Ronkonkoma Branch

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Ronkonkoma Branch
(Greenport Branch)
Deer Park Station - Westbound Train Leaves.JPG
A Penn Station-bound train leaves Deer Park.
Type Commuter rail
System Long Island Rail Road
Status Operational
Locale Nassau and Suffolk County, New York, USA
Termini Greenport
Farmingdale (Occasional weekdays only; East ends)
Penn Station (West end)
Stations 15
Opened 1837-1844
Owner Long Island Rail Road
Operator(s) Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Rolling stock Budd M3, Bombardier M7 (West of Ronkonkoma)
Kawasaki C3, DE30AC (East of Ronkonkoma)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 750 V (DC) Third rail (west of Ronkonkoma)

The Ronkonkoma Branch is a rail service operated by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in the U.S. state of New York. On LIRR maps and printed schedules, the "Ronkonkoma Branch" includes trains running along the railroad's Main Line from Hicksville (where the Port Jefferson Branch leaves the Main Line) to Ronkonkoma, and between Ronkonkoma and the Main Line's eastern's terminus at Greenport.[1][2] The section of the Main Line east of Ronkonkoma is not electrified and is referred to as the Greenport Branch.

The western segment between Hicksville and Ronkonkoma sees 24-hour service to Penn Station in New York City. The eastern segment between Ronkonkoma and Greenport is served by diesel-electric trains, and sees much less service. Weekday service consists of only a handful of trips per day, while weekend service operates only during summer and fall. This segment is also notable for being one of the few dark territory areas of the Long Island Rail Road that does not have signals.


Electrified portion[edit]

Train #8054 at Farmingdale, using diesel locomotives due to construction.

The western segment of the line from Hicksville to Ronkonkoma was electrified in 1987,[3] eliminating diesel service between Ronkonkoma and Hicksville and creating a one-seat ride to Penn Station. Average rush-hour trip time from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station decreased from 97 minutes pre-electrification (including the mandatory transfer from a diesel to an electric train) to 71 minutes afterwards. The $168.5 million project attracted many new passengers: A survey of peak-hour Ronkonkoma Branch passengers conducted by the LIRR in April 1988 found that 42 percent of the branch's passengers were new to the line: 34 percent switched from other lines (the Port Jefferson and Montauk Branches), 6 percent were new to the LIRR as a whole and 2 percent recently returned to the LIRR. By September 1988, over 2,000 new riders during the morning rush hour had switched to the Ronkonkoma branch, much of which occurred in the first month after electrification, faster than the LIRR expected. Commuters complained that the expanded parking facilities at Ronkonkoma built in anticipation of electrification were overcrowded and already inadequate, and that double-parking and vandalism were rampant.[4] In the decades since, the amount of parking at Ronkonkoma has expanded. In the present, diesel locomotives continue to provide all service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport. As electrification occurred in the 1980s, the MTA also planned to double-track the line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, however, this was deferred due to lack of funds.

Greenport Branch[edit]

The 46 miles between Ronkonkoma and Greenport is one of the few dark territory areas on the Long Island Rail Road that does not have signals. The relatively small amount of train movements on this segment are governed by train orders and timetable authority. This segment is served by diesel-electric "scoots", all but one of which terminate at Ronkonkoma, requiring customers traveling west of Ronkonkoma to transfer there. Two eastbound and three westbound scoots travel each weekday between Ronkonkoma and Greenport. Also, one eastbound and two westbound trains each weekday run between Ronkonkoma and Riverhead, and one eastbound each weekday runs as far as Yaphank. In addition, one eastbound train, nicknamed the "Jury Duty Special", runs between Deer Park and Riverhead in the morning, intended for use by Suffolk County jurors.[5] This train is unique among the scoots in that it has no connection from Nassau County and New York City; only passengers in Suffolk County can access this train. This is because capacity constraints on the Main Line preclude eastbound reverse-peak service. The "Jury Duty Special" is also the only scoot that serves stations west of Ronkonkoma. The Greenport Branch has seasonal weekend service from early May to late November, consisting of two round-trips each day between Ronkonkoma and Greenport. On Fridays during the summer, the eastbound trip to Yaphank is extended to Greenport, and one evening trip runs from Greenport to Jamaica, running express between Ronkonkoma and Jamaica. Added in summer 2016, this is the only Greenport scoot trip to serve the New York City terminals.[6]

