Final Run Of The LIRR's M1 Cars
November 4, 2006
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Saturday, November 4, 2006
Last week I was out riding what most likely will be the last Metroliner to ever run. My short report for that can be found in the Trip Reports section of our forums or by clicking here.
This week it was the final run of the LIRR's M1 cars. Or at least it was the last time that anyone will probably ever see an entire consist of M1's on the LIRR, some of the cars may still see a few more revenue runs, but most likely mixed with M3 cars. I believe that I correctly heard one LIRR conductor state that there were only 14 M1 cars left on LIRR property and they will definitely be gone before years end, possibly even before this month is over.
So it is very likely that these cars may well have seen the last passengers that they will ever carry in their lives. These cars first introduced in 1968, built by Budd, were the backbone of the LIRR for many years. However with almost 40 years of work under their belts and hundreds of thousands of miles on them, the time had come for them to fade into history. The new fleet of M7's has allowed for the retirement of the venerable old M1's.
To commemorate their life and history, the Long Island Sunrise Trail chapter of the NRHS got together with the LIRR to plan a full day of riding 8 of the remaining M1 cars. The trip included movements into yards, onto lines that haven't seen an M1 in years, along with some mainline speed running.
Two buddies of mine, Nick Gibson and Skip Howard both OTOL members and frequent participants at OTOL Fests, joined me in Jamaica. Skip actually flew in from Boston that morning, just for this special trip. We boarded the M1 consist there in Jamaica, along with what I would guess was at least 200 other railfans. Our departure from Jamaica was a bit off the advertised, closer to 8:40 AM instead of the advertised 8:30 AM. The first leg of our run saw us heading down the Atlantic Branch to VD yard in Brooklyn.
VD yard is located near the end of the line at Flatbush Avenue and is bordered on one side by Atlantic Avenue. At one time this yard saw freight and even had an electric car shop, now it's mainly used as a lay-up yard on the weekdays. We were allowed to detrain here and take pictures, while they moved the train from one yard track to another for us.
After reboarding, we once again dashed out the Atlantic Branch towards Jamaica. Here we hit our one snag for the day, when a malfunctioning switch prevented us from operating via the Brooklyn Freight yard to 11 track into Jamaica. So we simply came in the normal way to Jamaica and went through on track #6 if I recall correctly.
Passing east through Jamaica, we went onto the Montauk line for a run down to Far Rockaway. Due to time constraints we were not allowed to detrain at Far Rockaway and after about a 15 minute layover we reversed direction and headed back to Jamaica via the Atlantic Branch. Passing through Jamaica again on track #5, this time headed west, we were off on what is normally the eastbound express track on the main line to NYC. However, instead of heading into the East River tunnels, we went to Hunters Point Station.
Those that preferred more pictures were allowed to detrain here and photograph the train leaving and reentering the station. Those that preferred riding an all electric train into the Long Island City yard were invited to remain onboard. The three of us choose the later option. We pulled into LIC Yard on track #9. Since the only high level platform is on tracks that don't have third rail, we could not detrain here and they did warn us about that.
I however was fortunate enough to be in a car where a nice LIRR employee keyed open one door and allowed me and a few others to lean out the door a bit to snap a few photos. The first shows a bit of the yard, along with the high level plats, and a bit of the Queens skyline. The second shows our consist in the shadows, against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
After changing ends, which really only involved transferring control from the engineer on the west end of the train to the engineer at the east end, along with a brake test, we were on our way back to Hunters Point after a layover of maybe 15 minutes. A short stop to pick up those we had left behind, and we moved out into Harold interlocking. There we once again changed ends and headed into the Line 2 East River tunnel.
Arriving into Penn on track 16, the fans were given two choices. Get off in Penn and have a relaxing 90 minutes to have lunch and take care of other needs. Or option 2, remain onboard for a trip to the West Side Yard. I would guess that at least 1/3 and maybe more choose to get off at Penn. Nick and I choose to remain onboard for the ride to the yard, while Skip opted for the longer lunch.
After a quick check by the crew to make sure that we hadn't picked up any normal passengers who wouldn't be very happy to find themselves in a train yard, we continued our trip west into the yard arriving on track #27. Tracks 27 and 28 straddle the only high level platform in the yard. I've driven by this yard many a time, but this was my first time ever actually arriving into the yard.
We were allowed to detrain here and walk towards the head end of our train to take some pictures. After that we were given a brief tour of the yard, which mainly meant walking us past all 30 bumper blocks, but still it was a bit of a treat, especially for those like me who had never been in the yard before.
We used up about 60 minutes of "the lunch hour" in the yard, before heading back into Penn and arriving on track #18. That left those of us who had gone to the yard, about 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat and reboard for the afternoon portion of our fun. I grabbed a quick slice of pizza and then returned to track 18 to await reboarding. Right on schedule, we departed at 2:20 PM heading into the normal LIRR Line 3 East River tunnel.
From there we shot back down the eastbound local track to Jamaica and onto track #8, where we got held for a few minutes awaiting other normal passenger movements. This however did create some confusion with many of the passengers on the platform. Despite repeated announcements by the station announcer that our train was not in service, at least 10 to 15 people lined up at the two doors on the car we were seated in, all trying to figure out why the doors weren't opening.
Shortly we were on our way again and heading out the Hempstead line we stopped at the Garden City station. Once again participants were given a choice, detrain here and take pictures as we moved in and out, or remain on board for a short ride down the Garden-Mitchell Secondary to the end of third rail territory. We elected for the rare track mileage, instead of more pictures. Normally about the only trains that see this branch anymore is the annual visit from the train that carries "The Greatest Show On Earth", better known as the Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey Circus.
We layed over here for about 15 minutes or so, enough time to let the westbound Hempstead local to go by, before we reversed back into Garden City station to pick up the rest of our passengers. Then it was back out to Queens interlocking, another quick reverse, and we were once again heading east this time on the Mainline.
Our final run would see us heading out to Mineola and then turning off onto the Oyster Bay Branch and up to the East Williston Station. Electrification ends at the East Williston Station, so it is rare these days to see any non-diesel hauled trains at this station. I think that we startled the local cops who just happened to be sitting in the station, as I rather doubt that it's a common event to see some 200 odd people get off at that station from one train. Not to mention the fact that it wasn't one of the normal double decker trains that normally ply this line today.
They quickly tried to organize a group photo, but with 200 people, fading daylight, and one narrow platform, I'm not sure just how well it will come out. I'm certain that faces won't be visible; by and large you'll probably just see a sea of people.
We were actually hoping that a westbound Oyster Bay train would come in while we were there, such that we could take some shots of it arriving. Sadly however he was running over 9 minutes late and that wouldn't allow enough time for reboarding our train to stay on its schedule. So everyone was asked to return to our train and a neat photo op was sadly missed. He did pull in just before we left, following him into Mineola.
From there it was another speed run back to Jamaica and the end of our long day, and quite possibly the end of an era for the M1 cars that still can get up and go when they need to. Change is always inevitable, but it was nice to ride those old cars one last time and they certainly got a fitting send off IMHO. Too many pieces of transit history have unfortunately gone away with no fanfare, and sadly sometimes without any attempts at preservation. So I'm glad to see that this small piece of RR history was given a good send off.
In closing I want to personally thank the organizers, the Long Island chapter of the NRHS, as well as the Long Island Rail Road and the many employees who came out today to help make this event a success, a most enjoyable day, and a fitting end to a piece of RR history. Thanks!