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Staten Island Railway

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Staten Island Railway
SIR logo.svg
SIR 448 at Great Kills Station.jpg
SIR train at Great Kills station
Type Rapid transit
Status Operational
Locale Staten Island, New York City
Termini Tottenville (south)
St. George (north)
Stations 22 (current)
21 (by April 2016)[2]
Services 1
Daily ridership 382,577 (September 2015)[1]
Opened February 1, 1860
Owner Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Operator(s) Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority (SIRTOA), a division of the NYCTA
Rolling stock 62 modified R44 cars
Line length 14 mi (22.5 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Minimum radius (?)
Electrification 600 V DC Third rail
Route map
Staten Island Railway Map (alt3).png
Note: Ballpark station no longer served.

The Staten Island Railway (SIR) is the only rapid transit line in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Operated by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority (SIRTOA), a unit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, it is considered a standard railroad line, but only freight service which runs 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,[3] 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. However, there is no direct rail link between the SIR and the subway system proper. SIR riders do get a free transfer to New York City Subway lines, and the line is included on official New York City Subway maps.[4] Commuters who use the railway typically use the Staten Island Ferry to reach Manhattan; the line is accessible from within the Ferry Terminal and most of its trains connect with the ferry.

The Staten Island Railway provides full-time local service between Saint George and Tottenville along the east side of the borough. There is currently no subway service offered for those residents living on the western or northern sides of the borough, but Staten Island light rail is planned for these corridors. 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. The line runs 24 hours a day every day of the year[5] (since May 10, 2015, the overnight service is on a 30-minute headway[6][7]) and is one of only six mass-transit rail lines in the United States to do so (the others being the PATCO Speedline, the Red and Blue Lines of the Chicago 'L', the Green Line of the Minneapolis-St. Paul METRO, the PATH lines, and the New York City Subway).

On weekdays, express service to St. George is provided between 6:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and to Tottenville from 7:01 a.m. to 8:01 a.m. and 4:01 p.m. to 7:51 p.m. 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.[6] Express service is noted on trains by the presence of a red marker with the terminal and 'express' directly underneath it.[a]


19th century operations[edit]


SIRT timetable, circa 1867

The railway's predecessor, a line between present-day Clifton and Tottenville,[8] was incorporated in 1836.[8][9][10] The 13-mile (21 km) route had an estimated price of $300,000.[11] However, since the railroad was not built within two years after it was incorporated, it lost its charter in 1838.[8][10] Attempts started again in 1851, when Perth Amboy and Staten Island residents petitioned for a Tottenville-to-Stapleton rail line.[10] This led to the incorporation of the Staten Island Railway on August 2, 1851, soon after which construction for the railroad commenced.[8][10]

Since the residents did not have the money to fund their own railroad, they asked Cornelius "Commodore" Vanderbilt, the sole Staten Island-to-Manhattan ferry operator, for a loan.[10] Vanderbilt, who agreed to finance the railroad,[9] tried to prevent competitors who had previously owned the railroad's lease. Vanderbilt appointed James R. Robinson, to build a structure to block his competitors, but on July 28, 1851, people tried to take apart the almost-finished structure, threatening to hurt Robinson if he tried to block them.[10]

In 1858, Cornelius's son William was inducted onto the railway's board of directors.[8] Stockholders and officials took an inaugural ride on the line between Vanderbilt's Landing and Eltingville on February 1, 1860, and passenger operations began on April 23 of that year.[9][10][12]

Nearby Vanderbilt's Landing there were ferry slips providing service to Manhattan. The first locomotive's name was the "Albert Journeay", named after the railroad's president.[10] A second locomotive was added to the line on May 5, 1860, and it was named the E. Bancker.[10] The line was extended to Annadale on May 14, 1860,[10] and the line completed to Tottenville on June 2, 1860, with a formal opening of the railroad.[8][9] The completion of the line to Tottenville allowed passengers to transfer to a ferry, which crossed the Arthur Kill, and allowed passengers to go to Perth Amboy, New Jersey.[8][9][13] When the Staten Island Railroad was built in 1860, it was common to have stations at or near large farms, leading to station names such as Garretson's or Gifford's.[14] There were more elaborate structures put in place at Eltingville and Annadale, as the Eltings and Anna Seguine, for whom the stations were named after, were influential in financing the construction of the Staten Island Railway.[14]

In August 1860, the railroad was extended from the depot at Vanderbilt's Landing to the wharf, which allowed passengers to walk directly to the boat from the train instead of walking one hundred feet along the sand.[15] At this point there were eleven stops along the Staten Island Railroad.[15] At the time it took one and a half hours to get to Tottenville from Manhattan.[15]

On February 27, 1861, the New Jersey Locomotive Works gave notice of foreclosure on the two locomotives.[9][10] Cornelius Vanderbilt stepped in again, and on September 4, 1861, the Staten Island Railway was placed into receivership with William Henry Vanderbilt to prevent the loss of the locomotives and rolling stock to creditors.[8][9][10] The two locomotives were named for the president and the vice president of the Staten Island Rail Road at the time.[14]

It was necessary for trains to have a direct connect with the infrequent ferries to and from Manhattan, which turned out to be difficult during the beginning of operation.[9] The ferries serving Vanderbilt's Landing were owned by George Law.[9] Afterwards, Vanderbilt tried to operate a ferry service between Manhattan and Staten Island that would compete with the ferry service owned by George Law.[9] Vanderbilt eventually had to sell his ferry service to his competitor, George Law after a franchise battle.[9] After the commencement of the war, Commodore Vanderbilt lost interest in the transit operations on Staten Island and handed the operations of the ferry and railroad over to his brother, Captain Jacob H. Vanderbilt, who was the president of the company until 1885.[8][14][16] In March 1864, the ferries of George Law were bought by Vanderbilt, bringing both the railroad and the ferries under the same company.[9] In 1865, the railway took over the operation of the NY & Richmond Ferry Company and would later assume direct responsibility for operating the ferry service to Manhattan too.[8] The Staten Island Railway Company was reorganized at this time.[8]

Under the leadership of Jacob Vanderbilt, the Staten Island Rail Road took over the Perth Amboy Ferry and the Staten Island Ferry, and train service was increased.[14]

The Staten Island Railway and ferry line were making a modest profit until the explosion of the "Westfield" at Whitehall Street Terminal on July 30, 1871.[8][9][13] Mr. L. H. Meyer became the receiver, and took charge of the affairs of the company.[16] The Westfield disaster had a dramatic effect on the finances of both the Staten Island Ferry and the Staten Island Railroad, which owned the ferry company.[9] By July 1872, the railroad and the ferry were in receivership.[9] On September 7, 1872, the property of the company was sold to George Law,[9] with the exception of the ferry boat "Westfield", which was purchased by Horace Theall.[10][16] After operating the railroad and the ferry for some time Law and Theall sold out to a company largely of shareholders, Mr. Law threatening to form a company of his own, if they did not come to his terms promptly.[16] Some of the smaller stockholders neglected to join in the purchase.[16]

On March 20, 1873, the Staten Island Railway was created by George Law to acquire the property of the Staten Island Rail Road.[14][16]

Many years earlier Commodore Vanderbilt planned a scheme for building a central dock on Staten Island, for freighting and distributing passengers, somewhat of a similar plan that was later worked out by Erastus Wiman; but a storm broke up and scattered the timber-work, and the scheme was abandoned, leaving only the stone foundation which is still visible at low tide, near St. George.[16] During the Civil War, a boat connected with the Staten Island Railway, the "Southfield" was sold to the government, and was converted into a gunboat. It was destroyed during a bombardment on Mississippi.[16] In 1876, a ferry war broke out on the North Shore of Staten Island.[16] Commodore Garner obtained possession of the ferry against the old company, and ran the "D. R. Martin" on the East Shore, in opposition to the regular line.[16] Garner's death put a sudden end to this enterprise.[16] Garner's boats were purchased by John H. Starin, who payed $5,000 for each of them, and he obtained a franchise, operating them until it fell into the hands of the SIRT in 1884.[16]

Organization of the SIRT[edit]

In 1867, Erastus Wiman, a Canadian, arrived in New York to oversee the main office of Dun, Barlow, and Company in New York.[9][13] Wiman became one of the most prominent residents of Staten Island after locating his residence in a mansion on the island.[9] Wiman was dubbed the "Duke of Staten Island," and was interested in developing Staten Island, and recognized that in order to so successfully he would need to build a coordinated transportation hub with connections to New York City and New Jersey.[9]