The LIRR has tried to discontinue service east of Ronkonkoma on several occasions, citing minimal service due to low ridership. In 2010, the idea was entertained by the financially troubled MTA, who proposed eliminating all scoot service except for the popular summer weekend service.[7] Ultimately, weekday service remained, but weekend service outside of the summer (defined as Memorial Day-Columbus Day) was discontinued. In 2013, the span of weekend service was extended to operate from early May to late November. On July 25, 2016, the LIRR announced that year-long weekend service between Ronkonkoma and Greenport would be restored in 2016.[8]

Despite proposing to eliminate most service east of Ronkonkoma, the MTA desires to enhance the segment's infrastructure. The MTA budgeted $29 million in 2015 to add signals along the 10 mile segment from Ronkonkoma to Yaphank. This upgrade will install signals, track circuits and automatic speed control (ASC).[9][10] In its 20-Year Capital Needs Assessment, the MTA describes extending electrification eastward from Ronkonkoma to Yaphank or Riverhead, as well as the addition of a second-track between Ronkonkoma and Yaphank as long-term needs.[11] However, the MTA cites the high cost of electrification and other components as a barrier to present-day action.[12] If electrification were to be extended eastward, stations would also need upgrading as all station platforms east of Ronkonkoma are only long enough to fit one train car.

Central Branch[edit]

Some LIRR maps also include as part of the Ronkonkoma Branch the non-electrified Central Branch, which splits from the Ronkonkoma Branch east of Bethpage and connects with the more southern Montauk Branch, just west of Babylon. There are no stations along this stretch, and it is mainly used by trains with diesel-electric engines going express from Jamaica to Babylon. No trains using this track appear on Ronkonkoma Branch schedules; they appear on Montauk Branch and Babylon Branch schedules, and some appear on schedules for Mineola and Hicksville on the Main Line, if a stop is scheduled there.


Second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma[edit]

Groundbreaking for Phase 1

In 2012, the MTA approved a project to build a second track between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale, a well anticipated event since the electrification of the rail line in the 1980s.[13] Currently, the only areas east of Farmingdale with two tracks are between Deer Park and Brentwood stations (including those stations), at Central Islip station, and finally at Ronkonkoma itself. This construction will take place on land already owned by the LIRR (acquired during the 1980s electrification of this segment) so no land acquisition is required. It will include upgrades to switches, grade crossings, and station facilities.[13] The project will be done in two phases:

  • Phase 1: Constructing the second electrified track to the North of the current one along the 4-mile stretch from Ronkonkoma to Central Islip, followed by a continuation of it with the track being constructed South of the current one in between Central Islip and Brentwood. This is currently underway and should be completed by mid to late 2016.[14][15] As of late March 2017, the second track between Ronkonkoma and Central Islip was laid using a NTC machine (New Track Constructing) followed by the installation of the third rail. It is still unknown when that track will be put into service.
  • Phase 2: Construction of the second electrified track will continue with the new track being laid down South of the current one from West of Deer Park through Wyandanch, past Pinelawn station to the East end of FARM Interlocking at Republic. Phase 2 will commence once Phase 1 is completed and should be completed by late 2018 to 2019. Additional construction includes rehabilitation of grade crossings, demolition of pedestrian bridges, and a second platform at Wyandanch (the station currently has only one track and platform).[14][16]:92 As of late March 2017, work has begun by pile driving supports into the existing embankment by the old Deer Park station to the South of the current electrified track as they make room for it. In addition all the brush has been cleared, embankment has been added to the stretch between Pinelawn and the East Great Neck Road grade crossing, and Long Island Avenue/Conklin Street-Wellwood Avenue intersection located South of the tracks will be reconstructed into a roundabout with new signals added.

