Gary Owen’s S.I.R.T South Beach Line Page

Part Two

 

 

 

Welcome to part two!

 

 

 

We are now approaching…

 

 

Arrochar

 

 

 

The Arrochar station (pronounced - AHH-ro-car)

was located at Major avenue (3.2 miles).

 

 

 

Departing the Arrochar station in the late 1940’s.

 

 

 

Two people pose for the camera on the St. George bound

platform of the Arrochar station in 1943.

The stairwell to the right leads up to Major avenue.

 

 

 

The cozy Arrochar station as it was in 1947. 

Most of the rural background is now the

Verrazano Narrows Bridge toll plaza.

Photo taken from the Major avenue overpass.

 

 

 

 

A St. George bound train stops

at the Arrochar station in 1947.

I believe the houses to the left still stand today.

 

 

 

 

A South Beach bound train just beyond the Arrochar station

in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.

 

 

 

 

Another view of a South Beach

bound train leaving the Arrochar station.

Photo taken from the McClean Avenue overpass.

NOTE: This photo- which may have been taken on

the last day of service (3/31/53)-

is incorrectly listed on a few websites

as Lake Avenue (north shore line).

Compare this to the previous photo and see what I mean.

 

 

 

 

By 1964, all that remained was the staircase which once led to the Arrochar station. The displaced dirt- from the construction of the approach to the Verrazano Bridge- had taken over.

 

 

 

 

As we continue down the line, we come across McClean avenue.

 

 

“Starry, starry night, paint your palette blue and gray….”

 

 

Oops! Wrong McClean!

 

 

There was once an overpass here as evidenced by this photo.

It’s now filled in to accommodate new houses and a restaurant.

What’s with all the houses going up on Staten Island?

At this rate, the island’s going to sink.

Enough already!

 

 

 

 

An aerial view of the filled in right of way and the new housing. The bridge can still be detected by the cement in the middle of McClean avenue. I’ll bet it’s still intact underneath.

 

 

 

 

At McClean and Railroad Avenue circa 1936.

 

 

 

 

The scene today.

 

 

 

 

The abandonded ROW at the McClean Avenue bridge

with the Major Avenue overpass in the distance.1964.

 

 

 

 

Next stop

 

 

 

Cedar Avenue

 

 

 

The Cedar Avenue station was located at Cedar Avenue and Jackson place (approximately 3.6 miles).

 

 

 

A South Beach bound train stops at

the original wooden Cedar Avenue station in 1935.

Photo taken from the McClean avenue overpass.

 

 

 

 

The original wooden platforms of

the Cedar Avenue station in April, 1936.

 

 

 

The construction of the new Cedar Avenue station in 1937.

 

 

 

By Autumn, the New Cedar Avenue station and

overhead walk were up and running.

 Photo taken October,1937.

 

 

 

Approaching the Cedar Avenue station on

the last day of service:

Tuesday, March 31st, 1953.

McClean & Major Avenue overpasses

are visible in the background.

 

 

 

A view down the ROW towards South Beach

from Cedar and Retner Avenues. April 20, 1937

 

 

 

A St. George bound train arrives

at the Cedar Avenue station. This photo may have been

taken on the last day of service (3/31/53).

 

 

 

Same view of the abandoned Cedar Avenue

station in 1965. When this photo was taken,

the station had been sitting dormant for 12 years.

 

 

 

In 1967, the dead Cedar Avenue station

platforms continued to stand silently.

 

 

 

And so we thank you for visiting Cedar Avenue.

 

 

As we go along

 

 

…we find ourselves at the Robin road trestle in April, 1937.

 

 

 

The abandoned Robin road trestle facing South Beach in 1965-

waiting patiently for reactivation that would never come.

 

 

 

Facing St. George in 1967…and still it waited in vain...

 

 

 

And 1971……..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

 

 

 

However! Jump ahead forty-some-odd-years

and we find something a bit peculiar

 

 

 

 The Robin road trestle alive and well in the 21st century!

