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Page 5

However, all was not well with the fledgling road and, on February 27th, 1861, the New Jersey Locomotive Works gave notice of foreclosure on the two locos. Cornelius Vanderbilt stepped in again; his son, William, became the receiver, and the Journeay and the Bancker "indulged" on.
     Then as now the ferries were an indispensable link for the Staten Island rail line and the casual attitudes of some of the ferry captains caused no end of aggravation for the railroad. On many occasions they would leave the slip moments before a train came in. As there were only three round trips, coordinated with the 8 am, 3 and 5 pm ferries, this understandably became perplexing. Additionally, if the captain wanted an early dinner he would order all the passengers off at the first landing at Tompkinsville, over a mile from the railroad.
     The elder Vanderbilt pooled the poor operating habits of his ferries with the poor financial abilities of the younger Vanderbilt's railroad and, on February 26, 1864, the boats came under railroad control. It would appear that matters smoothed over and, for a while, all was well.

Disaster and Bankruptcy
On July 30, 1871, the ferryboat Westfield blew up while loading at Whitehall Street in Manhattan (now known as South Ferry), killing 68 of the 400 passengers and the Staten Island Railroad financially.

     George Law bought the railroad on September 7, 1872 from receiver L.H. Meyer. He was given title to everything the road owned, with the exception of the ill-fated Westfield, that boat being the property of Horace Theall, who had operated the railroad and ferry during receivership.
     Law's company, formed largely out of old stockholders, was renamed the Staten Island Railway.
     For a number of years a unified rail-ferry terminal, at a point most convenient to ferry landings in Manhattan and Brooklyn, was discussed. Commodore Vanderbilt was interested in the prospect and he chose the best possible location -- St. George. Under his directive a stone foundation was laid, but, when a storm washed away the timberwork, he never again mustered the interest to start anew.
     A few years before these events, in 1867, Erastus Wiman, a 33-year-old Canadian, came to New York to operate the City's branch of R.G. Dun & Company of Canada. Seventeen years earlier he was an apprentice to a printer, and his rise in the "purple of commerce" was extraordinary. He brought with him a highly developed business sense, a vivid imagination and a love of the outdoors. He naturally gravitated to Staten Island, quickly becoming one of its foremost citizens.
     In 1883, William Pendleton, owner of the North Shore ferries, approached Wiman with the reactivation of the St. George scheme.

One old man among the number had never seen a locomotive. He said he lived between the 'Iron Spring' and 'Skunk's Misery,' and has walked five miles to take a look. As 'She' advanced with a shriek, he jumped about a foot, and exclaimed 'I swow,' but since he was dumb thereafter, we cannot say what he thought of it.

     On May 5th the huge iron monster was about to be joined by another, the E. Bancker. By May 16th trains were running to Annadale, named after the wife of the embarrassed 1851 venture, Mrs. John (Anna) Seguine.
     Finally, on June 2nd, the railroad was formally opened all the way to Tottenville and a quarter-of-a-century old dream was realized. The railroad of 1860 had many stops whose names are unfamiliar to modern islanders: Great Kills was known as Gifford or Gifford's Lane, Huguenot was Bloomingview, Prince's Bay (improperly called "Princess Bay" by mid-20th century) was known as Lemon Creek and the area between that station and Pleasant Plains was called Skunk's Misery. It was past such time-forgotten names that the first train ran that day in June.

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Updated Sunday, December 23, 2001

©1965 Silver Leaf Rapid Transit. ©2001 Paul Matus. ©2001 The Composing Stack Inc.