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Staten Island Tablet

 

 

Staten Island Railway

South Shore Line

Ventworth Avenue to St. George

By Peggy Darlington

overview

 

The Staten Island Railway is the lone commuter rail service in the borough of Staten Island.  This service operates 24 hours a day/7 days a week between Tottenville and Saint George along 14 miles and 21 stations from end to end and is double tracked.    At the St. George terminal, the schedules are coordinated with the arrival and departures of the Staten Island Ferry, most trains arrive 5 to 7 minutes before a boat departs.  Likewise, when a boat is scheduled to arrive, the connecting SIR train departs St. George about 5-7 minutes later as well.  The fleet is comprised of retrofitted R44 cars to conform to FRA regulations and have been in service since they arrived in 1971, replacing 50 year old Baltimore & Ohio railcars . Trains make all local stops (see exceptions on Nassau and Richmond Valley stations below), while there are peak direction trains that skip some stops, all AM and PM rush trains bypass Tompkinsville and Stapleton stations because of the close proximity to St. George terminal.  The Staten Island Railway’s fare structure is unique to most transportation systems as the fares from MetroCards and single ride tickets are collected only when entering or leaving St. George or Ballpark stations.  All other stations have no fare collection, so customers can legally ride the SIR for most of the route, for free.  Before MetroCard was introduced to SIR, the method of fare collections was a collector who was responsible for collecting fares on board trains, at all times. 

History 

The Staten Island Railway’s original name was Staten Island Rapid Transit, and was along from the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad company that assumed ownership of the RR and inaugurated the first train from Tottenville to Tompkinsville on 7/31/1884.  Most of the original ROW between Clifton and Tottenville actually predates back to the 1850’s.  A year later after the 1884 opening, the greatest extension from Tompkinsville, and the framework for the 1898 consolidation of New York City was achieved with the opening of Saint George station.  Over time in the late 1880’s, the North Shore and South Beach lines were open for business as well as the B&O freight connection to Cranford NJ, via. a bridge over the Arthur Kill.  (The ROW from Arlington Yard and tracks are still active, they pass underneath the Goethals Bridge at the New Jersey end.).  The trains would run from the North Shore line and would either terminate at St. George or continue along the mainline or South Shore branches.   

But misfortunes plagued the B&O Railroad, it was saddled into debt and had to file for bankruptcy.  Eventually sold at auction, the B&O was purchased by CSX railroad in 1899, but survived long enough to operate the railroads and even the old ferry boats to the Whitehall Terminal.  However, a 1901 boating accident changed all that, and 4 years later the City of New York took over the ferry operations in 1905 (Amazingly, the accident claimed only 5 lives).  The B&O now only had to hang on to the SIRT.  Decades later, the roaring 20’s and other forces beyond their control, forced the BRT to merge operations with the BRT’s “Dual Contract” program, and scrap plans for a tunnel connection from the SIRT main line, to the “new” 4th Ave Line in Brooklyn.  The proposed line was to have a double junction from both legs of the SIRT mainline at a point near the present location of Victory Blvd, run as a tunnel to Brooklyn and along 67th Street to 4th Ave.  The bad luck continued with the advent on the 1929 Great Depression, the new age of faster and more efficient GMC Old Look buses replacing the antiquated trolley lines, and the lack of a direct connection in any form from Staten Island to Brooklyn over the decades made things worse.  The Saint George terminal suffered a fire that nearly gutted the entire station on 6/25/1946, a year later the Great Blizzard of 1947 crippled the SIRT for days, since most of the RR was built at grade back then.  The newer and faster buses also put a stranglehold on the B&O in operating the railroad, which the B&O was threatening to end all service in Staten Island.  Ridership continued to be on the decline as bus fares were cheaper than SIR.  Eventually, the city intervened and entered into an agreement with B&O to subsidize the current SIRT line (main line) from Saint George to Tottenville to keep rail service operating.  Service to the North Shore and South Beach branches closed on March 31st, 1953.  Another fire on SIRT property happened on April 5, 1962, this time 7 cars were lost at the Clifton Shop and Yard.  The 1964 opening of the world’s longest suspension bridge (at the time of opening), the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, brought a population explosion to Staten Island within the next 20 years as one of the fastest growing counties in U.S. history.  The automobile would be a mainstay from now on in Staten Island, spurring new construction.  But the SIRT was still struggling with aging equipment and soaring costs.  Finally, the final grade crossings and station at Jefferson Ave in 1966 were eliminated, marking the first time in SIRT history that the entire line was converted from at grade, to grade separated.  In 1971, the MTA took over the SIRT operations from the B&O railroad, and replaced the entire fleet in 1973 with sixty-four retrofitted R44 cars to meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations, these cars would replace the B&O SIRT cars that were in service since the 1925 electrification of the 3 lines.  The entire SIR is FRA regulated because of the track connections to freight service to New Jersey.  In the early 1990’s the T in SIRT was dropped by the MTA and NYCT, converting the name from Staten Island Rapid Transit to MTA Staten Island Railway. 

