This work was researched and written by Ed Bommer, and he is the copyright holder. Any use of this work must be attributed to him. This work was sent to me through email correspondence, and he has allowed me to put this information here under the condition that he is rightfully attributed for his work in acquiring this information concerning the history and operations of the Staten Island Railway.

Listed here are pieces of information acquired by Ed Bommer and sent to me, kept largely as they were written. A few typos are corrected, but other than that, it is written here as it was sent to me. Again, I do not claim any copyright to this work–this is the work of Ed Bommer.

Concerning the Staten Island Railway’s history

To help with some background on Staten Island’s rail service over the decades, I wrote this piece about the stations along the tracks. It is in PDF format. A great deal of research went into this, using  some histories of Staten Island written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as from past B&O and SIRT paper . Each station is named and older names are shown as well with mileposts, background and also the major freight customers and siding car capacities.

 

There is a great amount background from different sources that requires careful sifting.

Here is what I came across in reading “Staten Island and Its People”  Historical volumes 1 and 2 (1929) and an older work on Staten Island’s history from 1887. Also a recent (2005) biography of  Cornelius Vanderbilt I looked over and took some notes from while on a visit to the Vanderbilt estate “Biltmore,” in Asheville NC.  

 

I read that Cornelius Vanderbilt was not a supporter of railroads until late in his life, after the Civil War had ended.  In the 1850s, he almost died from injuries in a winter train wreck on the Camden & Amboy RR in New Jersey.  He was horrified by splintered, wrecked wooden cars with maimed and screaming people trapped in them, as they burned from fire due to over turned car heating stoves.  

 

His mind was made up that railroads were inherently dangerous to life and limb (and they were!). His first dabbling in railroads came late in his life, when he bought the Hudson & Harlem Rail Road. By then railroads had become somewhat safer and were becoming impressive freight handlers. With the urging of Alfred Corning and other friends in Albany, he and they put together what ultimately became the New York Central. In the short time before he died, Cornelius got to enjoy a private train to whisk him and some friends in accustomed cigars and whisky parlor luxury, from Manhattan to the race tracks at Saratoga. Cornelius had always been interested in water and ocean transport from his teenage years onward. That is what made his fortune and name as “the Commodore.”  

 

Also, in my reading of the older Staten  Island histories, Cornelius seems rather absent and may have had little interest concerning the Island, other than the huge family farm. He took the opportunity to sell his Staten Island and New York City ferry service to the Staten Island Railway. That resolved a lot of complaints he was getting about boats not meeting trains, vice versa and also grumbles over the growing decrepitude of his boats and terminals.

 

When the S I Rail Road went bankrupt in1 861 a year after it was completed to Tottenville, a Vanderbilt did indeed step in to save it. However, it was Captain Jacob Vanderbilt. He was a man of self-made means in his own right and a brother of Cornelius. He also had a fascination with railroads that Cornelius lacked.

 

“Captain Jake” managed to get financing of the two S I RR steam locomotives (Edward Bancker and Albert Journey)  re-arranged to avoid repossession by the New Jersey Locomotive and Machine works, which built them. They were named for the president and the vice president of the SI RR at the time. A number of other wealthy Island families bought stock in the railroad as well. Bancker, Journey,  Seguine, LaTourette, etc. In 1861, Cornelius was too busy with other matters to be concerned much about this little “streak of rust” on Staten Island.

 

Under Jacob Vanderbilt’s management, the  S I RR  took over the Perth Amboy Ferry and later, the ferry service to New York City. Train service was gradually expanded. Eventually, the railroad even made a modest profit. This all disappeared with the explosion of the ferry Westfield at New York on July 30, 1871.

 

The resulting law suits and damages put the SI RR into bankruptcy. It was reorganized as the Staten Island Railway and the Staten Island Railway Ferry Company by George Law, an attorney who would also become involved with the development of  the Staten Island Rapid Transit along with Erastus Wiman, in 1883 and beyond.  “Captain Jake” retired as President and General Ticket Agent of the S I Rwy by 1885. By 1886, operations the S I Rwy were taken over by the SIRT, but the SI Rwy was kept as a separate corporation even under later B&O ownership of the SIRT and S I Rwy.

