Although train service to Far Rockaway, and eventually to Rockaway Beach, had been established as early as 1869 by the South Side RR, that Company's route through Valley Stream, Woodmere and Cedarhurst was long and circuitous. Even when the LIRR-controlled NY and Rockaway RR came on the scene in 1873 and built a more direct line from Rockaway Junction (Hillside) to Cedarhurst and Far Rockaway (the Cedarhurst Cutoff) that shaved 4 miles off the trip, it was still felt that a shorter, route was needed. Most people still traveled to the Rockaways by boat; some across Jamaica Bay by a ferry that connected with the Canarsie RR in Brooklyn, others on ferries from the Battery or 23rd St. in Manhattan.
Under the leadership of a noted Queens politician, James M Oakley, pictured to the left, the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway RR was formed in 1877. Originally the plan was to build a narrow gauge RR from Hunter's Point through Winfield , Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Woodhaven and via a long trestle over Jamaica Bay. However the ROW and a ferry terminal in western Queens were unable to be secured. Therefore, Oakley worked out an agreement with the LIRR to use the LIRR's tracks, with connections in Glendale to Hunters Point and Bushwick and in Woodhaven with the Atlantic Ave. line to Flatbush Ave. Work on the new line, which was now to be standard gauge, commenced in July, 1879 and service commenced in August, 1880 (the connection with the Atlantic Ave. line, however, did not open until 1881).
At the other end of the line, the ROW of the NYW&R, which was double-tracked for its entire length, entered the Rockaway peninsula at Hammels (Beach 83rd St.) and turned west to Rockaway Beach (later Park - at Beach 116th St.)
In 1886, Oakley sold the NYW&R to Austin Corbin of the LIRR, and the name of the line was changed to the New York and Rockaway Beach Railway. In 1888 a connection was made at Beach 53rd St. with the South Side's line and the western portion of the South Side ROW was abandoned.
In 1910, the final portion of the Rockaway Beach line, from Glendale to White Pot Junction in Rego Park, with a connection to the LIRR's main line to Penn Station, was completed.
Here are some pictures and timetables of the Rockaway line
Here's part of an advertisement of the NYW&R from 1883
Photo courtesy of V. Seyfried
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