Long Island Rail Road Reminiscences


Jules P. Krzenski


     I remember visiting my maternal grandmother in Brooklyn, riding the Long Island Railroad from Southampton...where I was born and raised...to the Flatbush Avenue Terminal in the borough that was then the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The phrase of the day, back then, was the unforgettable “Change at Jamaica!”  If you were headed for Brooklyn, you changed from the steam train to the electric MU train, usually by just crossing the high-level platform.  The run from Jamaica to Flatbush Avenue was fairly short...most of it involving the subway-like tunnel.


     If, on the other hand, you were Manhattan bound, you simply stayed in your seat, while the Pennsylvania Railroad K4s Pacific was replaced by a Long Island Railroad DD1 electric engine.  In the coming years, I would learn what those engines were.  But at that time, they were simply ‘steam’ and ‘electric’.  The big K4s Pacific engines were actually owned by the Pennsylvania RR...and were assigned to the LIRR. 

PRR DD1 Prime Mover RGlueck.jpg (44091 bytes)  PRR DD1 Prime Mover Photo: R. Glueck 

The heavy-weight, Tuscan Red, passenger equipment, that was used on the Montauk trains at that time...with the exception of the ‘Fisherman’s Special’...made the run completely between Montauk and Penn Station, in Manhattan.  Only the power would “Change at Jamaica!”  That ‘Fisherman’s Special’ will be mentioned in detail later on!


     Even though I didn’t know what to call them at the time, except that they were electric, those DD1 locomotives fascinated me no end!  When returning home, after a visit, we would get off the electric MU train from Brooklyn at Jamaica and then make sure we had the correct platform for the track on which the Montauk train would be arriving from Penn Station.  Usually it would be the outside track, farthest from the multi-story station/headquarters building on Sutphin Blvd...Track 8.  After a short wait, a big K4s Pacific...with the gold letters spelling ‘PENNSYLVANIA’ on its tender...would drift by on Track 8, moving slowly, bell constantly ringing.  The fireman would usually be relaxing, with both arms on his armrest, casually looking at the people on the platform.  The engine would continue past the east end of the platforms, move through a crossover, and wait beside Track 8.  That would be our power for the trip home.


     Shortly afterward, the station announcer would start with “Train for Montauk on Track 8!  Montauk Track 8!”  Then as he listed the stops, finally ending with “Hampton Bays, Southampton, Bridgehampton, Easthampton, Amagansett...and Montauk...train on Track 8!”, the DD1, bringing the train from Penn Station would come in beside the high-level platform.  Its bell would be ringing, those huge electric motors inside the twin bodies providing their distinctive sound, and those heavy jackshafts and side rods would be softly clanking. Memories!


     The big Pennsy K4s Pacific would always get my undivided attention, as it moved slowly by.  But those DD1 electrics seemed to have a personality all their own!  Their arrival with the train from Manhattan was always one of the high points of our homeward bound trip!  Back then, I wasn’t yet aware of their historical importance...traceable back to the PRR’s early operations between Manhattan Transfer, in New Jersey, to Penn Station.  All I knew, then, was that I loved to watch, and listen, as the DD1 arrived on Track 8!


     The steam portion on those roundtrips to visit my grandmother created some memories that I guess will always be with me.  As that big K4s started the train out of each station, and began accelerating, I could always feel a very perceptible tugging action on the train.  I always noticed that the tugging seemed to match the four beat exhaust of the engine up ahead.  It would be several years, though, before I would understand that interesting sensation.  Remember now...I was not yet knowledgeable about such things!


     Every time we boarded the train at Southampton, I always made sure we sat on the left side and, naturally, I was next to the window!  We also had to be at least three or four cars back from the engine.  Why?  Because just west of Oakdale, there was a long, sweeping, and highly banked, reverse curve.  Westbound, the track curved and banked to the left, while passing over the Connetquot River on a low concrete bridge.  If I pressed the left side of my head against the window, I could see the K4s up ahead, leaning into the curve...with the fireman usually in plain sight, leaning slightly out of his window on his armrest.  At the same time, I also enjoyed watching the side rods in motion.  It would also be several years before I would understand why that vision of the fireman leaning on his armrest, and those heavy side rods in motion, always stirred such a strong emotion in me.


     The leaning of the engine and train on the left hand curve, would gradually change, and the engine would begin to lean towards the right and disappear from sight, as we went through the second half of the reverse curve.  The train would immediately go under the concrete bridge that carried Montauk Highway over the railroad.  Then there was a long straight stretch, as we went over a grade crossing and past the Great River Station without stopping.  At this point, there was a street, closely paralleling the tracks on the left side, and extending for some distance past the Great River Station.  That street had a thickly wooded area all along the opposite side, for almost its entire distance, before abruptly turning away from the railroad.


     Little did I know then that this street was named Hawthorne Avenue, that the area, west of Great River, was part of East Islip, and that, many years later, a portion of that wooded area would be the site of the home of Mr and Mrs J.P Krzenski...and their six kids!!!  Memories!!!