Gary Owen’s S.I.R.T. North Shore Line Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my S.I.R.T. north shore line page! I can recall- around 1975- my brother Michael, his friend “Renaud”, myself and a few others ventured down to the Port Richmond section of Staten Island. We found our way onto the ROW and explored the deteriorating tracks and the long concrete trestle. I remember it was a bright Saturday afternoon. We were playing some kind of man hunt game. The entire time we were there I was more interested in the S.I.R.T. ROW and could care less if I was captured. I kept wondering what this railroad bed was and became completely enamored with the abandoned stations along the path. Years later I attended Port Richmond High School. Alongside the sports field, the ROW runs at grade. There were many times while playing in softball class, I’d see small freight engines traveling along the line. Naturally- for me- the game stopped and I just had to watch the trains roll by. Anyway, that’s that! Now let’s take a trip on the line that was once used by both the Queen of England and Winston Churchill!

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were once three separate S.I.R.T. lines:

 

 

 

South  Shore: St. George to Tottenville

 

(still in use)

 

 

 

North Shore: St. George to Arlington / Port Ivory

 

(closed 3/31/53)

 

 

 

East Shore (South Beach): St. George to Wentworth Avenue

 

(closed 3/31/53)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can blame the smelly bus companies and their reduced fares for the closing of both the North Shore and South Beach lines. In fact, buses ruined everything for the trolleys and trains of Staten Island. At midnight on Tuesday, March 31, 1953, the last passenger trains on the North Shore and South Beach branches ended their runs. This left only the Tottenville line in service. It still serves Staten Island residents today and at certain times is quite the cozy ride.

 

 

 

I asked S.I.R.T. enthusiast Ed Bommer how the public reacted to the closing of both lines and what it was like during the final days of service:

 

 

The SIRT East Shore (South Beach) and North Shore passenger service went out with a whimper. No uproar or loud complaints. It was rather expected by the public. I also have some documentation that the B&O/SIRT wanted to drop ALL passenger service in 1953. But the city- in settling the issue- allowed the North and East shore service dropped but not Tottenville service.

 

The close of service was well advertised in advance. SIRT trains had printed notices about the discontinuance pasted on car windows and at stations from January 1, 1953. The Staten Island Advance kept everyone informed as well. The trains kept to their schedules up to midnight of the very last day (Tuesday, March 31, 1953).

 

The following AM, SIRT maintenance crews chained off all the station entrances and locked the waiting rooms. They later put steel fences across the station steps and entries, then removed the station signs.

 

Train rider ship on those sub-divisions had been low since WW II ended, except for the AM and PM rush hours.  I can remember being the only mid-day passenger between Port Richmond and Harbor Road more than once! I used to go and visit my grandmother and mow my aunt's yard on Saturdays.

 

Bus fare at the time was 7 cents. That was cheaper than the train fare at 10 cents. Also back then, a bus ride was reasonably quick, although not as fast as the train.  A lot less traffic on Island streets back then.  Nobody seemed to complain much about the loss of train service.

 

But it did seem odd to me because the City was just finishing a huge, new low income housing project at Arlington. It could have been a potential source of more riders since the nearest bus stops then were for the R107 at Forest Avenue or the R1 at Richmond Terrace, each a mile or so away from the project. The city would not get a bus route close to it until the 1960's

 

To sort of push along the end of the SIRT’s north and east shore services, the City expanded the Island's bus fleet and also the frequency of service on certain routes that paralleled the SIRT.

 

 

 

 

 

The above article from the Staten Island Advance reads:

 

 

Staten Island Advance Tuesday, March 31, 1953
 
 
The Old Order Passeth - Rails Surrender To Roads
 
 
Once there were many cars on the trains- but that was years ago-
and now there are many cars in the ferry terminal parking lot.
Buses and autos will kill off the SIRT's North Shore and South Beach lines
in a cloud of monoxide tonight at midnight,
when the railroad ends service on those runs in the face
of a steadily mounting loss in passenger traffic.
 
 
Passenger Runs On Two Lines Of SIRT Will End At Midnight
Buses are added on North, East shores:
 
 
Sixty seven years of rapid transit on the island's
north and east shores will come to an end at midnight tonight.
 
 
The SIRT, in conformity with a ruling from the
Public Service Commission, will suspend it's passenger service to
South Beach and Arlington, retaining only it's south shore branch to Tottenville.
 
