Home Asides For the Hamptons, a new ‘Cannonball’ from Penn Station

For the Hamptons, a new ‘Cannonball’ from Penn Station

by Benjamin Kabak

A 94-minute, non-stop ride to the East End is in the offering for the looming summer beach season as the LIRR has announced plans to run its Cannonball train non-stop from Penn Station every Friday from May 24 through Labor Day. The one-seat ride will skip Jamaica and head straight to Westhampton with subsequent stops at Southampton East Hampton, Bridgehampton and Montauk. The Friday train will depart Penn Station at 4:07 p.m. with westbound service — including a stop at Jamaica — departing Montauk at 6:37 p.m. on Sunday nights.

“There’s no better way to get from Manhattan to the Hamptons,” LIRR President Helena E. Williams said in a statement. “Our customers have long asked for a one-seat ride from Penn Station to the Hamptons and we are listening to them. This move eliminates the need to change trains with baggage at Jamaica.”

With a 34 percent increase in summer ridership last year, the LIRR is hoping to boost service along the Montauk Branch. The speedy ride east will cost passengers $27, and passengers have the option to reserve a seat for an additional fee. Previously, such Cannonball service had originated at the Hunterspoint Avenue Terminal in Long Island City with many riders picking up the train at Jamaica, and the new service does away with the transfer. For Hamptons-bound travelers, the Cannonball train has been a mainstay since the 1890s, and it remains both the longest route and the only one with a name operated by the MTA.

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Marc Shepherd April 18, 2013 - 4:30 pm

I’ve seen references to the Cannonball as a 2 1/2 hour train. How did they get it down to 90 minutes, and why has it taken this long to offer it direct out of Penn?

Benjamin Kabak April 18, 2013 - 4:35 pm

Was it 2.5 to Montauk maybe? The 90-minute ride is only to Westhampton, and it’s still 2.5 from Penn to the eastern terminal.

Marc Shepherd April 18, 2013 - 5:01 pm

Yes, that’s correct.

They are saving a bit of time, though, by NOT stopping at Jamaica, Hampton Bays, or Amagansett on the eastbound route.

For some reason, the westbound Cannonball does stop at the first two. Poor Amagansett is omitted in both directions.

Alon Levy April 22, 2013 - 6:20 pm

Strange that they don’t stop at Jamaica for the connection with other lines. Even with a loco-hauled train, the stop penalty at the speed range that currently is allowed near Jamaica is 90-120 seconds when there’s level boarding.

Scott Grimm-Lyon April 24, 2013 - 3:56 pm

Amagansett is a short platform station… only the 1st 3 cars can access it anyway.

adn April 18, 2013 - 4:38 pm

I’m really curious how this going to work too. First of all, its always completely packed as is, and leaving from Penn is going to make it even more so. They’re going to have to limit/reserve somehow. Second, I was always told that it left from Hunterspoint bc the full 12 car trainset didn’t fit in Penn. Are they going to have a shorter train for more people? And is the Hunterspoint train still running?

Marc Shepherd April 18, 2013 - 5:03 pm

The press release did say that they may have to limit access.

There will still be Hamptons-bound trains from Hunterspoint, but the peak train will be from Penn. Let’s be honest: the bulk of the riders are coming from Manhattan. I don’t think that’s seriously in doubt.

adn April 18, 2013 - 6:41 pm

Right, no doubt. But do you have any knowledge abt what trainset they’ll be running?

Chris C April 20, 2013 - 10:18 am

Not necessarily as I bet a huge number of the people who are boarding at Hunterspoint / Jamaica will have come from Manhattan and so it is the same people getting on the train just at a different start point.

That may well help reduce pressure on the system by them not having to travel to Hunterspoint / Jamaica.

AG April 20, 2013 - 10:40 pm

I think this is an addition to service. I don’t think that with a 34% increase in one year would cause them to “restrict” or decrease service. They would want to expand it.

Alon Levy April 22, 2013 - 6:34 pm

Penn’s middle platforms are long enough for 17-car trains.

BBnet3000 April 18, 2013 - 4:46 pm

I saw this story this morning and was wondering how they did it, but I didnt realize they had diesel-electric locomotives that could also use third rail.


The Cobalt Devil April 18, 2013 - 6:45 pm

The Cannonball, aka The Vomit Comet.

David April 18, 2013 - 8:00 pm

I didn’t know the service had a name. I remember taking the train from Hunterspoint Station in the 80’s, and the train promptly derailed just as soon as it started to pull away from Hunterspoint Station. What a mess that was.


asar April 18, 2013 - 9:02 pm

I have a feeling that the cannonball train might go to fast , and derail, just like what happend to you at hunters point. Afterall,this isnt the first time the mta lirr has thought of amidea that screws the system up for a week

Tower18 April 19, 2013 - 1:10 pm

Why would this train be any more likely to derail than another? Or, why are you afraid that it will derail now, vs. last year.

tacony palmyra April 18, 2013 - 9:00 pm

I’ve never been to the Hamptons but I always hear horror stories about how crowded these trains are going out on summer Fridays in nice weather and returning on Sunday nights. I’ve heard people say they’d rather sit in traffic on the Hampton Jitney than stand in the aisles of a LIRR car packed like a sardine for hours.

Is this just a case of fickle Hamptons vacationers exaggerating the crowd level or are there really capacity issues here? Why spend effort improving a service that seems too popular for its own good already? Or why not do what Amtrak does and just jack up the fares and market it as a premium luxury product, managing demand through pricing? Have the entire train be reserved seating with space to spread out for $100 a ticket, and the “regular” (Hamptons regular?) people can take the bus?

Larry Littlefield April 19, 2013 - 12:37 pm

If it’s that popular, why not add a second train?

Are not summer schedules a little lighter elsewhere in the system, because of lower demand? Or do all the disability retirement payments make it too expensive to expand service.

Josh April 19, 2013 - 3:28 pm

“Our customers have long asked for a one-seat ride from Penn Station to the Hamptons and we are listening to them. This move eliminates the need to change trains with baggage at Jamaica.”

Kinda sucks for those of us who might be leaving from Atlantic Terminal rather than Penn Station, though.

Alon Levy April 22, 2013 - 6:40 pm

You can totally have a one-seat ride that makes an intermediate stop in Jamaica.

Unfortunately, North American commuter rail operators overrate nonstop trains.


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