Staten Island Railway
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Staten Island Railway
SIR train at Great Kills station
|Locale||Staten Island, New York City|
St. George (north)
|Owner||Metropolitan Transportation Authority|
|Operator(s)||Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, a division of MTA NYC Transit|
|Rolling stock||63 R44SI cars|
|Line length||14 mi (22.5 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority (SIRTOA), publicly known as MTA Staten Island Railway or SIR, is the operator of the lone rapid transit line in the borough of Staten Island, New York City, New York, United States. Service is provided 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is considered a standard railroad line, but only freight service along the western portion of the North Shore Branch is connected to the national railway system.
SIR operates with modified R44 New York City Subway cars, and is run by the New York City Transit Authority, an agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and operator of the New York City Subway, but there is no direct rail link between the SIR and the subway system proper. SIR riders get a free transfer to New York subway lines, and the line is included on official New York City Subway maps. Commuters typically use the Staten Island Ferry to reach Manhattan.
The Staten Island Railway provides full-time local service between Saint George and Tottenville along the east side of the borough. The line has a route bullet similar to other subway routes: the letters SIR in a blue circle. It is used only on timetables and on the MTA's site, not on trains.
On weekdays, express service to St. George is provided between 6:17 AM and 8:17 AM and to Tottenville from 7:06 AM to 8:06 AM and 4:31 PM to 7:51 PM. Morning express trains run non-stop between St. George and New Dorp; afternoon express trains run non-stop from St. George to Great Kills southbound only. Express service is noted on trains by the presence of a red marker with the terminal and 'express' directly underneath it.
The least-known borough of New York City is Staten Island. Geographically, Staten Island is much closer to New Jersey than to New York, and until the completion of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964, it was connected to the rest of New York — city and state — by ferries from St. George, at the north end of the island.
In 1885 the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) purchased the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway (SIRT), which had a short line of its own between Tompkinsville and Clifton on the northeast shore of Staten Island and leased the Staten Island Railway, a line from Clifton to Tottenville, at its southern tip. (The railway had been completed in 1860 and was one of Cornelius Vanderbilt's early properties.) B&O's intention was to build freight and passenger terminals on Staten Island; purchase of SIRT gave B&O waterfront property on New York Bay. SIRT built a line west to the Arthur Kill Bridge in 1889 at the same time the Baltimore & New York Railroad (B&NY), another B&O subsidiary, constructed a connecting line from Cranford Junction on the Central Railroad of New Jersey. SIRT built a short line from Clifton to South Beach in 1892.
In anticipation of a tunnel under the Narrows to Brooklyn and a connection there with the New York subway system, SIRT electrified its lines in 1925 using third rail power distribution and cars similar to those of the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT). The electrification brought no big increase in traffic, and the tunnel was never built.
In 1944 SIRT purchased property of the B&NY and merged the Staten Railway. In 1963 the railroad discontinued its ferry service between Tottenville and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The terminal at St. George was destroyed by fire in 1946; a modern replacement was opened in 1951. SIRT discontinued passenger service on the lines to Arlington and South Beach on March 31, 1953 because of city-operated bus competition; the South Beach branch was abandoned shortly thereafter while the Arlington branch remained in place.
In October 1957, after the North Shore Branch had closed 4 years earlier, a train traveling north from Washington, crossing the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge from New Jersey, carried Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to the Staten Island Ferry along the branch for a state visit.
The last railroad crossings were eliminated by 1966, but SIRT continued to lose money. On January 1, 1970, New York City's lease of the St. George-Tottenville line was terminated; after that date the city reimbursed the railroad for its passenger deficits. On July 1, 1971, operation of the Tottenville line was turned over to the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, a division of the state's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and the line itself was purchased by the city of New York. In March 1973, new R44 cars — the same as the newest cars then in use on the subway lines in the other boroughs — were pressed into service on the Staten Island line, replacing the PS Standard rolling stock that had been inherited from the B&O and had remained in continuous service since 1925.
Today, only the north-south Main Line is in passenger service. The terminal station at St. George provides a direct connection to the Staten Island Ferry. At St. George there are twelve tracks, only ten of which are presently used for service. At Tottenville there is a three track yard, with two tracks on either side of a concrete station platform. Schedules are made by NYCT's Operations Planning unit. The last passenger trains on both the North Shore and South Beach Branches ran on March 31, 1953. The right-of-way of the South Beach Branch was eventually de-mapped and the tracks have been removed. The North Shore and Travis Branches saw freight service temporarily suspended beginning in 1991. Freight service along the Travis Branch and the western most portion of the North Shore Branch was restored by 2007. Along the remainder of the North Shore Branch, tracks and rail overpasses still exist in some places. In 2001, a small section of the eastern most portion of the North Shore Branch (a few hundred feet) was reopened to provide passenger service to the new Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees minor-league baseball team; however, this service was discontinued in 2009. Plans to reopen the remainder of the North Shore Branch, to both freight and passenger service, are being studied, with one plan calling for the line to resume full operations between St. George and Arlington or Port Ivory, with even the possibility of through service between Arlington/Port Ivory and Tottenville, which the aforementioned Ballpark wye makes feasible (this did not exist prior to the 1953 discontinuance of passenger service on the North Shore Branch).
