The Whitestone Branch is a long-abandoned Long Island Rail Road
line in northern Queens County
, New York
. It was built in 1869, by Long Island Rail Road predecessor Flushing
& North Side.
It became part of the Long Island in 1876, when the Flushing & North Side's president, Conrad Poppenhusen (who has a street named after him in College Point), bought out the original Long Island Rail Road, and combined the properties under the LIRR's name. The Whitestone Branch left the Long Island's Port Washington branch at a location just east of Willets Point station, near the future site of Shea Stadium. Original station stops were North Flushing, also called Bridge Street, College Point, and Whitestone. The line was 4 miles long, running in a northerly direction out of Flushing, and making a 90-degree turn to the east for the College Point-to-Whitestone segment.
In 1886 the line was extended half a mile to Whitestone Landing, on the shores of the Long Island Sound. A station was opened at Malba in 1908, between College Point and Whitestone, near the site of the Whitestone Bridge. The line operated profitably for many years, and was electrified in 1920. However, trouble arrived in the form of the Dual Contracts subway that had reached Flushing in 1923. The subway charged a far lower fare to Manhattan, and ridership dropped drastically.
At the same time, a grade crossing elimination project was underway on the LIRR. If you ride the LIRR today, you will notice that almost all of the trackage in Queens and Nassau is significantly above or below street level. The LIRR decided the expense of removing the many grade crossings on the Whitestone was simply not worth the benefit, and began proceedings to abandon the branch. In 1932, the last train ran, and the rails were pulled up, except for a short stub at the southern end. This short stub led to an overgrown lot by the side of the Van Wyck Expressway where wreck-damaged equipment was stored, until the mid 1980s, when the lot was sold to one of the many auto salvage businesses in the area, and the connecting track was torn up.
There was talk of selling the Whitestone Branch to the city, who would provide subway service over it, but the city wasn't interested in the property, and service today is provided by several bus lines running north out of Flushing.
Traces of the Whitestone can still be seen today. The northern end is completely gone, as some of the right-of-way was used to build the Cross Island Parkway. Between Malba and College Point, the railroad ran on the side of a hill between 11th and 14th Avenues, and several of the cross streets still have a visible indentation where the railroad ran. Also, at the corner of 129th Street and 23rd Avenue, a part of the right-of-way is used as a driveway.