The project officially got underway in August 2015. With the help of a New Track Construction machine, workers officially laid the second track between Ronkonkoma and Central Islip within a year, with some work still to be done. There were a few weekends with no service, and in addition, a few grade crossings were closed for two days to add the second track to the crossings.[17] A design–build contract for phase 2 was awarded in June 2016.[18] In August 2016, workers started to clear brush and make space for Phase 2 east of Deer Park near Wyandanch.[17]

The benefits of the project include increased operational flexibility, increased reverse-peak service between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, and increased off-peak service between Hicksville and Ronkonkoma—operating half-hourly instead of just hourly—as well as increased resilience for the system, as this additional capacity will allow the Main Line to better serve as a substitute for South Shore lines in case of a disturbance caused by extreme weather.[13] The project as of now is slated to be completed by 2018.

Mid-Suffolk Yard[edit]

In 2015, the MTA conducted environmental studies to expand the existing rail yard in Ronkonkoma. This expansion, called the Mid-Suffolk Yard, will add 11 new tracks, increasing the number of total tracks from 12 at present to 23.[19] The expansion will use space already owned by the MTA located immediately to the south of the existing rail yard and north of MacArthur Airport. The increase in storage space will allow the MTA to increase peak-hour service once East Side Access is complete and service to Grand Central begins. The project is budgeted for $76.6 million, and the MTA expects to finish construction by late 2018.[20] Other locations along the line considered for a new electric yard but rejected include Deer Park, Central Islip, and Yaphank. Reasons given include the cost of land acquisition, the fact that the Deer Park option would impact several grade crossings, duplicate employee facilities and would not benefit customers east of Deer Park, the fact that the proposed Central Islip site (Connetquot River State Park) is State parkland, and the high cost of electrification and station upgrades between Ronkonkoma and Yaphank.[21]

Possible reopening of Republic station[edit]

The MTA has expressed interest in reopening Republic station, located between Farmingdale and Pinelawn, which closed in 1987 as part of electrification between Hicksville and Ronkonkoma. At the time, the station only had about a dozen riders daily, which didn't make it very cost-effective to upgrade the station to support electric railcars.

However, within the last decade, there has been an increased amount of commercial and residential development along Route 110 near the station, which has led to the MTA looking into re-opening Republic station.

The reopened station would serve the Route 110 corridor, a major north-south commercial route.[22] The station was deferred from the MTA's 2010-2014 budget due to budgetary issues, but revived in 2012.[23][24] The MTA budgeted $5 million in 2015 to design a new station and carry out environmental studies, although construction itself has not been funded yet.[16]:88, 204 The rebuilt station will have two new 12-car platforms, and ADA-compliant ramps.

Signalling between Ronkonkoma and Yaphank[edit]

The 46 miles between Ronkonkoma and Greenport is one of the few dark territory areas on the Long Island Rail Road that does not have signals. The MTA budgeted $29 million in 2015 to add signals along the 10-mile segment from Ronkonkoma to Yaphank. This upgrade will install signals, track circuits, and automatic speed control (ASC).[16]:96


