Home Queens For the H train and its fans, Rockaway fundraising

For the H train and its fans, Rockaway fundraising

by Benjamin Kabak

MTA Chairman & CEO Joseph J. Lhota sports “H The Rockaways” hooded sweatshirt in his Midtown office. (Metropolitan Transportation Authoirty/Patrick Cashin)

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.

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Mika December 4, 2012 - 2:41 pm

I think it’d be a nice gesture with a nostalgic touch if they left the H designation as-is after service to the Rockaways is restored. It’s not likely to confuse any tourists or anything.

Andrew December 4, 2012 - 9:16 pm

Why should the usual shuttle between Rockaway Park and Broad Channel share a name with a temporary shuttle between Far Rockaway and Beach 90th? They serve entirely different functions and have only one station in common.

Clarke December 5, 2012 - 11:05 am

Why should a temporary shuttle between Far Rockaway and Beach 90th share a name with a shuttle service between Rockaway Park-Far Rockaway-Euclid Ave?

Andrew December 5, 2012 - 8:23 pm

You mean a shuttle service that was discontinued in the early 90’s? Good question.

Benjamin Kabak December 5, 2012 - 11:06 am

This is such an odd question. Someone could decide to — I don’t know — reassign the usual shuttle with an H. That’s what Mika’s proposing.

Andrew December 5, 2012 - 8:31 pm

Yes, I understand the proposal. I’m asking how it makes sense.

I realize that, to most of us here, the Rockaways are that mysterious strip of land way out there, and the details of exactly where a shuttle train goes are pretty meaningless.

But in fact, the usual shuttle connects the western side of the Rockaways to the A train at Broad Channel, while the H connects the eastern side of the Rockaways (normally served by the A itself) to a shuttle bus at Far Rockaway. They go to entirely different neighborhoods and serve entirely different people, except at the one lone station they have in common.

Clearly, the current shuttle was named H to distinguish it from the Rock Park shuttle.

Jeff December 5, 2012 - 2:00 pm

You do know that the “usual shuttle between Rockaway Park and Broad Channel” used to be called the H, right?

Andrew December 5, 2012 - 8:36 pm

Actually, the primary Rockaway Park service back then was the C. The H only filled in when the C wasn’t running. At night, the A went to Lefferts and the H served both ends of the peninsula and ran all the way up to Euclid. The H did a lot more than the more recent Rockaway Park shuttle.

ajedrez December 10, 2012 - 11:09 pm

The (H) is going to eventually get extended down to 116th Street when they fix it up. (So it’ll run as a shuttle from 116th to Far Rockaway).

Andrew December 11, 2012 - 8:39 pm

Assuming the interlocking at Rockaway Park is repaired before the line to Howard Beach. I don’t know which will take longer – both were severely damaged.

TH December 4, 2012 - 4:36 pm

This is a very good thing. I am glad to see those in charge of the MTA exercising some good old-fashioned urbanism while thinking outside the box. Granted all they did was say, “Yes, you can do that,” but it still a step in the right direction.

Alex December 4, 2012 - 7:07 pm

@Mika I agree, it certainly would be, especially after all this H publicity. Additionally, it also could alleviate confusion: the H was originally changed to an S in 1993 to reduce confusion by labeling all shuttles the same way, however having three services labeled S, all with the same color, could actually be more confusing. As people currently relate the letter H with the Rockaways for the first time in 19 years, and the MTA heavily promotes this, it could easily continue after normal service is restored next summer.

metsgl December 4, 2012 - 8:06 pm

I think the H is to stay because if you go to MTA website now under service status, H is listed with A,C,E and the S no longer shows service change.

John-2 December 5, 2012 - 12:57 am

As a positive PR item for the MTA, I would think the H stays after the Jamaica Bay connection is restored, unless the R-32s there just start failing to the point it becomes a public issue, or reconstruction of the trestle across the bay runs so far behind schedule that the continuing presence of the full-time H shuttles ends up being a reminder of the MTA’s failure instead of the effort to restore at least partial service to the Rockaways.

Andrew December 5, 2012 - 8:39 pm

Positive PR item? To remind riders on the Far Rockaway side, once they get their A train service back, of the time that they had to take a shuttle train to a shuttle bus which slogged through Nassau County traffic to eventually end up at Howard Beach, where they could finally get the A? Doesn’t seem positive to me.

(And what does this have to do with R-32s? As soon as R-46 OPTO service can come back, it will.)

John-2 December 6, 2012 - 1:02 am

AFAIK, Joe Lhota does not own a weather machine and the residents of the Rockaways aren’t blaming the MTA for Hurricane Sandy. As a result, getti the H shuttle back in operation as soon as they did, compared to other parts of the system (South Ferry) and other agencies (PATH, NJT) is a net plus. Now it depends on the MTA meeting its announced 6-7 month timetable to get the line restored. Only the most ADD of immediate gratification fanatics are expecting the trestle to be back in service this winter.

As for the R-32 vs. R-46 aspect, that’s not the point — the point is any trains running the H during the outage have to be reliable, because there’s no place to quickly shop and/ or replace them in service. If the reliability of any trains on the peninsula falls to the point it negative affects service long-term, that’s bad for the MTA.

Alex December 6, 2012 - 6:56 am

Well let’s not forget that even since the Rockaway Shuttle was publicly relabeled S in 1993, the service has remained officially designated H since then; the service was not truly discontinued, but when the late-night round robin went away, they simply relabeled the public side of it.


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