Sunnyside Yard (Amtrak/NJT/LIRR)
Long Island City Yard (LIRR)
Arch Ave Yard (LIRR)
Harold Tower and Harold Interlocking
The 19th Ave Footbridge
Amtrak, NJT, and LIRR Equipment and Locomotives
Subways: #7, E, F, G, M, N, R, W
Grade Crossings: Borden Ave and 11th St (near Long Island City Yard)
LIRR switcher can usually be found near Long Island City Yard
Access by train/transit:
The #7, N, and W subway lines are nearby west of the yard at Queensboro Plaza, on Queens Blvd (elevated)
Subway lines E, F, M, and R are a little closer to the yard at Queens Plaza, on Queens Blvd (underground)
The "G" line from Brooklyn stops and ends at Court Square, but it is
underground, while the #7 Court Square station is elevated
Hunterspoint Ave and Long Island City stations on the LIRR, but nothing from Manhattan
Amtrak does not stop here
Note: The MTA does not use the "old" IRT, IND, and BMT notations any longer, I generally do :-)
And yes, I did modify the map below, just slightly, moved the line
designations over the route.
This page is a guide to Sunnyside Yard and everything that is associated with
it: The East River Tunnels; the LIRR extension into Hunterspoint Station and
the LIRR yard; the other nearby yards: Arch Street, Blissville, Wheelspur, and Long Island City;
the Montauk Cutoff; Harold Interlocking; and the 3 sets of "duckunders".
This is also a large page for a number of
reasons: 1) There are a lot of "parts" to Sunnyside Yard, 2) There are a
multitude of features which need to be covered in detail, and 3) The many intricacies involved in obtaining pictures.
Obviously, as in any "urban" area that is as built up as New York City is,
it is going to be quite frustrating to find "that perfect spot", if there
even is one. This guide will hopefully help you plan your visit to the
Queens, Sunnyside and Long Island City.
Sunnyside Yard is a storage and service yard for Amtrak, NJT, and the Long Island
RR. It is used to support the equipment used out of Penn Station in Manhattan,
and once the East Side Access project is done, the LIRR trains that will be
running out of Grand Central Terminal.
The yard is about a mile and a half long, depending on where the actual yard
limit is on the west end - I used the loop at 43rd Street as my eastern end
to measure using Google Maps. At Honeywell St, the yard is about
1,600 feet in width.
There are four main lines running thru the area, on the south side of the
yard, and they go thru Harold Interlocking. The four main lines split
into an additional two for the Port Washington Branch, which has it's
interlocking here instead of further east.
Speaking of direction, I use WB and EB for the Long Island RR - EB trains
are heading out to the Island, WB trains are heading into Penn Station.
For Amtrak, I go against common east/west designations that are used,
primarily because we think of Boston being north of New York, and not east.
So instead, I use NB and SB - NB trains are headed towards Boston, and SB
trains are headed towards Washington DC.
As for activity, there are over 40 trains (average) an hour that pass through Harold
Interlocking, which a total of 783 trains each weekday (according to
Wikipedia down in the Harold Interlocking section). This makes Harold
Interlocking the busiest rail junction in the United States!
I count 32 tracks in the Amtrak portion of the yard, not counting the ones
running into buildings.
In the new LIRR yard, called the Mid-Day Storage Yard,
it looks like there are 24 tracks, with another two
tracks on the outside for access, one on each side. Seven tracks "come
out" of the "bottom" of the yard and go into the Arch Street Yard
maintenance facility. Although from the air, it kinda looks like they
put in double-slip switches, they did not except for one at the south end.
Open Railway Map
Please keep in mind, that if you come to New York and railfan by car, you
may find that having a car is actually a handicap in many instances because
of trying to find a place to park the dang thing, especially in Manhattan.
