wye – Upton Junction – looking 
  south towards Main Line – Upton Junction – 1968 
  (Dave Keller photo) 

UptonJct-Wye-WestLeg-1968-South.jpg (69925 bytes)

  Disconnected west leg of wye – Upton Junction – looking 
  northeast from Main Line - Upton Junction – 1968  
  (Dave Keller photo) 

UptonJct-Wye-WestLeg-1968-North.jpg (80957 bytes)

  LIRR General Notice #151 from 1917 concerning 
  Camp Upton  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-GenlNotice-151-1917.jpg (95501 bytes)

  LIRR General Notice #153 from 1917 concerning 
  Camp Upton  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-GenlNotice-153-1917.jpg (74004 bytes)

  LIRR General Notice #155 from 1917 concerning 
  Camp Upton  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-GenlNotice-155-1917.jpg (87608 bytes)

  LIRR General Notice #19 from 1918 concerning 
  Camp Upton  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-GenlNotice-19-1918.jpg (39895 bytes)

  LIRR General Notice #87 from 1918 concerning 
  Camp Upton  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-GenlNotice-87-1918.jpg (44604 bytes)

  LIRR train schedule for Camp Upton from 1917 (page 1)
  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-Schedule-1917-1.jpg (135623 bytes)

  LIRR train schedule for Camp Upton from 1917 (page 2)
  (Courtesy of Art Huneke)

CampUpton-Schedule-1917-2.jpg (164377 bytes)
A discharged soldier’s interline ticket over the Long Island Rail Road and the Erie Railroad, issued at Camp Upton on June 19, 1919   CampUptonTicket06-19-1999.jpg (84343 bytes)
Special LIRR Form 36 timetable for Camp Upton trains corrected to July 18, 1918 and printed August 24, 1918  (Scan Courtesy of John Fusto) CampUptonschedule07-18-1918.jpg (74088 bytes)
The dater die is identified as clerk #5.  In the height of the camp's operation, there must've been quite a few ticket clerks on duty for die #5 to be issued.  Most stations only had dies #1 and #2.  Terminals like Penn Station had 20 and 30.

Also, this is a ticket purchased to LEAVE the camp, so unless someone visiting or on business had purchased a one-way ticket to enter the camp and then purchased this separately for the return trip (which makes no sense to do), it appears that the purchaser was someone who was residing at the camp,  possibly one of the soldiers demobilizing. Info: Dave Keller

Discharged-Soldier_Camp-Upton_LIRR-rail-pass_1917-19.jpg (25555 bytes)

Discharged-Soldier_Camp-Upton_LIRR-rail-pass_reverse_1917-19.jpg (15267 bytes)


 Troop Train Wrecked Leaving Camp Upton


April 15, 1918   Troop Train Wrecked Leaving Camp Upton east of C. Islip

On April 15, 1918 one of many L.I.R.R. troop trains left Camp Upton and was heading westbound along the Main Line under the control of engineer Tom Kelly when it derailed at speed just east of Foot’s Crossing (the present day crossing of the Veterans’ Memorial Highway over the L.I.R.R. east of Central Islip).


Operator Ayling told me he found out soon afterwards that the wreck was a result of sabotage. He mentioned to me that the train was full of soldiers heading towards New York City  and there were many, many injuries. It was later determined that there were 3 soldiers dead and 36 soldiers injured. He said at the time I spoke with him, that he never heard another thing about the wreck.  For some reason, the railroad men never got the true story and it was kept quiet at the time. For many years afterward he was afraid to let anyone know that he even had photos of the wreck, for fear that he was breaking some sort of security.  I managed to obtain the negatives from him before he passed away. 


Had this happened today, the media would have been pouring all over the site with helicopter coverage and high-powered zoom lenses and we’d all be watching it on television.


And . . .. had George Ayling known the real reason for the wreck, he’d have slept easy. 


I recently acquired the official ICC report on this wreck and, despite George’s facts, which were obviously typical railroad-man rumor and hearsay of the day, the derailment was a result of defective rails.  The reason George never photographed the locomotive, was that it and the first three cars were still on the tracks.  Chances are, it was uncoupled from the fourth car whose rear truck had derailed, and left the scene to make way for the wreck train.


I’ve scanned the first portion of the ICC report for anyone interested in reading it.  It gets extremely technical (i.e. boring) for us non-engineers so at that point I skipped to the very end and scanned the engineer’s summary and closing statement. Info: Dave Keller


Explanation of photos:


1.  Head-on view of derailed coach

CampUptonWreck-4-15-18-1.jpg (91101 bytes)

2.  Interior view of derailed coach

CampUptonWreck-4-15-18-2.jpg (30989 bytes)

3.  Three coaches laying on their sides

CampUptonWreck-4-15-18-3.jpg (74058 bytes)

4.  Two coaches laying on their sides with trainman walking at center of photo

CampUptonWreck-4-15-18-4.jpg (60303 bytes)

5.  Two derailed coaches and torn-up tracks

CampUptonWreck-4-15-18-5.jpg (54414 bytes)
6.  Railroad workers walking past three derailed coaches and torn-up tracks CampUptonWreck-4-15-18-6.jpg (69879 bytes)


Be sure to see more of Art Huneke’s great LIRR historical photos and memorabilia at

                 Yours in Railroading,  Updated Dave Keller 02/27/2016