Kevin’s Komments 03/10/23

In my searches for info on the Cincinnati Northern, I had been looking at some of the early short lines in Ohio that ended up merged into either the CNor or lines it crossed. An example would be the Columbus & Zenia RR, one of the earliest railroads in Ohio, which ended up part of the PRR. But distractions come quickly when a few nice pics drift in during the research. I ended up on a detour that took me to the Staten Island Ry, better known as Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT). When looking for small railroads packed with history and operations, I found SIRT to be near the top of the list!

Here’s a couple maps of SIRT, the first taken from the 1952 timetable, and the second representing the line in 1965. The line runs from St George (North end) to Tottenville (South end) with branches going East to South Beach, and West to Port Ivory. The B&O owned and operated the line from around 1894 to 1971.

Port Ivory is of interest to Cincinnatians because that’s a major production plant for Proctor & Gamble. This is the B&O bridge near Port Ivory that crosses Great Arthur Kill to New Jersey. The original bridge was a swing bridge – this lift bridge replaced the swing bridge in 1951.

This is a pic of the swing bridge which was destroyed during an oil tanker collision.

The 1889 swing bridge was the first bridge between New Jersey and New York and it was the world’s largest swing bridge when built.

Here is a photo of a two car SIRT train at the Procter & Gamble Port Ivory Station, about 1948. It wears an “ARLINGTON” sign, because of the rebuilding of the St. George Terminal after the 1946 fire. Note the third rail in the shadow below platform to right of steps. E. Bommer collection

There was also a rail car ferry at Port Ivory that was owned by P&G, and operated by the B&O. The ferry was used primarily for transporting P&G products, but in 1924, it was used to remove all the streetcars from Staten Island.

The first car floats for SIRT were built at St George when Cornelius Vanderbilt owned the RR in the 1860s. The floats moved cars from St George Terminal to several locations on Long Island and Jersey City. This pic from St George Terminal shows the SIRT tunnel yard throat tracks & semaphore signals c. 1946. I believe this is the tunnel that connects St George Terminal to Stapleton.

Again at St George, 1946, SIRT MU cars are shown with the coaling tower in the background.

Going back a few years earlier to 1921, B&O #1183, a Class D23 Baldwin 0-6-0, navigates through St. George Terminal – Collection: Dave Keller. This photo connects us to the camelback study. Being 1921, #1183 didn’t have many years left before the camelbacks were removed from general service.

Here’s another 1921 photo, this time of B&O #1347, a Class B-8 Baldwin 4-6-0 (not the camelback) at St. George Terminal – Collection: Dave Keller.

At St George Terminal, Staten Island RR 4-4-0 camelback #32 sits close to the coal tower and watering pipes.  This pic shows the two RR lettering schemes displayed on the line during the steam era.  Some were lettered for Staten Island, and some were lettered as B&O locos (behind the camelback).

Getting to the passenger facilities, this is the Staten Island Rapid Transit station in St George. Most of the passenger service on the Staten Island Railway runs along the east side of the borough, operating full-time local service between St. George and Tottenville. The Staten Island Railway was named Staten Island Rapid Transit until 1994. (From the Collection of the Staten Island Museum)

I believe this is also a pic of St George station. That’s SIRT steam loco #10 pushing some old wood passenger cars. I believe that’s a view of St. George Terminal behind the station.

If we leave St George on the East coast line, and just beyond Clifton, go down the South Beach branch, we find Arrochar station (photographed in the 1940s). This station was shuttered in 1953.  The name “Arrochar” comes from the estate of W.W. MacFarland of the clan MacFarland in the 1840s, who developed the area and named it for his home village of Arrochar in Scotland.  Photo courtesy Anthony Paonita. 

Getting back to the main line, this is a small camelback (probably a 4-4-0) pulling wood coaches and a combine through Grasmere, 1919. Grasmere is a little south on the East coast from Clifton and St George. This is the first photo I’ve seen in a long time that shows telltales on both tracks back near the first coach.

This B&O Special Train is at New Dorp station, 1930. (Classic Trains)

A little South of New Dorp is Oakwood. This vintage photo shows the crossing at Guyton Ave.

Going still further South, we catch the crossing at Richmond Ave in Eltingville.

Here’s a pick of one of those small SIRT steamers pulling a commuter train at the Eltingville station, 1926.

Here’s a rapid transit station somewhere on the east coast line – I wasn’t able to identify which station.