 

Concerning Woods of Arden

Indeed it appears and the NY State report indicates that the Woods of Arden station cost about $112 in 1886.  Looks like I need to add it to my “Stations and Places Along the SIRT”!

It would likely have had high level platforms with a small building. This was also the year the SIRT was operating the S I Ry and making improvements such as high level platforms as well as building additional stations.

My guess is that there had been plans to develop the area with housing, but it never fully unfolded.  I notice while one of the maps

shows Woods of Arden  Sta., there is no mark along the track indicating a structure as there is for the Eltingville,  Annadale and other stations.

It may have been used for a short while, then taken out.  Also there are names seen along the rail line in that period map, such as Great Kills and Sea Side. Their stations at the time were Gifford’s and Eltingville.  The ideal thing would be to find a picture of the Woods of Arden station, perhaps from an old post card.

 It’s indeed a mystery, much like the spur supposedly built from the SIRT track at Annadale to the shore for building Charles Schwab’s mansion and estate.

Someone sent me a small photo showing what looked like a row of old ties in the sand and grass between Annadale and what is now St. Joseph by the Sea.  Schwab gave this estate to the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1930s. It was made into the high school, St. Joseph-by-the-Sea.

Like Woods of Arden station,  I’ve not found anything to support such a temporary spur. Yet it could indeed have been possible for the less than a the year or so needed for construction. Shwab would be footing the bill for it on a privately owned right of way. That way, little would show of it in SIRT records.

Schwab’s Staten Island property came up through his private car being named Loretto. And there is a Mount Loretto on Staten Island. It was a large Roman Catholic orphanage and children’s home built in the 1880s and closed as such in the 1960s. It had its own branch as you know.

The person contacting me about all that, thought Mr. Schwab had this spur built so his private car Loretto could take him to this bay side estate on Staten Island.  Schwab rarely used this estate and when he did, likely came by car  just as the Vanderbilt and Cunard family members had done in the 19th century with their horse-drawn carriages.

The Cunard Mansion is on the grounds of Wagner College. The ground around it consists of English soil, brought over in the bottoms of Cunard Line’s Royal Mail ships as ballast in the 1860s and 70s.

Concerning the South Beach Line

The original SIRT line built in 1884 ran from Tomkinsville to Arrochar until 1889. At that time the line was extended to South Beach.

 

It had been mapped to run as far as Primard Street at Oakwood Beach, another 2.3 miles or so. But SIRT could not get approval from the Vanderbilt family for crossing their large farm at New Dorp Beach.  

 

Also in 1889, the Southfield Beach Electric Railway of about 1 mile was built from the SIRT station at South Beach to Midland Beach, which at the time was a popular resort, with hotels and  gambling casino. That service ended by 1928.

 

In 1925, when the SIRT was electrified, passenger service was extended from South Beach to Wentworth Avenue. A short, wooden half-car length platform and shelter was built there. That location previously served as a turn point for the steam powered SIRT trains.

Little, Forney type 2-4-4-T locomotives were run around their train and coupled to the other end for the trip back to St. George Terminal. Some minor servicing was also done for the locomotives there – greasing, oiling, cleaning the fire, dumping ashes, etc.

 

From 1934-1937 SIRT embarked on an ambitious grade crossing elimination project, part of which involved the East Shore subdivision in 1934/5 from St. George to Wentworth Avenue. The tracks were raised above grade between Stapleton and Clifton.  Grade crossings were taken out along the South Beach line by sinking the streets, raising the rails or a combination of both. Some residential streets were simply blocked off permanently,  except for Sand Land at the original South Beach station.

