This rather long post has taken me a few weeks to finish. The actual trip took place two weeks ago on August 16, 2015:
This summer I haven’t had much time for the website but have been trying to “finishing” things for the website. A few weeks ago curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see what it would take to finish the Montauk branch. Bus service does connect most of the towns with the hourly S92 (including Sundays) but that’s no fun, is $2.25 a pop, and is quite unreliable (as I learned on my Orient Point trip). The LIRR from Westhampton and eastwards is all Zone 16 at $3.00 (maybe, depending if the conductor gets to you) a ride. That’s $3 to go 41.5 miles! Weekday rail service on the Montauk Branch east of Speonk though is truly awful with just 5 or 6 round trips per day and no westbound trains between 3:00pm and 11:00pm.
On summer Sundays service vastly increases westbound with 5 additional trips giving roughly hourly service towards New York. I ran through the times and figured out it would take a summer Sunday (as much as I prefer to visit resort towns off season) to finally do the Montauk branch from Patchogue and eastward that I’m currently missing for the website. I also realized that with photo stops between Patchogue and Speonk I could avoid taking any of the standing room only inbound trains all the way back into New York. I don’t normally plan trips around a 6:45 departure time but I find out that I can take advantage of a strange schedule anomaly to spend 45 minutes at Bellport followed by a 10 minute “connection” at Speonk before continuing out towards the East End, otherwise service at Bellport station is awful with most trains skipping it. I will add that I’ve been out to Montauk once before and already have some photos of the station, revisiting it would add an extra hour that I don’t have so on today’s trip I’m going to stop short at the previous stop (Amagansett).
I wake up to my alarm at 5:10, shower and pack a breakfast before leaving at 5:45 into the dawn light. On Sundays the C train doesn’t start running until about 7:00am, so it’s a 20-minute frequency, A local ride downtown.
On time, my A train arrives at 5:55 and is standing room only after about 145 Street.
We’re held at 50th street due to an E train crossing in front and I get off at 34 Street-Penn Station–(3 Photos) at 6:25. I’m 20 minutes early for my train. I go out the new “construction” entrance to get photos.
Looking up at an LIRR board I notice my train isn’t boarding yet. I purchase my first $15.75 ticket to go the first 60 miles (26¢ per mile) and try the ClubAcela wanting some coffee but the club doesn’t open until 7:00am on weekends.
At that point Track 21 for my first train to Long Beach with a Jamaica connection for the train to Montauk has posted so I board.
My first electric train leaves Penn Station at 6:45 on time and were in Sunnyside Yards by 6:55, coming to a brief stop to wait for something.
We get to Jamaica–(3 Photos) at 7:07 on track 5 at the odd-ball middle platform that requires us to use the overpass to track 8 for the Montauk Branch train, that comes in as we get up to the platform. They announce for Bellport Passengers to board the first car and Amagansett passengers the first two. I oblige by boarding the nice and empty first car.
The connection from Atlantic Terminal is running late so we don’t leave until 7:14, 5 minutes late. The first stop is Babylon and I wonder if we’re going to run along the main Montauk Line or on Main Line via the branch. At 7:18 I find out as we rise up onto the Babylon Branch, the normal line, and bypass St. Albans.
7:25 – In Valley Stream as I notice the West Hempstead Line diverging.
I doze and don’t keep track of the stops as we run express through the island platformed line that is mostly a concrete areal guideway that always reminds me of BART.
- 7:36 – Wantagh, totally rebuilt
- 7:41 – We’re zooming along and come to a random, unknown stop short of Babylon. I assume we’ve caught up to a local.
At 7:47 were stopping in Babylon on the middle track with about a dozen people clearly waiting for our train.
- 7:50 – We pass the, train wash followed by the Babylon yard and then over the first grade-crossing of the day in the town of West Islip.
We stop at Bay Shore at 7:45.
- 7:58 – Pass a Suffolk Transit bus lot
- 7:59 – Skip Islip
I doze off, not seeing Great River and Oakdale. I wake up at 8:07 for Sayville. The line then becomes single tracked. We pass greenhouses and I catch my first glimpse of a marina as we go over a river and into Patchogue where we stop at 8:13, 2 minutes late. It has one platform across from a siding. A few people get on and the conductor visually remembers them and pushes their tickets as we sit in the station I think waiting for train orders. We leave at 8:15. The track feels rougher as the single siding at Patchogue switches back and I prepare to detrain. I see marshland, houses and a nursery. Then a junkyard.
