This past week, the LIRR finally began scrapping their old freight intermodal bogies. So just what the hell is a bogie, anyway?
Back in the late 1980s, the LIRR was attempting to improve their lagging freight service. Manufacturing in NYC and on Long Island had dropped off considerably, and products being transported to Long Island were increasingly being sent in via trucks. At the same time, larger railroads were successfully competing with trucks by carrying containers and trailers on flatbed rail cars (commonly referred to as ‘intermodal’ cars). Ironically, transporting trailers via rail was a concept that the LIRR invented in the 1800s, transporting produce from the farms of Long Island into NYC.
The LIRR couldn’t carry modern day intermodal freight though. There were two main obstacles: the third rail, and numerous overpasses that are too short for a traditional intermodal car to pass under. To work around these constraints, the LIRR had a few unique bogie cars built. Each car was designed to hold one end of a truck trailer. This allowed for enough clearance under the overpasses and over the third rail.
For a short while, this service showed promise. Trailers of Beer and Mail were being transported. the LIRR ordered more bogie cars, with the intent of expanding service.
What the bogies look like when loaded with trailers. Photo by Albert Castelli c/o Steve Lynch’s excellent LIRR history site.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way they were intended. The bogies were prone to derailing. It didn’t help that a trailer full of mail was set on fire in Brooklyn, resulting in a loss of the postal business. Had this experiment worked, the potential to remove trucks from NYC and Long Island highways was tremendous. Today, every package that is delivered to a home or business on Long Island gets there via trucks from New Jersey.
After the experiment ended, the LIRR was left with a unique fleet of rail cars that had no resale value. They were stored on a few segments of track around Long Island, one of which being the Montauk Cutoff.
In 2016, the MTA formally ‘abandoned’ train operations on the cutoff, and is slowly working towards leasing some of the property to a nearby community group. In order for that to take place, the old bogie cars had to be cleared out. Thus, a contract was rewarded to a scrap metal company to drag the cars back down into Sunnyside yard, where they were cut into 4 pieces and hauled away by truck for recycling.
Having sat on the cutoff for over 25 years, the bogies represented one of the most unique, long standing abandoned artifacts in L.I.C. As such, they warranted one last detailed photo survey, seen below. These photos are of the final four bogies on the cutoff, as they await being dragged away to the scrappers torch.