[VIDEO] Walk Through the Abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch

Opened in 1880 as the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Railroad, the line originally operated as a steam railroad at street grade. It was sold to the owner of the LIRR in 1887, and was reorganized as the New York and Rockaway Beach Railway (NY&RB), and until 1922, was operated independently before being turned over to the LIRR.

The line south of Woodhaven Junction was electrified first in 1905, and the line was built upward to connect to the mainline at Whitepot Junction in Rego Park around 1908. By 1910, the entirety of the line all the way to Penn Station was electrified. The wooden trestle crossing over Jamaica Bay caught fire in 1950 and service to Rockaway Beach ceased shortly after, with the line being truncated at Ozone Park, and the section south of it sold for $8.5 million to the City of New York in 1952. The New York City Transit Authority then repurposed the elevated trackways into the IND Rockaway line, opening in 1956 with a new connection to the existing IND Fulton Street Line. The 3.5 mile portion north of Ozone Park remained in service, although ridership and train service drastically decreased.

On June 8, 1962, the LIRR made the decision to shut down the line permanently. Post-abandonment, there have been numerous proposals to reactivate the tracks, either back to the LIRR, or as a subway link from the IND Queens Boulevard Line just north of Whitepot Junction. Another proposal was to create a "QueensWay", an elongated park similar to the High Line Park in Manhattan, which would offer pedestrian and biking trails down to Southern Queens. As of right now, city funding for any kind of rehabilitation on this line is close to zero, so the future remains uncertain.