I then head downstairs to get off the first car only at 8:21. It is only as I get off that I realize my train is 10 cars long with a locomotive at each end. Bellport–(42 Photos) consists of a tiny one car platform that has a single covered area with a shelter in the middle of it with the stations only bench inside that is full of trash. This platform is just west of the grade crossing of fittingly named Station Road.
I get the 8:36 train going to Jamaica that stops at 8:39. It has 8 cars and locomotives at each ends again.
Bellport on a Sunday morning is definitely the poverty side of Long Island. I have my choice of 3 delis for a quick cup of poor coffee before I return to the station for my 9:04 train to Speonk at an empty platform without even a car in the parking lot. I do see a bunch of people waiting for a Suffolk transit bus that soon stops along Montauk Highway across the tracks.
The train comes in at 9:04 on time, just a four-car scoot. The conductor comes to find me. I have my $6.00 cash ready to go 46 miles (down to 13¢ per mile) for the friendly conductor who says he loves informed passengers as he punches me a ticket to go out to Amagansett (the photo stop costing me just $1.25 which is pretty good by LIRR fare standards). Bellport is the only stop left on the Montauk Branch to lack TVMs. The line feels more rural.
At 9:11 we stop at Mastic-Shirley my one intermediate stop on this short ride. I then see a trespasser on the other side of the tracks as the tracks diverge again.
- 9:16 – Go over water
- 9:20 – The line continues through trees and over a road on definitely rougher track as we continue east. It’s 9 miles from Mastic-Shirley to Speonk
- 9:23 – Through Eastport and past some more water as we slow for Speonk. Were told same track, same platform (the station has only one) for Montauk at approximately 9:37.
We arrive one minute early at 9:26 at the longer platform. I go down to the grade crossing and get photos of the train curving into the Speonk Yard, the only one between the electric yard in Babylon and the small one at Montauk. I also get the former station house turned restaurant across the street from the yard. It’s a breakfast and lunch place (closing at 3:00pm)
The Montauk train arrives on time at 9:37. They’re a number of people getting off and some getting on with me, but the train is definitely more crowded than the one I took an hour earlier. This platform can accommodate 4 cars. We leave a few minutes later at 9:41 and I get some more photos of the yard.
The next stop is Westhampton behind a dump (with one platform and a siding) with pine trees at 9:45, 2 minutes late. There is no sign of the conductor to do a second punch of my ticket. The train is definitely a bit louder than you’d expect on a Sunday morning. The line isn’t scenic, just trees.
We go through a wide street that says Hampton Bays and stop at the station at 9:57 where I notice a few people waiting to get on.
The line passes more houses between trees and signs of industry.
- 10:01 – I am too late to get photos of the Shinnecock Canal with its visible locks as we go over it, continuing east.
- 10:05 – See a construction site with wood framed houses getting built.
We stop at 10:08 on Southampton, a station away from the town. It has a nice older looking platform canopy.
- 10:11 – There is plenty of vegetation that just looks different because of probably sandy soil before we pass a winery.
- 10:14 – Pass cornfields
- 10:15 – More marshland and a sign at the entrance to a horse farm.
We stop in Bridgehampton at 10:17 a simple stop that doesn’t look like it’s near anything. I notice a few sidings then the postcard perfect view from the train into a backyard pool with people eating breakfast on their patio directly.
- 10:21 – Were back to trees and sandy soils.
- 10:24 – See the courts of a tennis club.
I see cars parked along the tracks and the S92 on layover as we stop at East Hampton at 10:26 it has a nice old station house behind the platform. We leave at 10:28, on time. This stations definitely near town.
I hear dinging from the PA system but it seems to be broken. The crew isn’t enforcing fares out here. We pass a golf course and arrive at 10:33 to the tiny platform with a small older wooden waiting shack that as of a couple years ago contains a TVM.
I buy an $3 Amagansett to Westhampton ticket, get my photos and then decide to take a bit of a detour via the beach! I’m the sort of beach person who loves short swims in the ocean but dislike lying on the sand for hours. Today seems like the perfect day, since the beach is continuous I also decide I might as well walk the sand to East Hampton. The Hamptons is lucky a place where all beaches are free you just need to pay or a permit to park! This is how access to most nature should be.
I walk down local streets to Indian Hollow Beach (Atlantic Beach is closest to Amagansett train station but I don’t want to spend too much time in the sand). I find a restroom shack with showers outside and no signs indicating which side for men or women. I see others going in the correct sides and follow into the Men’s room. After changing into my swimsuit I put my sneakers back on and start walking.
As I walk down the beach, the views are extremely scenic.
