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Your Experiences

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LIRR Freight Recollections

By: Paul Ettorre,  Conductor- Ret.

The LILCO Coal Drag to Island Park Ca. 1961

       I was called out for the LILCO coal train out of Yard “A” in Long Island City. If my memory serves me right, It was a 60 car train for LILCOs plant in Oceanside on the Long Beach Branch.  We had 3 C-420s for power that day. Being the new kid on the block I was assigned as the flagman by the conductor that day. So we coupled the engines to the train and pumped up the air, we walked the brake knocking off hand brakes on the way. The two other brakemen walked the train back to the engines. They told me to keep both doors on the hack open as it was a very hot day, so I tied the doors open. Finally we pulled out of the yard on our way to       Oceanside.  I soon found out why as the “newbie” I was the flagman. Most people never see what flying coal dust looks like. Here was my initiation into the club. I wound up closing the door behind the train to hopefully keep the dust down. It helped somewhat, but not a whole lot. By the time we got to Oceanside, I looked like a Pennsylvania Coal Miner.

        The Move in Oceanside was more involved than one would think. We pulled the train east, past the crossover in Oceanside, at which point I had to squeeze the air on the hack to stop the train.  Permission was obtained from Lead Tower in Island Park to open the crossover switches and the main track switch off number 1 main into LILCO. We then shoved the train into LILCO, dropping the hack on top of a string of empties. We then broke the train up inside LILCO for unloading. We then put the empties together and pulled the train out onto number 2 main. The engines were cut off at the Island Park end, and went to Lead Tower then came back up number 1 main to the Oceanside crossover and on top of the empties. After the brake test, we pulled the train onto number 1 main. 

All these moves were made via hand signals and squeezing the air on the hacks.  Squeezing the air on the hack told the engineer to bring the train to a stop.  When we were done lining the crossover switches back to the normal position, We then called both Lead and Valley towers to let the operators know that all the switches were “lined and locked normal”.  We went west to Fresh Pond and too the empties upstairs at the Fremont interchange for the New Haven Railroad to take off the Island. We then picked up our hack and took the engines and hack back to Long Island City. Talk about Learning under Fire!!


Photo from Arts Archives. See link for information on his impressive site! 

  1. Lilco Track map

  2. Lilco SouthSide Extra west of Valley

  3. Lilco Power Plant

Additional Information and Photos on Art’s Site: CLICK HERE

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