RETURN OF THE H TRAIN

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The H train has made a return to the Rockaway peninsula, though hardly a triumphant one. In October 2012, when “Superstorm” Sandy effectively trashed the bridge that connects the A train to the Rockaway peninsula, service on the A line into the peninsula was curtailed south of Howard Beach, and the peninsula’s thousands of residents were left without a connection to the city.

The city arrived at a temporary solution in November, loading twenty 40-ton R-32 subway cars onto a flatbed truck in Ozone Park, which were trucked down to Far Rockaway and lifted onto the tracks there. Service has been reinstituted between Far Rockaway (Mott Avenue) and Beach 90th Street, employing the “Hammels Wye,” a connection between the east-west peninsula tracks and the north-south tracks that cross Jamaica Bay. It’s been rarely used in passenger service, over the past few decades, because A train service usually runs straight to Far Rock and a shuttle train (designaged S) runs from Broad Channel to Beach 116th/Rockaway Park. The track connection has a Y shape in the Hammels neighborhood, hence the name.

A shuttle bus connects the H shuttle at Far Rockaway to Howard Beach, where the A train connects with the rest of town. The shuttle line itself is free to avoid a double-fare situation.

Service over Jamaica Bay won’t return until the tracks over the bay can be replaced, which will entail rebuilding the superstructure as well as the tracks; estimates on that are several months, perhaps a year. Meanwhile, it is hoped that service to Rockaway Park using the new H shuttle can return in several weeks after repair is effected on the tracks.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s item on the H shuttle

 

H at Rockaway Park, using vintage R-30 cars

Some might wonder why the new service is called the H train. Why hasn’t the letter been already “taken”? As it turns out, it has. As related on FNY’s page on retired subway designations

 

The H/HH designation, which has been used by the MTA off and on for over 50 years, has for the most part confined itself to the outer reaches of Queens between Ozone Park, Broad Channel, and the Rockaway peninsula. The first shuttle bearing the HH moniker began service in 1956, soon after the city refitted old LIRR tracks for subway service.

The HH ran from Euclid Avenue to either Rockaway Park or Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway from 1956-1972. During that time, a double fare was actually in effect at Broad channel: you were nicked for a token on your way in and on your way out! A single fare policy was adopted in 1975.

 

The HH shuttle was brought back in the late 1970s as the CC, which then changed back to the HH, losing an H on May 5, 1986. The H was finally retired in 1994 when former H trains were designated S for Shuttle.

Above, the HH shuttle uses a consist of R-38 cars, which greatly resemble the R-32 cars in use on the 2012 H shuttle. R-32s have proven to be remarkably resilient, as they have been in service since 1964.

And NYC is pretty resilient, too.

 

Photos from nycsubway.org and secondavenuesagas.com

11/20/12





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14 Responses to RETURN OF THE H TRAIN

  1. John P. Simonetti says:

    It’s amazing how sometimes, viewing one page leads to another, and into old memories. This page led me to your pages on “retired” subway lines. I fondly remember the GG; I used it to commute to the first job I had after graduating college in 1969 (OK, I know, I’m an “oldie”!) I lived in Jackson Heights and worked in Williamsburg. I took the Q19B to Roosevelt Avenue & 74th Street, then the E or F to Queens Plaza, walked across the platform to the “local” track, caught the GG to Broadway/Boerum Street in Williamsburg. Not a bad commute. The exit in Williamsburg was right across the street from the main branch of the Lincoln Savings Bank. Worked there until 1972, when I left to earn more money, as I had gotten married that year and had a kid on the way. Great memories of a lovely old subway line.

  2. Al_C says:

    Sandy was not really a “superstorm” as has been portrayed in the media. It was barely a category 1 hurricane. What made it nasty was the timing of the storm surge hitting at high tide.

    My reason for being pedantic is that we need to plan ahead for a potential category 3 or even a category 4 storm. One of these would likely dwarf the damage done by Sandy.

    • Walter says:

      Sandy was dubbed a superstorm because it had transitioned to an extra-tropical storm at about the time it made landfall, therefore it was technically not a hurricane. It essentially became a very powerful Nor’easter. The “superstore” label was a rare case of the media acknowledging the National Weather Service’s terminology on the storm.