I get to Two Mile Hallow Beach put my bag down on my small pack towel and have a nice refreshing dip. Afterwards (my camera now deep inside my backpack to avoid damaging it) I continue walking, now barefoot, carrying my shoes in a shopping bag. I approach Egypt Beach where I need to head “inland” to the East Hampton Station and see a bunch of identical beach umbrellas and learn that this beach is basically a small public parking lot and entrance next to the private Maidstone Club. I go for another swim, my backpack on my small towel looking even more out of place. I leave the beach disappointed to not find a public bathhouse as I barely get the sand off my socks before putting my walking shoes on (with the consequence of a few small blisters forming).
It’s then a walk past the clubs golf course that has various roads going through it and into town. I stop in a cafe to change out of my swimsuit and for my most overpriced sandwich ever ($16), at least the salad it comes with is fresh and decent.
In the process of my beech walk I’m now a little off schedule, the original plan was to take the bus around 12:30 to Bridgehampton. I realize the consequence will probably mean sacrificing Mastic-Shirley but at least I’ve been there before even if their only 5 photos on its page (getting off to do the last 65 miles of the Montauk Century). The hourly S92 bus and roughly hourly trains (because of all the Summer Sunday extras) basically run at the same time. The biggest problem with my stop and getting to East Hampton just 20 minutes before the train’s departure are the crowds, so getting my photographs is less easy than normal. I notice the ticket office is open with signs on the TVMs to come inside and long lines for all 3.
The train comes in on time to the crowded platform.
The train leaves East Hampton at 1:56 on time with 6 cars platforming, they announce Bridgehampton will be next and again only the head six cars will open. It’s an uneventful ride as I sit backwards on the Lower level and we pass another train on a siding just before the station at 2:04.
I do my photo essay check my schedule and discover the last westbound train until about midnight is due. I head up to the nearest grade crossing on the opposite side of a siding for photos. It’s about 5 minutes late at 2:30.
I return to the platform and watch the conductor manually throw the switch so my next train, the only train that ever originates at Bridgehampton so it can enter the station at 3:01. Photographing it entering is tricky because of poorly placed overgrown foliage but I’m squatting down the short 4 car train set slowly enters. I get a few more photos of train on the platform as people scurry not understanding why the 3:08 is early. Needless to say it leaves on time, the conductor comes to collect my ticket. She doesn’t get to everyone.
The train arrives 2 minutes early at 3:16 at the neat Southampton Station that has an extremely narrow platform because the original wooden canopy that is attached to the station house survives with the platform built under one edge of it. I slowly get my photo essay before the station becomes crowded again for the next hours train.
I also buy my next $3 ticket from the ticket agent inside the station house.
It’s time for ice cream and the nearest place seems to be the original Tates Bake Shop (I’m not the biggest fan of their cookies). I go into the shop and get a Chipwich which is delishous, and less overpriced (at $3.50) than I expect. I’ve noticed a theme here, stores being poor at indicating prices on their products.
I return to the train station at 4:05 as our train becomes 7 minutes late, I guess longer time to load! I’m expecting it to be standing room only. The automated voice actually says “because of overcrowded conditions on the train, the 4:13 train to Jamiaca is 7 minutes late. A 7bus arrives and idols outside the station.
The train arrives at 4:21 and they spot the rear half of the packed 12 car train. It’s not empty. Only the back can platform at Montauk, I hope I can get out at Hampton Bays! I notice seat checks and find two conductors standing in the opposite vestibule who look at a sheet of paper and confirm that I’m in a car that will open at Hampton Bays. He looks at a configuration sheet of paper. It’s really too bad LIRR can’t just pull their electric cars with diesel locomotives on Summer Sundays that all sit idol in yards for the weekend. At least they try as evident of the long trains I’ve been riding all day.
4:28-Cross the canal, again I’m too slow for a photo.
We arrive in Hampton Bays at 4:30. I get my photo essay of the simple station platform, including taking a short walk. It’s my shortest layover of the day so I don’t wander too far.
The next train leaves at 4:58, It has empty seats. The conductor announces that the next stop will be Speonk followed by Mastic-Shirley and Jamaica. She then corrects herself to add Westhapton! Phew! The boarding exceptions are no first four cars at Speonk, no last four cars at Mastic-Shirley. I get my Southampton-Westhampton ticket collected. I arrive in Westhampton at 5:05pm.