 

New stations were built Rosebank, Belair Road, Fort Wadsworth and Cedar Avenue.  Bachmann’s station, which was .2 mile west of Rosebank and built mainly for workers at the Bachmann Brewery was torn town. The original wooden  stations for Arrochar (a new housing development in 1883/4), South Beach and Wentworth Avenue remained until the end of passenger service on the South Beach line 1953.  The track was removed in 1958, I think.

Concerning the West Shore Line

The spur to Outerbridge Crossing is the West Shore branch on B&O track maps of the SIRT.

It was built in the 1920s to hauling materials to construct the bridge. The track originally extended to the village of Charleston at Allentown Lane, which was beyond the end of Drumgoole Boulevard.  After the bridge was built, this branch was cut back to end south of the bridge.

 

Also in the 1920s, a West Shore branch was built out of Arlington Yard to Gulfport on the north end of the Island. This branch was extended to Travis in 1958, to service a new Consolidated Edison coal burning power plant. Unit coal trains of 100 or so cars were run by B&O directly from West Virginia to Staten Island for several years, until ConEd elected to receive its coal by barge. In 2004 the West Shore was extended another mile or so farther to Fresh Kills by the Port Authority of NY&NJ, for hauling out New York City’s compacted trash by rail for disposal elsewhere.

 

These two West Shore branches were at one time mapped by B&O to be joined. This was planned in the 1920s. By creating a West Shore line between Arlington and Tottenville, rail freight destined for Nassau Smelting and other freight customers on the Perth Amboy subdivision (Clifton to Tottenville) could avoid the congestion of going through St. George Yard as well as working around the frequent commuter train service of the North Shore, East Shore and Perth Amboy sub-divisions.  

 

No doubt the Great Depression from late 1929 and after killed this idea. Only 3.5 miles separated the two West Shore lines by 2004, but that West Shore  branch leading to Outerbridge has since been removed.  

 

Attached is a 1922 map showing a possible route of the proposed B&O/SIRT West Shore Line.

 

Next, A 1930 proposal for rapid transit expansion on Staten Island with an Interborough  Loop joining the Perth Amboy subdivision to the North Shore, as well as a proposal to join the North Shore line to Tottenville. This though, does not follow the West Shore tracks as they existed at the time.

 

Third is a more recent proposal to link Staten Island to light rail system in Bergen and Hudson counties of New Jersey. It shows a line that would pass over a ‘replaced’ Bayonne Bridge, thence west toward Arlington and then down the West Shore to Tottenville.  

 

The road way on the present  Bayonne Bridge is being raised considerably for clearing huge container ships going to and from Elizabethport.  It is not being replaced.  The grades on each side with the higher roadway would likely be too steep for light rail or commuter rail.

 

The Bayonne Bridge as originally designed and built, would have been able to carry commuter rail between Staten Island and New Jersey.  Possibly for SIRT MUE trains to reach the CNJ at West 8thStreet station in Bayonne, or more ambitiously the Trans-Hudson Tubes in Hoboken, via the CNJ and connecting tracks electrified for SIRT trains.

Concerning station names

Ah Yes, Garretson’s

It was common after the S I RR was built in 1860 to have stops at or near larger family farms, hence some of those station names.

 

Initially, there probably wasn’t much of any station, except may  a simple wooden platform (low level then) and if a place where more than two or three would wait, maybe some sort of shelter.

Or in the case of the Garretsons, Eltings and Anna Seguine, more elaborate structures were in place ag those  stations (Eltingville and Annadale) as they were influential in financing the construction of  SIRR.

 

Here are the S I RR station lists as published in the Traveler’s Official Guide  of various 19th century years from my collection:

 

1867/1868 and 1869 issues: (The first issue was 1868 and it contained many 1867 timetables).

NEW YORK (by railroad ferry)

Vanderbilt’s Landing

Garretsons

New Dorp

Richmond

Gifford’s

Eltingville

Annadale

Huguenot

Prince’s Bay

Pleasant Plains

Richmond Valley

Tottenville

PERTH AMBOY NJ (by railroad ferry)

 

1870:

No station list given.

