IND Rockaway Line

From nycsubway.org

This view south from the shore at Hamilton Beach shows an R-46 "A" train heading onto the North Channel Bridge. Photo by Jose Garrido, November 2016.


The Rockaway line dates back to 1892 when it was built by the Long Island Railroad. In 1898 demand was so great that the Brooklyn Elevated Railway (later to be absorbed by the BRT) gained permission for Brooklyn El trains to use the Rockaway line for access to the beach. Demand continued to soar and the city began eyeing the line.

We move to 1950. A serious track fire destroyed a trestle along the line and the LIRR begged to abandon it in favor of their "land route" to Far Rockaway. The city stepped in and bought the line for $8.5 million and spent an additional $47.5 million to adapt the line to subway use, including a fireproof bridge over Jamaica Bay. Two man-made islands were created for the subway by pumping up fill from the bay. The line opened in 1956, with Far Rockaway station opening in 1958.

Initially, the line had an extra fare charged south of Broad Channel station. There were exit turnstiles at the Rockaway stations which required payment to exit. Boarding passengers paid a double fare.

Today, the line operates as two spurs, one to Far Rockaway and one to Rockaway Park. The Far Rockaway side has new lights and well maintained stations, while the Rockaway Park side, with the exception of the Rockaway Park Terminal, have old lights, dim mezzanines, and are in poorer condition.

There have been numerous service patterns to the Rockaways, of which the latest shows signs that the service is beginning to bring in money. During overnight hours all trains go to Far Rockaway rather than Lefferts Blvd. as was the practice. The Rockaway Park shuttle also runs all night. During summer weekends, the shuttle is extended to Euclid Ave. to further improve Rockaway service. Several rush hour "A" trains go to Rockaway Park, as well as the usual Lefferts and Far Rockaway service.

We board our train to Far Rockaway at the Rockaway Boulevard station. Turning south toward the bay, the line at present is three tracks but more tracks were present and some are visible through the brush along the right of way.

Opening/Closing Dates

Rockaway Line (* subway service)
Aqueduct Racetrack6/28/1956 *4/28/2011
Aqueduct-North Conduit Avenue6/28/1956 *
Howard Beach6/28/1956 *
Broad Channel6/28/1956 *
Beach 67th Street-Gaston Avenue6/28/1956 *
Beach 60th Street-Straiton6/28/1956 *
Beach 44th Street-Frank Avenue6/28/1956 *
Beach 36th Street-Edgemere6/28/1956 *
Beach 25th Street-Wavecrest6/28/1956 *
Mott Avenue-Far Rockaway1/16/1958 *
Beach 90th Street-Holland6/28/1956 *
Beach 98th Street-Playland6/28/1956 *
Beach 105th Street-Seaside6/28/1956 *
Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street6/28/1956 *

Station by Station

Aqueduct Racetrack


Photo by: John Barnes

Photo by: Robbie Rosenfeld
More Images: 1-46

One platform on the east side of the four track main line. This station was used only on racing days for spectators traveling to the adjacent Aqueduct Racetrack. In the early days of IND Rockaway service, special trains were operated, typically from the lower level at 42nd Street-Port Authority Bus Terminal, which ran express to the racetrack for a special fare. The special trains would cross over and wrong rail to terminate at the racetrack station. After a while this service was terminated, and the station was closed; but in 1997 the station reopened, and northbound trains would stop here to pick up passengers on race days. Between 1997 and 2011, access and egress was via the Metrocard-operated high iron maiden turnstiles. The entry/exit is at platform level and there was a ramp leading down to the street and racetrack parking lots. The station was closed once more in April, 2011. Racetrack customers can use the nearby Aqueduct-North Conduit Avenue station instead.

Aqueduct-North Conduit Avenue


Photo by: Michael Hodurski

Photo by: Richard Panse
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-161

Two side platforms alongside a right-of-way wide enough for four tracks, but only two are in use. The tracks are full tie and ballast construction. The northbound platform has a closed north exit. South fare control is at street level and has a crossover. The north fare control is via high exit southbound only and leads to the Aqueduct Racetrack. At one time there was a stairway from the southbound platform to the street.

Howard Beach/JFK


Photo by: Zach Summer

Photo by: Michael Pompili
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-188

Two side platforms alongside a right-of-way wide enough for four tracks, but only two are in use. The right-of-way narrows at the south end of the station down to two tracks to cross Jamaica Bay. This station was extensively rebuilt in the 2000s in conjunction with the construction of the JFK Airtrain station on the eastern side. The mezzanine level is glass enclosed and contains a crossover and the fare control.

Raised relief painted mural on the northbound platform entitled On Beaches of Harmony Bay (no date). This mural features fish with human heads.

