Emerging from the jungle after hiking and hacking
my way along the Rockway Line's abandoned track bed from the Fleet Street ballfields in seemingly far off
Forest Hills, I find myself hard by the right of way of the very
live Long Island Railroad trunk line.
The clearing visible in the shot to the left is where the southbound Dead Tracks once branched off from the main line. This was the only place in which the trackbed was actually ripped up and plowed over. I would assume this was to eliminate the need for maintaining switches on the main tracks.
We are roughly across the main line tracks from 65th Road and Austin Street. To our south behind the brush are the backyards of attached houses fronting on Alderton Street. A half block to the east (right) is the jutting end of Burns Street, which begins the dead-ended triangular sliver of Forest Hills stuck betwixt both the main and abandoned railways track beds, accessible by auto only from Yellowstone Boulevard in the north and east, or Fleet Street in the south, or by foot from the 67th Avenue walkbridge, or through the Dead Tracks jungle by lunatics like me.
Walking out of the dense thicket into the sun, it becomes apparent that the greenery isn't limited to just the section of abandoned railroad trackage. Access to the northside of the Long Island Railroad main line has been long cut off from the Austin Street lots from which we used to sneak down to the ghostly track bed in the 1960s. In addition, the ghost tunnel connecting the westbound Dead Track spur to the main line is now sealed at the northwest end, cutting off the only other safe crossing between the two sidings. Only a moron would walk across the four very busy main line railroad tracks, but parts of that distant greenery hold the abandoned right of way for that westbound connecting spur, as it would have emerged from the tunnel's north portal. That area was a rich illicit playground for us as kids, filled with all kinds of fascinating discards and junk. I remember vividly the rusting hulk of a 1954 Buick, with its trademark teardrop headlights, giant protruding grill and port hole vents.
Looking east, a main line 1970s vintage LIRR train speeds towards Manhattan. The trees to its left hide the dead ended 66th Avenue, once known as White Pot Road eons before being cut off by the WWI vintage railroad. The 67th Avenue walkbridge is right behind the train. Railroads aren't the only things that occasionally cut off streets in Queens; sometimes apartment houses do, too. The large building with the white terracess in the center is one of a twin tower complex that cuts off Austin Street between 66th and 67th Avenues.
Above, the path taken by the eastbound abandoned track way as they left the main line. An eastbound local made up of 1970s cars speeds by. Here, newer double decker rolling stock, made for the outer lines still dependent on diesel engines, race along the express tracks.
A 1970s era local train heads eastward from Manhattan.
Growing up in Rego Park, Queens, which back in the 1960s was a neat, tidy, well kept neighborhood, an abandoned anything was a rare mystical treat. An outlandishly overgrown abandoned railroad was guaranteed to be a popular playground. Abandoned railways and children will always connect, if not always safely. Without the abandoned railroad trackage to its claim, Rego Park would have been a fairly dull place to live.