By mid-1880 the Staten Island Railroad Company was barely operational, and as a result New York State sued through Attorney General Ward to have the company dissolved in May of the same year.[9][17] The suit said that the Company had become "insolvent in September 1872, to have then surrendered its rights to others, and have failed to exercise those rights."[9][17] The legal proceedings proceeded for a while after an injunction was obtained, which restrained the creditors of the railway company from proceeding against it until after the determination of the suit of the people.[9][17]

The Staten Island Rapid Transit Company (SIRT) was organized on March 25, 1880, by Wiman in order to help develop the island as he wished to do.[8][9][13] Wiman's plan included a belt system using the old two-mile Staten Island Railroad, which ran between Vanderbilt's Landing and Tompkinsville, and the coordination of all ferries from one terminal, there were previously six to eight of them, located near Saint George.[8][9] Wiman sought to expand the line and approached Robert Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, to back the idea of a large rail terminal on the island and centralize the ferry landings, who agreed.[8] The SIRT began to seek legislation to acquire various rights-of-way that would be needed to implement Wiman's plan.[9] This was done when the company, didn't own or control a railroad.[9] If the company gained charter to build connections, it would have had nothing to which to connect.[9] The company then began surveying for the proposed routes.[9] In April 1881, the company acquired 1.5 miles of critical right-of-way directly from George Law.[9] At first when Wiman explained his plan he was able to secure a water front option from him. When the option had to be renewed a second time, Law refused. In order to get Law to side with him, Wiman offered to "canonize" him by naming the place "St. George." Law, humored by this, granted Wiman yet another option.[18] In October 1882, Wiman made an application for a wharf to land passengers from the company's planned new ferry service to Manhattan.[9]

Clarence T. Barrett, Henry P. Judah, and Theodore C. Vermilyen were appointed as commissioners to appraise the value of the land required by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company to extend the Staten Island Railroad from Vanderbilt's Landing to Tompkinsville.[19] Work on the line was not set to begin until the commissioners made their report.[19] The SIRT filed a map of the proposed route in the office of the clerk of Richmond County, with the line passing through the lawn of Ms. Post on the North Shore of the island.[20] On February 26, 1883, Mr. Franklin Bartlett and Mr. Clifford Bartlett, whom appear for Ms. Post, notified the court that a change of route would be demanded.[20] The new line, after leaving Vanderbilt's Landing, crossed the property formerly occupied by the Seaman's Retreat, but since acquired by the state by the Marine Society, then through the property of the New York Coast Wrecking Company, the lumber yards of C. C. Eddy & Sons, the carriage factory of J. Scott, the Schaeffer grounds, property represented by Coudert brothers, the grounds of George Bechtel, Rubsnin & Horrman, the brewers; S. L. Mulford & Co.'s coal and wood yard, and lands of Samuel Barton and W. Butler Duncan.[19] The only other building upon the line besides Scott's carriage factory is a small barn on the Schaeffer grounds.[19] The cost of the extension was estimated to be $150,000.[19]

On April 3, 1883, the Staten Island Railroad Company gained control of the Staten Island Railroad and its boats.[21] On the same date at the annual meeting of the Staten Island Railroad company, Erasmus Wiman gained control of the railroad by being elected to the board of Directors of the Railroad and becoming the railroad's president.[9][21] At the meeting Wiman laid out his proposals for rail lines on Staten Island.[13][21] Wiman proposed extending the old Staten Island Railroad to Hyatt Street in what is today Saint George.[21] From there a line would run through New Brighton, and Snug Harbor along the North Shore of Staten Island.[21] The line would then go toward the interior of the island, going parallel to the Kill Van Kull.[21] Based on the settling of the interior of Staten Island, additional spur lines would have been built.[21] Wiman also proposed a bridge across the Arthur Kill from Tottenville to Perth Amboy, which would have replaced the ferry that operated there.[21] This would have been part of a direct route between New York City and Philadelphia by connections at Perth Amboy and South Amboy, with a new bridge over the Rartian River.[21]

In the days before the meeting he had gained 7,450 out of the 11,800 shareholders to elect him, surprising many of the directors of the railroad.[9][21] By the end of the month, Wiman resigned from the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company in order to avoid any conflict of interest.[9] On June 27, 1883, a meeting of the directors of both companies formally ratified the merger of the two companies under the leadership of Erastus Wiman, who was named president.[9]

Construction on the line began on March 17, 1884 for the North Shore Branch after a number of legal proceedings, when a party of surveyors marked out the grades and broke ground for the road bed of the line.[9][13][22] The completion of the extension to Tompkinsville was necessary before the lease which the rapid transit company secured from the old Staten Island Railroad Company can become effective.[19] The contract for the line was given to Smith & Ripley of this city.[19] The work of grading began, and during the spring of 1884 was pushed forward with such energy that by the end of July the road was graded and the track laid between Vanderbilt's Landing and Tompkinsville.[11] The line was expected to be open on September 1, 1884.[19]

While the control of the railroad included control of Vanderbilt's ferry, the North Shore Ferry was leased separately and was operated by John H. Starin.[9] His lease, was set to expire on May 1, 1884.[9] On July 18, 1884, the SIRT was awarded a new lease on the North Shore operation.[9][23] As part of the purchase, ferry service would have been operated every forty minutes instead of an hour.[23] The fare for the railroad and the ferry would have been ten cents, except between the hours of five and seven in the morning, and between five and seven in the evening when the fare would have been seven cents.[23] Mr. Starin continued to fight the lease in the courts for several years.[9][23]

In 1885, "Captain Jake" retired as President and General Ticket Agent of the Staten Island Railway.[14]

By 1886, the operations of the Staten Island Railway was taken over by the Staten Island Rapid Transit, but the Staten Island Railway was kept as a separate corporation even under Baltimore and Ohio Railroad ownership.[14]


The line opened one month earlier than expected, when the first Staten Island Rapid Transit locomotive and train ran over this stretch of track on July 31, 1884.[8][9][11] It contained the managers and officers of the railroad, a few invited guests, and several passengers who had come up on the train as it came on its regular time from Tottenville. The ride took three and a half minutes.[11] The extension opened for passenger service on August 1, 1884.[24]

The Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company now effected a 99 years' lease of the property of the Staten Island Railway, and under this agreement, the railroad to Tottenville, and all of its appurtenances became on July 31, 1884, a part of the rapid transit system,[11] which resulted in the consolidation of the railroad and ferry terminals in Saint George.[18]

Proposed Staten Island Transit route map. "Existing Ferry Routes are indicated by blue lines." Issued c. 1884 by E.C. Bridgman, NY, Map Publisher.

On November 16, 1884, Wiman, James M. Davis, Sir Roderick Cameron, Herman Clark, and Louis de Jonge incorporated the Saint George Improvement Company in order to handle the land and waterfront, which was recently purchased from the estate of George Law.[9][25] The new company was to handle the building of a new terminal for ferries at Saint George.[9][25] Construction of a branch along Staten Island's North Shore began in 1884. The SIRT wanted to have the line extend to Saint George, however there was a problem.[11] Over most of the course of the line, it had followed the shore, along the bluffs, where ground had to be made upon to build the road.[11]

State laws were not able to grant the right to run a railroad through the property of the United States, and as a result, construction was hindered by the grounds of the lighthouse department just above Tompkinsville.[11] The company, however, secured an act of congress permitting them to push a tunnel through the hill a short distance back from the shore.[11] The grant for the tunnel was surrounded with restrictions that made slow progress inevitable.[11] Construction of the tunnel began in 1885.[8] The tunnel was five hundred and eighty five feet long, and was protected by massive walls of masonry on the sides, and an arch of brick two feet in thickness overhead.[11] It was wide enough to fit two trains side by side at a time.[11] The cost of the project was $190,000.[11]