-- via the Queensboro Bridge lower level from 59th Street
-- via the Queensboro Bridge upper level from 58th Street, once in Queens,
stay to the left to exit onto Thomson Ave, take a left there, and the first
traffic light you come to is Skillman Ave, which runs along the southern
side of the yard.....Take a right onto Thomson , then a left onto Jackson
Ave if you want to get to the Court Square IRT subway station, and then
another left after 6 blocks onto 2nd Street which will put you at the tail
end of LIRR's Long Island City Yard.
Mitch Waxman has these helpful tips for railfanning Sunnyside:
The fences and streets around the yards are generally pretty safe,
as a start. The only spot that’s kind of iffy is Queens Plaza. With
East Side Access work happening over the last few decades, they’ve
punched all sorts of surveyors holes into the fences, which I
regularly exploit. What you mainly need to worry about are
wandering crazies, but no more so than anywhere else in NYC.
39th street/Harold - there’s a hole in the chain link overlooking
the turnaround track on the east side. Crossing to west side of
street (careful, heavy traffic) there’s a series of POV’s which
include what I call “hole reliable” which overlooks the interlocking.
Lots of traffic at that Harold Interlocking, as you’d imagine.
36/Honeywell - There’s an old employee entrance ramp which has
recently been demolished, but there’s a significant gap in the
fence which allows a view of Amtrak’s coach yard. There are
also a few tiny POV’s hidden in the fences (both Honeywell
and Harold are post 911 fence, so steel plates), but you
really have to look for them.
Northern Blvd. at Standard Lane is the only spot you can see
the tracks from the north side without being in one of the old
factory buildings, but a visit to the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop
farm at the Standard Motor Products building allows for aerial
overview from about 8 stories up. At Standard Lane, you might
get an LIRR moving through, but you might also win Lotto.
Skillman Avenue from 39th/Harold all the way to Hunters Point
Avenue is frustrating, but offers several views. It’s that kind
of fence which has the sharpened edge diamonds on it that are
designed to keep you from climbing them. Saying that, there’s
a roughly 3/4 to 1 inch gap between the individual panels which
a camera can use if you’ve got the right lens attached.
Skillman between “Queens Boulevard North” and Hunters Point Ave
is the old school wrought iron fencing with huge gaps between
the bars, so happy hunting.
Hunters Point Avenue itself has the LIRR station, where you can
also get 7 line subway rising out of the HPA Station from the
steps, and is alongside the approach to the Manhattan bound
tunnel. There’s a few fence holes there. You can also get
down onto the station platform as well.
(Pictures below in the "19th St Footbridge Area").
Unofficially, the Smiling Hogshead Ranch community garden is
sited on the tracks of the old Degnon Terminal railway, which
lead up to Montauk Cutoff, which is fully inactive. This is
definitively trespassing on MTA property on the cutoff, and
the rail cops do patrol but infrequently. It’s become a very
populated set of tracks up there, especially so during Covid,
as every kid in LIC goes up there to brood and smoke pot. On
the SY side, you’re directly over the tunnel exits into
Queens with a view looking towards Queens Plaza, on the
Newtown Creek side you’re at DB Cabin/Blissville Yard/Wheelspur
Yard/Lower Montauk (quite active tracks).
Also - when you’re talking LIC and rail, cannot leave out
the daily show put on by LIRR at Borden Avenue nearby the
Pulaski Bridge and Midtown Tunnel. Generally speaking, between
3 and 6, they’re doing multiple grade crossings visible
from the sidewalk. You can go to 53rd Avenue under Pulaski,
or Borden just east of the Bridge, or my favorite - the
19th street footbridge.
Through the years, the names of the yards at Sunnyside have undergone a few
changes. When originally opened, there was the north yard and the south yard.
One of the early drawings for the yard, from 1904, shows there being a
Multiple Unit Car Yard and a Pullman and Coach Yard:
History, from Wikipedia: The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction
of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the
world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track.