 

 

 

Don’t even ask what the powers that be were thinking but as of this late date, November, 2012, the trestle still spans Robin road and stands defiant between the houses that killed off the South Beach branch right of way. It seems it will cost a little too much to demolish the thing and none of the folks from either side of the street knows whose property it truly stands on. Go figure. The Robin road trestle is the last remaining intact train bridge on the South Beach line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial view of the Robin road trestle.

 

 

 

 

Now we’re making a sharp turn to the southwest

and pulling into our next station…

 

 

 

South Beach

 

 

 

The South Beach station was located at Sand Lane (3.9 miles). This was the terminus for the crowds that would venture to the amusement parks...or was it?

 

 

 

Here is a 1907 Borough Hall survey for the area

around the SIRT South Beach station. Notice the station was also a terminus for the Southfield Beach Railroad. This company ran a trolley line across the marshes and meadows from

South to Midland Beaches. Passengers arriving at South Beach could simply cross the platform and travel the extra mile or so to Midland Beach. Twas rather convenient, yes?

 

 

 

It seems that during July 1901- while the construction of it’s ROW was being built-  the Southfield Beach Railroad Company

ran into a few snags. click on the following links

to read some archived articles from the New York Times.

These are Adobe PDF files, you will need Adobe Reader to open them:

 

 

 

June 16, 1901

 

July 15, 1901

 

 

 

A steam engine pulls into the South Beach station in 1924.

One year later, the S.I.R.T. would electrify all three branches.

 

 

 

Here we see steam engine #16 at the South Beach station

before electrification of all three lines. Pre- 1925.

 

 

 

Another shot of a single S.I.R.T. train

rolling towards Sand Lane and South Beach station.

 

 

 

Here is the South Beach power sub-station in the mid 1920’s. It was at these facilities that the electrical current used for the trains was converted from AC to DC. 

 

 

 

                     Here is the sub-station as it stood abandoned in 1967.

The dirt and gravel trail is the original ROW.

 

 

 

And the sub-station in it’s final days in the 1980’s - 90’s

 

 

 

 

Sand Lane during the 1930’s

 

 

 

And again during the 1940’s or ‘50’s.

 

 

 

This next photo was taken by S.I.R.T. fan

Steve Meyers circa late 1952…

…and there’s a story behind it:

 

 

 

The New York City Transit Authority, having taken over the privately

owned and operated bus system on Staten Island, drastically reduced

fares and was on the verge of knocking the SIRT out of business.

Realizing what the loss of the rail system would mean to the Staten

Islanders, the NYCTA made a minor concession-they wouldn't

compete directly with the SIRT'S main line to Tottenville,. This left the

railroad with only one of their three lines protected and so they applied

for abandonment of the South Beach and the Arlington branches.

And so it came to pass that I and my photo buddy, Will Faxon, found

ourselves at the grade crossing at the outer end of the South Beach line,

taking photos of the operation. After covering the area pretty well, we

were perplexed as to why the crossing gates were not operating but were

manned by a gateman. This was doubly odd since the base service was

then only using single car trains. So we asked the gateman. He told us,

in highly Italian accented English that the line always used gatemen

after the summer rush was over; apparently it was less expensive

than using mechanical gates. Then he shyly asked me

if I would take a photograph of him "to send to my family in the old country".

I quickly agreed at which point he disappeared into his shack for a moment,

emerging, not only with his red caution flag but also with a tall STOP sign.

And he was grandly wearing his official, dusty, obviously rarely used,

 official crossing guard hat. Proudly, he posed when the next train came down the line,

 his face glowing with happiness that somebody cared enough to notice him in

his position of importance at a lonely railroad crossing in Staten Island.