A controlling interest in the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company was obtained in 1885 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad through purchases of stock. On November 21, 1885, Robert Garrett, of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad leased the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) for 99 years, which allowed the B&O to have access to New York.[8][9][13][26] The lease company guaranteed the principal and interest of $2,500,000 5 per cent, 40 year bonds of the Staten Island Company; these bonds were up for renegotiation. The proceeds of the sale were needed by Wiman to complete the terminal facilities at Saint George, and to pay for waterfront property extending along the Staten Island shore for two miles, in completing the Rapid Transit Railroad, building a bridge over the Kill Van Kull at Elizabethport, and in the construction of coal piers, round houses, and other terminal facilities.[27] In order to celebrate the sale, there was a dinner by Erastus Wiman and his associates of the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company to the President and Executives of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on December 16, 1885.[28]

A Map of the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company from 1885


The rights to a horse car line operating in Richmond Terrace were bought in order to build a rail line across Staten Island’s north shore to reach New Jersey.[29] The right of way for the North Shore Branch followed the North Shore of Staten Island reached a ferry to Elizabeth, NJ, which since the mid-1700s had been in operation.[29] The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad built about two miles of rock fill out from shore as well as along the Kill Van Kull to deal with opposition from property owners in the neighborhood of Sailor's Snug Harbor. This additional expendature cost $25,000.[8][11][29] In order to get property for the line to pass over the cove at Palmer's run, the company had to undergo a contest in litigation.[11] In Port Richmond, some property was acquired, displacing a number of home and business owners.[29] A farm was purchased on the northwestern corner of Staten Island at a location called Old Place, which was renamed "Arlington" by the B&O railroad.[29] By 1886, a yard used for freight was built in Arlington.[29]

A small yard was built at Saint George and the North Shore Branch was completed in 1885. The North Shore Branch opened for service on February 23, 1886, with trains terminating at Elm Park. The time between Manhattan and Elm Park was reduced from 90 minutes with the old ferry system to 39 minutes with the North Shore Branch open.[11]

On March 7, 1886, the key piece of Wiman's plan opened when the Saint George Terminal opened, with North Shore trains operating between Elm Park and Saint George, and east shore trains operating between Saint George and Tottenville.[9][13][18] On March 8, 1886, the South Beach Branch opened for passenger service to Arrochar.[9][10][16][30]

Staten Island Railway trains began running through to Saint George, when the SIR operations were taken over by the SIRT.[14] In 1886, the former Staten Island Railway stations were upgraded from low-level platforms to high-level platforms, as all of the new Staten Island Rapid Transit stations had high-level platforms.[14]

The remainder of the North Shore Branch was opened in the summer of 1886 to its terminus at Arlington.[8] The new lines opened by the B&O railroad were called the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway, while the original line from Clifton to Tottenville was called the Staten Island Railway.[31][32]

The first proposal for a rail line between Staten Island and New Jersey was a line operating from Philadelphia to Staten Island to be operated by the B&O.[13][29] However, this never came to be as a result of its very high cost.[29] Another proposal made by the B&O would run along the North Shore of Staten Island crossing the Arthur Kill and then going southwest to Bound Brook Junction, where it would meet the Reading Railroad.[13][29] Freight headed toward New York would be handled by the B&O to Philadelphia, and it would then be handled ny the Reading to Bound Brook, and then on it would be handled by the SIRT. The original plan had a connectionn with the Jersey Central at Cranford.[13][29] This proposed line would have bypassed the Jersey Central, of which a controlling interest was being obtained by the Reading Railroad.[29] Soon after, a coal hauling line from Bound Brook to Port Reading along the Arthur Kill, was built, directly opposite the west shore of Staten Island.[29] A modified plan consisting of a five and one quarter line from the Arthur Kill to meet the Jersey Central at Cranford, through Union County and the communities of Roselle Park and Linden was accepted by the B&O railroad. proposed [29] In order to construct this line the B&O created a subsidiary in October 1888, the Baltimore & New York Railway.[13][29] The Baltimore & New York Railway was just created for charter rights, as the railway was operated by the SIRT. proposed Construction on this road started in 1889,[29] and the line was finished in the latter part of that year, with strategic interchange points between the road and the Pennsylvania Railroad at Linden and with the Lehigh Valley Railroad east of Cranford at Staten Island Junction.[8] The B&NY was was double-tracked as far as Bantas, which was a mile and a half from Cranford Junction.[29]

Baltimore & Ohio Viaduct Under Construction Over the Arthur Kill Connecting Staten Island and New Jersey

On June 16, 1886, an Act of Congress authorizing the constructing a 500-foot (150 m) swing bridge over the Arthur Kill became a law, after three years of effort by Erastus Wiman, the originator and promoter of the bridge.[13][33] The plans and location for the bridge were subject to the approval of the Secretary of War, who put them on hold for nine months, and agreed to the plans without change, and the construction of the bridge began immediately, in April 1887.[8][33] Construction of the bridge had barely started when the State of New Jersey procured an injunction, on motion from Governor Green and Attorney General Stockton, which halted construction for six months.[33] The injunction was stopped in the United States Circuit Court by Justice Bradley, whose opinion stated that it was the right of Congress to regulate commerce, even against the wishes of the states immediately affected.[33] Construction on the bridge then immediately commenced starting in July and continuing through the brutal winter of 1888.[13][33] It was necessary to complete work on the bridge through the winter since the limit of time for the completion of the bridge as set by Congress was June 16, 1888, two years after signing the bill.[33] The bridge was completed three days early on June 13, 1888, at 3 p.m.[10][16][30][33]

At the time of its opening, the Arthur Kill Bridge was the largest drawbridge ever constructed in the world. There were no fatalities in the construction of the bridge, and the builders feared that a strike in the iron works would occur and therefore would delay the work beyond the prescribed time.[33] The opening of the bridge was celebrated with a party going along the Arthur Kill aboard the tugboat P.J. Nevius to see the bridge thrown across the Arthur Kill for the first time.[33] Aboard the boat were J. Frank Emmons, President of the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company, Erastus Wiman, Louis De Jonge, a director of the Staten Island Railroad, Albert S. Boardman, general counsel for the company, Frank S. Gannon, Superintendent of the railroad, and Charles Ackenheir, the engineer under whose superintendence the bridge was constructed.[33] At 4: 15 P. M. everything was ready for the test, and slowly the bridge moved around, and swung around connecting New York and New Jersey for the first time by bridge.[33] It took four and a half minutes the first time to turn the bridge the first time, but took only three minutes the second time.[33] It was claimed that when the parts of the bridge were in smooth working order it would take as little as two minutes.[33] The overall cost for the construction of the bridge was $450,000.[33] The bridge consisted of five pieces of masonry, the center one being midstream, and on it resting was the draw.[33] There was 208 feet on each side of the draw, and the draw span for the bridge was 500 feet, and the fixed spans 150 feet each, making the bridge 800 feet in length, to span the Arthur Kill, which was 600 feet wide.[33] The height of the bridge was 30 feet above the low water mark.[33] The approach for the bridge on the Staten Island side was still under construction at the time. It required four weeks to erect the draw span and put it together, and two weeks longer to put the machinery in order.[33] Six-hundred and fifty-six tons of iron were required to construct the draw and 85 tons for each of the approaches.[33]

Trains were planned to start running on the Arthur Kill Bridge by September 1,[33] but the opening was delayed fifteen months to January 1, 1890,[8] when the first train operated from Saint George Terminal to Cranford Junction, since the approaches to the Arthur Kill Bridge were not finished.[34] 6,000 feet of trestle was built on the Staten Island side, and 4,000 feet of trestle was built on the New Jersey as a result of the fact that the land for the approaches was low and swampy.[34] Altogether there was two miles of elevated structure.[34]

Erastus Wiman was at the throttle of the engine during the trip.[34] Crowds gathered at the various stations from Saint George to Erastina.[34] The officers of the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company called the trip an inspection trip.[34] Aboard the trip was President of the SIRT J. Frank Emmons, Chief Engineer Charles Ackenheir, who built the bridge, Secretary William Keutgen, Paymaster W. H. Prall, Lawyers Macfarland and Boardman, General Passenger Agent R. W. Pollock, Extine Norton, President of the Louisville and Nashville, Major Clarence Barrett, P. H. Marshall, General Freight Agent in New York of the Baltimore & Ohio, and Frank A. Gannon, General Superintendent of SIRT.[34] The train left Saint George at 11 o' clock, and then went via short run, five and one quarter miles to the Arthur Kill Bridge, where the first stop was made.[34] Here, Mr. Wiman climbed into the cab, and then continued to Cranford Junction, where the line met up with the Jersey Central Railroad.[34] The trip back allowed for friends of the railroad to engage in speeches,[34] and returned to Saint George at 3 o' clock.[35]