Ventworth Avenue Had one track and one side platform on the geographic South side . No further information is available

South Beach Had two tracks and two side platforms. No further information is available

Cedar Avenue Had two tracks and two side platforms. No further information is available

Arrochar Avenue Had two tracks and two side platforms. No further information is available

Ft. Wadsworth Had two tracks and two side platforms. No further information is available

Belair Had two tracks and two side platforms. No further information is available

Rosebank Had two tracks and two side platforms. No further information is available

 Just before we enter Clifton, we “merge” with the abandoned South Beach branch.  This and the North Shore line were abandoned in 1953 due to poor ridership and better bus service in Staten Island.  The South Beach line was 2 tracks and had six stations along the Staten Island’s south shore.   

Clifton (Bay Street, across from Townsend Ave, 1 block south of Vanderbilt Ave)  Embankment, side platforms, beige canopies.  The Clifton Yard is next to the N/B track, with yard leads and wayside signals to the north of this station.  The wayside signals are expected to be replaced by modern signals.  Currently the SIR is nearing completion of an extensive signal replacement program on the entire line and yard leads to Clifton Yard that will enable reverse tracking of SIR trains (only as needed, from either track) and provide faster and more reliable service.  The north end has exits on both platforms that lead to Bay Street; the S/B side has winding stairs to Townsend Ave, while the N/B end has stairs and under ROW to Midwood Ave (a block away).  The N/B also has a second staircase on Bay and Edgewater Streets, no such staircase exists on the S/B side.  On Bay Street (sidewalk level) and facing the platform above, are remains of original steps up to the old station platform.  The shelter on S/B also has an interesting look of a stationhouse from the outside, but actually a shelter while on the platform.  Some of the boarded up windows and layout of this brick shelter does suggest that it was originally a stationhouse. 

Stapleton (Prospect Street between Bay and Front Streets)  Elevated, island platform.  The north end has exit to Prospect Street and has a NYC DOT Park and Ride facility to the west side of the ROW (next to Bay Street).  The south end is sealed for unknown reasons and formerly had 2 staircases down to Cross Street or Water Street. 

Tompkinsville (East of Bay Street between end of Victory Blvd and Hannah Street)  At grade (but staircases go up for overpasses at both ends), island platform.  The north end leads to Victory Blvd and Bay Street; there is a parking lot adjacent to the S/B track side.  The south end leads to Hannah Street.  There is a 3rd track adjacent to the S/B track; it is part of a Maintenance of Way shop, with barns on both sides of this line and located south of this station.   

We leave Tompkinsville and make our way to St. George.  We now enter the only tunnel in the entire SIR system; it’s underneath the Light House Service of the United State Coast Guard.  This tunnel is about 500 feet in length.  As we leave the tunnel and see daylight again, we enter a diverging switch that will take us to the left, the track diverging to the left leads to St. George terminal while we enter Ballpark station.  This double track is the only such area within the abandoned North Shore line that sees limited, but active, service.  The actual length of this track from the cutoff to Ballpark station is only 0.2 miles long. 

Saint George (Bay Street and Richmond Terrace, inside Staten Island Ferry Terminal and parking lot.)  This station is considered open cut, since the tracks are depressed, while the 4 lane bus terminal and parking lot are both above us.  The terminal has 5 active platforms and 10 tracks; each numbered #1 through 10 from east to west.  There is also a sixth platform to the west that is now a passageway to the North Municipal Parking Field on Richmond Terrace, and towards Richmond County Ballpark, one of two access points to this station.  The track ballast is present through this construction zone.  The main access point is inside the St. George Ferry Terminal, on main level, with 17 steps down from ferry terminal to station mezzanine.  The station is ADA accessible by means of an elevator, though hard to find with the current construction going on.  The current staircase will be replaced by an expanded and slightly relocated staircase, which can be seen to the right of the existing staircase.  Going down this staircase, you can see the original MTA SIRT logo that was most likely there since the 1971 acquisition from B&O.  The mezzanine area has separate fare control areas, east side for entering passengers, and west side for exiting.  A S/A booth is available for most of the day for MetroCard sales in the same manner and purchase procedures are the same as any other S/A booth in your typical NYCT station.  MetroCard vending machines were observed inside the fare control area (for fare paying exiting customers.)  Just before each platform bay, are the old destination indicators to the left and right of each platform entrance, corresponding to each departing track.  There are green bulbs above these displays that indicate where the next train will be leaving from.  Most departures take place from tracks 1-4 while the outside tracks see very little activity for safety reasons.  Station original opened with nothing overhead, no bus bays, no ramps.  The terminal was the site of a 1949 that nearly destroyed the terminal, there may be traces of the original track locations

 

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 Last revised 02/26/2011

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