City buses are in readiness to fill the gap.
Thirteen extra vehicles have been added to the
Richmond terrace and Bay street routes during rush hours
to carry an estimated 1,200 commuters who no longer can use the railroad.
 
The last train to Arlington will leave St. George
at 11:30 PM arriving at the railroad yard 16 minutes later.
At 11:36, the final passenger train to travel over north shore track
will leave the Arlington terminal for St. George pulling in at 11:53.
 
On the east shore, the last train will get underway from St. George at 11:15,
rolling into the Wentworth Avenue station, South Beach at 11:30.
Nine minutes later it will start the final trip to St. George,
arriving five minutes before midnight.
 
The curtailment of passenger service will mean a loss of jobs
to more than 40 SIRT employees. Stations on the two lines
will be closed down and probably razed eventually.
 
The inauguration of extra North Shore and South Beach
bus service will bring Sidney H. Bingham, chairman of
the Board Of Transportation, to St. George early tomorrow morning.
He will check incoming rush-hour buses at the ferry terminal
to determine if service is adequate.
 
 
 
 
 

At the St. George terminus, each line used it’s own respective tracks. The South Beach line used tracks 1 through 4, whereas 5 through 9 were used for Tottenville trains and 10 through 12 for Arlington / Port Ivory.  The S.I.R.T. north shore line opened sometime during the 1880’s. This line took passengers to and from the Arlington section of Staten Island. People in that area could take the ride to the ferry terminal. Once they arrived, they could transfer to the boats bound for Manhattan and Brooklyn or cross over the platforms and take a train to either Tottenville or South Beach. The north shore line also connected Staten Island with New Jersey via Cranford Junction. In 1925, the S.I.R.T. electrified all three of it’s passenger lines. On May 11, 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used the North Shore Branch en route to a meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington DC after his ship had landed in Tompkinsville. On October 21, 1957, four years after the line had closed, a young Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip rode a special B&O train from Washington DC along the abandoned North Shore Branch to Stapleton to start their royal visit to New York City. It is interesting to note that a small section of the line was re-opened for a station that serves the minor league baseball stadium of the Staten Island Yankees.

 

During the day, very few people rode the North Shore and

South Beach lines. On the North Shore, their busiest times (rating 2 and occasionally 3 car trains) was for the AM and PM commuter runs.

A single car would travel during the mid-day and off-hours. Sometimes a train made a complete round trip with no passengers at any stops. But since it was running on a set schedule, the trains had to stop anyway,

 

By 1949, the SIRT no longer had staffed ticket offices at any of the North Shore stations except for Arlington. Stations that had ticket agents and waiting rooms in 1948 and before were New BrightonWest New Brighton, Port Richmond, Tower HillElm Park, Mariners Harbor and Arlington. The others (Snug Harbor, Livingston, Lake Avenue  and Harbor Road) did not and were usually treated as 'flag' stops. If someone was waiting on the platform, the train would stop. If not, it would slow down to a walk. The conductor would hit the buzzer two times if nobody was getting off and the motorman would accelerate to the next station. If the buzzer did not sound the train would stop.

 

Unlike the South Beach line which has been completely de-mapped, most of the north shore line is still intact. Sometime during the 1950’s or ‘60’s, the Arlington bound tracks were pulled up leaving only the tracks which led to St. George in place today. The abandoned stations remained standing but as times passed, one by one they were razed. However, some still stand today but are in advanced state of disrepair. Nowadays, Staten Island is suffering from a severe overload of traffic on it’s streets and highways. With all hope of reviving the South Beach line crushed (DUMB MOVE BUILDING HOUSES ON IT!), there is talk of re-opening the North Shore line. It would also re-connect to New Jersey via both the Arthur Kill and possibly….…wait for it……..Bayonne bridges. That would be rather convenient but the usual problems are in the way as some of the line is now on private property. Let’s not forget how much cash would have to be used to restore it.

 

So let’s travel back in time and take the journey!

 

The distance in miles from each station to the St. George ferry terminal has been included.

 

 

 

St. George Terminal

 

 
 
 
A pre-electrification photo of trains on 
the north shore shore platforms at the St. George Terminal
 
 
 
Here are two S.I.R.T. transfers that were used for 
passengers traveling to and from the North Shore to South Beach. 

The transfers were provided by Ed Bommer, who has this story to share about these rare items:

 

 

Here is how a Port Richmond boy (ME!) traveled to South Beach on

ONE FARE in the summertime when I was 11 or 12 (1950/1951).