The North Shore Branch between Saint George and Cranford Junction was opened to freight traffic in March 1890.[13][29] Once the Arthur Kill Bridge was completed, pressure was brought upon the United States War Department by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad to remove the bridge.[13][29] The railroads cited the bridge to be an obstruction for navigation on the Arthur Kill, as a large volume of coal was moved via barge past Holland Hook on Staten Island for both railroads, right where the bridge was standing.[13][29] The Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania railroads set up a petition to have the newly built bridge torn down and replaced with a bridge with a different design.[13][29] Since the Arthur Kill Bridge spanned a navigable waterway between two states, New York and New Jersey, the bridge was approved by the United States Congress.[29]

In 1889, the South Beach Branch was extended from Arrochar to a new terminal at South Beach.[14] As evidenced by a map from 1884, the South Beach Branch was originally supposed to run to Primard Street in Oakwood Beach.[14][36][37] However, the Staten Island Rapid Transit could not get the approval from the Vanderbilt family for crossing their large family farm at New Dorp Beach.[14] In 1889, the Southfield Beach Electric Railway, a non-Staten Island Rapid Transit service was built for one mile from the SIRT's South Beach to Midland Beach, which during this time was a popular resort, with hotels and a gambling casino.[14]

In 1893, the line from Clifton to Tottenville was double tracked.[38]

The B&O railroad was bankrupt by February 1896.[29] In attempting to reach the New York market, the B&O railroad has let its western lines fall into disrepair.[29] J.P. Morgan replaced the railroad's top management in order to refinance the railroad.[29]

In 1897, the terminal at Saint George, which served the railroad and the ferry to Manhattan was completed.[9]

The SIRT and all of its real and personal property held in the company, was sold at auction, at the First National Bank at Saint George, on April 20, 1899.[39] The sale was in foreclosure proceedings in the name of Charles E. Lewis, as trustee for the holders of the secured mortgaged bonds, and for $2,000,000 the property was purchased by representatives of the B&O railroad company.[16][39] The bid for the B&O was made by Harold Bronner, R. H. Minzer, and Frank Geary.[39]

The railroad had already owned the line from Elizabethport, New Jersey to South Beach including the Arthur Kill Bridge.[39] At the time, it was rumored that the trains of the B&O railroad would be rerouted from Communipow station to Saint George.[39] There was no change in management of the Staten Island Rapid Transit after the purchase.[39]

20th century operations[edit]

Early 20th century[edit]

Staten Island Rapid Transit, 1952

In 1900, the B&O was put under the control of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which made a number of improvements to the line.[29] The PRR allowed the newly developed New Jersey, New York and Staten Island properties to remain intact.[29][40] For a short while in 1900 the SIRT operated a B&O connection passenger train from St. George to Plainfield, NJ.[29][40] Within a few years the B&O was profitable again and emerged from PRR control as a stronger railroad.[29]

As of 1903, there were almost 50 daily trips on both the North Shore Branch and South Beach Branches, and 22 daily trips on the Tottenville Branch. There were also two daily express trains to Tottenville.[41]

One of the main goals of Staten Island was municipal acquisition of the Ferry and replacement of the fleet, which came to fruition on October 25, 1905, in which the city took ownership of the ferry and terminals, and ejected the B&O from Whitehall Street terminal. A new Saint George Terminal was then built by the city for $2,318,720.[18]

The two main freight yards on Staten Island, Arlington and Saint George, were at capacity, and to ease the congestion the B&O began running freight into Jersey City on the Jersey Central in 1912.[29] The B&O profited from the heavy coal trade that operated via the lines on Staten Island.[29]

In 1920, 4,000,000 tons of freight had been handled on the railway.[42] In 1920, 65 trains ran daily on the North Shore Branch, 60 trains ran daily on the South Beach Branch, and 34 trains ran daily on the Main Line or Tottenville Branch.[42] A majority of the passengers of the railway used the North Shore and South Beach branches.[42] In 1920, 8,000,000 passengers used the North Shore and South Beach branches, while 5,000,000 passengers used the main line.[42]

Up until the year 1921, 3,369,400 trains had been operated on the SIRT and there had been no fatalities.[43]


In anticipation of a tunnel under the Narrows to Brooklyn and a connection there with the New York subway system at the Bay Ridge – 95th Street station, SIRT electrified its lines using third rail power distribution and cars similar to those of the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT).[44][45][46]

The first electric train was operated on the South Beach Branch between South Beach and Fort Wadsworth at 9:45 P. M. on May 30, 1925.[44][47] As part of the electrification project, the South Beach Branch was extended one stop to Wentworth Avenue from the previous terminus at South Beach.[48][49] Wentworth Avenue had a short, wooden half-car platform, and shelter built there.[14] That location had previously been used as a turning point for the steam-powered SIRT trains.[14] Minor servicing was done for the locomotives there.[14] This sub-division was put into regular operation at 12:01 A.M. June 5, 1925.[47] As part of the electrification project, thirteen engines were retired, four new wholly automatic substations opened at South Beach, Old Town Road, Eltingville, and Tottenville.[44] In addition, a modern signaling system was put into place in the Saint George Yards allowing one dispatcher to do all the work.[44] The Clifton Junction Shops were updated to take care of electric equipment instead of steam equipment, and the yard was electrified to the most part.[44] Grade crossing elimination began between Prince's Bay and Pleasant Plains.[44]

The Tottenville Branch was put into regular operation as an electrified line on July 1, 1925 at 2:30 P.M.[47] For the first time since its opening, the railroad's trains stopped having the first car reserved for smokers on July 2, 1925.[50] As a result, a petition was sent to the railroad to reverse this decision.[50]

The other branches were electrified by November 1925.[46][51] Arlington and Saint George Yards, along with the Mount Loretto Spur, and the Travis Branch[52] were not electrified due to the high cost of electrification.[8] The electrification brought no big increase in traffic, and the tunnel was never built.[53] The Baltimore & Ohio owned both the railway and the Staten Island Ferry.[54]

On June 25, 1926, the Transit Commission ordered that four grade crossings on Staten Island – at Bay Street in Clifton, and at Hope Avenue, Belair Road, and Tompkins Avenue in Fort Wadsworth, be eliminated.[55] The cost of the project was to be $1 Million, with half of the cost going to the railroad, and a fourth each to the city and state.[55] At the time, the grade crossing at Bay Street, was though of as the most dangerous grade crossing on Staten Island.[55]

In the 1920s, a branch was built to haul materials to construct the Outerbridge Crossing.[56] The branch was built along the West Shore of Staten Island from the Richmond Valley, and originally extended to the village of Charleston at Allentown Lane, which was past the end of Drumgoole Boulevard.[56] The branch was cut back south of the bridge after the bridge was built.[56] The Gulf Oil Corporation opened a dock and tank farm along the Arthur Kill in 1928 and in order to serve it, the Travis Branch was built south from Arlington Yard into the marshes of the island's western shore to Gulfport.[8][14][56]

At this time, the two West Shore branches were mapped to be joined together by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.[56] The West Shore Line between Arlington and Tottenville, would have allowed rail freight headed to Nassau Smelting and other freight customers on the Main Line to avoid the congestion of Saint George Yard and the frequent passenger train service on the North Shore, East Shore and Perth Amboy sub-divisions.[56] This proposal was killed by the Great Depression.[56]

This map from 1922 shows the proposed connected West Shore Line.


