This is the southbound platform of the Howard Beach station. A pedestrian walkway allows passengers to cross-over to the northbound platform and to the exit to the JFK buses. The Howard Beach station has a raised platform configuration, with the RR ROW at ground level.
This station was modernized by the New York City Transit Authority after
the line was bought from the LIRR.
The two cement stanchions that hover above the northbound Howard Beach platform is for the soon-to-be in service JFK "AirTrain". This portion of the "AirTrain" is a stub that connects the Howard Beach station and JFK Long-Term parking lot to the main AirTrain transit loop.
Looking at the construction work for the JFK AirTrain in this particular
area, one has to wonder how feasible the AirTrain route would have been
if the route turned north at this location and proceeded to use the abandoned
Rockaway Beach ROW for it's route. It would have been certainly less
destructive than the work that is being done along the median of the Van
Wyck Expressway for the current ROW alignment for the AirTrain. There
may have been other political forces at work that rendered the decisions
that were ultimately made about the AirTrain's ROW.
This is the view at the northern end of the southbound Howard Beach station. A four-track configuration is present at this location, but only the two outside tracks are used for service. It doesn't appear that the inner "express" tracks are used for service. These tracks might be left-over from the LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch. It's interesting to note that the track ballast for the "express" tracks is still in very good condition. The MTA seems to be maintaining the express tracks, maybe to be used in the future.
OldNYC.com contributor Slade Gellin shares with us this information
about the track configuration in this particular area: "You speculated
on the reason for four tracks in the Howard Beach area of the subway, which
are vestiges of the old LIRR line. As you probably know, in the 1970's
a shuttle service from Broad Channel to Rockaway Park was started. At Broad
Channel, there was no convenient place for the shuttle to turn around.
It thus made the run north to the "mainland", and used switch tracks in
the two center tracks to turn around. These tracks were also used to turn
around the Aqueduct Race Track special expresses from Manhattan."
The A train glides over Jamaica Bay via the train trestle. It is really a sight to behold. You can't believe that you are on a subway train when one looks out the window and sees the bay surrounding the train.
Some interesting history at this location: During the time of LIRR operation, there were many trestle fires in this area. The trestles were constructed of wood, and were prone to catch fire. On May 8th 1950, the "Grassy Bay" trestle fire changed railroad operations significantly. The only trains to run were LIRR Aqueduct race trains between Pennsylvania Station and Flatbush Avenue terminal. Service south of Aqueduct raceway were terminated.
Oldnyc.com contributor James Boylan tells us: "Among the only trains to run were LIRR Aqueduct race trains between Pennsylvania Station or Flatbush Avenue terminal and the track. Service south of Aqueduct raceway was terminated, except for local trains from Pennsylvania Station to Hamilton Beach at the begining of the trestle. On Oct. 2, 1955, all LIRR services were cut back to Ozone Park, and the last of those trains ran on June 8, 1962."
When the New York City Transit Authority bought the section of the Rockaway Beach Branch south of Rockaway Boulevard, the NYCTA built new trestles that crossed the bay, as to help combat the problematic trestle fires. Many of the bay trestle crossings are constructed out of cement and steel, making trestle fires a rare event.
OldNYC.com contributor Skip Horner has a personal story about the trestle:
"Back when I was a mischievous young man (in the days before double fences
and razor ribbon), one night, my friends and myself took a fishing expedition
on the A train bridge. We got on the tracks through a hole in the fence
in Charles Park (165th Avenue and 104th Street) and walked to the first
"bridge house" (for lack of a better term). When a train came along, we
sat on the edge of the walkway, behind a signal so as not to be seen by
the motorman. The walk itself took about 10 minutes (probably close to
a 1/2 mile). The bridge house is where you have the full bridge frame and
not just tracks above the water. The house sits below the tracks and has
a many little piers along the water. The house itself is basically an electrical
station (maybe that's the term I was looking for) with 2,000 Amp circuit
breakers in it - don't touch the equipment! As for the fish we caught,
of course we threw them back." Your OldNYC.com Site Administrator
does not recommend that our readers follow Mr. Horner's youthful exploits!
OldNYC.com contributor Norman Hechtkoff adds: "The electrical rooms under the track level on the Rockaway trestle are called circuit breaker houses. They are found all through the subway system. The circuit breakers are not 2000 Amps, more like 20,000 Amps!"
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