The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving
New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the
East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity
of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity. end Wiki
There are 5 streets that pass over the yard: 39th St, Honeywell St, Queens
Blvd, Thomson Ave, 49th Ave, the LIE (Long Island Expressway), and the
Pulaski Bridge (going all the way down to LIRR's Long Island City Yard).
Only two streets cross the tracks at a grade crossing - but they are down
in LIRR "territory" adjacent to Long Island City yard: Borden Ave and 11th St.
In addition to Sunnyside yard, there are 4 smaller yards coming off the
"southern" or "western" end of Sunnyside yard (kinda): Arch St Yard (used for LIRR
maintenance), Long Island City Yard (used for LIRR layover's and the an LIRR
station), Wheelspur Yard (freight), and Blissfield Yard (freight).
There used to be a connection between Blissfield and Sunnyside,
the Montauk Cutoff, but it has
long been out of service, and a good portion of the Sunnyside end has been
removed to accommodate track changes.
There is a lot going on in Sunnyside Yard, and the action has changed over
the years. There is storage and service tracks for Amtrak, New Jersey
Transit, and Long Island RR Trains. In addition, there are several
maintenance areas for MOW and signals.
To understand Sunnyside, there are a few things you need to know in order to
fully grasp what's going on:
- The reverse loop
- The East River Tunnels
- The numerous bridges, overpasses, duckunders, and tunnels
- The traffic flow
The first thing you need to know is that Sunnyside has the
balloon track, or reverse loop, for Penn Station. Trains
that need to be turned around, have to go through the East River Tunnels to
reach the loop. The diagram below shows the reverse loop in
white. We'll go into more detail in a minute.
There are roughly 21 bridges, overpasses, duckunders, and tunnels associated
with the Sunnyside area, slightly more since I have consolidated (for
instance) the two outbound tunnel portals from Penn Station as one, and the
four mainline overpasses over the loop as one, in an effort to keep things
"a little cleaner". The duckunders are mentioned next, as well as in
detail below. The bridges and overpasses associated with the Montauk
Cutoff are under that heading, and the new tunnels that are part of
the East Side Access Project.
Also necessary to understanding operations at Sunnyside are the
three sets of "duckunders" utilized in getting trains onto the "other side"
of the mainlines. They are half tunnel (kind of) and part overpass.
Without these, the trains heading into the yard, or going back onto the
mainlines would have to cross over one of the mainlines in order to get to
the yard or other mainline. Number 4 is for trains
exiting the NEC and LIRR in order to go into the yard. Number 11 is
for trains returning to the NEC, having to go under the LIRR main. The
other duckunders, in the inset, are for LIRR trains leaving Harold
interlocking and heading off to Jamaica or the Port Washington Branch.
They are covered in more detail below.
For a more detailed look at how trains get into the yard, we have this....
1 - Trains come out of the East River Tunnels here - both mainlines have access to the loop and yard.
2 - The first exit point is here, it comes off the NEC track.
3 - A second exit point from the NEC, and access to the loop from the LIRR tracks is available here.
There is also a second right exit off the NEC here (in blue).
4 - Trains using option 3, have to duck under the NEC mainline to reach the loop
5 - The two exit tracks join up here, we now have 2 tracks in the loop.
6 - The car wash.
7 - The 2 tracks goes to 3 tracks here.
8 - Interlocking for the loop, yard tracks, and one of the maintenance buildings - from here, there are 4 yard lead tracks.
9 - Yard tracks.
10 - Loop track.
11 - The loop track joins up with the yard leads, and interlocking for the two main lines is done here.
12 - Trains joining the NEC will duck under the NEC and LIRR main lines here.
13 - Trains going back to Penn Station via the LIRR tracks will rejoin the main here.
14 - Trains going back via the NEC will get back on the main here.
15 - Tunnel portal for the LIRR main.
16 - Tunnel portal for the NEC main.
Map point 2 - The first exit off the NEC for the yard and loop track.
