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LIRR restores Montauk Branch service for Memorial Day after derailment

The railroad was able to reopen travel to and from Montauk and the Hamptons on the unofficial start of summer.

Passengers board a westbound Long Island Rail Road

Passengers board a westbound Long Island Rail Road train at the Speonk station on Monday. Photo Credit: John Roca

Service resumed Monday on the Montauk branch of the Long Island Rail Road, two days after a derailment near Speonk disrupted travel to and from Montauk and the Hamptons on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

After an early-morning eastbound train went all the way to Montauk on Monday, the 7:04 a.m. from Montauk, due at Jamaica at 9:53 a.m., was the first scheduled westbound trip to the transit hub, the LIRR tweeted on Memorial Day morning, reopening travel for the unofficial start of summer.

Westbound trains became more crowded Monday as passengers headed home after the holiday weekend.

The 12:21 p.m. westbound train arrived in Hampton Bays about 15 minutes late — packed with passengers standing and sitting in walkways.

Leticia Aliaga, 47, and Juan Lazcano, 44, had come house hunting in Hampton Bays on Saturday. On the train east, the announcement said service would stop in Patchogue. They took a $52 Uber ride from Sayville to avoid lines and surge pricing.

Lazcano said a familiar sound early Monday confirmed LIRR service had been restored.

“I woke up, heard the train horn and was like, ‘Yeah,’ ” Lazcano said at the Hampton Bays LIRR station. He called the disruption “not that big a deal. We’re still in paradise.”

The return of rail service came after a nearly empty Montauk-bound train out of Penn Station sideswiped a work train east of Speonk on Saturday. The engine of the Montauk train and the last car of the work train were derailed. No one was injured.

The derailment forced suspension of LIRR service east of Patchogue on the Montauk Branch. By Saturday afternoon, buses were taking LIRR riders to the South Fork between Patchogue and Hampton Bays. Riders took a shuttle train between Hampton Bays and Montauk. Limited train service to Speonk was restored Sunday afternoon. 

The LIRR carried more than 8,600 riders to the Hamptons on Friday, a spokesman said. Last year, the railroad moved another 4,000 customers east of Speonk on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend alone.

Sunday, an LIRR official said crews were working "around the clock" to repair track damage as the investigation continued into the cause of the accident.

An LIRR spokesman had no further comment Monday.

The LIRR had suggested travelers consider alternative means of transportation throughout the holiday weekend. For some, it was the Hampton Jitney bus service. Jitney chief operating officer Paul Withrow said bookings spiked after the derailments Saturday. 

As Amit Valecha, 41, waited for a train in Hampton Bays, the Manhattan man said train service running smoothly again was good news.

“It’s a bother when you have to waste time,” Valecha said as he carried iced coffees.

LIRR riders who caught the 1:26 p.m. trip from Montauk on Monday reported few issues with their trip after the train arrived in Penn Station.

Kelly Bunchuck said the train was about 20 minutes late arriving in Speonk, where she got on, but otherwise the ride was fine.

Her trip east earlier in the weekend was another story, however. Bunchuck, 26, of Ridgewood, Queens, said she delayed her trip to see friends and family from Saturday to Sunday because of the train troubles.

“It was a fiasco, honestly," Bunchuck said. "I was really frustrated.”

With Jesse Coburn

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