Unbeknownst to most commuters and residents, a railway has dutifully delivered New York City’s beer supplies for more than 20 years. The hidden freight train is so essential to the city’s beer consumption, in fact, that New York & Atlantic Railway president James Bonner nicknamed it the “pizza-and-beer railroad.”
A majority of New York’s goods are delivered by trucks, with the city’s famously gridlocked streets carrying about 90 percent of the city’s freight every day. Just 2 percent of cargo, including building materials, food, and other consumable goods, is delivered by rail. The New York & Atlantic Railway is trying to change that.
Headquartered in Glendale, Queens, the New York & Atlantic Railway services Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island, as well as Brooklyn and Queens. It operates via the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), the country’s densest passenger system, connecting to other railways including the BRT, CP, CSXT, NS, NYNJ, and P&W.
High on its list of deliveries are flour and beer. According to The New York Times’s Corey Kilgannon, things get especially busy during peak beer-drinking occasions like the Super Bowl and St. Patrick’s Day. At those times, up to 30 rail cars transport 3,500 cases of beer each, some of it coming “all the way from Mexico” with Corona and Modelo Especial, Kilgannon writes.
The freight train operates daily, yet most LIRR riders don’t even know it exists. “The surprise on people’s faces when we go through their LIRR station — they’ve never seen anything like it,” Alex Raia, New York & Atlantic Railway engineer, said.
Bonner’s goal? To transport more and more cargo on the railway as the city becomes increasingly congested. “Hopefully, we can play a role in what New York City needs,” Bonner said. In the meantime, NYC residents can rest assured our pizza and beer will arrive in steady and safe supply.