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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Limited service on Long Beach LIRR branch
Hourly trains running on weekdays; could be weeks until full service restored
Niko Krommydas
Niko Krommydas/Herald
The Long Beach LIRR station sat abandoned before trains started running on a limited schedule.

While the Long Island Rail Road continues to recover from Hurricane Sandy, currently operating on a modified schedule nearly three weeks after experiencing system-wide destruction, the Long Beach branch was just restored to run with limited service, but with no concrete date for full restoration. 

The Long Beach branch has stations in Long Beach, Island Park, Oceanside, Centre Avenue and East Rockaway before it joins the Babylon Branch in Lynbrook.

Joseph Calderone, LIRR customer service vice president, cited “extensive water damage” to Long Beach’s rail yard and four power substations along the line as the primary reason for the branch’s inoperative state. The flooding, however, was not only produced by sea water. Sewage from a nearby waste plant also infiltrated the yard and covered equipment. Before crews could start repairing the yard’s intricate electrical components, decontamination was necessary.

“The effects from Sandy are still devastating,” said Calderone. “We have people down in the yard with fine steel brushes, cleaning every piece of these electronics on the ground that were covered in sewage and water. It was a mess.”

Hurricane Sandy was not the LIRR’s only obstacle, however, as a vicious nor’easter struck the already-handicapped operation on Nov. 7, temporarily closing Penn Station and suspending system-wide service twice. The nor’easter, named Athena, toppled trees and utility poles, caused signal problems and delays on multiple branches (one eastbound train to Babylon was operating 108 minutes late, LIRR tweeted), and subsequently, diverted Sandy-focused repair crews at Long Beach.

“Trackworkers and engineers were sent to our other branches for Athena, as a lot of stations lost power,” said Calderone. “We definitely lost a day of repairs, but it was necessary to return power to the stations we already fixed after Sandy.”

It will be at least another three weeks before full service is restored.

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