The Westhampton Station has one long platform with what a rarity at the East End, two green and cream waiting shelters. I don’t even notice the nice historic station house until I’m done with my photo essay with a ticket window open on its meal break. There are also conflicting signs. Some say the waiting room is open Weekdays only from 6:00am to 10:00pm while another sign lists the ticket office hours as Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00pm to 8:00pm (with a meal break from 5:15pm to 5:45pm).
The Westhampton Station isn’t near anything the next train isn’t for 90 minutes and it is the westernmost stop in Zone 16. The Speonk Station (where I already briefly visited today) is only 3.5 miles away, so I decided to save roughly $4.75 (a one-way straight ticket home) to $5.75 my technical savings, since the price difference from a Zone 16 to Zone 10 ticket is $8.75 versus $3. My next ticket that I’ve purchased on my Hampton Bays Layover is misprinted.
I start walking, first on a not so busy driveway past a graveyard and then down relatively wide and busy Montauk highway that is basically sidewalk-less except for a decent shoulder, as I near Speonk. I hear a train whistle off in the distance that is clearly the 5:51 train that originates in Speonk for Jamaica that would have been nice to get but oh well. Soon, a Mom trying to drum up business for her little girl’s lemonade stand that there closing down from the front of the house screams at me from across the road if I want anything. I accept and have some lemonade and fill up my now empty water bottle with it (they want to give it away). The husband also tells me I’m 12 minutes walking from Speonk station and that he will be walking it at 6:00am to leave his family and go back to the city on Monday morning (Speonk is borderline commuting distance from the city, closer to a country house area and I think I’m in front of that type of home).
I soon approach the station passing the MOW parking lot for the LIRR and the historic depot, now empty since the restaurant inside is just a breakfast and lunch place.
At Speonk my next train comes in at 6:47, 4 minutes late. They pull way up to have the last four cars platform. I find a seat, doubling up backwards on the aisle, not ideal but a seat is a seat! There a bunch of slightly drunk people with smiley faces, I also notice an MTA cop aboard in the next car.
We stop in Mastic-Shirley at 7:00, from the rear the view is of a yard. We get the announcement for Patchouge and that the rear two cars. One of which I’m sitting in, won’t open. I walk up and don’t find another open seat, not occupied by luggage. I’m also surprised to see bikes on this train.
- 7:07 – WeZoom through Bellport where I started my day. They then announce to change for intermediate stops before Babylon that this train also stops at since it’s a year round train and not a Summer Sunday special.
- 7:10 – I see a trespasser, then a homeless encampment.
- 7:12 – We pass the siding with a connecting train and then another.
We arrive in Patchogue–(23 Photos) at 7:13.
Patchogue is a clusterfuck. Their drunk locals coming back from Hamptons Parties, crowds and confusion on the platform. The station house is also locked. I get a bit of a photo essay but fatigue from a long, successful and fun day is setting in as the sun sets.
My train is supposed to follow in from behind at 7:24, I immediately notice that the next Patchouge-bound train is 32 minutes late (scheduled at 6:49). A train approaches from the west. It’s the late 6:49 scoot. It arrives at 7:24 and people try and board. Stupidly (why not just reverse in the station? Patchouge is just a lay-up yard, not a full service shop) this train is being fumigated and is now out of service. It leaves the station and enters the small layup yard on a third track I didn’t notice existed. My train then leaves the yard on another track and enters the station. We leave 10 minutes late at 7:34.
The peace and quiet on the lower-level is short-lived. We stop at Sayville at 7:42 and the train fills up with the Fire Island crowd.
We stop at empty Oakdale at 7:47 as an eastbound passes, it seems to have a locomotive at each end so I wonder if it’s a deadhead move.
- 7:50 – Great River for maybe four. More people get off, a bunch of the drunks with smilie faces from the Montauk train connection.
- 7:55 – Islip, also Sunday night emptiness. I catch an announcement of dread, that they are NOT holding our connecting express train! Really LIRR? We’re told we’re going to all be on the 8:28 local train. I start really wishing I had kept my aisle seat on the crowded Montaulk Express, an extra half-hour is going to turn into an hour on locals.
- 8:00 – Bay Shore and the train fills up with the conductor asking people to move up and downstairs for seats. Since this is just a scoot train there are lots of standees for just the short ride.
We arrive in the middle of the empty Babylon Station–(21 Photos) on the middle track of the 3 track station at it’s Island platform at 8:07. The local train were supposed to be connecting to has left on time at 7:58, at least the Babylon Branch is the (lone) LIRR branch to have half-hourly all day service It’s now officially dark on this August evening.
At 8:12 the next train arrives that is connecting with our scoot train arrives on track 1A. It sits and will become the 8:58 train, I think.
