An Historic Relic in Plain Sight
One of the most magnificent relics of historic Queens stands on the southeast corner of Northern Boulevard and Woodside Avenue. The Woodside trolley car barn, built by the New York & Queens County Railway at a cost of $150,000, has stood on this spot since 1896. In that year the New York & Queens County Railway acquired the Steinway Lines Railway electrified trolley service (once pulled by horses) and erected these towers which housed the waiting room or departure lounge with management offices and the dispatcher’s station housed in the towers above. Behind the two towers stood an enormous brick warehouse complex, which serviced hundreds of trolleys per day.
A typically sight for people living in that time-period were trolley tracks embedded into the roadway along Northern Boulevard as well as other major thoroughfares in Queens with a web of electric conductor cables suspended above the roadway. Trolleys dominated the roads of Queens from 1887 until the late 1930s. The railway building contained the repair garages, waiting and departure lounges for trolleys that serviced Flushing, College Point, Jamaica, and Long Island City making it one of the busiest transportation hubs in the city. Think of it as the Queens version of the Port Authority. The towers could be seen for miles around Queens.
On June 24, 1930, a disastrous fire occurred at the Woodside trolley car barn. The blaze broke out during the night and caused tremendous damage. The fire crippled the New York & Queens County Railway lines as only 25 cars were left to maintain service. In dire need, the trolley service rented cars from the Jamaica Central Railway and other railway entities. With the advent of the automobile the days of trolley operators in Queens were numbered. Trolleys gave way to buses.
On October 3, 1937, trolley number 332 made the final run on the Calvary Cemetery Line, then was taken to the Woodside car barn where it was soaked in gasoline and set on fire to the sound of Taps played on trumpet. Thus, old number 332, as well as the entire New York & Queens Railway trolley service went out in a blaze of glory. The former Woodside car barn soldiered on as a bus garage for Queens-Nassau Transit buses until 1957, when it moved its bus facilities to College Point and became Queens Transit and then was later absorbed by the MTA.
Today, the site of the former Woodside car barn complex, its abandoned remains torn down in 1987, is occupied by the Tower Square shopping center. The front façade of the former car barn with its imposing twin spires has been preserved as the front entrance to the shopping center. Today a pizzeria appropriately named, The Rail Yard, is housed inside the former waiting room/departure lounge. One of the most impressive features is that one can still read the very legible ‘New York & Queens County Railway Waiting Room’, emblazoned on the preserved brickwork of the structure facing Northern Boulevard and Woodside Avenue.
The era of the trolley had come and gone. The beautiful towers remain!