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Page 6

     This ambitious new venture was named the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company. In so naming his company, Wiman was the first to apply the words "rapid transit" to a railroad, though, in fact, it did not truly live up to the full meaning of the designation until electrification four decades later. And so the country's oldest railroad to become a rapid transit operation joined in partnership with the B&O, which, until it was absorbed into CSX, was the country's oldest railroad.
     The SIRT got off to a flying start, taking a 99-year lease on the Staten Island Railway, including the ferries then owned by Jacob Vanderbilt. Grading of the new right-of-way began at the earliest possible date; on the morning of July 31, 1884, Wiman and assorted dignitaries awaited the regular train out of Tottenville which was to inaugurate the 1.1 miles of track laid between Clifton (Vanderbilt's Landing) and Tompkinsville.

     The blessed event was shared with a number of passengers who were just taking the train to work.
     Work proceeded with extraordinary speed, Wiman meeting all forms of obstruction with acrobatic cunning. He soon made good the promise of the great terminal. Several hundred acres of land were built out from the old shoreline, with several ferry slips having piers jutting 600 feet out into the bay. However, the terminal's grand building was not opened until 1897.
     On February 23, 1886, operation on the North Shore Line began as far as Elm Park; it was the railroad that invented the name "Arlington" for reasons unknown. Two weeks later, on March 8th, the South Beach Line was opened and by the beginning of the summer the entire passenger trackage was in operation. The B&O freight connections from Staten Island over the Arthur Kill Bridge to Cranford Junction in New Jersey opened June 13, 1889.

Wiman loved the idea: he enlarged its scope and embarked on execution of it with his wealth of energy. He approached Robert Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, to gain his backing; Garrett, recognizing the promise of a B&O branch in Staten Island and a railhead in New York City, gave his support.

The Staten Island
Rapid Transit is Born
Wiman began a massive expansion, building a railroad from Vanderbilt's Landing north to St. George and continuing west along the north shore, and a new branch to South Beach, paralleling the existing line.

Steam engines and passenger coaches still provide service on the SIRT in this 1925 view of St. George Terminal, but the future is in sight. Covered third rail is in place on all tracks and a new electric are can be seen at right.

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Updated Sunday, December 23, 2001

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