Only ferry times out of New York City for Staten Island and for Perth Amboy NJ.

(Maybe the rates charged for publishing the timetable listings went up? Captain Jake Vanderbilt was not about to spend any more money than necessary to run the SI RR).

 

1893 (Staten Island Rapid Transit operation of the S I Rwy) Mileage is listed as well.

 

With the SIRT taking over S I Rwy operations and the tracks joined at Clifton Junction in 1886, S I Rwy trains now ran through to St. George.

S I Rwy stations were also upgraded to have high level platforms, as did all SIRT platforms.

This helped reduce time at stops for people boarding and alighting from the trains.

It was also safer for women in not having to climb the car steps, given their bulky and long mode of dress at the time.

SIRT also added a few stations (beyond Clifton on the SI Rwy) as you can see from this list.

 

Mile 0 NEW YORK (by railroad ferry – the City of NY took over the SI Ferry line in 1905)

Mile 5 St. George

Mile 6.3 Stapleton

Mile (not shown) Clifton

         (Odd because the original SIRT station there (1884) was named Vanderbilt Ave.)

Mile 8.2 Grasmere

Mile 9.5 Garretsons

Mile (not shown) Grant City (a new housing development and planned town)

Mile 10.9 New Dorp

Mile 11.8 Oakwood (Court House)

Mile 13.3 Gifford’s  (later, Great Kills)

Mile 14.2 Eltingville

Mile 14.9 Annadale

Mile 15.9 Huguenot

Mile 16.6 Princess Bay (note change of spelling)

Mile 17.5 Pleasant Plains

Mile 18.1 Richmond Valley

Mile 19.4 Tottenville

Mile 20 PERTH AMBOY NJ (by railroad ferry).

 

These mile markers would change upon finalizing the B&O purchase of the SI Rwy and SIRT at a Sheriff’s Sale of both bankrupt companies. While B&O owned stock in each, bought two “state of the art” ferries for the SIRT1888 and had influence, especially in getting the St. George Tunnel dug and its freight connection from New Jersey; operational organization was not completed until 1895 when the big new ferry terminal and the freight yard expanded at St. George – the same ferry terminal that burned down 50 years later in 1946.

Concerning the North Shore Branch

There were no passenger stations along the line between Cranford Junction and the Arthur Kill.  The Jersey Central station at Cranford is about1/8 mile south of the junction with the SIRT.

 

The track between Cranford Junction and the Arthur Kill was built and owned by the B&O as the Baltimore & New York Railway. As such it did not own any cars or locomotives other than what B&O assigned to the SIRT for its New York Terminal operations.

 

The SIRT operated this line for the B&O, which in 1944 ceded the title and ownership to the SIRT. It then became the B&NY sub-division of the SIRT.  There were company freight and yard offices at Cranford Junction, Linden Junction and Bayway. They were little more than a basic single room structure.

 

Port Ivory was a privately owned station of the Proctor & Gamble Company, for the benefit of its employees.  The platform was located at the rear of the company’s cafeteria building. P&G came to Staten Island in 1905 and greatly expanded its plant in the 1920s. It had its own rail yard, locomotives, a dock and a car float station on

the Kill van Kull.

 

When passenger steam power was replaced by the electric trains, the third rail was extended into the P&G plant tracks to the Port Ivory station.  

 

There was a company station for Milliken Steel Fabricators at the Western Avenue grade crossing, beyond which was P & G property.  This company, which made pre-fabricated steel beams for building sky scrapers and other large structures in NY city, went out of business in 1914.

 

The plant continued as Downey’s Shipyard. It suffered ill-fame during WW I has having built a high-powered steam yacht in 1915 for Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm. It was a sub-marine tender during WW I.  Downey’s went out of business about 1920.

 

Bellanca Air Craft took over the plant for a few years and abandoned the property when it moved to a southern state. The steel works’ buildings were demolished in the late 1920s to 30s.  