In the 1930s there was a proposal for rapid transit expansion in Staten Island with an Interborough Loop joining the Perth Amboy sub-division at Grasmere with the North Shore Branch at Port Richmond.[56] There also was a proposal to join the North Shore Branch to Tottenville, however not utilizing the existing West Shore tracks.[56]

On February 4, 1932, the headway on trains was decreased to 15 minutes from 20 minutes between 9:29 p.m. and 10:29 p.m. and was decreased to 30 minutes from 40 minutes between 10:29 p.m. and 1:29 a.m. on the Perth Amboy Division.[57]

On February 25, 1937, the Port Richmond–Tower Hill viaduct was completed, becoming the largest grade crossing elimination project in the United States.[58] The viaduct was more than a mile long, and spanned eight grade crossings on the North Shore Branch of the SIRT.[58] The opening of the viaduct marked the final part of a $6,000,000 grade crossing elimination project on Staten Island, which eliminated thirty-four grade crossings on the north and south shores of Staten Island.[58] A two-car special train, which carried Federal, state, and borough officials made a run over the viaduct and the seven mile project.[58] Stations closed for the viaduct project at Tower Hill and Port Richmond were reopened on this date as well.[58]

Staten Island Borough President Joseph A. Palma proposed in 1936 to extend the Staten Island Rapid Transit to Manhattan. He proposed extending the tracks across the Bayonne Bridge, using two available lanes, then going three miles, then connecting to the Jersey Central, and then via the Hudson & Manhattan (today's PATH) to Manhattan.[59][60] The Port of New York Authority endorsed the same plan in 1937, with the utilization of the Erie Railroad main line to Patterson also part of the plan. There would be a terminal at 51st Street in Manhattan near Rockefeller Center to serve the trains of Erie, West Shore, Lackawanna, Jersey Central, and trains from Staten Island, with these services terminating at 51st instead of in Jersey City.[61] This original proposal was brought back in 1950, by Edward Corsi, a Republican candidate for mayor.[62]

In 1936–1937, the South Beach Branch was elevated to remove several grade crossings.[63][64]


The timetable from October 15, 1940, shows 248 trains leaving St George each weekday (Mon-Fri) with 80 to Tottenville, 4 to Great Kills, 82 to South Beach, 79 to Arlington and 3 to Port Ivory.

Freight and WWII traffic, helped pay off some of the debt the SIRT had accumulated.[29] This additional revenue briefly made the SIRT profitable.[29] During this time, the B&O ran freight trains to Jersey City as well as to Staten Island.[29] Around this time, B&O crews began running through without changing at different junctions.[29] Regular B&O crews, and Staten Island crews were separated, meaning that the crews had to change before they could get into Staten Island.[29] The Staten Island Rapid Transit crews handled all the traffic to and from Cranford Junction in New Jersey.[29]

During the second World War, all of the east coast military hospital trains were handled by the SIRT.[29] The hospital trains ran through to their inland connections via Cranford Junction, with some trains stopping at Arlington on Staten Island to transfer wounded soldiers to a large military hospital on Staten Island.[29] The Baltimore & New York Railway line become extremely busy between Cranford Junction and the Arthur Kill, with troop movements, POW trains and war material operating over this stretch to get to their appointed destinations.[29]

Two B&O subsidiaries, the B&NY and the Staten Island Rapid Transit, were merged together in 1945.[29][65] Since the Baltimore & New York Railway opened in 1890, the SIRT had worked this line with its own as well as assigned B&O locomotives.[29]

Around the time of the second World War, the B&O operated special trains for important officials.[29] One such special was for Winston Churchill, taking him to a ship at Stapleton for one of his many Atlantic crossings.[29] For this special a shined-up locomotive with sporting polished rods, white tires, and a white-uniformed engine crew was provided by the SIRT for this trip.[29]

On May 18, 1946, a strike of engineers and trainmen that had affected many other railroads in the region, such as the Hudson & Manhattan and the Long Island Rail Road, also affected the SIRT, but service returned by the end of the evening. Crews had remained on their trains in terminals awaiting from their leaders of official notification of the truce.[66]

On June 25, 1946, a fire wrecked the terminal at Saint George killing three people and causing damage worth $22,000,000.[13] The fire destroyed the ferry terminal and the four slips used for Manhattan service, the terminal for Staten Island Rapid Transit trains, and a small building and slip owned by the city and used by the Army and Navy in transporting their men from Staten Island to the United States Naval Depot at Bayonne.[67] Two days after the fire, the city voted $3,000,000 to start work on building a new $12,000,000 terminal, that would be opened in 1948.[68]

On October 28, 1947, Mayor John A. Delaney and the City Commission created a plan to fight the SIRT's proposal to abandon service between the city and Tottenville. The Mayor criticized the railroad for the failing to notify the city of its intentions.[69] On the same date, the SIRT filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission to get permission to discontinue ferry service between Tottenville and Perth Amboy, NJ. The SIRT said that the abandonment should be permitted because of "the substantial deficits being incurred in operation of the service, which covers a distance of 3,600 feet".[70]

On May 3, 1948, the House approved a bill to permit the SIRT to widen its railroad tunnel at the Saint George Ferry Terminal. The tunnel, which was constructed under Federally-owned land would be widened 19 feet for a distance of 456 feet.[71] The tunnel would allow the laying of a third track and permit the operation of more trains from Saint George to Tottenville and South Beach. The extra track would also facilitate better handling of trains at the ferry terminal at Saint George. The bill passed the Senate on June 1, 1948,[72] and it was signed by President Truman on June 14, 1948.[73]

In 1948, the city board of transportation took over all of the bus lines on Staten Island,[8] and on July 1, 1948 the bus fare on Staten Island dropped from 5 cents per zone (20 cents Tottenville to the ferry) to 7 cents for the whole island, or 12 cents including a Manhattan subway ride. In 1947, SIRT carried 12.3 million passengers and the number started decreasing with 8.7 million in 1948 and 4.4 million in 1949, as a result of rapid transit customers switching from SIRT to the buses.[74] As a result of the 7 cent fare the SIRT announced on August 28, 1948, that it would reduce service on all three branches on September 5, 1948. Service would be reduced from 15 minute intervals in non-rush hours to 30 minutes during that time, and from 5 to 10 minutes in rush hours to 10 to 15 minutes during rush hours.[75] The reducing of the bus fare meant that in July passenger traffic dropped 32% on the Tottenville Division and 40% on the other two divisions. The day afterwards, Borough President Cornelius A. Hall of Richmond and Staten Island civic organizations announced that they would oppose the cuts that were proposed in service.[76] On September 2, 1948, the PSC failed to prevent the cut in SIRT service. 237 of its present 492 weekday trains would be cut and the schedule of its expresses would be reduced during rush hours. Thirty percent of the company's personnel were laid off.[77] The cuts became effective at 3:01 A. M. on September 5, 1948, and at the same hour schedules calling for a reduction in rush hour service and the cancellation of all night trains after 1:29 A. M.[78] On September 7, 1948, Borough President Hall of Richmond continued to rally against the cuts made by the SIRT at a Public Service Commission hearing in Manhattan. Commuters testified that trains were missing connections to ferry boats and that some trains were being held at the Saint George Terminal in the rush hour to wait for two boatloads of passengers. Previously, they said, the trains pulled out with only one boatload of passengers.[79] On September 13, 1948 the SIRT agreed to add four trains, and to extend the schedule of four others.[80] Bus riders were up 25% after fare cut, and passengers on the SIRT dropped.[81]

On September 22, 1948, the Interstate Commerce Commission allowed the SIRT to abandon the ferry it had operated for 88 years between Tottenville and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The ferry operation was transferred to Sunrise Ferries, Inc of Elizabeth, New Jersey, which had reached an agreement to lease the railway's ferry facilities at Tottenville, and to lease from Perth Amboy wharf and dock properties there. The lease with the railway was for five years and gives it the right to renew for three five year periods.[82] The service was transferred on October 16.[83] The schedules and the 5 cent fare for the ferry stayed the same.[84]

Completion of the grade elimination projects at Grant City, New Dorp, Oakwood Heights, Bay Terrace involving thirteen crossings, and was projected to cost $7,400,000. The project was set to begin in 1949.[85]

On January 5, 1949, the Public Service Commission recommended that the SIRT restore the trains cut in September 1948. If the SIRT refused to restore the trains, the Public Service Commission would order the SIRT to restore the service, as then the SIRT would go on a path toward the discontinuance of service. Borough President Hall of Richmond suggested lowering the fare to 10 cents or a 20 cent round trip in order to make up the lost money.[86] On January 29, 1949, the Public Service Commission order the SIRT to restore five trains and to reschedule seven other trains for public convenience. The PSC gave the SIRT until February 13 to carry out the order.[87]

On May 20, 1949, it was announced that the SIRT wanted to discontinue service on all of its three branches, and that it would soon ask for permission from the PSC to do so. A major reason for the discontinuance of service was the loss of $1,061,716 in 1948. Three options would be given by the PSC; that the railway must continue its operations, have the service substituted by buses, or have the city take over the railway service as part of the municipal transit system.[88]


