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The West Hempstead Branch is an electrified rail line owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in the U.S. state of New York. It runs between Valley Stream, New York, and West Hempstead, New York.

West Hempstead Branch
West Hempstead Station - Side View.jpg
Side view of West Hempstead Station, from Hempstead Avenue.
TypeCommuter rail
SystemLong Island Rail Road
LocaleNassau County, New York, USA
TerminiSt. Albans
West Hempstead
OwnerLong Island Rail Road
Operator(s)Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification750 Volts (DC)
Third rail, since 1926[1]
Route map

Atlantic Branch
to Atlantic Terminal
Main Line
to Penn Station & Long Island City
Zone 1
Zone 3
10.8 mi
17.4 km
AirTrain JFK notext logo.svg "E" train​​"J" train"Z" train
Atlantic Branch
via Laurelton
Main Line
to Greenport
St. Albans
Atlantic Branch
via Laurelton
Zone 3
Zone 4
Valley Stream
Far Rockaway Branch
to Far Rockaway
19.3 mi
31.1 km
20.1 mi
32.3 km
21.2 mi
34.1 km
21.9 mi
35.2 km
Hempstead Gardens
22.5 mi
36.2 km
West Hempstead

Distances shown are from Pennsylvania Station.

Route descriptionEdit

The branch separates from the Montauk Branch just east of Valley Stream, and runs northeast to West Hempstead. The line has one track between Westwood station and Hempstead Gardens and two from there to the end of the line in West Hempstead, the southbound or east track being a siding. The right-of-way of the West Hempstead Branch is wide enough for two tracks for its whole length.[2] There are three grade-crossings on the line, reducing the maximum speed to 65 miles per hour (105 km/h), and because of curves at the Lakeview and Malverne stations, the speed is lowered to 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) on that stretch.[3]

Since Valley Stream only has platforms on the Atlantic Branch, which parallels the Montauk Branch to the south, most West Hempstead Branch trains that serve Valley Stream are shuttles that terminate there. Currently, the three exceptions are the three weekday eastbound (two AM, one peak PM) trains originating from Atlantic Terminal that use Valley Stream as a through station.[4][5]

The branch had one manual block from "HC" to "VA" until "WM" block limit was installed in 1935.[6]


As the smallest LIRR commuter branch,[3] the West Hempstead Branch was one of the last in the system to modernize. It was the last of the electrified LIRR branches to receive high level platforms, in the early 1970s, and the last of the electrified branches to be fitted with Automatic Train Control (known as Automatic Speed Control by the LIRR), which it received in October 2009 during a system overhaul and upgrade at Valley Interlocking.[7][6] The branch has the lowest ridership of any on the Long Island Rail Road.[3] Subsequently, the branch is one of the LIRR lines most vulnerable to closure, and has been threatened with abandonment in recent years.[8] From September 2010 until November 22, 2014, the line had no weekend service due to budgetary constraints, (except for St. Albans, which has always had passenger services since Babylon Branch trains stop there on weekends).[9][10]


1897 map of Hempstead, including the West Hempstead Branch before it was truncated south of Hempstead Avenue.

The West Hempstead Branch was the indirect successor to the old South Side Railroad's Southern Hempstead Branch, which ran a similar route north from Valley Stream to Hempstead, before being torn up in the 1880s. On January 26, 1892, the New York Bay Extension Railroad Company was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Long Island Rail Road to build a line running from Garden City to a point in the town of New Lots in Kings County near the intersection with the New York, Brooklyn & Manhattan Beach Railway Company.[11] The 5.89 miles (9,480 m) line was built between Country Life Press to Valley Stream and opened in 1893.[12] The LIRR leased its property in 1897, and formally merged with the New York Bay Extension Railroad on August 29, 1902.[13][14][15] The West Hempstead Branch originally extended beyond its current terminus and through Hempstead. It connected with the current day Hempstead Branch at Country Life Press.[2] From the Country Life Press station, the line had several routings it could take. It could loop west and continue down the Hempstead Branch to Jamaica. Through an elaborate wye system, trains could also loop east and continue down the Central Branch to Babylon (the split between the Hempstead and Central Branches occur just west of Country Life Press). Trains could also head north on the wye and continue all the way north to Mineola and connect with both the Main Line and Oyster Bay Branches.

Storage battery cars ran on the non-electrified branch between June 1913 and May 1926. The upper end of the branch was electrified in 1911 or 1912 from Country Life Press to Franklin Avenue in Garden City to allow MU baggage cars access to the Doubleday plant.[6]

On October 19, 1926, the portion of the line between Valley Stream and Franklin Avenue in Garden City was electrified at the cost of $1,000,000 and it was inaugurated with a special train.[6][16] New through service running between Valley Stream and Mineola began on the West Hempstead Branch the next day. The freight sidings, however, were not electrified until 1927 and 1928.The connection to the Oyster Bay Branch was severed in 1928, while the portions of the line between Mineola and Country Life Press and between Country Life Press and West Hempstead were taken out of revenue passenger service on September 15, 1935 due to the costly grade crossing elimination improvements imposed upon the LIRR by the Interstate Commerce Commission, as well as the New York Public Service Commission. This meant that no more through service between Valley Stream and Mineola could operate.[17][16]

The track connection at Country Life Press to the West Hempstead Branch was removed on August 19, 1960, and on this same date the tracks were cut back from Country Life Press to the west side of the Franklin Avenue crossing. The remaining tracks north of West Hempstead at Hempstead Avenue were removed some time between 1967 and 1969. Freight trains and non-revenue rerouting trains continued down these portions up until their closure.[17] The rights-of-way remain intact.[18]


