The Route of the Dashing Commuter: The Long Island Rail Road at 175

NEW YORK — To commemorate the Long Island Rail Road’s 175th anniversary, the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights is presenting a new exhibition April 14-Sept. 13 entitled, “The Route of the Dashing Commuter: The Long Island Rail Road at 175.”

The exhibition will examine the transition of Long Island from an idyllic farming community to one of the nation’s premiere suburbs, with some of the Northeast’s most beautiful beaches, and easy access to jobs in New York’s hub. Using vintage photographs, maps, illustrations and objects on loan from the Museum’s and private collections, the exhibit unfolds a fascinating story of the railroad and how it continues to contribute to the development of Long Island.

In addition to the historical aspects of the Rail Road, the exhibition will look at the current East Side Access tunnel construction project, bringing Long Island commuters into Grand Central Terminal and bringing the Long Island Rail Road into the future.

Dashing Dan Dashing Dan Among the iconic images that portray The Route of the Dashing Commuter, Dashing Dan (c. 1950s) and later Dashing Dottie (c. 1963), best capture the hurried but stylish Long Island Rail Road commuters on the go. Fanciful and whimsical, The Route of the Dashing Commuter customer service campaign was launched in the 1950s aimed at increasing the railroad’s ridership.

Several names for the “Dashing Dottie” character representing women in the workforce were considered including ‘Sprinting Sally’ and ‘Rushing Rosie.’ The ‘Dashing Dan’ logo also appeared in a 1964 newsletter (“Dashing Dan’s Diary”); as a drink in bar cars; as decals on the side of trains; and on several souvenir items.

“When we were first chartered in 1834, it is doubtful our founders envisioned what we would become 175 years later – the largest commuter railroad in North America, serving 87.4 million customers on more than 700 miles of track stretching from Penn Station to Montauk, and many communities in between,” said LIRR President Helena Williams. “This great enterprise – kept strong by our proud workforce of 6,800 – has served as an economic engine for Long Island and for the entire New York Metropolitan region, getting customers safely and quickly to and from work, leisure activities and other destinations, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The decade to come will see continued efforts to modernize our operation as we get ready for the largest expansion of our service in recent times,” Williams said. “The East Side Access project will provide LIRR customers with a one-seat ride to Grand Central Terminal, a key service improvement benefiting travelers for the next 175 years to come! The Transit Museum’s exhibit celebrates our rich history and illustrates the exciting changes ahead. We encourage all to make a trip to Brooklyn to see where it all began.”

Initially planned as a rail and steamboat connection between Brooklyn and Boston, the Long Island Rail Road has adapted to the ever-changing needs of its customers and survived competition, takeovers, hard times and bankruptcy. The LIRR, whose official 175th anniversary date is April 24 is also the oldest railroad in the United States still operating under its original name and the busiest commuter railroad in North America.

The railroad is comprised of 11 different branches, stretching from Montauk – on the eastern tip of Long Island — to Penn Station in the heart of Manhattan, approximately 120 miles away. Along the way, the LIRR serves 124 stations in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.