Fare was 10 cents. Passengers asked the North Shore conductor for a South Beach transfer when you paid your fare. He would give you a time-punched  transfer like the top one. You gave this transfer to the conductor of the South Beach train at St. George. It was important to take the very next South Beach train at St. George to be eligible for the "Continuous Passage." Dawdle at the terminal and miss that connection? The transfer would not be good anymore! It was time punched.

Coming back home it was the reverse: ask the South Beach conductor for a transfer to Port Richmond.

 
 
 
 
We are pulling into the first station 
on the S.I.R.T. North Shore line…
 
 
 
 
New Brighton
 
 
 
The New Brighton station (0.7 miles) was located
at Richmond Terrace and Westervelt avenue.
 
 
 
 
The entrance to the New Brighton station was through this building. 
Sign reads: “S.I.R.T. Passenger And Freight Office”.
 
 
 
An earlier view of the entrance around 1918.
 
 
 
Two photos of single car trains hugging the 
million dollar wall” at the New Brighton station. 
Photo taken from overhead walkway.
 
 
 
 
Here’s a color photograph of a St. George 
bound train stopped at the New Brighton station.
 
 
 
The New Brighton station looms large in the background 
during grade crossing elimination (February, 1937). 
All the buildings on the right were eventually razed.
 

 

 

 

Near the New Brighton station- which can be spotted by the overhead walkway in the distance- an overpass to Richmond Terrace is being built during grade crossing elimination (January, 1937).

 

 

 

Almost done (May, 1937).

 

 

 

An Arlington bound train passing through the US Gypsum plant located between New Brighton and Sailors' Snug Harbor about 1950.

US Gypsum expanded in the 1920's by building a new part of the factory over the North Shore tracks. It created a second 'tunnel' on the SIRT.

 

 

 

2007 Aerial view of where the New Brighton station once stood.

 

 

 

 

 

As we travel down the line, we arrive at……….

 

 

 

 

 

Sailor’s Snug Harbor

 

 

 

 

 

The Sailor’s Snug Harbor station (1.2 miles) was/is located on Richmond Terrace. This station served the former Old Sailor’s home which is now a park and cultural center. The remnants of the station still stand today.

 

 

 

 

Looking west from the Sailor’s Snug Harbor station

towards the small boathouse dock around 1905-

twenty years before the SIRT electrified all three of it’s lines.

 

 

 

Facing west towards the Sailor’s Snug Harbor station.

Pre-electrification.

 

 

 

The SIRT ROW hugs the shoreline near

the Snug Harbor station circa 1932.

 

 

 

An easterly view of the

Snug Harbor boathouse circa 1932.

 

 

 

The boathouse in the early 1930’s.

 

 

 

Another easterly view of the tracks and

the boathouse at Snug Harbor in the early 1930’s.

 

 

 

An undated view of an Arlington bound train

at the Sailor’s Snug Harbor station.

The boathouse in the earlier photos is no longer there.

 

 

 

A St. George bound train

approaches the Snug Harbor Station.

 

 

 

A single Arlington bound car passes

the foundation of the former boathouse

just beyond the Snug Harbor station.

 

 

 

A St. George bound train approaches

the Sailor’s Snug Harbor Station.

 

 

 

During the spring of 2007, my brother Brian and I

ventured to the Sailor’s Snug Harbor station and

took some photos of the ornate wall structure.

Someday, someone is going to explain to me

what possesses people to spray paint all over the place.

 

 

 

There is a still a small boating dock

at the abandoned Sailor’s Snug Harbor station.

 

 

 

Nearby, a good portion of the tracks have been destroyed by years of neglect and the relentlessness of the Kill Van Kull.

 

 

 

 

 

As we venture along, we find ourselves arriving at…..

 

 

 

 

Livingston

 

 

 

 

The Livingston station (1.8 miles) was located at

Bard Avenue and Richmond Terrace.

 

 

 

 

This is an 1890's-1900's photo of the Staten Island Athletic Club boathouse which was located east of the Livingston station.  The wet area to the right is from SIRT having to build its tracks out into the Kill Van Kull. The wealthy retired sea captains- then living along the Shore Road (later named Richmond Terrace)- objected to the company trying to buy the horse car line rights for putting tracks in the street. So, George Law ("St. George") and Erastus Wiman- in building the SIRT- bought the riparian (shore line) rights instead and built the track out over the water for about 2 miles on rock fill. 

The wet area to the right was later filled in.

 

 

 

A view facing east from

the Livingston station circa 1910.