 

I’ve not found any photos for Milliken station, although it is marked on period maps  The company had extensive track work in its huge plant area that extended from the north side of Arlington Yard to the Kill van Kull shore. Plant workers may have transferred to company operated cars and locos at the Milliken stop to reach their work places.

 

B&O  briefly operated a train connection service between St. George Terminal and Plainfield NJ I in the early 1900s.  It appears in a 1911 engineering report on the SIRT, which barely mentions “a few other excursions to Cranford” operating before then. I’m not sure what sort of destination Cranford might have been in the 1890s.

 

There were two rail fan trips that travelled over the B&NY sub to Staten Island in the post WWII years. A 1948 trip is fairly well documented with photos, running from Jersey City to Cranford on

the CNJ, and on to St. George by SIRT. There was no return trip, as the SI Ferry would take the riders back to Manhattan and South Ferry, less than a mile from the CNJ Liberty Street ferry terminal on the Hudson.

 

A probable 1951 trip shows an SIRT diesel locomotive with Jersey Central coaches at South Beach. It’s unusual, as such a train would also have come to Staten Island via Cranford Junction.

Concerning Ocean Park

I appreciate your sharing that little book from 1890.

Ocean Park will be added to my Stations and Places along the SIRT.

There is also another stop, Clinton Avenue, shown very close by to Snug Harbor on the North Shore line.

However Clinton Avenue is actually two blocks EAST of Sailors’ Snug Harbor.

The 1890s map has it WEST of the place.

Still, Clinton  Ave. does not appear on the fare schedule, but Ocean Park while on the fare schedule, does not show on the 1890s map!

 

Also, the fare schedule seems to address (somewhat?)  the matter of what an “ Excursion Fare” was.

As shown, it’s sometimes double or somewhat less than double of a ‘Single” fare.

Might it be a round trip ticket?

Or, is it a ticket for two persons on one fare?

That last scenario might be possible, given late 19th century attitudes having most women traveling with their husbands and general not alone. The 20th century would bring about big changes to that!

 

Yet look at the attached 1885 S I Ry excursion fare ticket for Great Kills to St. George, signed by Jacob Vanderbilt in this, his last year as president and general manager as well as passenger agent for the line.

Good for ONE passage it states.

According to the fare schedule for 1890, from Giffords (Great Kills), it was 30 cents single fare and 50 cents excursion fare to NY city.

Fares may have included the ferry, which by 1890 had been upgraded with two new boats (the Erastus Wiman and Robert Garrett of 1888), built for the line by the B&O.

 

In later use, an excursion fare was usually a reduction of the usual fare to encourage off-peak time travel, which I guess in the 1890s was not so much as it was by the early 20th century.

On the question of Whitlock station

Largely unknown now, but Whitlock was the name of a developer who was putting up a new housing tract in the 1900s. SIRT put in a station for worker potential buyer and homeowner access.

 

With that came the need for small businesses which were built in the

south end of the Whitlock tract.  As the new decade opened, in 1912 SIRT moved the Whitlock station south, to be closer to where small business were locating at Bay Terrace.

I think the station move was just over ¼ mile – not all that far!

 

New Dorp when through that as well. In 1889, real estate developers Hughes and Ross built their ‘nice depot’ to which prospective buyers would arrive and be whisked away in a two-horse surrey to look at model homes.  SI Ry referred to it as the “H&R depot” until Hughes and Ross ceded it to the railroad after they completed their housing tract. The old New Dorp station was ¼ mile north, in what had been a seedy 1700s public house and stage coach stop.

 

When the SI RR was built from 1859-1860, most stations were at houses or taverns along the route.  Vanderbilt Landing only had a platform, as did Tottenville. There was a ferry house at each end for any needed shelter. However, it was a hefty walk from the Vanderbilt Landing ferry house to the end of SI Ry tracks on the west side of Bay Street.