Zone Station name Miles (km)
from NYP[25]
Connections / Notes
1 For continuing service west of Jamaica, see City Terminal Zone
3 Jamaica Handicapped/disabled access 10.8 (17.4) 1836 BSicon BAHN.svg LIRR; Atlantic, Belmont Park, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach,
Montauk, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, and West Hempstead Branches
BSicon SUBWAY.svg NYC Subway: "E" train "J" train "Z" train (at Sutphin Boulevard–Archer Avenue–JFK Airport)
Bus transport NYCT Bus: Q20A, Q20B, Q24, Q30, Q31, Q43, Q44 SBS, Q54, Q56
Bus transport MTA Bus: Q6, Q8, Q9, Q25, Q34, Q40, Q41, Q60, Q65
Bus transport NICE Bus: n4
BSicon TRAM.svg AirTrain JFK: Jamaica Station Route
Queens / Nassau county line
4 Mineola Handicapped/disabled access 20.3 (32.3) 1837 BSicon BAHN.svg LIRR: Montauk, Port Jefferson, Oyster Bay, and Ronkonkoma Branches
Bus transport NICE Bus: n22, n22X, n23, n24, n40, n41
Originally Hempstead, then Branch or Hempstead Branch
7 Hicksville Handicapped/disabled access 26.6 (42.8) 1837[26] BSicon BAHN.svg LIRR: Port Jefferson and Montauk Branches
Bus transport NICE Bus: n20H, n22, n22X, n48, n49, n78, n79, n80
Port Jefferson Branch diverges
Grumman 28.5 (45.9) 1942 1985
Bethpage Handicapped/disabled access 29.7 (47.8) c. 1854[27] Originally Jerusalem, then Central Park
Bethpage Junction 1873
Central Branch diverges
Farmingdale Handicapped/disabled access 32.0 (51.5) 1841[28][29] Bus transport NICE Bus: n70, n72
Nassau / Suffolk county line
Republic 33.0 (53.1) 1940 1987
Pinelawn Handicapped/disabled access 34.2 (55.0) c. 1890 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: S31
Originally Melville
Wyandanch Handicapped/disabled access 36.5 (58.7) 1875 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: 2A, 2B, S23, S33
Originally West Deer Park, then Wyandance
Edgewood 1892 1914
Deer Park Handicapped/disabled access 40.2 (64.9) 1842[30][31] Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: S27
Bus transport Tanger Shuttle Bus
Pilgrim State Hospital 1978
Thompson 42.2 (67.9) 1842[32] 1869
Pineaire 1915 1986
10 Brentwood Handicapped/disabled access 42.9 (69.0) 1870 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: 3A, 3B, 3D, S27, S41, S45
Originally Modern Times
Suffolk 44.7 (71.9) 1842[33] 1873
Central Islip Handicapped/disabled access 45.4 (73.1) 1873 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: 3C, 3D, S42, S45
Central Islip State Hospital
Nichols Road
50.2 (80.8) 1843 1883 Originally Lake Road
Ronkonkoma Handicapped/disabled access 50.3 (81.0) 1883 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: 6A, 7A, S57, S59
Eastern end of electrified service; originally Lake Ronkonkoma
Hermanville 50.6 (81.4) 1850
Holbrook 51.6 (83.0) 1907 1962[34]
Holtsville 54.2 (87.2) 1843 1998 Originally Waverly[35]
Medford Handicapped/disabled access 55.9 (89.0) 1844[36] Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: S61
Bartlett's 58.7 (94.5) 1844 Originally Bellport
Fire Place 1844[36] 1845
12 Yaphank Handicapped/disabled access 60.4 (97.2) 1844 Originally Milleville
Carman's River 1844[36] 1845
Upton Road[37] 1918 1922
Camp Upton[37] 1917 1922
Wampmissic 65.1 (104.6) c. 1847–1848
Manorville 67.0 (107.8) 1844 c. 1968 Originally St. George's Manor, then Manor
Former Manorville Branch diverged
Calverton 71.1 (114.4) 1852
c. 1958
Originally Hulse Turnout, then Baiting Hollow
14 Riverhead Handicapped/disabled access
(limited service)
75.1 (120.9) 1844 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: 8A, S58, S62, S66, S92
Aquebogue 1892 1967
Jamesport 80.2 (129.1) 1844 1985
Laurel 81.7 (131.5) 1901 1967
Mattituck Handicapped/disabled access 84.2 (135.5) 1845 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: S92
Cutchogue 87.2 (140.3) 1844 1962
Peconic 90.2 (145.2) 1844 c. 1970 Originally Hermitage
Southold Handicapped/disabled access 91.9 (147.9) 1844 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: S92
Greenport Handicapped/disabled access 96.1 (154.7) 1844 Bus transport Suffolk County Transit: S92
BSicon BOOT.svg North Ferry to Shelter Island Heights


