Thursday, April 9, 2009

The long-running, long-lasting Long Island Railroad



An early edition of the LIRR, passing through bucolic Brooklyn

This month, the Long Island Rail Road turns 175 years old, almost as old as train travel itself.

The official birthday is April 24, 1834. A new exhibit "Route of the Dashing Commuter: The Long Island Rail Road at 175," begins next Tuesday
at the main New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, tracing it from its halcyon days as a conveyance between Boston and Brooklyn (via a series of boats and ferries) to its current usages as Long Island's busiest public transportation series, with 124 stations over 700 miles of track.

But that's only the date of its incorporation. The very first railroad in Long Island actually came two years earlier, running from Brooklyn's South Ferry along the edge of the East River to around 158th Street in Jamaica, Queens. The LIRR was formed two years later to extend that line deeper into Long Island and up into New England.

They abandoned out of state travel in the 1850s -- mostly because they were pushed out by competition -- and focused on communities that sprouted up in Long Island. Problem, however. The LIRR had only on track that extended through Long Island, and it went down the middle, far from coastal towns where most people lived. Branches were finally constructed throughout the late 19th century.

The website LIRR History has an exhaustive overview of the train lines many successes and hardships.

Below: A map of the Long Island railroad and adjoining steamboat services, circa 1903. Click into pic for greater detail. (courtesy Dunton.org)

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