The railroad was changed to Staten Island Railroad Corporation in 1971. In 1985 Staten Island Railroad was purchased by the Delaware Otsego Corporation. Freight traffic dropped off considerably, and the operation ceased in 1991. The freight line connection from New Jersey to the Staten Island Railway was restored in late 2006, and is operated in part by the Morristown and Erie Railway under contract with the State of New Jersey and other companies. The Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge which transports trains from Staten Island to New Jersey over the Arthur Kill waterway was renovated in 2006 and began regular service on April 2, 2007, 16 years after the bridge closed. A portion of the North Shore of the Staten Island Railway was rehabilitated, the Arlington Yard was expanded, and 6,500 feet (1,981 m) of new track was laid along the Travis Branch to Fresh Kills. Soon after service restarted on the line Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg officially commemorated the reactivation on April 17, 2007. On behalf of the City of New York, the New York City Economic Development Corporation formed an agreement with CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, and Conrail to provide service over the reactivated line to haul waste from the Staten Island Transfer Station and ship container freight from the Howland Hook Marine Terminal and other industrial businesses.
In general appearance, the current operating line of SIR looks somewhat like an outdoor line of the New York City Subway. Since the 1960s it has been grade separated from all roads, but it runs more or less at street level for a brief stretch north of Clifton, between the Grasmere and Old Town stations, and from south of the Pleasant Plains station to Tottenville, the end of the line. It uses NYC Transit-standard 600 V DC third rail power. Its equipment is specially modified subway vehicles, purchased at the same time as nearly identical cars for NYCT. Heavy maintenance of the equipment is performed at the NYCT's Clifton Shops. Any work that cannot be performed at Clifton requires the cars to be trucked over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the subway's Coney Island Complex shops in Brooklyn.
The right-of-way also includes elevated, embankment and open-cut portions, and a tunnel near St. George.
Over the years there have been several proposals for connecting the SIR with the subway system (including the incomplete Staten Island Tunnel and a possible line along the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge), as it uses B Division-sized cars and loading gauge, but various economic, political, and engineering difficulties have prevented this from happening.
The cash fare is $2.50. Fares are paid on entry and exit only at St. George and Tompkinsville. Rides not originating or terminating at St. George or Tompkinsville are free. Prior to the 1997 introduction of "one-fare zone" that came along with free transfers from the SIR to the subway system and MTA buses by using the MetroCard, fares were collected by the conductors on the trains for passengers boarding at stops other than St. George.
In the past, passengers often avoided paying the fare by exiting at Tompkinsville, and taking a short walk to the St. George ferry terminal. Because of this, the MTA installed turnstiles at Tompkinsville, along with a new stationhouse which opened on January 20, 2010. There is discussion of restoring fare collection along the entire line.
Fare is payable by MetroCard. Since this card enables free transfers for a continuing ride on the subway and bus systems, for many more riders there is effectively no fare at all for riding SIR. Riders are also allowed to transfer between a Staten Island bus, SIR, and a Manhattan bus or subway near South Ferry. Because of this, the SIR's farebox recovery ratio in 2001 was 0.16—that is, for every dollar of expense, 16 cents was recovered in fares, the lowest ratio of MTA agencies (part of the reason the MTA wishes to merge the SIR with the subway proper is to simplify the accounting and subsidization of what is essentially a single line).
On December 26, 2008 at 6:27 a.m., a train was pulling into the Tottenville station to accept passengers for its a.m. rush hour run to St. George when it ran into the bumper block and subsequently derailed. No passengers were on the train at the time of the incident. An investigation revealed that the engineer, Kim Canady, fell asleep at the helm, having stayed up late the night before to celebrate Christmas with her family.
|Station service legend|
|Stops all times|
|St. George||Staten Island Ferry|
|Arthur Kill Road|
- Under four-car operation, the last car does not open at these stations:
- At Clifton in St. George-bound trains because of a large gap between the platform and the rear car of the train.
- At Grasmere due to construction.
- At Richmond Valley in either direction.
