The Cedarhurst Cutoff

The line that eventually became known as the Cedarhurst Cutoff has one of the strangest histories of any railroad line ever built. It was built by the LIRR in 1872 as the New York and Rockaway RR and gave competition to the South Side's line to Far Rockaway, which had been built three years earlier. This line branched off from the LIRR Main line at Rockaway Junction (now Hillside), and went through St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, crossed the South Side at Springfield Junction in Laurelton and continued on a direct route to Cedarhurst. From there, it ran parallel to the South Side's line to Far Rockaway. When the various RR's were merged in 1876, the portion from Springfield Junction to Cedarhurst was abandoned a few years later and only the South Side's line through Valley Stream was used. In 1905 the line was planned to be revived in order to afford faster service to the Rockaways and was completed and electrified in 1908. For some unknown reason, service was never started and the line sat unused until 1918, when the rails were torn up for use elsewhere because of WWI. In 1928, when there was a tremendous building boom in the area, the line was rebuilt for a third time and electrified, but, because of the Great Depression, once again it lay unused and was torn up for the third and last time. The property was sold in 1934.

Here's a map from 1914 that shows the "Old Rail Road" ROW in Cedarhurst:

See Art Huneke's Cedarhurst Cutoff page for much additional information and pictures.

Here are two maps showing the ROW. If anyone knows of more accurate information, please let me know.


(Added 1/3/2004) Gary Farkash, of the Friends of Locomotive 35, contributed the following: "I also have a few things to say about the Cedarhurst Cutoff. I have been part of a Rosedale family for over 40 years and have taken some time to study the cutoff. In addition to what is on your website about the cutoff I would like to add the following facts and ideas. As the map indicates, the supposed route of the cutoff is in fact quite accurate. If one were to drive from Sunrise Highway onto the westbound lanes of the Belt Parkway in Rosedale, you would clearly see  a fence stuck into the ground on your right side where the LIRR girder bridges are. This fence was an LIRR barrier and can be faintly glimpsed from one of the photos from Ron Ziel's collection of Rosedale LIRR photos. This fence is just west of where the actual LIRR Rosedale station was [before grade elimination]. This station was built in 1889 as a frame structure as per the 1889 LIRR annual report. Up until the mid '70's-early '80's, the LIRR ROW was still a berm dividing 149th Ave. from Brookville Blvd. At the intersection of Huxley St. if someone were to go to the southern end of Huxley St. and look over to the right in the creek, they would see the remains of a small wood trestle which carried the cutoff through what is now Woodmere Park. This line would have paralleled and, at some point actually have been, Branch Blvd. This line crossed over Peninsula Blvd.  where a simple high ranch was built in the early to mid 1970's and continued to join the LIRR (South Side RR) at Cedarhurst going through the property where the ROW markers (mentioned below) are located. An aerial view of this area would bear this out. As for the short streets at the swamp in Rosedale by 149th Ave., my theory is simply that the builders did not want to spend extra money to fill in or drain that area of the wetlands. They chose to stop at a more solid area. I have seen this firsthand down the block from my home at Craft Ave. when those houses were built, as a bulkhead was not installed because there was originally no need for them."

M. Gehlen contributes the following "I was intrigued by the obvious row on the maps for the original LIRR route to the Rockaways (Laurelton to Cedarhurst), and walked it the other day.
Pretty easy to follow on the ground as well. Only a couple of potential traces, starting from the north. One is a bridge across the creek in Brookville Park whose base looks like it could be original RR. Perhaps not, but it is right on what appears to have been the row.
Further south, there is a lot of potential rail material along the west side of Huxley St. between 149 Rd and the Queens/Nassau border. I didn't look too hard, given all the undergrowth.
Best of all are what look to be old concrete RR posts along the property line of a house that is built on top of the old row. Location: on the south side of West Broadway in Nassau, between Oakwood and Linwood. Clearly visible from the sidewalk.

Michael Klein thinks the ROW was somewhat west of what I have guessed. He says "I grew up in Rosedale. West of Edgewood, 149th Avenue is the southernmost developed roadway. Southward from that road is undeveloped wetland that is part of the Jamaica Bay marsh system. Beyond is Rockaway Boulevard (or is it Rockaway Turnpike? 25 years makes the names grow slightly dim), and southwestward is JFK.
149 Avenue between Edgewood and 241st Street was developed with a certain peculiarity. There are small perpendicular streets cuts on the southern side that run only one house length before deadending into the swampland. If you go to the westernmost of these small street cuts, the one closest to 241st Street (my memories here may be slightly off, but I am confident that they are generally correct), you can see an embankment extending into the swampland in a generally southeasterly direction. I believe that this is generally the correct direction for the Cedarhurst cut-off to have taken. The embankment does not extend all the way across the swamp. If this was indeed the LIRR embankment, then it must have gone onto a trestle at the southerly end of what is left.
Of course, I cannot be certain that the embankment was the LIRR r/w. As a kid, I remember once asking my mother what it was, and she said she thought it might have been an abandoned attempt to extend the roadway system. This is possible of course. I do recall thought that the embankment did not line up all that well with the road grid, so I am doubtful.
I also have quite clear recollections of certain ancient dirt roadways that then existed within the confines of the swampland. They were accessed off of Brookville Boulevard, south of where 149th Avenue now exists. There were old wooden houses along the roadway. These houses were then occupied by poor families. I now think that the roadway probably originally intersected with the LIRR r/w somewhere out in the swamp somewhere. I wonder if there could have been a station?
The old houses, and the entire roadway that I recall, has been obliterated. I visited the area within the past 2 years, and there was no trace of those old houses, or the road. Brookville Boulevard has been fenced, and accessing the wetland is now problematic (unlike the time of my childhood when it was completely open.)
In any event, I seem to have convinced myself that that embankment was probably the old LIRR r/w. I would very much appreciate being kept informed of what you find out as to the actual facts."