Blackout brings LIRR service to a standstill

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Long Island Rail Road trains rolled slowly to a halt when the blackout hit last Thursday afternoon, leaving thousands of rail passengers who were going into the city for an evening out or headed home early after a day at work stranded in Queens.

At the Bayside station on Bell Boulevard, Joseph Smith waited for a train to Penn Station that would not come for at least another day.

Informed that train service was out, reality finally set in.

“I guess it’s not going to come,” said Smith, a Whitestone resident who had planned to make a connection at Penn Station for an Amtrak train to Washington, D.C. “I’m going to have to drive now.”

The scene was much the same n Manhattan, where thousands stood idly outside Penn Station, unsure how they would get home. Trains would not resume until Friday, when sporadic eastbound service began out of Jamaica Station.

At Woodside, where more than half the trains running between Penn Station and Nassau County regularly make stops, bewildered passengers paced the platform, fruitlessly dialed cell phones or sat dejectedly in the ever-warming train cars.

“I don’t have any plan,” admitted 52-year-old Seta Kuzuk as she slowly realized that the scheduled one-minute stop along the route from Manhasset to Penn Station was becoming the end of the line.

She said her husband would pick her up in the family car — if she could call him and let him know where she was.

Another passenger on the ill-fated 3:40 out of Port Washington, 20-year-old Aby Hung, was on her way to Penn Station to pick up a friend who was due to arrive on Amtrak from Baltimore. But with that plan out the window, Hung was trying to figure out a way just to get back home to Little Neck.

On the eastbound tracks, about 200 feet out of the station, the 4:01 train from Penn Station to Port Jefferson sat helpless under the Woodside Avenue overpass. About 90 minutes after the power loss, passengers began to file out along the tracks and climb up onto the platform.

“It got a bit warm, but the breeze kept people comfortable,” said one man, a 55-year-old consultant from Huntington.

He added that passengers had to wait 45 minutes before any announcements were made telling them what the problem was. And when they did decide to leave the train, they did so on their own.

“It wasn’t that bad on the train,” said John Biederman, an attorney. “It was just the lack of information.”

They were at least lucky in that the tracks out of Woodside were not elevated. Others, trapped on trains one or two stories above the road surface, had to be evacuated by firefighters.

Reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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