From delays to rowdy passengers to new routes requiring a transfer, many of us struggle with the transportation entity that is the Long Island Rail Road. However, despite its flaws, the LIRR remains the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying approximately 200,000 customers each weekday on 947 daily trains. Currently consisting of 11 branches from Penn Station to Montauk, this mammoth network was first established almost 200 years ago, and is the oldest United States railroad still operating under its original name and charter. Developing such a complex, widespread transportation system has required endurance, hard labor, collaboration, and communication. This two-part series explores the history of The Observer’s rail stations, which have come a long way since the 19th century. In our June 14 issue, we covered the central-LI Ronkonkoma branch. This week, we are covering the South Shore’s Babylon branch, which includes Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, and Massapequa Park stations.
This South Side railroad depot was originally built between 1867 and 1875, though during this time it was known as the Ridgewood Station. Wantagh Station would not be known as such until almost twenty-five years later, in 1891.
Many of the Babylon Branch stations were decommissioned and replaced sequentially, as construction improved and elevated stations became available. Stations were elevated, among other reasons, for rail safety, in order to combat erosion as well as drenched or damaged track lines. This was also the fate for Wantagh, whose original grade-level station was decommissioned when the current elevated station opened on October 22, 1968, after a two-year construction period. The elevated station opened the same day as Seaford’s and they were identical in design.
Wantagh’s former station was restored to become part of the Wantagh Museum in 1969. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Seaford Station was opened on May 26, 1899. It was razed on April 15, 1966 as part of the grade elimination project, which was built between 1966 and 1967. The station has one 12-car-long high-level island platform between the two tracks. While Seaford Station is typical of the elevated Babylon Branch stations that were rebuilt during the mid-to-late 20th century, it is atypical in its close proximity to the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway interchange. It is also notable for its identical design to Wantagh Station, through which trains enter first going west.
Located west of the Hicksville Road Crossing, Massapequa Station originally opened as South Oyster Bay Station by the South Shore Railroad in 1867. It was renamed Massapequa Station in May of 1889. The depot was relocated and rebuilt in 1891, this time on the east side of the Hicksville Road Crossing. It was razed in January 1953 as part of the grade elimination project of the post-war era. A temporary station was relocated west of the former location on January 12, 1953, and the current elevated structure entered service between December 14–18, 1953.
The station has one 12-car-long high-level island platform between the two tracks. It is the only Babylon Branch station that does not sit atop a concrete viaduct; instead it sits on top of a grassy embankment similar to Westbury.
Massapequa Park Station
The Massapequa Park Station originally opened as a platformed shelter in December of 1933, east of Massapequa Station where Robert Moses wanted to extend the Bethpage State Parkway. The original construction established platforms that were solely eastbound or westbound. It was replaced in 1966 by a temporary station, then in 1968 it received high platforms for the M1. A new temporary station was built to the south of the old one in December 1977 for the grade crossing elimination project. The current elevated station opened on December 13, 1980, making it the last station to be elevated along the Babylon Branch. The station has one 12-car-long high-level island platform between the two tracks.
—Special thanks to Steven Lynch and trainsarefun.com for information on the LIRR and its history!