Map point 3 - Second set of exits for the loop track. The blue exit joins the first
exit and forms one of the two loop tracks. The two white exits, one
from the LIRR main, and another one from the NEC main, go under the NEC to
form the second loop track.
Map points 4 and 5 - The second set of mainline exits, run under the NB NEC main, and joins up
with the first NEC exit track.
Map point 6, trains going around the loop or entering the yard can get
cleaned at the car wash on their way in.
Map point 7, where we go from two loop tracks to three.
Map point 8, interlocking for the 4 yard leads, the 2 maintenance tracks,
and the loop continuation track. There are additional crossovers
between the yard leads just off the picture at the bottom left.
Some of the interlocking from 39th St.
Loop Track continuation (10) actually skirts the eastern side of the LIRR
Map points 11 and 12 - The loop tracks joins up with the yard leads (at 11), goes
through an interlocking, and can head to either the SB NEC main by going
under the main lines (12), or by going "straight" (bluish arrow) and then into the LIRR WB
A train heading back to Penn Station is going thru the duckunder.
Map points 13, 14 & 15 - Point 13 is where Amtrak trains from the loop and
yard can head back to Penn Station via the LIRR main. Point 14 is where Amtrak
trains from the loop and yard can join the NEC main and head back to Penn Station,
this is the normal routing. Point 15 is the East River Tunnel Portal A, used
mainly for LIRR trains.
Map point 16, Our above ground journey in the Queens for Amtrak trains and engines ends
here where they get ready to enter the WB East River Tunnel.
Now we'll go over the Long Island Railroad's side of things....
LIRR trains, being commuter trains, are double ended, and can be operated
from either end. Because of this, their trains, unlike Amtrak trains,
do not need to be turned around.
From Wikipedia: The junction is located in Queens, New York, east of the East River
Tunnels and next to Amtrak's and NJ Transit Rail Operations' Sunnyside Yard.
During the rush hour period, over 40 trains per hour pass through the
interlocking; and a total of 783 trains each weekday. In addition to Amtrak
trains, the interlocking serves the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), whose
Main Line and Port Washington Branch diverge from the Northeast
Corridor at Harold Interlocking. The complexity of the junction and the
large volume of traffic has caused frequent delays and occasional
accidents in this portion of the Northeast Corridor.
The Pennsylvania Railroad built the Harold Interlocking in 1908 as part
of the New York Tunnel Extension project, which built Pennsylvania
Station, the North River Tunnels (under the Hudson River), the East
River Tunnels and Sunnyside Yard. The interlocking was renovated in
summer 1990 during a nine-week modernization project. This renovation
was conducted several months after a power surge caused trains to be
stuck in the interlocking. Since the 1990s, Harold Interlocking has
been controlled from a tower at Penn Station.
2019, photo by Bonnachoven via Wikipeida
Entering the Harold Interlocking on the LIRR from the east. Just beyond the signal gantry,
the tracks will join with the line from the Hells gate Bridge
(note overhead catenary)
At the east end of the Interlocking, the Northeast Corridor and Long Island
lines leave each other.
From the quick answer section of Google comes this: What LIRR line is Long Island City?
Located within the City Terminal Zone at Borden Avenue and Second Street, it is the westernmost
LIRR station in Queens and the end of both the Main Line and Montauk Branch.
From Wikipedia: This station and yard has 13 tracks with three concrete high-level island
platforms. The northernmost platform, Platform A, is two cars long and is accessible from
Borden Avenue just west of Fifth Street. Platforms B and C are located within the secure
area of the rail yard and not used by commuters.
All tracks without platforms are used for train storage. The southernmost six tracks are powered
by third rail, while the remaining are only used by diesel-powered trains.
The station is served only during weekday rush hours in the peak direction by diesel trains
from the Oyster Bay, Montauk, or Port Jefferson Branches via the Main Line. Until
November 2012, some LIRR trains also ran via the Lower Montauk Branch to and from this station.