 

It was only after 1885 when SIRT took over operation of the SI Ry and joined the tracks at Clifton Jct that SI Ry trains could reach the Vanderbilt Ave station and ferry house. Also, the St. George Ferry House after the tunnel was completed with B&O money and Congressional influence as it passed under the US Lighthouse Service.

On the question of the SIR’s incorporation

Did you know, the Staten Island Rail Road was incorporated in 1836!

But that charter became void as it was not built within the specified two-year period.

 

It was in 1851 that the articles of association were adopted at a meeting on Saturday, August 2 and filed Saturday, October 18.

Back then, Saturday was a full work day for everyone. These articles were possibly used to revive the voided charter of 1836, as the same name was used at filing, perhaps at Albany NY with the state.

 

Staten Island was independent as the County of Richmond then. It joined the City of Greater New York in the 1898 consolidation that created the five boroughs.  

 

August 5, 1851 would be Tuesday. It may be that the articles of association were made as printed copies and signed (again) for filing, having been transcribed from the long-hand original written by the secretary at that August 2 meeting.

 

Here is what I found about this in “Staten Island and its People” Volume 2, published in 1929:

 

Page 712, Vol 2:

“A Steam Railroad, running from the east shore to Tottenville, was projected in 1836* but it was not until August 2, 1851, that articles of association were adopted in the village of Richmond and filed October 18, 1851. The first board of directors included Joseph H. Seguine, president; Stephen Seguine, treasurer; George White, secretary, and Joel Wolfe, Edwin R. Bennet, Henry Cole, Henry I. Seaman, Henry Van Hovenberg, Peter C. Cortelyou, John G. Seguine, William Totten, William King and Cornelius White.  Numerous obstacles caused delay and it was April 23, 1860 before trains were running part way; and June 2, 1860, before formal opening of the line to Tottenville took place.”

       

       *FOOT NOTE: The Staten Island Rail Road was incorporated in 1836 by  

        Minthorne Tompkins, Harmon B. Cropsey, John S. Westertvelt, John

            C. Thompson and Richard D. Litell. It failed to commence the road  

        within two years as required by its charter, which therefore became  

        void.

   

April 23, 1860 was a Monday, and June 2 was a Saturday. (I have a continuous calendar, 1800-2050. Made it more interesting when I wrote historical articles).

 

By April 23 the trains reached Eltingville on a double track line.

It took a month to build the rest of the line as single track from Annadale to Pleasant Plains through “Skunk’s Misery,” which was laced with peat bogs and quicksand. It took a lot more wood and time to build sub-roadbed with logs. From Pleasant Plains to Tottenville it was double track again. The single-track section was double tracked in 1934, along with grade crossing elimination work and new, brick stations.

Concerning Skunk’s Misery and the line’s single tracking

The answer to why a single track between Annadale and Pleasant Plains (there was a passing track at Huguenot) from 1860 to 1934 was because of the soft, boggy terrain in that area, known locally as

“Skunk’s Misery” was in the last paragraph of my message.

 

A peat bog in that area ignited by lightning in the 1790s was still slowly burning underground well into the 1950s. Not much would grow there other than scrub brush and nothing was built there. Since most passengers would travel between New Dorp and Vanderbilt Landing, it probably wasn’t worth the cost to build double track through there in 1860.  Anyone going ‘up to the City’ from the south end of Staten Island would take the SI RR to Tottenville and the railroad’s ferry to Perth Amboy, taking another train to the Hudson River.  It was deemed safer than that long Upper NY Bay ferry ride from the Island, especially in foggy or bad weather.

 

The SIRR probably sunk piles into the soft, boggy ground to create a stronger sub-bed for the single track above.  In 1934 a great deal of rockfill was used in double-tracking that part of the line.

 

Attached, a photo of the area taken on a 1949 fan trip. A stop was made south of Oakwood Heights, and some passengers got off using wooden stairs from the end car.  This photo looks toward Tottenville as the track runs through the “Skunk’s Misery” area that still had only scrub brush and some weed trees growing in it. Not a house in sight!

© 2015–2017 by Edward Bommer