I don't recall if he ever received his copy of the photo I sent to him in

care of the SIRT but I was proud as anything to have captured such a

memorable moment on film. And if you check the internet for photos of

the SIRT in action, you'll probably see a copy of this picture, taken as a

railroad was about to lose some of the pride and glamour that made

railroading such an interesting subject.

 

Steve Meyers, March 2011

 

 

 

 

Thank you Steve!

 

 

 

 

A different S.I.R.T. worker, wearing his amazing pink sweater

and checkered cap, stops traffic at the Sand Lane crossing.

Again, the power sub-station is at the right.

Photo taken last day of service. Gee, what day could that be?

 

 

 

Two views of the South Beach station in the early 1930’s.

 

 

 

 

Here’s one I had to cut in two as my

scanner is too wimpy to handle larger photographs.

It shows a bird’s eye view of the South Beach station facing Sand Lane.

The photo was most likely taken in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.

 

 

 

 

A single car (#303) stops at the South Beach station

on it’s way to the end of the line on the last day of service:

Tuesday, March 31, 1953.

By now I am sure you have memorized that date.

 

 

 

Candid shots of two-car trains at the

South Beach station. The first in 1949 and the second undated.

99.9% of the photos I have seen of

the South Beach line feature single-car trains.

The power sub-station stands in the background.

 

 

 

 

An S.I.R.T. conductor calls out from the back of

a St. George bound train at the South Beach station.

 

 

 

Two-car rush hour train arrives

at the South Beach station.

 

 

 

A train leaving the South Beach station at Sand Lane.

 

 

 

A terrific shot of the South Beach station facing towards the end of the line. Hey! There’s that guy again! The next day, our friend would be in search of a new job as this photo was taken- you guessed it- 3/31/53. Still, we’ll fondly remember his pink sweater and checkered cap.

 

 

 

South Beach station again.

Last day of service, perhaps?

 

 

 

A group of kids gather to watch a single train

leave South Beach on the last day of service. 

Service ended at midnight but during the afternoon,

Mr. Stop Sign was still doing his job.

 

 

 

An undated photo of the crossing at Sand Lane.

This could be after the line was abandoned.

 

 

 

A depressing scene.

The South Beach station as it stood rotting away.

Photo taken mid 1950's to mid-1960’s.

 

 

 

 

We’re not finished yet…

 

 

 

An S.I.R.T. train rolls beyond the South Beach station.

 

 

 

And another on 12/24/32.

 

 

 

A lonely S.I.R.T. train travels beyond

the South Beach station on a cold Winter’s day.

 

 

An interesting view back towards the South Beach station.

 

 

 

 

But wasn’t this the end of the line?

 

 

Not quite.

 

 

This next and last station on the South Beach line was the shortest- and quite possibly the coolest- rapid transit station in the world.

 

 

 

Wentworth Avenue

 

 

 

Yes! The mighty Wentworth Avenue station (approximately 4.1 miles). It was more of a hiccup on the line that took passengers one extra stop beyond South Beach. It was added in 1925 when the S.I.R.T. electrified it’s three lines. It looked like an outhouse atop a wooden platform and was only large enough to accommodate one door of a single train. It stood majestically near what is now a smelly marsh area that still exists today. Nature has erased all traces of where the station once stood. This includes the extended thoroughfares of the adjacent streets and access road as we will see shortly.

 

I asked Ed Bommer if he had ever traveled to or from the Wentworth Avenue station and what it was like after sunset. Here is his response:

 

 

 

No, I never did ride to or get on at Wentworth Ave.

There were some people who did, as they lived in that area, beyond South Beach.

South Beach at night was pretty well lit up (especially just before and after WW II) with its boardwalk, rides and other entertainments.

During WW II it was kept dimmed and darkened because of the German U-boats off of Sandy Hook that torpedoed several ships leaving NY Harbor.

 

Wentworth Ave did have electric lights but there was no electrical switch for them at the station.

They were controlled by the ticket agent at the South Beach station.

 

When ticket agents weren't needed anymore, the crew of the first train in would turn the lights on.

