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Long Island

Officials celebrate LIRR's 180th anniversary

The first LIRR electric train to Hempstead on

The first LIRR electric train to Hempstead on May 26, 1908, taken at Floral Park. Credit: Newsday

Officials Thursday celebrated the Long Island Rail Road's 180th anniversary -- an impressive span of service that wasn't lost on one young passenger.

"That's pretty old," said Devon Lee, 7, of Searingtown.

Devon was at the LIRR's Mineola station -- where officials gathered for the fete -- with his twin brother, Dylan, sister Jeylin, 8, and their father, Paul Lee. The family was waiting for a Manhattan-bound train.

"It's in good condition," said Jeylin, who, like her brothers, was boarding a train for the first time.

The commuter railroad, which carried more than 83 million riders last year, making it the busiest in North America, was established on April 24, 1834, when Andrew Jackson was president.

The LIRR was chartered primarily as a means to get people from Brooklyn to Boston. At the time, a trip to Boston included a three-day journey by stagecoach to Greenport, where passengers would board a ferry to Stonington, Conn., and then hop on the Old Colony Rail Line.

As Long Island evolved from agricultural to suburban, tracks were extended down the Island's spine.

In marking the anniversary, officials including Helena Williams, the LIRR's 38th president, spoke of the railroad's history of service to the region and noted the pivotal role it plays in the lives of many Long Islanders.

"I also salute the men and women of the LIRR who work around the clock to keep the railroad running and have for 180 years," Williams said.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo sent best wishes, as did county executives from Nassau and Suffolk, who sent representatives.

Sitting a few feet from the festivities was Nikki Principe, an event planner from the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan who was waiting for a train to take her home.

"For a 180-year-old, she looks good," said Principe, who grew up in Jericho and whose parents still live in Garden City.

"It does the trick," she said, "but I prefer the subway. It's cheaper."

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