The station here originally opened on June 26, 1854, and rebuilt seven times during the
19th Century. In 1902, both the two-story station building and office building owned
by the LIRR burned down. The rebuilt, and fire-proof, station opened in 1903.
Electric service to the station began on June 16, 1910. end Wiki
Looking at the USGS map, it looks like the yard was known as Terminal Yard,
with three additional yards in the area: Arch Street, Wheelapur, and
Greenpoint.... Four including Sunnyside :-). As of this writing, I
don't know when the LIRR started referring it as Long Island City Yard.
Does anyone have any pictures of this yard from the mid 70's, because back
then, the LIRR had one train that used push-pull Alco FA's from the Western Maryland??
I don't remember if they had Jamaica or here as the western terminal point.
The above map also appears on the big map above as the INSET.....
Coordinates: 40.74163, -73.95742 (at the red "X" above)(entrance to the station)
- The tunnels were built by the Pennsylvania Railroad between 1904 and 1908.
-- Construction was completed on the East River tunnels on March 18, 1908.
- The planned tunnels were objected to by the yet unfinished IRT because it looked like competition.
- Originally only two tubes were suggested, later changed to four tubes.
- All four tunnels have both overhead catenary and 3rd rail power.
- The tubes opened along with Pennsylvania Station on September 8, 1910.
- Tracks are numbered from the south, so track 4 is the northern most track/tunnel.
- Tracks 1 and 2 are usually for Amtrak trains.
- Tracks 3 and 4 are normally used for LIRR trains.
- Odd numbered tracks are usually for EB traffic, even for WB traffic.
- The track 3 tunnel passes under the track 2 tunnel so as to align the two
PRR/Amtrak lines with each other, same for the LIRR lines.
Refer to the Wikipedia page for a lot more info.
2017, photo by Chris Wallner via Wikipedia
Inside Tunnel #4, headed towards Penn Station, pix from Wikipedia, no named credit.
East River Tunnel / Eastbound LIRR and Northbound Amtrak Tracks
GPS Coordinates: 40.74296, -73.94499
The portals of tunnels 1 (Portal B) and 3 (Portal D), for NB (Amtrak) and EB
Pictures I took were taken out of the back end of an Amtrak Business Class car.
This section was getting out of control due to the amount of information involved with the project,
and the Sunnyside page is already "big enough", so I gave it it's own page:
https://railfanguides.us/ny/NYCeastsideaccess/index.htm. I will
only cover the tunnels associated with the project.
East Side Access Project - Amtrak's
WB Bypass Tunnel
This new tunnel will allow SB (WB in MTA/Amtrak parlance) Amtrak trains
conflict free passage thru Harold Interlocking.
The track diagrams below are from Wikipedia, and, it appears that Wikipedia
left out a connection where I put the blue line, otherwise Amtrak trains
would go into the LIRR yard. The new tunnel is pointed to with a green
GPS Coordinates: 40.74178, -73.94932 (50th St side)
The 19th Ave footbridge is kind of in the middle of a lot of things in this part
of Long Island City. It allows you a convenient way to get "to the other
side of the tracks", going over the LIRR between the Long Island City and
Hunterspoint Ave stations. From the footbridge itself, you can catch the Long
Island trains passing under you as they come and go out of Long Island City yard.
On the "north" side you have:
- You are 2 blocks away from the LIRR and #7 subway line Hunters Point stations. Go
1 block north on 21st St, then over 1 block on 49th Ave to the station stairways.
-- The #7 IRT lines Hunters Point station stairway is on the north side of 49th Ave.
-- And the LIRR's Hunterspoint station stairway is on the south side of 49th Ave, adjacent to the subway entrance.
- On "the other side" of 49th Ave, 21st St goes over the tracks of LIRR's maintenance facility and Arch Street Yard.
- Another 2 blocks north you have the IND "G" Line's 21st St station.
On the "south" side of the bridge, you have:
- Long Island City Yard is about 3 blocks away.
- The 11th St grade crossing.
