The railroad stations that line the Town of Babylon have left their mark in those communities, and now that impact will be acknowledged with historical markers.
Eight current and former railroad stations will this month receive signs highlighting the stations’ history, dating to the mid-1800s. Current stations receiving markers are Amityville, Copiague, Lindenhurst, Babylon, Pinelawn and Wyandanch. Signs will be placed at former rail stations in West Babylon and Deer Park.
The 35-pound, blue-and-yellow historical markers cost $1,060 each and were paid for by the private William G. Pomeroy Foundation, based in Syracuse. The town will hold ceremonies at the stations on May 12, beginning with Babylon at 9:30 a.m.
“Our communities built up around the railroad,” said town historian Mary Cascone. “People kind of take it for granted, but now with these signs people will say, ‘Oh really, that’s been here for 150 years? I can’t believe it.’ ”
In the 1850s, Babylon Village had a booming hotel business and was a hub for New York City residents seeking vacations on the Great South Bay or Fire Island. But the only way to arrive was via a rough days-long stagecoach ride or to take the train to the original Deer Park station, which opened in 1842, and then take a stagecoach.
The 1867 opening of the station in Babylon, on the South Side Rail Road line, had a tremendous impact on the community, Cascone said, opening it up to homebuyers from New York City. Trains also were used to move the region’s agricultural and factory products at a time when those businesses were thriving on the South Shore. Following Babylon, stations opened in Amityville, Lindenhurst — originally called Welwood and then Breslau — and Copiague.
Some stations did not last. The original Deer Park station was moved and the Belmont Junction station, built in 1874 in West Babylon at Railroad Avenue and Great East Neck Road, was closed in 1888.
With 89.1 million passengers last year, the LIRR may seem packed these days, but in 1929 the rail was bustling with 119 million passengers, said Steve Quigley, president of Long Island Sunrise Trail, a Babylon-based chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.
It may be hard to believe for some Long Islanders, but being similar to Queens was actually seen as a positive back then. In a 1925 Brooklyn Daily Eagle ad promising quarter-acre properties for $300, Babylon was touted as a “second Jamaica” now that the rail line was electrified.
“The railroad was extremely valuable to the growth of Babylon as well as other communities on the South Shore,” Quigley said.
One person eager to see the new markers is Walter Hilsenbeck, an LIRR engineer whose grandfather was the Babylon station agent from 1945 to 1956 and lived above the station.
“The railroad is going to be so different now that they’re putting in the double track,” he said. “The markers will tell people how it was and not let the history disappear.”
The additions will bring the tally of historical markers in Babylon Town to 27. The number of markers per community:
Village of Amityville — 4
Village of Babylon — 3
Village of Lindenhurst — 2
Copiague — 3
Deer Park — 1
East Farmingdale — 5
North Amityville — 4
North Babylon — 1
North Lindenhurst — 1
West Babylon — 1
Wheatley Heights — 1
Wyandanch — 1