The Snug Harbor boathouse is beyond the long trestle

but the Staten Island Athletic Club is no longer there.

The area under the bridge was filled in (see next photo) but in

recent years has been washed away again.

 

 

 

The same view around 1953.

 

 

 

The Livingston station in 1936. It was- essentially-

an old Victorian house attached to two platforms.

The house was once owned by the Livingston family.

Hence the name of the station.

 

 

 

A crowd gathers at the Livingston station in 1930

to watch the Gulf Oil Refinery burn in Bayonne, New Jersey.

 

 

 

 

A view of the Livingston station from

Richmond Terrace and Bard Avenue in 1930.

 

 

 

Leaving the Livingston station

towards St. George around 1947.

 

 

 

With all traces of the Livingston station gone and a gas station and RH Tug's restaurant now standing on the site, the deteriorating tracks are now merely a remnant of what once was. However, in more recent years, the restaurant has actually restored the small section of track behind the establishment…..just to make it look tidy. This photo was taken in 1993- before the restoration.

 

 

 

And the tracks after restoration by RH Tug's.

Photos taken August 24, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the sojourn continues, here we are at…

 

 

 

 

West New Brighton

 

 

 

 

The West New Brighton station (2.4 miles) was located at Richmond Terrace between North Burgher Avenue and Broadway.

 

 

As is the case with most collections, there is always that one elusive piece of the puzzle that refuses to surface. Such is the case of the West New Brighton station. In fact, of all the stations on the three passenger lines, West New Brighton is the only one I have never seen at all. Somebody please help! I do have some photos taken in the vicinity of the station so they will have to do for now. SIRT enthusiast Ed Bommer says: "The West New Brighton station was basically a stop for workers at the nearby Caddell Dry Dock & Shop Building Corp. For the most part, trains rarely stopped there in either direction other than for shift changes at Caddell's. The main gate entry into their yard was also the only grade crossing left on the North Shore line. In the 1950s on approaching WNB, the motorman slowed the train. If no one was getting off and the platform was empty, the conductor would hit the buzzer two times. The motorman would then speed up and continue without stopping. Unless of course the train was running a bit early. Then a stop was made. The doors were opened, then shut and train continued on. The slight delay in doing that helped put the train back 'on time.' The WNB station was all wood and built on a curve. The east bound platform to St. George had a small waiting room and in the 1940s, a ticket agent also. While fairly close to Richmond Terrace, it was not directly on it but about a half-block walk in toward the Kill van Kull. I never got a good view of it. But it may have looked a bit like the old Tower Hill station, before grade crossing elimination work was done on the North Shore line".

 

 

 

Hooray! I have finally found something! Here is a 1924 aerial view of the West New Brighton station one year prior to electrification. The station (center), had an overhead walk way with two platforms. It served the industries of the area. The long path- which stretches to Richmond Terrace- is now part of a driveway. Not the greatest of photos but we’ll take what we can!

 

 

 

Here's a circa 1930 of the West New Brighton Freight yards. The station was located further east of this area.

 

 

 

A St. George bound train in

West New Brighton around 1946.

 

 

 

 

This is Bodine creek in West New Brighton before

grade crossing elimination.

 

 

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new at Bodine Creek.

 

 

 

The West New Brighton station was situated where

the containers and truck stand in this photo.

 

 

 

Standing near or on the platform,

we see a St. George bound train leaving

the West New Brighton station. Come on guy!

Turn around and take a photo of the station itself!

 

 

 

 

It is near this point on the north shore line

that the S.I.R.T. becomes an elevated railroad.

 

 

 

 

During grade crossing elimination, the  S.I.R.T. built a cement viaduct/trestle which still stands today. Here it is while under construction near Bodine street in West New Brighton

(February, 1936).

 

 

 

A little bit further west, work continues (February, 1936).

 

 

 

The placing of the support pillars

for the viaduct/trestle at Maple Avenue in 1935.

 

 

 

Facing the other way At Maple (September, 1935).

 

 

 

With the ROW still at grade, S.I.R.T. workers excavate

for the viaduct/trestle at Richmond terrace in 1935.

 

 

 

At Richmond Terrace, workers waterproof

the viaduct on February 28, 1936.

 

 

 

The construction of the Richmond terrace

trestle continues in 1936.

 

 

 

The finished product in 1937.

 

 

 

Workers survey the viaduct/trestle as a

St. George bound S.I.R.T. train zips by in this undated photo.