This pic of a B&O Special train on Staten Island tracks was taken in 1930 (Classic Trains).

…and probably 3 to 4 decades later – here’s a similar pic of a commuter train on the line. (Note: The color of the MU cars about matches the color of the rails, ties, and roadbed. The dirt/rock exposed on the hillside is also the same color. This reflects the dirt and dust kicking up and coating everything. It also shows that the ballast is likely from locally available sources.)

Finally, we get to the South terminus at Tottenville. (From the Collection of the Staten Island Museum) I believe there were car floats at Tottenville that crossed over Arthur Kills to New Jersey. Again, the small steamer is pulling old wood coaches.

Now…anyone who knows me, knows that when I see some interesting steam locos, I have to check out the roster…Staten Island Railway #21, 2-4-0.

Here’s another photo of Staten Island Rapid Transit #21, circa 1880

Staten Island Rapid Transit steam engine #14 prior to electrification of the line.

SIRT #16 is similar.

We mentioned that both Staten Island and B&O locos traveled the line – B&O 0-6-0 Camelback #1180 at St George Terminal, 1933 (Collection: Dave Keller). (1933 is very late for a camelback. I suspect at this point, #1180 is only doing yard errands.)

Another pic of #1180. Similar B&O camelbacks that worked the SIRT were #1181, #1182, #1183 (shown several pics above), and #1184. This pic was taken in 1944 – well past when camelbacks should have been retired. The pics in the B&O roster website show these five locos on SIRT track from the late ‘30s to this pic in ’44. The tracks were electrified by that point, so these locos were probably doing yard chores in St George and Clifton.

B&O #1243 is a Class B-8 4-6-0 built by Baldwin in 1893. In this pic, it sits in front of the St George coaling tower.

Here’s #1343 in 1935 still working in Parkersburg, WV.

B&O #316 is a Class D-1, 0-6-0 Alco built in 1886.   This photo is from July 1939 – St. George Terminal, Staten Island, NY.  As we saw on the map, this is the island’s most northern point and where a ferry connects to Manhattan.  Steam was replaced with third rail electricity in 1925, so the steamers were likely bringing freight in across the B&O swing bridge, or working the yards and car floats at St George and Clifton.

Another pic of #316. (The fireman side cylinder has taken a ding.) It looks like a wood boxcar or reefer in front. The brake wheel is still on top even thought the switcher shows an air pump in the front. (Maybe keeping those telltales around was important!)

Moving on from a glance at the steam roster, here’s another pic of the coaling tower at St George Terminal, 1946. This is well after the electrification of the line (1925), which probably explains the inactivity at the tower. However, we saw that the camelbacks were still working the yard well past electrification, and I suspect there were still steam engine led B&O trains coming across the Port Ivory bridge and into St George terminal.

As we move to more moder railroading, we see B&O aka Staten Island Alco S-2 No. 9031 switching cars.

…And diesels still worked the line along with the electrified rapid transit trains. During the blizzard of 1978, diesel switcher #407 is pressed into service to lead a commuter train. (Staten Island Advance/Robert Parsons).

This modern pic shows activity just East of St George – the caption reads:  “SIR BL20G #776 was helping with some MoW work near VICTORY interlocking and was needed to shove a pair of MoW flatcars off the Tompkinsville and through VICTORY interlocking towards St George.  A Slow Approach indication was displayed on the 14W-2 signal leading to an Advance Approach on the 12W signal.”

While the line still runs rapid transit from St. George down the East coast to Tottenville, I believe the South Beach branch is closed along with a portion of the line east of St George.  Between St. George and West Brighton the SIRT tracks are close to the Kill van Kull and the waves have taken their toll, with smashed up ties and bent rails. Three photos: Joe Resse

When you look at the history of SIRT, the line transitioned through several owners starting with Vanderbilt.  The B&O operated it for almost 90 years.  And, one of the last pics shows the current owner MTA still operating the rapid transit system down the east coast.  I believe there is still railroad freight traffic moving across the bridge to Port Ivory.  I’m not sure if some of the rail car floats are still active.  And, the scenery varies from the shoreline, to urban, to the rock tunnel that connects St George to Stapleton.  While rapid transit was the main operation, there was also a lot of freight movement across the bridge and at the car floats.  It was said that the rapid transit system was run like a subway system from its founding, except that the only run underground was at the tunnel east of St George – SIRT could be considered the oldest continually operated “subway” system in New York (1851 to the present).



Total Page Visits: 191 - Today Page Visits: 17