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Day after blizzard, delays, some cancellations on LIRR

December, 19, 2009, Sayville: The Sayville train station

December, 19, 2009, Sayville: The Sayville train station is covered in snow Saturday evening during Long Island's first big snow storm of the year. Newsday photograph by Mahala Gaylord. Credit: Newsday/Mahala Gaylord

The aftermath of the weekend blizzard caused big headaches Monday morning for Long Island Rail Road commuters - with six trains canceled, 92 trains delayed and morning service suspended between Ronkonkoma and Greenport.

Most branches were affected with some lines - including the Montauk branch and the Ronkonkoma branch - experienced delays of up to an hour.

By noon there were "scattered delays" of 10 to 15 minutes on the Ronkonkoma and Babylon branches, railroad spokesman Mike Charles said. And service was expected to be restored between Ronkonkoma and Greenport beginning with the 1:42 p.m. train from Ronkonkoma to Riverhead, he said. For now, buses replaced trains between Ronkonkoma and Greenport.

It appears the worst is over, Charles said. However, railroad officials warned, the potential for problems remains - at least as long as snow, ice and winter's freeze and thaw remain in the picture, all of them potential disruptions to service.

"We do preventative maintenance, take preventative measures," Charles said. "But that doesn't mean we're still not going to have problems."

The six cancellations and 92 delayed or late trains were out of 145 scheduled westbound trains during the morning peak service, Charles said. All the delays were weather-related, including equipment problems.

Charles said the railroad has sent out de-icing equipment with anti-freeze solutions designed to remove ice conditions from the electrified third-rail that powers the electric fleet of trains - ice conditions that can causing arcing and damage equipment. He also said some trains are equipped with so-called scraper shoes - specially designed electric pick-up shoes that scrape ice from the third rails as the train operates on the tracks.

Regardless of all the precautions, all the maintenance, all the measures, Charles said: "You still have to expect there may be delays . . . We are asking all of our customers to take the weather into consideration and to allow themselves extra time to park, extra travel time, as a result of the weather."

Overnight conditions took their toll on the morning rush-hour. As of 9 a.m. the railroad reported up to one-hour delays on the Ronkonkoma branch west of Ronkonkoma and on the Montauk branch; up to 25-minute delays on the Port Jefferson-Huntington branches; and up to 15-minute delays on the Babylon branch. There was no service east of Ronkonkoma on the Ronkonkoma branch.

In addition to that suspension of service, Charles said there were several specific delays, among them: the 5:18 a.m. train from Speonk to Hunterspoint Avenue, which ran 39 minutes behind schedule; and the 5:39 a.m. from Patchogue, due in at Penn Station at 7:02 a.m., which operated 17 minutes late due to weather-related equipment trouble. The 5:38 a.m. train from Montauk, due in at Long Island City at 8:44 a.m., was running one hour late due to weather-related equipment problems, the railroad said.

The railroad saw 184 delays and/or cancellations Sunday, following the historic storm that dropped more than two feet of snow on some areas of the Island, including a record 26.3 inches on Brookhaven. The worst of the scenarios involving canceled or delayed trains was one that became snowbound and stuck near Wyandanch for upwards of three hours early Sunday - with an estimated 150 passengers on board, according to the LIRR.

Officials said the diesel locomotive broke down as the result of too much moisture, which caused it to stop. The train was the 2:54 a.m. to Ronkonkoma - and, as a result, passengers were stranded for hours without heat.

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