      The superstorm label was also bestowed because of it’s huge size (it’s 1,000 mile wind field was said to be the largest tropical cyclone ever in the Atlantic) and it’s amazingly low barometric pressure, which was more indicative of a Category 3 or 4 storm and was only rivaled by storms like the 1991 Perfect Storm and the 1993 Storm of the Century.

      Hurricane categories are based on wind speeds, but if say a more compact Category 3 hits it doesn’t automatically mean the surge would be worse than Sandy. It all depends on wind field, storm speed, and direction. Sandy simply hit in a strange place (New Jersey coast), moving in a strange direction (northwesterly). A direct hit of the storm center on Brooklyn, for example, could have meant the northerly and northwesterly winds would have pushed the Atlantic’s waters onto Long Island instead of into the Harbor to devastate the City.

  3. jack norman says:

    I grow up in Far Rockaway and attended high school in Manhatten(STUYVESANT)and took the A train from Mott Av at 630am every morning for 4 yrs….worked for Good Humor on the beach in Rockaway(2 summers–1961/1962)my late father worked for the LIRR 45 yrs and took the LIRR to work in Jamaica(rode the LIRR before the subway took over )and then rode from Inwood(next station east from FarRockaway…)I miss the area but glad Im in the western USA(torandos are bad enough).

  4. Jeff B says:

    Actually, the HH designation goes all the way back to 1936. It shuttled between the Court St (where the Transit Museum is now) and Hoyt-Schermerhorn stations – that’s what the outer, unused platform and tracks were for. The designation was used until Court St was closed in 1946.

  5. Heartland says:

    Duke Ellington would weep

  6. Pingback: Urban Omnibus » Roundup – Thanksgiving Edition: Turkey Day Transit, Cities on the Cliff, Mayors Challenge, Radiation in Ridgewood, and more on Sandy

  7. Rachael says:

    I’m sorry, but it seems really out of the way to take people to Far Rockaway and THEN bus them to Howard Beach. Is there a reason they don’t bring them to B90th St and bus them across the bridge, pick up pax in Broad Channel, and then drop everybody off at Howard Beach? Sorry if this seems like a stupid question – I haven’t lived in Rockaway for the past 3 years (or NY for that matter), but I’m just trying to understand the routing.

  8. butchie b. says:

    There probably is no safe area to park or turn buses at b90th st. also drivers can use train crew relief facilities at mott av.

  9. It feels great for the H to be back.I’m hoping that it can replace the Rockaway Shuttle in the future,and a perfect fit for for late night service.

  10. Someone says:

    The H train always existed. It has only been named the S since the 1990s, but the Rockaway shuttle is still internally referred to by the MTA as the H.

  11. Someone says:

    They should extend the H up to Euclid Avenue when the bridge work is finished.

  12. laura says:

    The ‘re-lettering’ fom several lines to just the ‘A’ is confusing, as there is more than one A Train… A to Lefferts Blvd, A to Far Rockaway, A to Broad Channel, and A to Rockaway Beach.
    I can’t tell you how many people, at Lefferts Blvd, would ask me when the train would go to JFK Airport. Bear in mind, at Lefferts, the track ends abruptly, two and a half stories above ground…. so I’m not sure if they think it launches into space, grows wings, and lands on a Kennedy runway, or if this is just poor planning on the MTA’s behalf. People then have to ride back to Rockaway Blvd, cross under the platform, and wait for the ‘correct’ A to get where they’re going.
    Having one A, that say, goes to Lefferts, and two other letters (say H and one more) would help end confusion, I think.

  13. Kiwiwriter says:

    The MTA is selling t-shirts for the H Train for $18 a pop, with the funds going to Sandy relief. They are also selling various other souvenirs of this unique line.

    The MTA certainly leads the league in marketing…you don’t see the vast range of collectibles for other transit systems, except London…I was very surprised, for example, at the paucity of souvenirs in the San Francisco Cable Car Museum when I went there. Admittedly, that was in 1993, so they probably have ramped it up since then.

    I do urge folks to purchase the H Train items from the Transit Museum…the funds are for Sandy relief.

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