The L.I.R.R. Was Formed in 1834, Ran From Brooklyn to Greenport

Footnotes to Long Island History



Thomas R. Bayles

       The long Island rail road was incorporated by a special act of the legislature April 24, 1834. The purpose was to construct a railroad from Brooklyn to Greenport. From there it was planned to operate a steamship line to Stonington, Conn., and then the old colony railroad to Boston It was not thought practical to build a railroad to Boston through New England as there were too many rivers to bridge that emptied into Long Island sound. The railroad  was completed to Hicksville 1837, to Farmingville 1841, to Thompson now Brentwood 1842, to Suffolk now Central Islip 1842, and to Greenport July 29, 1844.

       The completion of the railroad to Greenport was the occasion for a great celebration. On Saturday two days before the opening of the line for the public, a special train from Brookhaven carried officials of the road and several hundred invited guests to Greenport where they were entertained at dinner. Speeches were made by President Fisk of the railroad and others. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle devoted 3,000 words to the trip from which we quote:

       "The interior of old Suffolk, which until that day had been sacred to the gambols of wild deer, and the wilderness had only been disturbed now and then by the sharp crack of the hunter's riffle the low rumbling of the stage coach as it plodded on at five miles an hour, was saluted for the first time by the shrill whistle of the steam locomotive. The iron horse, with lungs of brass and sinews of steel came dashing on at a furious rate puffing volumes of smoke and flames from his nostrils and warning the people who gazed in astonishment that the prediction of prophets was accomplished."

        It was a day of great rejoicing in all the villages along the lines as a trip from the east end to the city that had taken two to three days by stage coach, now took only the same number of hours. Manorville was an important stop of the "Boston" train, where wood was loaded to fuel the wood burning engines, and refreshments for the passengers was provided." Prime in his history of Long Island describes the coming of the iron horse as follows:

        It is impossible to divine the amazing changes which this improvement will have upon both the intellectual and secular interests of the eastern part of the Island. The inhabitants have scarcely yet recovered from the consternation produced by actual opening of the railroad. When they beheld with their own eyes the cumbrous train of cars drawn by the iron horse, spouting forth smoke and steam, passing like a steed of lightning through their forest and fields with such velocity they could not tell whether the countenances of the passengers were human, celestial, or infernal, they would not believe that a railroad had the power almost to annihilate both time and space."

        For a brief time the dream of a through route to Boston was realized and traffic flourished. But in 1848 a new route from New York to Boston was opened through Connecticut and Rhode Island. This played havoc with the traffic of the Long Island Its steamboats were sold and the Boston connection abandoned. From that time on the Long Island Railroad became a local road, depending upon its own territory for its traffic.

 The two earliest locomotives were the Ariel built by the Baldwin works in Philadelphia in 1835, and the Post Boy built in 1836. These engines weighed seven tons each and cost $7,000 a piece.

 In later years, Manorville was an important station and the Cannon Ball split up there, with one section going to Greenport and one to Montauk, returning the same way in the morning over the branch line to Eastport. The Cape Horn train or "The Scoot" as it was called ran from Manorville to Riverhead and Greenport. An agent, block operator and clerk were on duty at the station, which was an important meeting place for passenger and freight trains. At one time great quantities of cord wood were shipped by freight from there and G. W. Raynor shipped thousands of cords during the winter for many years all the potatoes and cauliflower from the east end were shipped by freight in the years gone by.

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