The crew of the last train out for the day would turn them off.

This was true for many SIRT stations.

 

 

 

An S.I.R.T. train at the Wentworth Avenue station ready to begin it’s journey back to the St. George ferry. Notice the telephone poles in the background. This was actually an access road that connected with four other streets. Today, three of the four have been reclaimed by nature. Photo taken on the last day of service- tuesday, March 31, 1953………….the day that will live in infamy!

 

 

 

Here’s a color slide circa 1953. We are looking southwest towards what is now Father Capodanno Blvd.

Since the Wentworth Avenue sign is missing,

I wonder if this was taken after the line closed?

 

 

 

Are these the actual S.I.R.T.

plans / dimensions for the Wentworth Avenue station?

 

 

 

A rare view of the Wentworth Avenue station with

a three car S.I.R.T. train parked on the siding.

 

 

 

Another view of everyone’s favorite train station.

Notice the “South Beach” sign on the train.

Wentworth Avenue was a bit of an afterthought.

 

 

 

An undated photo of a train picking up passengers

at the Wentworth Avenue station.

 

 

 

Various S.I.R.T. employees chat on the

Wentworth Avenue station platform (October 25, 1952).

 

 

 

Two more views of the Wentworth Avenue

Station. Photos taken in November, 1949.

 

 

 

 

 

Various views of the

Wentworth Avenue station during

the late 1940’s – early 1950’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A more recent aerial view of where the Wentworth Avenue station once stood. We can see the outlines of the three overgrown thoroughfares with Wentworth Avenue situated fourth from the left.  I’ll assume the remaining street is used as a driveway as there seems to be some newer housing built near the end of it. The station was situated alongside the end of the now defunct section of Wentworth Avenue. The S.I.R.T. right of way is indicated by the line of houses streaming from the top right corner of the photo. If you look closely at the marshy area, you can make out two ROW’s. One for the S.I.R.T. – which ends directly along side the small square shaped pond and the other,

the Southfield Beach Railroad’s trolley line.

The latter runs parallel with and beyond the access road.

I wonder if much of that trolley ROW still exists? Guess I’ll have to take a meander down there and check it out!

I’ll bet the Wentworth Avenue station was a spooky place at night.

 

 

 

Here are two views of the same place in the 1920’s.

This photo pre-dates 1925- the year in which

the Wentworth Avenue station was opened.

The South Beach station is at upper right and SIRT trains

rest at the end of Wentworth Avenue- the same spot where

the station would be built. The Southfield Beach Railroad ROW is clearly visible. Happy Land amusement park is visible

at the bottom right of each photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

End Of The Line!

 

 

 

 

So there you have it.

My little tribute to Staten Island Rapid Transit’s South Beach line. Now read it in reverse and you’ll end up back at the St. George ferry. But our journey back in time does not have to end there. You can simply run across the platform and hop on a train bound for Arlington! Just click on the link and we will be on our way:

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

If you have any photos of the SIRT South Beach Line that would like to share, please send me an email at:

 

 

gretschviking@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Thanks to the following generous people and sites:

 

 

Kevin Walsh’s Forgotten New York Page

 

Joseph D. Korman

 

St. George Library Center (NYPL)

 

nycsubway.org

 

Staten Island Railway

 

The Staten Island Advance

 

The Third Rail

 

Robert Ross

 

The New York Times

 

Ed Bommer

 

Silver Leaf Transit

 

 Joseph Scozzare

 

David Pirmann

 

Joe Testagrose

 

Anthony Paonita

 

George Conrad

 

Bob Ryan

 

Jason Malone

 

Frank Gaetani

 

Google Earth

 

Michael Cancemi

 

 Steve Meyers

 

Reverend Greg

 

and of course…

 

Captain Red Dog!

 

 

 

 

Back To Gary Owen’s S.I.R.T. South Beach Line Page Part One

 

 

 

Back to Gary Owen Land