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.
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.