Welcome to Photo Line! The Long Island Rail Road was chartered in 1834, providing an essential transportation link from its namesake island to New York City and beyond. By the late 1970s, the LIRR was owned and operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and rostered an eclectic mix of diesels from a variety of sources. Photographer Len Torney tells us in his own words: "I was born in New York City, but moved out to St. James, Long Island, when I was about 4 years old. My love affair with trains and LIRR started when I was in the second grade. I had to do a book report on a form of transportation, and I picked trains. After that, I was hooked... My mother bought me a subsciption to the 'new' Railfan & Railroad magazine in 1979, and I was inspired to head trackside with my uncle's old Canon FT." Join us for this fond look back at the busiest passenger carrier in the United States.
A great way to start a day of railfanning: Smithtown, New York
One of my favorite ways to railfan was to buy a ticket from my hometown in St. James and getting off the train at certain stops to snap a picture of the train, and sometimes just hanging out at a certain station for an afternoon. The Long Island Rail Road rostered a fleet of rebuilt Alco FA's to provide HEP (Head-End Power) and cab controls, but lacking traction motors. This photo of "power-pack" 606 (former Louisville & Nashville 321) was taken at Smithtown station in the fall of 1979, as the westbound I was riding on waited for a meet with an eastbound. Unfortunately, 606 was involved in a wreck at Huntington in 1988 and was scrapped. The last of these unique units were retired in 1999.
Milwaukee cab units far from home
After recieving my issue of Railfan & Railroad in the mail, I read about the LIRR acquiring some used Milwaukee Road F-units to be converted into "cab-control cars" for push-pull service. Having these units on the rear meant less time spent switching at the terminals for runaround moves. You can imagine my surprise when I snapped this photo with one of those new units on the trailing end of an eastbound about two weeks after reading about them! LIRR 619 was former MILW 126A, and was the only HEP conversion to have horizontal headlights. All of the F-units were rebuilt at LIRR's Morris Park shop in the early 1980s. Like so many other New Yorkers who commuted back and forth on the LIRR for so many years, 619 "retired" to Florida in 2003 to work for Seminole Gulf.
Alcos on the Port Jefferson Branch
I really didn't get to see too many of the LIRR's high-hood C420's out and about on the Port Jeff branch, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to snap a few photos of this one assigned to some MOW duty, parked in the siding just west of St James station. The westbound just departing from the station made for an all Alco photo op too good to pass up! Taken in the spring of 1978.
Alco C420 on work train at St. James, New York
Right around the spring of 1978, the LIRR emabarked on a project to replace all the jointed rail on the Port Jefferson branch with welded rail, which led to this C420 idling away the weekend on a Saturday in the siding just west of St James station. Long Island 228 was a Phase II unit built new in 1968, and was retired in 1989, sold to Naparano Iron & Metal and resold to South America.
MP15AC idles away the weekend at Ronkonkama, New York
On one of my rare trips off the "Port Jeff" branch, I caught MP15AC #168 idling away the weekend just off the wye near the old Ronkonkoma station. Built new for the LIRR in 1977, the MP15AC's held down a variety of jobs, everything from freight service to work trains to passenger runs. Almost everything in this photo is long gone, and a parking garage now sits where this photo was taken, around the fall of 1979. LIRR 168 was retained by the railroad for use on work trains and in standby "rescue" service.
Through the Main Street bridge at Smithtown, New York
This is the same train from the first photo, taken from the west side of the bridge that crosses Main Street in Smithtown. Smithtown is now served by high-level platforms and new stainless steel bi-level coaches hauled by dual-mode (third rail or diesel-electric powered) locomotives.
LIRR FA at Hicksville, New York
This one was taken during one of my rail riding excursions, this time I decided to spend the day at Hicksville station, where I caught FA 602 (ex-L&N 309) biding it's time waiting for the afternoon rush of eastbound commuters around the summer of 1980. After retirement, 602 was sold to private owners in New Jersey who plan on restoring the unit to full operating condition.
LIRR FA and autos at St. James, New York
The vehicles really date this photo, a profile "grab shot" of FA 600 (ex-PC 1302, built as New York Central 1102) just as it was about to depart from St James station around the spring of 1979.Placed in service in 1974, this particular unit was retired in 1986, along with sisters 610 and 618. The Western New York Railway Historical Society has this unit stored in Lackawanna, NY awaiting evaluation for eventual restoration as an example of a New York Central FA-2.
LIRR GP38-2 at Milepost 47
I figured while I was already on this side of the bridge after taking the shot from one of the previous photos, I snapped this one of the trailing unit pushing westbound, of the same train from the first photo, after having waited for it's Eastbound counterpart at Smithtown station to depart on it's way to St James. Built in 1976, this 21-unit order ushered in the "hood-unit" era on the LIRR, lasting until 1999. This particular unit would be sold to Locomotive Leasing Partners (LLPX) and serve in freight service around the country as their 2245.