The August 2000 Mystery Photo—
BRT Excursion Train to LIRR Rockaway Beach

BRT Excursion on LIRR Rockaway Beach Line - Color

It took less than a day for two readers to come up with the correct answer—the photo is of a Brooklyn Rapid Transit company employee excursion to Rockaway Beach on the Long Island Railroad's Rockaway Park branch, and the date is August 15, 1916.

The Winner of the Mystery Photo Contest is Bill ("Newkirk") Mangahas of Newkirk Images, who sent in the correct answer in the wee hours of the morning after the photo was posted. Later the same day Bob Andersen, proprietor of the website also identified the location on his favorite railroad.
     Bill and Bob each noticed a small identifying detail in a photo with few solid clues. The detail is the LIRR-style fence at the lower right. Good sleuthing, guys!
     The right answer also came later from "Jeff from the Branford Trolley Museum" who took a good look at the brick building at right and guessed it was the inspection shed at Rockaway Park. Jeff further opined that "AFAIK, the inspection shed was on the north side of the station, so that train is heading geographically east, and the patrons are heading home. And finally, we also heard the correct answer from Stuart Schorr .

Other Guesses
Various readers came up with a variety of possible locations. The great majority correctly guessed that it was a beach resort, but which one? Guesses included the correct answer of the Rockaways, as well asWest End Terminal, Culver Depot (both Coney Island), Manhattan Beach (LIRR) and Golden City Park, Canarsie, from when the Canarsie Line went to the shore of Jamaica Bay.

Deducing the Location
These guesses were good logical ones. As of the date of the photo, seaside destinations of BRT trains included West End Terminal, Sea Beach Terminal, Culver Depot (Culver and Brighton Beach Lines), Canarsie and the Rockaways.
     Of course, the Rockaways make this a "trick" question. Although the BRT-LIRR joint service to the Rockaways is well know, extensively covered in Seyfried's LIRR history and in Electric Railroader's Assn. publications, a Long Island Rail Road destination may not come readily to mind as the location of a Brooklyn Rapid Transit employee excursion.
     Without the clues cited by the winners, is it possible to figure out the location?
     I would say yes, but it requires some knowledge of BRT operations in August 1916 to figure out the location by the process of elimination.
     Culver Depot and Canarsie Shore  are readily eliminated by virtue of the fact that the train is not running by overhead wire. Neither terminal ever had third rail.
     Manhattan Beach was no longer a BRT destination. The only branch destination to survive elevation of the Brighton was the racetrack spur, and that was also gone by 1916.
     The Sea Beach operation was no longer connected to the elevated system, subway service via the Manhattan Bridge having begun more than a year earlier.
     So only the temporary West End Terminal and the Rockaway operation are left. The West End Line had just given up elevated operation via the 5th Avenue L in June. Subway service was provided via the 4th Avenue subway and the new elevated structure on New Utrecht Avenue but only as far as 25th Avenue. So this flag festooned elevated train could not have come in via the West End Line.
     So all that's left is the Rockaways , which also happens to be the correct answer.

But is it Rockaway Park?
The exact station is not identified, but the end of the line at Rockaway Park is a good guess, since it would have provided layup facilities for the train while the picnickers froliced. But is it the right guess?
Jim Boylan writes: "The uncropped picture and the one with the title 'Detraining at Rockaway' provide clues that make me suggest an intermediate station on the Rockaway Park Branch of the LIRR.
     "Both photos are taken on the shady side of the train. If the train was headed East and the photographer facing West, this would be the South side! So, I think we're looking at the North side of a Westbound train.
     "Rockaway Park was a multi-track terminal with platform roofs and a head house. It probably didn't have inter-track fences, since most access was from the head house thru platform gates. People would have less reason to cross the tracks, since they might still have to exit at the same place!
     "The photos show no trace of more than 2 tracks and platforms. There is a slight curve to the tracks and platforms. There was an ammusement park at one of the intermediate stations (there's a photo in Change at Ozone Park). I can imagine BRT renting the park for the excursion."

BRT Excursion on Rockaway Beach Line - B&W

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Last updated Sunday, January 06, 2002