Zone Station name Miles (km)
from NYP[19]
Connections / Notes
3 For continuing service to points west, see City Terminal Zone
Jamaica   10.8 (17.4) 1836   LIRR; Babylon, Belmont Park, Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach,
Montauk, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, and West Hempstead Branches
  NYC Subway:  ​​   (at Sutphin Boulevard – Archer Avenue – JFK Airport)
  NYCT Bus: Q20A, Q20B, Q24, Q30, Q31, Q43, Q44, Q54, Q56
  MTA Bus: Q6, Q8, Q9, Q25, Q34, Q40, Q41, Q60, Q65
  NICE Bus: n4
  AirTrain JFK: Jamaica Station Route
Union Hall Street c. 1890 1976 Originally New York Avenue
Canal Street 1890[20] 1899
Hillside c.1909 1966
Main Line diverges at Rockaway Junction
St. Albans 13.6 (21.9) 1898[21]   LIRR Babylon Branch
  NYCT Bus: Q4
Springfield Gardens c. 1870 1979 Originally Springfield
Atlantic Branch converges at Springfield Junction
Rosedale 15.8 (25.4) 1870 Served by Atlantic Branch trains
Originally Foster's Meadow
Queens / Nassau County border
4 Valley Stream   17.9 (28.8) 1869   LIRR: Babylon, Far Rockaway, and Long Beach Branches
  NICE Bus: n1, Elmont Flexi
Westwood   19.3 (31.0) 1929
Malverne   20.1 (32.3) c. 1909   NICE Bus: n31, n32
Lakeview   21.2 (34.1) 1924   NICE Bus: n15
Hempstead Gardens   21.9 (35.2) 1893   NICE Bus: n15
West Hempstead   22.5 (36.2) 1928   NICE Bus: n15, n31, n32
The following stations were on the former connection between West Hempstead and Oyster Bay Branch which was abandoned in 1966
Country Life Press 20.8 (33.5) 1911   LIRR: Hempstead Branch
  NICE Bus: n40, n41
Served West Hempstead trains until c. 1939
Stewart Avenue 1923 1926 Replaced "Hempstead Crossing" station. Abandoned upon electrification in 1926.
Hempstead Crossing 1894 1923 Also named "Garden City" in some timetables[22]
Mineola 20.3 (32.3) 1837   LIRR: Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, and Montauk Branches
  NICE Bus: n22, n22X, n23, n24, n40, n41
Originally Branch, then Hempstead Branch
Served West Hempstead trains until 1928


  1. ^ "WILL HAIL ELECTRIC TRAIN; West Hempstead Branch Towns to Celebrate New Service Today" (PDF). New York Times. October 19, 1926. Retrieved November 1, 2011. The first electric train of the Long Island Railroad to run over the recently electrified West Hempstead branch will leave the Pennsylvania Terminal this afternoon, carrying railroad officials and delegations from the communities affected. The train will be an express to Mineola, where the principal celebration will be held.
  2. ^ a b "West Hempstead Stations". Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Ain, Stewart (March 10, 2002). "West Hempstead Line's Squeaky Wheels". New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2011. West Hempstead branch had a daily ridership of 3,550, the lowest of the railroad's 11 branches. That compares with 58,000 [sic] on the Oyster Bay branch, which has the next smallest number of riders.
  4. ^ MTA Long Island Rail Road system map
  5. ^ LIRR West Hempstead Branch timetable
  6. ^ a b c d Keller, Dave. "West Hempstead Branch". Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  7. ^ "WM Interlocking". The LIRR Today. Retrieved November 13, 2013.
  8. ^ Ain, Stewart (August 8, 2004). "M.T.A.'s Threat Drops Some Jaws". New York Times. Retrieved November 1, 2011. Brian Dolan, a spokesman for the railroad, said the elimination of the [Oyster Bay, West Hempstead, and Greenport] branches would be a 'drastic step we would hope we would not have to implement.' He said the move was being considered because of a projected $1.3 billion budget shortfall that the transportation authority, the railroad's parent, is facing in 2006.
  9. ^ Alcindor, Yamiche (September 18, 2010). "An empty feeling on LIRR's West Hempstead branch". Newsday. Retrieved November 1, 2011. The elimination of the branch's 17 weekend trains is aimed at helping the struggling Metropolitan Transportation Authority close a $900-million budget gap. The cutback will save $474,000 a year, officials have said.
  10. ^ "Weekend service returns to LIRR branch". Newsday. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  11. ^ "3 Feb 1897, Page 5 - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle at". Brooklyn Public Library. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  12. ^ "Corporate Succession Long Island Railroad". Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  13. ^ "LIRR 75 Anniversary". Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  14. ^ Hinsdale, Elizur Brace (1898). History of the Long Island Railroad Company, 1834-1898. Evening Post Job Printing House.
  15. ^ Senate, New York (State) Legislature (1913). Documents of the Senate of the State of New York. E. Croswell. pp. 615, 618, 842.
  16. ^ a b "WHBrEL". Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  17. ^ a b "LIRR Branch Notes". Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  18. ^ "Mineola to West Hempstead". Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  19. ^ Station pages linked from LIRR Stations
  20. ^ "Rapid Transit Extension". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, NY. June 24, 1890. p. 1.
  21. ^ Long Island Railroad Station History (
  22. ^ Hempstead Crossing Station and Country Life Press (Arrt's Arrchives)

External linksEdit