On August 30, 1950, the Public Service Commission announced a $6,500,000 plan to eliminate grade crossings of the SIRT. The plan was only approved with the assurance from the city that if passenger service was discontinued the city would guarantee that residents of the area would not be neglected as to some form of transportation. A bridge was also proposed as part of the plan to go over the never built Willowbrook Expressway.[89]

On June 3, 1952, the SIRT asked again to discontinue its passenger service on July 7, 1952. On June 16, 1952, the PSC ordered the SIRT to continue all of its passenger service pending a hearing before the state agency and a decision on the line's request to abandon its service.[90]

On July 9, 1952, hearings began concerning the proposed abandonment of the road.[91] On July 16, 1952, in the hearings, the PSC counsel stated that had the operating deficits that have been charged to the passenger service of the SIRT would disappear had the operations were included with the freight profits of the B&O Railroad in the New York area.[92] After some hearings, the SIRT changed its planned abandonment date as September 12, 1952. The commissioner of the commission, adjourned meetings until September 17. The commissioner council, John T. Ryan, said that a provision needed to be made for an additional two months of service, that would extend service to November 12, 1952.[93]

On June 8, 1951, a modern replacement terminal for Saint George opened, although portions of the terminal were phased into service at earlier dates.[94]

SIRT discontinued passenger service on the North Shore Branch to Arlington and the South Beach Branch to South Beach at midnight on March 31, 1953 because of city-operated bus competition; the South Beach Branch was abandoned shortly thereafter while the North Shore Branch continued to carry freight.[8][95][96] By 1955, the third rail on both of the lines were removed.[8]

On September 7, 1954, SIRT made an application to discontinue all passenger service on the Tottenville Branch on October 7, 1954.[10][97] The Public Service Commission warned that if the SIRT discontinued its passenger service, action would be taken to kick the SIRT's parent company, the B&O Railroad, off of Staten Island, which would have meant the end of the prospering freight operation. A large city subsidy allowed passenger service on the Tottenville Branch to continue.[10]

Since the Tottenville line did not need the additional trains cars left over from the closure of the North Shore and South Beach lines, the SIRT sold 30 of its train cars to the New York City Transit Authority in the years 1953–1954, for $10,000 each.[10][98]

On October 21, 1957, four years after North Shore Branch passenger trains ended, the very last SIRT special, a train from Washington crossed the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge carrying Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to the Staten Island Ferry for a state meeting with President Eisenhower in Washington D.C.[8][29][99] During the evening of October 20, 1957, their trains, both press and royal, left Washington DC for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, traveling over B&O and Reading Company lines.[29] There was extremely high security and secrecy during this movement.[29] In order to reach Camp Kilmer, the trains operated via the Reading’s Port Reading Branch.[29] The trains were reconfigured at the camp by dropping the two leading diesel units of each, leaving one unit each for the next part of the trip to Staten Island.[29] The purpose of this maneuver was to pass over the Arthur Kill swing bridge, which had a limited load capacity.[29] In order to await the return of the equipment from Staten Island, the two lead diesel sets were then taken to Cranford Junction via the Reading and Jersey Central.[29] The ten-car press train left the Camp over the Lehigh Valley line to Staten Island Junction and the SIRT on Monday, October 21 at 6 AM.[29] The eleven-car heavy-weight Pullman-equipped royal train followed the press train an hour afterwards.[29] Both trains went non-stop into a freight yard at Stapleton on Staten Island.[8][29] The tracks along the route were cleared specifically for this occasion.[29] Once the motorcade of the Queens left the yard, the trains were hauled in reverse, being brought by a SIRT switcher to Cranford Junction. Both trains dead-headed early the same afternoon.[29]

In 1957, the aging Arthur Kill swing bridge was knocked off its center pier foundation by a passing Esso oil tanker, rendering the bridge useless.[8][29] This ended up requiring freight to be rerouted through float bridges, with most of the freight traffic for the New York area of the B&O to be forwarded through the yards of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.[8][29] A state-of-the-art, 558 foot vertical lift bridge replace the old swing bridge in 1959.[8][29] The 2,000 ton lift span was prefabricated, then floated into place.[8] The new bridge was raised 135 feet and since the new bridge aided navigation on the Arthur Kill, the United States government assumed 90 percent of the $11 million cost of the project.[100] Freight trains started crossing the bridge when it opened on August 25, 1959.[101] The new bridge had space for one track.[101]

The industrial track on the West Shore of Staten Island, the Travis Branch, which was built in the 1930s to Gulfport, was extended to serve a new Consolidated Edison power plant in Travis, along Staten Island's west shore.[8][29] This allowed for long-unit coal trains from West Virginia to serve the plant.[8][29] The B&O continued to invest in its New Jersey and Staten Island holdings during the late 1950s.[29]

Late 20th century[edit]

On April 5, 1962, a fire at the Clifton Shops destroyed seven train cars, adding to 13 lost in two previous fires and two that were scrapped, leaving the SIRT with only 48 cars to operate regular service with.[10] This car shortage meant that 44 of of its 48 train cars were in service during rush hours, which left a small margin for errors.[10] In order to maintain the previous level of service, the SIRT had carefully scheduled maintenance for their train cars.[10] A number of trains were rushed back to Saint George as passenger-free expresses, after dropping their loads in the evening rush, helping make up for the lack of train cars.[10] The Transit Authority set aside nine BMT Standards for a possible transfer to the SIRT due to the car shortage.[10] The SIRT also looked at a proposal to transfer some D type cars.[10] Neither of the proposals came to pass.[10]

In 1963, ferry service between Tottenville and Perth Amboy Ferry Slip at Perth Amboy, New Jersey was discontinued by the railroad.[102]

Until the completion of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964, Staten Island's only direct connection to the rest of the city and state of New York was via ferries from St. George, at the north end of the island.[103]

During the years 1965–1966, the final grade railroad crossings were eliminated between the Jefferson Avenue and Grant City stations.[10] In order to avoid interfering with train service, a shoo-fly track was constructed to the east of the original line, while a new crossing free line was constructed upon the original right of way.[10] The SIRT continued to lose money even as they rebuilt stations between Jefferson Avenue and New Dorp almost into the 1970s. Rail traffic via the Arthur Kill Bridge dropped dramatically with the closing of Bethlehem Steel in 1960, and of U.S. Gypsum in 1972.[101] Some traffic remained for B&O operations into the 1970s on Staten Island, and car floats were still reasonably busy.[29]

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.[29] As part of the agreement, freight along the line was to be continued to be handled by the B&O.[29] Grade crossings had to be eliminated along the Tottenville line by the B&O in order to make the deals with the city final. These final grade crossings were supposed to have been eliminated various times since the 1930s, but were held back in part because of the Depression, World War II and declining finances.[29]

On June 15, 1972, seventeen-year-old air conditioned coaches on loan from the Long Island Rail Road went into service on the SIRT. The three car train made one round trip during the morning, and operated again during the afternoon peak.[104] As a resut of previous tests, the edges of the platforms at the Saint George Terminal were trimmed for extra clearance required for the 85 foot cars. The cars were only 15 feet longer than the 45 cars in operation, but the LIRR cars' seating capacity of 123 passengers, was almost double the limit of the other coaches.[104]

For the first time since 1958, the fare on the SIRT was increased on September 1, 1972 to 35 cents.[105] The increase was from an average fare of 22 cents. The fare increase applied to the whole system, and was accompanied by the elimination of commutation tickets and student tickets.[105] Previously, fares ranged from 20 to 35 cents. 16 per cent of riders of the 17,000 daily riders had no change in fare.[105] There was a 10 per cent increase for 51 per cent of passengers and a 15 per cent increase for the remaining 33 per cent.[105] The fare increase was expected to bring in an extra $400,000 a year.[105] At the time, the line was operating at a deficit of $2.9 Milion a year, with $2.5 Million of it offset by a subsidy from the city.[105] The MTA, at the time, had plans for a $25 Million improvement program for the line, including 52 new cars, the R44s.[105] The R44s were planned to go into service by the end of 1973.[105] Improvements were also planned for the tower and signal systems, for the roadbed and for the stations.[105] Increased power, 8,000 feet of new rails, and mercury-vapor lighting at 14 of the 22 stations were also part of the plan.[106] Three quarters of the $25 Million were to be provided by 1967 state transportation bond issue.[105] The remaining $6.25 Million was to be paid by the city.[105]

On February 28, 1973,[106] new R44 cars — the same as the newest cars then in use on the subway lines in the other boroughs — were put into service on the Staten Island Rapid Transit, replacing the PS Standard rolling stock that had been inherited from the B&O and had remained in continuous service since 1925.[3][107][108]

In 1994, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reinstituted the line's original name; the passenger portion of the line is called MTA Staten Island Railway.[8]

Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles
Year Traffic
1925 67
1944 81
1960 37
1967 38
Source: ICC annual reports

Current use[edit]

Old Town powerhouse


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.[7] At St. George there are twelve tracks, only ten of which are presently used for service.[109] At Tottenville, there is a three track yard, with two tracks on either side of a concrete station platform.

