Central Branch (Long Island Rail Road)

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LIRR #408 (EMD DE30AC) leads an eastbound service on the Central Branch in West Babylon in 2012.

The Central Branch is a rail line owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in the U.S. state of New York, extending from 40°44′02″N 73°28′12″W / 40.734°N 73.470°W / 40.734; -73.470 just east of Bethpage to 40°41′46″N 73°20′28″W / 40.696°N 73.341°W / 40.696; -73.341 just west of Babylon. It was built in 1873 as part of the Babylon Extension of the Central Railroad of Long Island (CRRLI), which was owned by Alexander Turney Stewart. The branch was mostly unused following the 1876 merger of the CRRLI and the LIRR, but in 1925 it was rebuilt and reconfigured to connect the Main Line (Ronkonkoma Branch service) at Beth Interlocking southeast of the Bethpage station with the Montauk Branch (Babylon Branch service) at Belmont Junction west of the Babylon station. This allowed non-electric Montauk Branch trains that begin or end east of Babylon to use the Main Line from Bethpage to Jamaica. The branch is colored as part of the Ronkonkoma Branch on some LIRR maps,[1] but these trains are shown on Babylon and Montauk Branch timetables.[2][3]

There were two stations along this stretch: Farmingdale (later renamed South Farmingdale) and Breslau. The South Farmingdale station had a sheltered platform[4] and was the last station in service along this branch, discontinued about 1974.[5]

It was along this stretch of the Central Branch that Mile-a-Minute Murphy set a record in 1899, pedalling a bicycle for one mile behind a train in less than one minute.[6]

There are several freight customers located along the branch, which is served several times weekly by the New York & Atlantic Railway.

The Central Railroad of Long Island[edit]

The current day Central Branch right of way dates back to 1873 when Alexander Stewart chartered and built the Central Railroad of Long Island. A line of tracks was built by the CRRLI from Flushing to Bethpage Junction, and later extended to the Babylon shoreline via the aforementioned Babylon Extension. At Garden City a spur line was also built to service residents of Hempstead. At the time, Stewart was building Garden City, one of the first planned suburban communities in the United States. The railroad had a dual purpose in that it was to service Stewart's Bethpage Brickworks (within the hamlet now called "Old Bethpage"), which was supplying the building materials to the Garden City construction site. Additionally the railroad would also supply the new residents of Garden City with both commuter service to Long Island City, where they could then connect to ferries into Manhattan. Service along the Babylon extension also was popular for excursions to the Babylon shoreline and to ferries to Fire Island.

In 1876 the CRRLI was acquired by the LIRR and Stewart's line became known as the LIRR's Central Branch. The portion from Flushing to the Creedmoor Rifle Range (the site later to become Creedmoor State Hospital) was abandoned in 1879, although the tracks were not removed until World War I. The portion from Creedmoor to Floral Park survived as freight service and was known as the Creedmoor Branch until service ended in the late 1960s and the tracks demapped in the early 1970s. The LIRR used the Central's right of way between Floral Park and Garden City along with the Central's spur line to Hempstead to make up what is today the railroad's current day Hempstead Branch. Past the Garden City station the Central Branch continued on a straight path through central Nassau County through what is today the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and Eisenhower Park until Bethpage Junction and then south-east to Babylon via the Babylon Extension.

In 1925 the Stewart's Central branch was severed from its connection to the Babylon extension with the reconfiguration of Bethpage Junction. The portion of the line from Garden City to just west of the disconnection at Bethpage Junction came to be referred to as the Central Extension. Also in 1925, the Babylon Extension was fully rebuilt with the main purpose of providing a connection between the two main trunk lines of the LIRR, the Main Line and Montauk Branch, and thus became known as the current-day aforementioned Central Branch. In 1939 the Central Extension between Garden City and the end of line in Bethpage was abandoned for regular passenger service. During World War II the eastern portion of the rail was removed and sold for scrap. After World War II a portion of the track was rebuilt to move materials for the construction of Levittown, however, it never again reached Bethpage Junction (thus, nor Babylon), and those tracks too were soon removed.

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