- You have an LIRR engine, that at least in the Google Streetviews,
is parked just to the east of the 11th St grade crossing.
- To get to the Long Island City station, walk 3 blocks west on Borden Ave
for the station entrance.
At the 11th St grade crossing, you have an "exposed" 600 volt third rail
(you don't see that very often - I know there is a place in Chicagoland where the
third rail comes to a grade crossing too)
Here's a collection of LIRR switchers that the Google Streetview cameras have captured over the years.
When you're in Streetview, you can click on the timeline in the upper left
hand box on the screen, and choose a year:
From Wikipedia: The Montauk Cutoff is a cutoff approximately one-third of a mile (~ 1/2 km) in
length and was double-tracked for its entire length. It begins just west of Sunnyside and
Arch Street Yards, after which it runs west parallel to Skillman Avenue and passes over
the tracks leading to the East River Tunnels and Hunterspoint Avenue. It then runs elevated
across several blocks in an industrial section of Long Island City, before crossing the
Cabin M Bridge, a swing bridge over Dutch Kills, and meeting the Montauk Branch
immediately to the east of Dutch Kills Bridge at Blissville Yard.
The MTA has not used the Montauk Cutoff since its freight operations ended and the replacement
of its diesel fleet, between 1989 and the late 1990s. In 2015, the MTA announced that it was
decommissioning the Montauk Cutoff. It also announced that it was seeking concepts for reuse
of the right-of-way. Some potential uses include an expanded garden, urban farm, or a park
resembling the High Line in Manhattan, though the MTA announced that it does not want to
sell the structure, as it wants to keep open the possibility of reuse as transportation
infrastructure. A part of the Montauk Cutoff was later demolished to expand yard space
for the East Side Access project. (looking for a date) end Wiki
The Cutoff has 7 bridges and overpasses, including the Cabin M Bridge and 2 flyovers
- which go over the Sunnyside tracks and Skillman Avenue.
Although the Wikipedia page for the Cutoff has it's length at 1/3 of a mile (above),
I measure it, using Google Maps, to be closer to 3,700 feet (1128m), going from the
bottom of the (still) existing ramp to where it joins Blissville yard as
yard trackage.... take your pick. It measures roughly 1,800 feet from
the end at the yard (including the flyover section), to the Cabin M Bridge,
so that is roughly 1/3 of a mile.
The Montauk Cutoff - Flyover #1
The Montauk Cutoff - Flyover #2
the Montauk Cutoff going over the outbound NEC and LIRR mains from Penn Station.
The ramp for flyover #2.
What do you think.... Will that dwarf ever show anything but red?
The Montauk Cutoff - Flyovers Over Skillman Ave
The Montauk Cutoff - Over 49th Ave
The Montauk Cutoff - Over 50th Ave
The Montauk Cutoff - Over 51st Ave
The Montauk Cutoff - Over Borden Ave
The Montauk Cutoff -
Cabin M Bridge over the Dutch Kills
Here are a couple of drawings of the signals at Sunnyside Yard, sent in by
Joshua. I especially like the second map, because it shows you: a)
where the new tunnels originate from and where they head under the yard, and
b) the third loop track.
Being that signals are all over the place in Sunnyside Yard, and the
lines going through it, I'm not even going to make an attempt at
figuring where the signals are in the pictures below. They are presented in the order they were taken,
and are from an "inbound" trip to Penn Station.
I also have a run through of the signals of Sunnyside Yard, where I go from Penn Station to New Rochelle
Courtesy of the USGS, click here for their index page.
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page. This is something I have fun with while
trying to help others.
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.
For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented
I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while,
an error may creep in :-)
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or
disoriented. Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the
railroads on them. If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job
of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads. Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Aerial shots were taken from either Google or Bing Maps as noted. Screen captures are made
with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!
By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous
and/or other stuff.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit
is always given! Please be NICE!!! Contact info is here
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly inaccurate, wrong, or not true.