Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Staten Island Railroad: Then & now

Eltingville 1926
Today the SIR, formally known as Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company, runs from St. George to Tottenville though it used to cover much more of the island. For example there were stops in Port Richmond as well as Marines Harbor and Mt. Loretto even had its own stop. The history of the transit line is very confusing, its a bunch of he bought and sold it to this guy who uprooted tracks here and added some there before selling it to that company, you get what i mean. So I decided that I wouldn't depict every last detail, to hold peoples attention.

The beginning of the railway was in 1851 when the line was created by The Commodore, Cornelius Vanderbuilt. It was meant to connect the Vanderbuilt landing in Stapleton to Clifton. By 1860 the line ran to Tottenville and in 1883 a line was built to the North Shore with a stop in South Beach under the new ownership of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. The whole transit line was finished by 1885 with the tracks that ran through a rock tunnel that connected Stapleton to St. George and docked at the Ferry Terminal that opened in 1897. A stop named Arlington became the terminal for the North Shore Line. If our train line was considered a "subway" it would be the oldest continually operated subway system right-of-way in New York City. 
This train is a vintage 1920 car from the B & O co. According to Forgotten-ny.com, its owned by the Trolley Museum of New York in Kingston and is in such bad condition it can not be moved. But in Nov of 2003 it was in fact moved and then later went missing. It is unknown where it wound up. 

The Arthur Kill Bridge established a connection to the mainland of B & O in New Jersey. It was opened in 1890. By 1893 electric trolley service was introduced to the island taking away from the railways success and forcing it in to bankruptcy for the second time. It was at that time in 1899 that B & O bought the rights to the transit line at an auction. They also had rights and ownership of the operations of the ferry that opened in 1897. In 1911 talks of connecting the SIR to BMT subway in Brooklyn by where the Verrazano stands now. Although construction did in fact start, it stopped as quickly as it started due to funding.
a now abandoned Arlington (?) Train Station.

 In 1924 work began on the islands 3 lines known as electrification.  The only line to not become electrified was the tracks to Mt. Loretto. From 1885 until the 1920s every third Sunday a special three car MU electric train would run as a special directly from St. George to Mount Loretto, stay there for 3 hours and return. The stop was behind an old church. The special train would travel and cross over Amboy by being flagged across the street. This was disconnected after bus service started from St. George along Hylan Blvd. On July 2nd (my birthday!) 1925 the main transit line from St. George to Tottenville was completely electrified, and on Dec 25 of that same year the line to Arlington was too. Originally there was another station down from Arlington in the town called Miliken, later named Port Ivory. This extension was electrified as well and was used to transport Proctor & Gamble employees. P & G had their own railroad and fleet that interchanged at the Arlington Yard. This area is now the site of the Howland Hook Marine Terminal.

an abandoned train station in West Brighton
Steps at Nassau

During the 1930's a lot of accidents where happening at the crossroads. People where getting hit and the trains where unable to stop so abruptly. So for safety reasons those crossings were removed. The were removed in stages over the next 3o years.
Today the Staten Island Railway runs only to Tottenville and back to St. George. There was talk in the early 90's to close a few of the stations near Tottenville and just keep the Tottenville stop. They wanted to close the Atlantic and Nassau stops when the state was renovating the rest of the stops. Though they didn't close them, they also skipped them entirely when doing the renovations on the rest of the railway. Actually they both haven't been touched since the 70's! The only reason that the Atlantic stop is there is because in 1898, there was a factory in Tottenville called The Atlantic Terra Cotta Works, this company supplied alot of the terra cotta tile used in the original Interborough Rapid Transit, so the stop was built to ease the commute of the workers there. It's crazy and if you use these stops you know how truly unsafe some of the spots are. The stops that once were along the north line have been left abandoned or are no longer there. The service of the North Shore and South Beach line was completely cut off March 31st 1953. B & O sold the Tottenville line to The City of New York, after a 99 year lease.

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