The last passenger trains on both the North Shore and South Beach Branches ran on March 31, 1953.[8][95][96] The right-of-way of the South Beach Branch was eventually de-mapped and the tracks have been removed.

In 2001, a small section of the easternmost 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 2010.[110] 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,[111] with even the possibility of through service between Arlington/Port Ivory and Tottenville, which the aforementioned Ballpark wye makes feasible.[112]

Prior to 2007, the Staten Island Railway used Baltimore & Ohio Railroad style color position light signals, that dated back to when it was a B&O-operated line.[113] In 2007, a $72 million project to replace the old signal system was completed.[114] The system was replaced with an FRA-compliant 100 Hz, track circuit based, Automatic Train Control (ATC) signal system.[114] As part of the project, 40 R44 subway cars and 4 locomotives were modified with on board cab signaling equipment for ATC bi-directional movement.[114] A new rail control center and back-up control center was constructed as part of this contract.[114]

Only the Dongan Hills, Saint George, Great Kills and Tottenville stations of the Staten Island Railway are currently in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, with elevators and or ramps.[5][115] However, the new Arthur Kill Road station, which will replace the Atlantic and Nassau stations, will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ADA, when it opens in April 2016.[2]

There are Park N Ride facilities at the Prince's Bay, Huguenot, Annadale, Great Kills, and Dongan Hills stations.[6] Once the new Arthur Kill Road station opens, there will be Park N Ride facilities there as well.[116]


The B&O became part of the larger C&O system through a merger with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway.[8][29] The freight operation on the island was renamed the Staten Island Railroad Corporation in 1971.[8][29]

The B&O and C&O became isolated from their properties in New Jersey and Staten Island, with the creation of Conrail on April 1, 1976, by merger of bankrupt lines in the northeast United States.[8][29] As a result, their freight service was truncated to Philadelphia, however, for several years afterward, one B&O freight train a day ran to Cranford Junction, with B&O locomotives running through as well.[29]

By the year 1973, the Jersey Central's car float yard at Jersey Central was closed.[29] Afterwards, the car float operation of the B&O was brought back to Staten Island at Saint George Yard.[29] This car float operation was taken over by the New York Dock Railway in September 1979, and was ended the following year.[29] Only a few isolated industries on Staten Island were using rail service for freight, meaning that the yard at Saint George was essentially abandoned.[8][29]

The C&O system was forced to sell the Staten Island Railroad to the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad, which was owned by the Delaware Otsego Corporation in April 1985, due to a lack of business.[8][95] The Susquehanna then embargoed the track east of Elm Park on the North Shore Line, ending rail freight traffic to Saint George.[8] In 1990, Procter & Gamble, the line's largest customer closed,[8] leading to a large drop in freight traffic. The last freight train over the bridge came in 1990,[101] and the operation ended on July 25, 1991, when the Arthur Kill bridge was taken out of service.[8][117] Afterwards, the North Shore Branch and the Arthur Kill Bridge were taken over by CSX.[101] The line as well as the bridge were purchased again in 1994, this time by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), whose purchase was followed by a decade of false starts.[101]

The break-up of Conrail in 1998, allowed parts of lines once operated by the competitors of the B&O to become a part of CSX.[29] The railroad line was still intact from Cranford to Arlington.[29] At this time, CSX started operating the former Reading, Lehigh Valley and New York Central lines.[29]

During the early 2000s, plans for reopening the Staten Island Rapid Transit line in New Jersey were announced by the New York Port Authority.[29] Since the Central Railroad of New Jersey became a New Jersey Transit line, a new junction would be built to the former Lehigh Valley Railroad.[29] In order to all New England and southern freight to pass through the New York metropolitan area, a rail tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island, and a rail tunnel from Brooklyn to Greenville, New Jersey were planned.[29]

On December 15, 2004, a $72 million project to reactivate freight service on Staten Island and to repair the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge was announced by the NYCEDC and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.[101] Specific projects on the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge included repainting the steel superstructure and rehabilitating the lift mechanism.[101] In June 2006, the freight line connection from New Jersey to the Staten Island Railway was completed, and became operated in part by the Morristown and Erie Railway under contract with the State of New Jersey and other companies.[118]

The Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge was renovated in 2006 and began regular service on April 2, 2007, sixteen years after the bridge closed.[119] As part of the project, a portion of the North Shore Line 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.[120] Soon after service restarted on the line, Mayor Michael Bloomberg officially commemorated the reactivation on April 17, 2007.[121] 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. Along the remainder of the North Shore Branch, there are still tracks and rail overpasses in some places.[122][123][124][125][126] See also Rail freight transportation in New York City and Long Island.

FRA oversight[edit]

Unlike PATH, SIR is not under FRA oversight,[127][128] except for the separate restored freight service. However their new signal system complies with the FRA and the NORAC book of rules regulations, and is very similar to the older railroad signal system inherited from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) Company - the original and previous owners of this line, which do not have tripping devices and arms. Also the cab signaling on the R44's complies with same, since these cars do not have trip cocks, unlike their subway car cousins which are equipped with them for tripping the emergency brakes after passing red signals. The SIR was previously under FRA oversight until 1988.[10]



The MTA broke ground on a new, $15.3 million, ADA compliant station named Arthur Kill, near the southern terminus of the present line on October 18, 2013.[116] The constructor is John P. Picone, Inc., which was awarded the contract on July 31, 2013.[129] It is sited between, and will replace both the Atlantic and Nassau stations, which are in the poorest condition of all the stations on the line.[130] The new station, which can platform a four-car train, is expected to open in April 2016.[2] MTA will also provide parking for 150 automobiles across the street.[116]

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.[131]

Rolling stock replacement[edit]

Elected officials on Staten Island, such as Diane Savino, have been demanding replacement of the Staten Island Railway's aging R44 cars.[132] There is money allocated in the MTA's 2015-2019 capital program to replace the R44s[133] with new train cars from the R211 order.[133] Until then, the R44s are undergoing another round of SMS to extend their usefulness until at least 2021.[134][135]

Restoration of the North Shore Branch[edit]

In an 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.[111] $4 million of federal funding was requested for a detailed feasibility study by New York state senator Chuck Schumer.[136]

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, light rail, or bus rapid transit using the North Shore line's right-of-way. Other options included transportation systems management which would improve existing bus service, and the possibility of future ferry and water taxi services. Bus rapid transit was the preferred for its cost and relative ease of implementation, 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.[137]

Route characteristics[edit]

New Dorp station

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.[138] 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 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.[139]

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.[140][141]


The current head of Staten Island Railway is Douglas Connett, who holds the position Vice President and Chief Officer since his appointment in June 2015.[142]

The hourly employee workforce of around 200 employees is represented by United Transportation Union Local 1440.[143]

Until June 2005, the Staten Island Railway had a 25-officer Railroad Police force known as the "Staten Island Rapid Transit Police". On June 1, 2005, they were merged into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police creating the MTA Police District #9 which covered the Staten Island Railway.[144]


The cash fare is $2.75, the same fare as on the New York City Subway and MTA Regional Bus Operations. Fares are paid on entry and exit only at St. George and Tompkinsville.[145] Rides not originating or terminating at St. George or Tompkinsville are free.[145] Prior to the 1997 introduction of "one-fare zone"[146] 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.[108]

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.[147][148][149]

Fare is payable by MetroCard.[145] 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.[145] Riders are also allowed to transfer between a Staten Island bus, SIR, and a Manhattan bus or subway near South Ferry.[145] 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. The low farebox recovary ratio is 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.[150]


