The LIRR West Hempstead line dates back to 1893 and used to run all the way up to Mineola. (Most of the right of way still exists and can still be seen by following the LIPA electric lines along the ROW) The original engines were all steam, until Oct. 1926, when the LIRR electrified the line. In addition to commuter service, the LIRR also ran freight trains that hauled, among other things, produce from the numerous Long Island farms to points west. (Can you imagine getting stuck waiting for a freight train to pass on Hempstead Turnpike?) At the time the photo was shot, the LIRR was still running freight trains along the line, and did so until 1956 when the operation became unprofitable. Commuter service along that portion had already ended sometime in the '30s, and by the 60's the tracks were torn up, leaving the West Hempstead station as the terminus of the current line.
To get the "now" shot, I lined up the telephone pole holding up the lines along the LIRR ROW on the left side of the "then" shot. I'm not sure if it's the same pole, but it still must be pretty close.
Two interesting points of note about the 'then' picture. 1) Looks like Hempstead Turnpike was still a dirt road. 2) In the backgound you will notice a sign the says 'Jacoves'. Jacoves was a liquor store that only recently closed up, three years ago or so.