  1. ^ MTA LIRR - LIRR Map accessed 2011-05-06
  2. ^ "Complete Ronkonkoma/Greenport Branches online-schedule" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Schmitt, Eric (December 31, 1987). "Electric Service Extended by L.I.R.R.". The New York Times. p. B3. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  4. ^ Saslow, Linda (September 11, 1988). "Electrifying L.I.R.R.: Pluses and Minuses". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2016-01-05. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "LIRR Cannonball to Montauk & Other Summer Service Enhancements Highlight New Train Timetables Going into Effect on Monday, May 23". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  7. ^ "MTA plan cuts LIRR trains from Ronkonkoma to Greenport". Newsday. 2010-01-22. 
  8. ^ "MTA Long Island Rail Road Resuming Year-Round Weekend Service to Greenport and the North Fork". Retrieved July 25, 2016. 
  9. ^ "MTA 2015-2019 Capital Program, page 96" (PDF). Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  10. ^ "RONKONKOMA TO YAPHANK SIGNALIZATION". Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Retrieved February 1, 2017. 
  11. ^ "MTA 2015-2034 20-Year Capital Needs Assessment, pages 70 and 73" (PDF). Retrieved January 4, 2016. 
  12. ^ "Mid-Suffolk Yard Alternatives Analaysis" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-01-04. 
  13. ^ a b c "Long Island Rail Road Double Track Project" (PDF). Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Double Track' Information Center Opens Today at Ronkonkoma Station as Part of LIRR Public Outreach". January 16, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2015. The first phase includes an environmental review and, after completion of that review, a design of the entire project and construction of a four mile segment between Ronkonkoma and Central Islip. This phase is already completely funded and tentatively scheduled for completion by late 2016. Phase two – which requires $297 million and is not yet funded - will stretch a second track from Central Islip all the way to Farmingdale by the end of 2018. 
  15. ^ "Double Track Project - Phase 1" (PDF). Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c "MTA 2015-2019 Capital Program" (PDF). Metropolitan Transportation Authority. October 28, 2015. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^ "Two design-build contracts awarded for LIRR Double Track project". Railway Track & Structures. 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2017-01-17. 
  19. ^ "Mid-Suffolk Yard". 
  20. ^ "Mid-Suffolk Yard Schedule". Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Mid-Suffolk Yard Alternatives Analaysis" (PDF). Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Connect Long Island: Double Track Main Line & TODs" (PDF). Transportation Research Forum. April 3, 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2015. 
  23. ^ Castillo, Alfonso A. (April 26, 2010). "Plans for Republic Airport LIRR station put on hold". Newsday. Retrieved July 6, 2015. 
  24. ^ Hinko, Christy (June 1, 2012). "Senators Announce $138 Million To Advance New Republic Train Station". Farmingdale Observer. Retrieved July 6, 2015. 
  25. ^ Station pages linked from LIRR Stations
  26. ^ Brooklyn Advocate, Long Island Rail Road, February 1837
  27. ^ "RAILROADS". New York Times. 1854-04-13. p. 7. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  28. ^ "The Long Delay at Hicksville". Newsday. 
  29. ^ "Brooklyn Eagle v1, #1 (LIRR timetable)". Brooklyn Eagle. 1841-10-26.  This is the very first edition of the paper. (Whether "late Bethpage" is meant to indicate 1> a flag stop at the community near Merritts Road, or 2> that the area near the Farmingdale LIRR station had lately been called Bethpage, or 3> that the Merrits Road community had been a temporary stop until the Farmingdale station was completed has not yet been determined.)
  30. ^ "untitled". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. March 14, 1842. p. 2. 
  31. ^ "Long Island Railroad Company". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. March 16, 1842. p. 3. 
  32. ^ "Long Island Railroad". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. June 29, 1842. p. 2. 
  33. ^ "untitled". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. August 6, 1842. p. 2. 
  34. ^ Holbrook Station @ Ronkonkoma MP 49-50; October 1957(
  35. ^ May 13, 1912, Photo @ Ron Zeil collection (Unofficial LIRR History Website)
  36. ^ a b c "Long Island Railroad Co". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. June 24, 1844. p. 2. 
  37. ^ a b November 18, 1919 Long Island Rail Road Timetable