When the MTA announced the temporary H train for the Rockaways, it drew a flurry of attention. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow profiled the trucking of trains across the Channel while politicians hailed it as an important step on the road to recovery. Railfans were thrilled to see the blue-bulleted H make its first return to the rails since 1994.
So how are things for the H? In The Times this week, Matt Flegenheimer profiled the new train, and he finds an odd mixture of Rockaway residents trying to forge normalcy out of their uprooted lives, FEMA workers and and rail fans snapping photos of this subway oddity. “It’s like they found the holy grail here,” one MTA conductor said of the rail fans. “It’s a job for us; it’s a passion for them.”
The MTA is not unaware of the fervor and interest surrounding the H train, and today, in conjunction with the Transit Museum and The Graybeards, a not-for-profit organization aimed at helping the Rockaways, the Authority announced the launch of new line of merchandise. Called the Rockaways Relief Collection, these items are a limited line of H train-related items, and all proceeds will benefit The Graybeard. These items include t-shirts, sweatshirts and magnets and are available for sale online. More products may be added to the line.
“We were looking for a way to use our licensed products to help out in the recovery efforts taking place in the Rockaways,” Mark Heavey, MTA Director of Marketing & Communications, said. “The H Line has piqued a lot of interest in subway service in the Rockaways and, with the help of a few of our product licensees, presented us with a unique opportunity to promote the service and to provide tangible assistance to efforts to rebuild that community.”
The H train has a unique history tucked away in its little corner of Queens. It began service as the HH in 1956, running on LIRR tracks from Euclid Ave. to either Rockaway Park or Mott Avenue. That service was discontinued in 1972, but the shuttle returned as the CC in the late 1970s. It was given the H designation in 1986 and turned into just another grey S train in 1994. Now, it’s back, and its return can spark some fundraising efforts as well.