- Only one door opens at Atlantic and Nassau; the conductor leaves the cab and manually keys open a door.
- Nassau and Atlantic will close when Arthur Kill Road station opens.
In popular culture
- The 1986 independent film Combat Shock used the railway as a backdrop for many scenes and subplots. Although some scenes were shot at the Tompkinsville Station, the viaduct and closed stations of the former North Shore Line were used in much of the movie to enhance the "grittyness" of Frankie Dunlan's life as a Vietnam War veteran.
- Part of singer Madonna's music video for "Papa Don't Preach" was filmed on the stairs and platform of the railway's Stapleton station.
Former stations on closed lines
North Shore Branch
The North Shore Branch closed to passenger service at midnight on Tuesday March 31, 1953. A small western portion is used for freight service, and a smaller eastern portion provided seasonal service to the RCB Ballpark (where the Staten Island Yankees play) passenger station from 2001 to 2009. Restoration is being discussed along this mostly abandoned 6.1-mile (9.8 km) line as part of the Staten Island light rail plan.
- Station (milepost)
- St. George (0.0)
- RCB Ballpark (0.1)
- New Brighton (0.7)
- Sailors' Snug Harbor (1.2)
- Livingston (1.8)
- West Brighton (2.4)
- Port Richmond (3.0)
- Tower Hill (3.4)
- Elm Park (3.9)
- Lake Avenue (4.3)
- Mariners Harbor (4.6)
- Harbor Road (4.9)
- Arlington (5.2)
- Port Ivory (6.1)
South Beach Branch
The South Beach Branch closed at midnight Tuesday March 31, 1953. It was abandoned and demolished except for a remaining stanchion on St. John's Avenue and the Robin Road Trestle. This 4.1-mile (6.6 km) line left the Main Line at , south of the Clifton station, and lay to the east of the Main Line.
- Station (milepost)
- Bachmann (2.0)
- Rosebank (2.1)
- Belair Road (2.5)
- Fort Wadsworth (2.7)
- Arrochar (3.2)
- Cedar Avenue (3.5)
- South Beach (3.9)
- Wentworth Avenue (4.1)
- North Shore Branch: Procter & Gamble, United States Gypsum, Staten Island Ship Building, Car float
- Travis Branch: Gulf Oil Port, Con Edison coal plant
- Tottenville Line: Nassau Smelting, Staten Island Advance, Pouch Terminal
- South Beach Branch: Bachmann's Brewery
A new station named Arthur Kill Road is to be built near the southern terminus of the present line. It will essentially replace both the Atlantic and Nassau stations, which are in the poorest condition of all the stations on the line.
There is also discussion of rebuilding a Rosebank station, which will bridge the longest gap between two stations (Grasmere and Clifton). A Rosebank station once existed on the now-defunct South Beach Branch of the railway.
Restoration of North Shore branch
The 2006 report, Staten Island Advance explored the restoration of passenger services on 5.1-mile (8.2 km) of the North Shore Branch between St George Ferry Terminal and Arlington station. Completion of the study is necessary to qualify the project for the estimated $360 million. A preliminary study found that ridership could hit 15,000 daily. $4 million of federal funding was requested for a detailed feasibility study.
In 2012, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority released an analysis of transportation solutions for the north shore, which included proposals for the reintroduction of heavy rail, the light rail (as the Staten Island light rail) or bus rapid transit using the use the North Shore line's right-of-way. Other options included better transportation systems management, ferry and water taxi services. Bus rapid transit was the locally preferred alternative which would require $352 million in capital investment. The analysis evaluated the alternatives according to their ability to "Improve Mobility," "Preserve and Enhance the Environment, Natural Resources and Open Space," and "Maximize Limited Financial Resources for the Greater Public Benefit." The project has yet to receive funding.
- Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel
- Staten Island light rail
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- nycsubway.org - R44 car information
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- http://citynoise.org/article/9036 Dark Descention
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- "Gary Owen’s S.I.R.T. South Beach Line Page". p. 2. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
- It's official: New Staten Island Railway access for Tottenville
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- Staten Island Railway
- History of SIRT
- nycsubway.org - SIRT: Staten Island Rapid Transit
- SIRT artifacts in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collections Database
- TrainsAreFun.com - Staten Island Rapid Transit
- Gary Owen's SIRT South Beach Line Tribute Page
- Gary Owen's SIRT North Shore Tribute Page
- Industrial & Offline Terminal Railroads of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx & Manhattan - American Dock Company
- Industrial & Offline Terminal Railroads of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx & Manhattan - Pouch Terminal
- Industrial & Offline Terminal Railroads of Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Bronx & Manhattan - Procter & Gamble