Staten Island Railway
North Shore Branch
12.2 CranfordRaritan
11.7 Lehigh Line
Garden State Parkway
NE CorridorCoast Line
U.S. Route 1/9
9.2 Linden Yard
Chemical Coast Line
6.8 Arthur Kill Bridge (NYNJ)
Howland Hook
6.1 Port Ivory
Travis Branch
National Grid
Arlington Yard (freight)
5.2 Arlington
4.9 Harbor Road
Union Avenue
4.6 Mariners' Harbor
4.3 Lake Avenue
3.9 Elm Park
Rt. 440Bayonne Bridge
3.4 Tower Hill
3.0 Port Richmond
2.4 West New Brighton
1.8 Livingston
1.2 Sailors' Snug Harbor
0.7 New Brighton
North Shore Branch gap
RCB Ballpark
Staten Island Ferry
0.0 St. George
North Shore Branch abandoned
Post office
South Beach Branch
2.0 Bachmann
2.1 Rosebank
Hylan Boulevard
2.5 Belair Road
2.7 Fort Wadsworth
I-278 (Staten Island Expressway)
3.2 Arrochar
3.5 Cedar Avenue
3.9 South Beach
4.1 Wentworth Avenue
Old Town
Dongan Hills
Jefferson Avenue
Grant City
New Dorp
Oakwood Heights
Bay Terrace
Great Kills
Prince's Bay
Mt. Loretto orphanage(closed)
Pleasant Plains
Richmond Valley
West Shore Line
Page Avenue
Arthur Kill(under construction)
Station service legend
Stops all times Stops all times
Station closed Future station
Time period details
Station Min from
St. Geo.[6]
Connections / notes
Stops all times St. George Terminal Handicapped/disabled access 0 March 7, 1886[151] BSicon BOOT.svg Staten Island Ferry to Whitehall Terminal
NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S40, S42, S44, S46, S48, S51, S52, S61, S62, S66, S74, S76, S78, S81, S84, S86, S90, S91, S92, S94, S96, S98
Stops all times Tompkinsville 3 July 31, 1884[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S51, S52, S46, S48, S61, S62, S66, S78, S91, S92, S96, S98
Stops all times Stapleton 5 July 31, 1884[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S51, S52, S74, S76, S81, S84
Stops all times Clifton 7 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S51
Originally Vanderbilt's Landing; access via first three cars northbound[6]
Stops all times Grasmere 10 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S53
Access via first three cars[152]
Stops all times Old Town 12 1937 – 1939 Originally Old Town Road
Stops all times Dongan Hills Handicapped/disabled access 14 April 23, 1860[10] Originally Garretson's
Stops all times Jefferson Avenue 16 1937 – 1939
Stops all times Grant City 17 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S51
Stops all times New Dorp 19 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S57, S76, S86
Stops all times Oakwood Heights 21 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S57
Originally Richmond,[153] then Court House,[154] then Oakwood
Stops all times Bay Terrace 23 April 23, 1860[10] Originally Whitlock
Stops all times Great Kills Handicapped/disabled access 25 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S54, X7, X8
Southern terminus for select trains
Originally Gifford's
Stops all times Eltingville 27 April 23, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S59, S79 SBS, S89 LTD, X1, X4, X5
Stops all times Annadale 29 May 14, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S55
Stops all times Huguenot 31 June 2, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S55, X17, X17
Academy Bus Academy Bus: X23
Southern terminus for select northbound trains
Originally Bloomingview, then Huguenot Park
Stops all times Prince's Bay 33 June 2, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S55, S56
Academy Bus Academy Bus: X23
Originally Lemon Creek, then Princes Bay
Stops all times Pleasant Plains 35 June 2, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S55, X17, X22
Stops all times Richmond Valley 37 June 2, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: X17
Access via first three cars[152]
Stops all times Nassau 39 c. 1922[10][32] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S78
Access via last car only;[130][155] will close upon opening of Arthur Kill[2]
Station closed Arthur Kill Handicapped/disabled access April 2016[2] Under construction[2]
Stops all times Atlantic 40 c.1909–1921[32][156] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S78
Access via last car only;[130][155] will close upon opening of Arthur Kill[2]
Stops all times Tottenville Handicapped/disabled access 42 June 2, 1860[10] NYCT Bus NYCT Bus: S78
Clifton station

Former stations on closed lines[edit]

North Shore Branch[edit]

Main article: North Shore Branch
The abandoned North Shore Branch. The Bayonne Bridge can be seen in the background.

The North Shore Branch closed to passenger service at midnight on Tuesday, March 31, 1953.[10][95][96] A small portion of the western end is used for freight service as part of the Howland Hook Marine Terminal transloading system called ExpressRail, which opened in 2007 and connects to the Chemical Coast after crossing over the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge. A smaller eastern portion provided seasonal service to the RCB Ballpark (where the Staten Island Yankees play) passenger station from June 24, 2001 to June 18, 2010.[157] Restoration is being discussed along this mostly abandoned 6.1-mile (9.8 km) line as part of the Staten Island light rail plan.[111]

Station List[edit]

Miles Name Opened Closed Notes
0 St. George July 31, 1884
0.1 RCB Ballpark June 24, 2001 June 18, 2010[157]
0.7 New Brighton February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
1.2 Sailors' Snug Harbor February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
1.8 Livingston February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
2.4 West Brighton February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
3.0 Port Richmond February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953
3.4 Tower Hill February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
3.9 Elm Park February 23, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
4.3 Lake Avenue 1937 March 31, 1953[96]
4.6 Mariners Harbor Summer 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
4.9 Harbor Road 1935 – 1937 March 31, 1953[96]
5.2 Arlington Summer 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
6.1 Port Ivory 1906 1948

South Beach Branch[edit]

Main article: South Beach Branch

The South Beach Branch opened on March 8, 1886 to Arrochar, and was extended to South Beach in 1889.[14][30] The branch closed at midnight Tuesday, March 31, 1953.[95][96] It was abandoned and demolished except for three segments: a concrete embankment on on Saint John's Avenue, a trestle spanning Robin Road in South Beach, and a filled-in bridge which McClean Avenue crosses over.[64][158] This 4.1-mile (6.6 km) line left the Main Line at 40°37′08″N 74°04′18″W / 40.61889°N 74.07167°W / 40.61889; -74.07167, south of the Clifton station, and lay to the east of the Main Line.

While the entire right of way has been redeveloped, most of the former right of way is still traceable on maps today.[159] The Verrazano Narrows Bridge toll plaza sits on the former ROW.[159]

The Robin Road Trestle is the only remaining intact trestle along the former line. In the early 2000s developers purchased the property on either side of the trestle's abutments, but the developers, the New York City Department of Transportation, and the New York City Transit Authority all claimed ownership of it. Consequently, townhouses have built up against both sides of it.[48][160][161][162]

Station List[edit]

Miles Name Opened Closed Notes
2.0 Bachmann March 8, 1886 1937
2.1 Rosebank March 8, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
2.5 Belair Road March 8, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
2.7 Fort Wadsworth March 8, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
3.2 Arrochar March 8, 1886 March 31, 1953[96]
3.5 Cedar Avenue 1934[49] March 31, 1953[96]
3.9 South Beach 1889[14] March 31, 1953[96]
4.1 Wentworth Avenue 1925 March 31, 1953[96]

Mount Loretto Spur[edit]

The Mount Loretto Spur is an abandoned branch of the Staten Island Railway whose purpose was to serve the Mount Loretto Children's Home. The spur diverged off of the Main Line south of Pleasant Plains.[63] The B&O served the Mount Loretto non-electrified branch until 1950, which had some industry and a passenger station.[10][159] The Mount Loretto branch track was removed in the 1960s and 1970s but some ties were visible until the 1980s. A coal dump trestle is all that remains, located behind the powerhouse.

West Shore Line[edit]

The Tottenville-bound track south of Richmond Valley has a non-electrified spur that once ran all the way to the Arthur Kill. The spur was built in the mid 1920s and dubbed by the B&O as the West Shore Line. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) delivered building materials to the Outerbridge Crossing construction site near the Arthur Kill. Later on, the track served a small scrapyard owned by the Roselli Brothers. The track remains intact today all the way to Page Ave. The switch at the spur is well kept and working.[163][164]

Industries serviced[edit]

See also[edit]


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