Jamaica Bay Crossing

Photo by: Richard Panse

Photo by: Michael Hodurski
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-129

The Jamaica Bay Crossing isn't a station, but is probably the most interesting feature of the Rockaway Line. There are two swing bridges along the line, referred to as the North Channel Bridge (between Howard Beach and Broad Channel), and the South Channel Bridge (between Broad Channel and Hammels Wye). The intrepid railfan can find good views of the crossing if they venture out from Howard Beach (at the foot of 104th Street) or Broad Channel (at the foot of Lanark Road).

Broad Channel


Photo by: Richard Panse

Photo by: Frank Pfuhler
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-200 201-250 251-300 301-350 351-357

Two tracks, two side platforms. There is a heated, enclosed platform waiting area and a glass enclosed crossover with the fare control. A canopy is found only in the center of the station. Despite high windscreen walls along the sides of both platforms, this station is popular with railfans for its views north and south of the tracks across Jamaica Bay.

Hammel's Wye

Photo by: Peter Dougherty

Photo by: David-Paul Gerber
More Images: 1-48

Hammels Wye isn't a station but is included here as honorary mention. The wye is the point where the Rockaway Line divides to serve Rockaway Park and Far Rockaway. Between the two branches, there is a single track connecting them, allowing a through service between Rockaway Park and Far Rockaway (or vice-versa; crossovers are provided to access the wye track from both directions). This wye is rarely used in practice, but occasional construction or other issues call for a "Rockaway Round Robin" service where trains operate from Broad Channel to Rockaway Park, then to Far Rockaway via the wye, and then back to Broad Channel.

Beach 67th Street-Gaston Avenue


Photo by: Chris M.

Photo by: Gary Chatterton
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-107

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011.

Artwork On and Off the Boardwalk (Ingo Fast, 2011)

Beach 60th Street-Straiton


Photo by: Richard Panse

Photo by: Christopher Henderson
More Images: 1-50 51-60

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011.

Artwork The Beaches of New York City (Simon Levenson, 2011)

Beach 44th Street-Frank Avenue


Photo by: Gary Chatterton

Photo by: Robert Marrero
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-127

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011.

Artwork Coom Barooom (Jill Parisi, 2011)

Beach 36th Street-Edgemere


Photo by: David of Broadway

Photo by: Chris M.
More Images: 1-42

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011.

Artwork Symphonic Convergence 1 & 2 (George Bates, 2011)

Beach 25th Street-Wavecrest


Photo by: Chris M.

Photo by: Robbie Rosenfeld
More Images: 1-50 51-58

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011.

Artwork Past/Present/Future (Mauricio Lopez, 2011)

Mott Avenue-Far Rockaway


Photo by: Steve Zabel

Photo by: Chris M.
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-200 201-250 251-259

This is the terminal station of the line. There are two tracks and a single island platform. The bumper block is at the east end of the station. Doors lead to the mezzanine and fare control is at street level. A new headhouse and ADA accessibility equipment were built in 2010-2011. The LIRR Far Rockaway branch station can be seen a short distance to the north.

Artwork Respite (Jason Rohlf, 2011)

Beach 90th Street-Holland


Photo by: Zach Summer

Photo by: Ed Watson/Arthur Lonto Collection
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-114

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011. The mezzanine is brick and has brown and white geometric patterns.

Artwork Surf Station 90 (Michael Miller, 2011)

Beach 98th Street-Playland


Photo by: Robbie Rosenfeld

Photo by: Jie Wen Li
More Images: 1-50 51-90

Two tracks, two side platforms. Renovated in 2010-2011. The mezzanine has green and white diamond shaped tile. The Playland amusement park, from which the station takes its secondary name, is long gone with no evidence remaining.

Artwork Be Good or Be Gone (Duke Riley, 2011)

Beach 105th Street-Seaside


Photo by: Richard Panse

Collection of: David Pirmann
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-110

Two tracks, two side platforms. The mezzanine features a white and powder blue design. Renovated in 2010-2011.

Artwork Vast (Callie Hirsch, 2011)

Rockaway Park-Beach 116th Street


Photo by: Gary Chatterton

Photo by: John Dooley
More Images: 1-50 51-100 101-150 151-200 201-222

The elevated structure ends shortly before entering Rockaway Park station, which is the terminal of this branch of the line. There are two tracks with a single island platform. A single track on the south side and several tracks on the north side constitute the Rockaway Park Yard, where A and Shuttle trains are laid up during off hours. The former LIRR station building is used as the headhouse at the west end of the platform. You can still see the old ticket windows in the station. The station house is brick and has doors to the street. This station has mercury and fluorescent lighting.

Artwork First on the Beach - Wednesday Night Fireworks (Kk Kozik, 2015)

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By Peggy Darlington.

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