 

 

 

Another view of the viaduct (July 21, 1937).

 

 

 

 

We are now approaching the first of two

elevated stations of the S.I.R.T. north shore line…

 

 

 

 

Port Richmond

 

 

 

The Port Richmond station (3.0 miles) - which still stands today- is located at Park Avenue and Church Street.

 

 

Looking toward Arlington at Port Richmond before electrification, about 1920. Richmond Terrace is the grade crossing here. Note the trolley pole guards along the wire over the tracks. Port Richmond station was originally located between Richmond Terrace and Park Avenue. This was the major shopping area in the 1890's-1910's. When the concrete viaduct was put up, the station was relocated between Park Avenue and Richmond Avenue, which became the new updated shopping area in the 1920's and 30's. 

 

 

 

A view of the old wooden Port Richmond station

facing St. George in 1935.

 

 

 

A freight train rolls over the new

Park Avenue trestle towards St. George.

The temporary Port Richmond station is at right.

 

 

 

The construction of the elevated

Port Richmond station (October, 1936).

 

 

 

The same scene 31 years later with the abandoned

Port Richmond station as it stood in 1967.

 

 

 

The temporary Port Richmond station being built during grade crossing elimination and the construction of the viaduct/trestle.

The old station and the roof of a passing train can be seen below

and to the right of the temporary station. Photo taken in 1936.

 

 

 

Two views of single car trains near the

new and improved” Port Richmond station.

 

 

 

 

Above right, the “new and improved” Port Richmond station

atop the viaduct at Park and Church streets.

 

 

 

Waiting for a train to take us to St. George at

the Port Richmond station on July 21, 1937.

 

 

 

Two similar photographs of St. George bound

trains leaving the Port Richmond station.

 

 

 

 

The abandoned Port Richmond station in April, 2007.

 

 

 

The abandoned Port Richmond station platform.

 

 

 

2007 Aerial view of the abandoned Port Richmond station.

 

 

 

A bit beyond the station and we see

Port Richmond Avenue and Ann Street in 1930. 

Starting around 1935, the SIRT would eliminate grade crossings.

The old Dutch Reform church still stands today.

 

 

 

Same place- in 1936- during grade crossing elimination.

Here we see police and work men

guiding traffic on Port Richmond avenue as

the construction of the viaduct/trestle continues.

 

 

 

The original ROW is still in use but the viaduct is nearly complete (1936). A train is expected shortly as the crossing gates are down.

 

 

 

Beyond the Port Richmond station,

heading towards Arlington.

 

 

 

 

 

Just one quarter of a mile and we roll into…

 

 

 

 

Tower Hill

 

 

 

 

The Tower Hill station (3.4 miles) - which still stands-

is located between Treadwell and Sharpe avenues.

 

 

 

 

This is where Tower Hill station got its name.

Mrs. Jenny Faber was the widow of a patent holder

for making lead pencils in the 1880's.

Eberhard-Faber pencils are still made today but

no longer in the family's Brooklyn, NY factory.

This house was deeded to the city after Mrs. Faber passed away.

It was torn down and its grounds became

Faber Park and Pool in the 1930's.

 

 

 

Two rare views of the original (and quaint) Tower Hill station

as it stood at the corner of Sharpe Avenue

and Grove Avenue. First photo taken in 1923.

 



 

 

At Treadwell avenue, the placing of 

viaduct slabs continues (November 18, 1935).

 

 

 

 

Construction of the Nicholas avenue

trestle on November 5, 1935.

 

 

 

The completed Nicholas avenue trestle (July 21, 1937)

 

 

 

The “new and improved” Tower Hill station stands in the distance in a view taken near the Nicholas Avenue trestle in August, 1937.

The spur to the left led to a coal yard

and possibly remained intact until the 1970’s.

 

 

 

Two views of the abandoned elevated

Tower Hill station in 1964.

 

 

 

 

The abandoned Tower Hill station around 2004.

 

 

 

The Bayonne Bridge looms large as seen from

the abandoned Tower Hill station.

 

 

 

Another shot of the abandoned Tower Hill station.

 

 

 

Just beyond this point, the S.I.R.T. north shore line

returns to grade and eventually depresses below grade.

 

 

 

Approaching John Street on June 7, 1937.

 

 

 

Looking east from the John Street overpass, June 7, 1937.

 

 

 

See you at the next station……

 

 

 

Gary Owen’s S.I.R.T. North Shore Line Page Part Two