Our train isn’t on the monitors because it’s due to arrive on the middle track as well. There is a train to Jamaica that just says held. I end up heading downstairs and get some night photos of the waiting room (the ticket office is still open). The now Speonk-bound (since it’s retring to the yard for the night) train leaves on time at 8:17. I think. I then notice a bizzare schedule anomaly, apparently this train is supposed to start in Jamaica?
I head up to the opposite empty platform after the scoot has left. I get some neat photos.
The 8:28 train comes in at 8:26, covered in water, fresh from the train wash. I spot the conductor ask him if he’ll open the otherside and does. No running over, my alternative plan.On this trip the LIRR gets bonus points for using all 12 cars so we can spread out. The train doesn’t feel empty but it’s not jammed I know from announcements about certain cars not platforming. I don’t feel like writing down times. The conductor soon comes for my ticket and gives me a seat check.
- 8:42 – Massapequa Park, we’ve wrong-railed and are on the left track, an easy thing to do on this island platform line.
- 8:44 – As we enter Massapequa, the reason we’ve been switched over becomes apparent. A diesel express train from the Montauk Line zooms through. I realize it must be the Inbound Cannonball. I’m on the wrong side of the train to try and notice if their drumhead logos attached to the ends of the locomotives. I also notice the station’s renovation.
- 8:49 – Enter Wantagh, we’ve used the switches and are back on the proper track. As boring as I find the subway-like Babylon Branch it is efficient. I think we’re one minute late.
- 9:07 – Stopping at Lynbrook I notice new concrete bottoms on the stations steel pillars.
- 9:10 – Bypass Valley Stream with a shorter train in the station. The conductor hasn’t come again.
- 9:11 – Roseville me as we’re clearly leaving the way we came, no sign of the conductor again, not that I care. I take my seat check to keep it and get another punch, since my ticket is a connecting ticket and quite complicated.
- 9:14 – Skip St Albans with people on the platform. It’s only the second stop I’ve skipped on this return journey (Valley Stream and Roseville don’t count since they are on the Atlantic Branch). It annoys me to no end that this stop that could be part of the city’s real transportation network only gets service every two hours.
- 9:17 – I see the illuminated sign for York College as we come into Jamaica.
I’m spending the $3 extra to stay on into Penn Station this evening. The E train is running shuttle buses to and from Union Turnpike, and I have to go to work tomorrow morning.
- 9:19-We pull up short for no clear reason.
We then arrive in Jamaica at 9:21 to a crowded platform. There a bunch of people with luggage I realize we pulled in behind the Cannonball! The Brooklyn connection pulls in at 9:23 and becomes standing room only! (or perhaps people haven’t moved all the way in again). We connect with it and leave first at 9:25 so I can’t count cars. I assume this train is a bit shorter than our train.
We’re the Kew Gardens/Forest Hills train so lots of first four car announcements.
- 9:28 – Kew Gardens stop at the dinky four car platform. No tickets yet!
- 9:30 – Forest Hills, this slow ride home feels like the subway. It’s also in full SubwayNut tradition such as the fact I always am on Metro-North local trains since I start every trip in the Bronx that normally requires this.
- 9:35 – SKIP Woodside, only the third stop skipped on this long, local return journey.
- 9:40 – Underground in the Penn Station tunnels.
We arrive at 9:45, pulling way forward past all that the construction for Moynihan Station.
The line of people is stopped by construction barricades and I’m finally swiping onto the subway at 9:55 after getting some neat nether regions of Penn Station photos and the former West End Concourse that is being expanded and is presently a huge construction site of plywood barriers.
I walk by the closed express platforms at 34 Street-Penn Station–(2 Photo) (Sandy repair work on weekends for a good year in the Cranberry Tubes meaning the A train is running via the Rutgers Tubes – F line) and head through the tunnel to the local platforms.
I have enough time to walk to the front before my train pulls in at 9:58. We stop short of 59 Street that seems to be a trend these days.
10:20-Stop short of 168 Street, the C train is running express between 125 and 168 because of weekend construction. I saw one pull out of 125 Street as we left. We’re now stuck waiting for it to fumigate. It’s isn’t long. We’re finished our station work at 168th by 10:25.
I’m off at 181 at 10:28 and home at 10:35. I’m going to round-up to a 17 hour day. I think today is my longest New York Day Trip from. The long Caltrain day trip to Gilroy, and a long round-trip I did from Sacramento to San Jose definitely come up close in terms of a longest website related round-trip where I slept in the same place.