Staten Island Railway
An SIR rush hour local train discharges passengers at the Great Kills SIR station, its last stop.
|Locale||Staten Island, New York|
St. George (north)
|Owner||Metropolitan Transportation Authority|
|Operator(s)||Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority|
|Rolling stock||63 R44SI cars|
|Line length||14 mi (22 km)|
|Track gauge||4 ft 81⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
The Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, marked on the trains as MTA Staten Island Railway (or SIR), is the operator of the lone rapid transit line operating in the borough of Staten Island, New York City, USA. It is considered a standard railroad line, but only freight service along the western portion of the North Shore Branch is connected to the national railway system.
Because the SIR operates with modified R44 New York City Subway cars, and the fact that it is run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, most residents consider it to be a de facto line of the Subway, despite there being no direct rail link between the SIR and the subway system proper; the line normally is included on official New York Subway maps. Commuters typically use the Staten Island Ferry to reach Manhattan. The current SIR line has been completely grade separated from intersecting roads since 1966.
The Staten Island Railway also provides express service to St. George Terminal between 6:17 AM and 8:17 AM, and express service to Tottenville from 7:06 AM to 8:06 AM and 4:31 PM to 7:51 PM. As there is no lettered route designation, as on other BMT or IND lines, express service is noted by the presence of a red marker with the terminal and 'express' directly underneath it. The Staten Island Railway, like the rest of the Subway system, runs twenty-four hours a day, with service continuing overnight after most day peak traffic has ceased.
The first line of what is now the Staten Island Railway opened in 1860 to Tottenville, the current southern terminus. If the SIR were considered part of the subway, this would be the oldest continually operated subway system right-of-way in New York City. In common with the BMT lines to Coney Island, the SIR started as a normal passenger and freight railroad line. In 1880, the Staten Island Rapid Transit (SIRT) was incorporated and it leased the Staten Island Railway in 1884. Seeking a greater presence in the New York market and improved freight connections for its New York harbor carfloat operations, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad acquired control of the SIRT in November, 1885.
In August 1924, work began on electrification of the Staten Island's three passenger lines. A short 1 mile passenger and freight spur to Mount Loretto was never electrified. The main line between St. George and Tottenville at the extreme southern end of Staten Island was completely electrified by July 1, 1925, along with the St.George-South Beach branch on the Narrows. The line from the St. George ferry terminal to Arlington on Staten Island's north shore was electrified on December 1, 1925. New subway-type equipment manufactured by the Pressed Steel Car Corp. (who also manufactured equipment for the BMT) was placed in service on all passenger trains.
Freight service with steam (later diesel) power continued on all branches. Starting in the 1880s Erastus Wiman rose to the leadership of the company and in a reorganization he renamed the company the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railroad Company in the 1880s. Wiman oversaw the opening of the extension of the Main Line from its original Clifton terminus north to Tompkinsville on July 31, 1884; the opening of the North Shore Branch on February 23, 1886; and the South Beach Branch on March 8, 1886. Wiman soon began negotiations with the leaders of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for the mutual benefit of the two companies that were then still independent. Being smaller than the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central Railroad, the B&O relished the opportunity to start rail service to the potentially lucrative New York City market via collaboration with the SIRTRR. With capital provided by the B&O the SIRTRR opened its first connection to the mainland rail network on June 13, 1889 over the first bridge over the Arthur Kill waterway. The SIRTRR connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad in Linden, New Jersey, the Lehigh Valley Railroad at Staten Island Junction in Cranford, New Jersey and the Central Railroad of New Jersey at Cranford Junction, also in Cranford.
During the 1930s, 40's and 50's primary interstate freight traffic terminated at the car floats in St. George and many railroads, including the Chesapeake and Ohio had interstate trackage rights. Connections were also made to small private railroads such as the one at Pouch Terminal, switched by a Mack Diesel, preserved and now residing at Allaire State Park in New Jersey. Until 1930, Pouch Terminal, with separate trackage in Tompkinsville and Clifton, was electrified with overhead wire, and owned two electric freight motors. The system did not connect with the Staten Island trolley system, but they purchased power from them. During the late 1800s a small 3 foot gauge railroad with a single 0-4-0 ran on Fort Wadsworth and connected with a team track on the South Beach line. The last through passenger service between Staten Island and Washington D.C. ran in 1957 with a special two-section train from Tompkinsville with the British Royal family on board.
The Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge replaced the original bridge in 1959 and carried freight until 1991 when traffic had essentially disappeared. From 2004 to 2006 the bridge was refurbished and freight service over the bridge, along the western portions of the North Shore Branch, resumed in 2007.
On May 11, 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used the North Shore Branch en route to a meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. after his ship had landed in Tompkinsville. On October 21, 1957, a young Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip rode a special B&O train from Washington, D.C. along the abandoned North Shore Branch to Stapleton to start their royal visit to New York City.
Service on both the North Shore and South Beach branches was terminated at midnight on Tuesday, March 31, 1953. The South Beach right-of-way has been demolished and new housing has been built on most of it. The North Shore line remains basically intact and is currently under consideration to be reactivated.
In the mid 1960s, the last grade crossings were eliminated.
In 1971 the passenger operations of the former Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company, which had absorbed lessor Staten Island Railway Company in 1944, were acquired from its parent Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company was renamed Staten Island Railroad Corporation, which still exists as a subsidiary of the CSX Corporation. The MTA created a subsidiary, the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority, for the purposes of operation and maintenance. In March 1973, new R44 cars — the same as the newest cars then in use on the subway lines in the other boroughs — were pressed into service on the Staten Island line, replacing the rolling stock that had been inherited from the B&O days and had been in use since 1925 (the R44 cars are still in service as of 2009).
In 1994, as part of a public image campaign of the MTA, the various operating agencies of the MTA were given "popular names" at which time the public face of SIRTOA became MTA Staten Island Railway, which name is used on trains, stations, timetables and other public presentments.
Today, only the north-south Main Line is in passenger service. The terminal station at St. George provides a direct connection to the Staten Island Ferry. Schedules are made by NYCT's Operations Planning unit. The last passenger trains on both the North Shore and South Beach Branches ran on March 31, 1953. The right-of-way of the South Beach Branch was eventually de-mapped and the tracks have been removed. The North Shore and Travis Branches saw freight service temporarily suspended beginning in 1991. Freight service along the Travis Branch and the western most portion of the North Shore Branch was restored by 2007. Along the remainder of the North Shore Branch tracks and rail overpasses still exist in some places. In 2001, a small section of the eastern most portion of the North Shore Branch (a few hundred feet) was reopened to provide passenger service to the new Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees minor-league baseball team. Plans to reopen the remainder of the North Shore Branch, to both freight and passenger service, are being studied, with one plan calling for the line to resume full operations between St. George and Port Ivory by 2015.
The freight line connection from New Jersey to the Staten Island Railway was restored in late 2006, and is operated in part by the Morristown and Erie Railway under contract with the State of New Jersey and other companies. The Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge which transports trains from Staten Island to New Jersey over the Arthur Kill waterway was renovated from 2004 to 2006 and began regular service on April 2, 2007, 16 years after the bridge closed. A portion of the North Shore of the Staten Island Railway was rehabilitated, the Arlington Yard was expanded, and 6,500 feet (2,000 m) of new track was laid along the Travis Branch to Fresh Kills. Soon after service restarted on the line Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg officially commemorated the reactivation on April 17, 2007. On behalf of the City of New York, the New York City Economic Development Corporation formed an agreement with CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, and Conrail to provide service over the reactivated line to haul waste from the Staten Island Transfer Station and ship container freight from the Howland Hook Marine Terminal and other industrial businesses.
Unlike the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), SIRTOA is subject to rules of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) but operates under a waiver which permits it to exempt itself from certain rules of equipment and operation usually required by the FRA. This FRA status complicates any plan for combined freight and passenger operation.
In general appearance, the current operating line of SIR looks somewhat like an outdoor line of the New York City Subway. Since the 1960s it has been grade separated from all roads, but it runs more or less at street level for a brief stretch north of Clifton, between the Grasmere and Old Town stations, and from south of the Pleasant Plains station to Tottenville, the end of the line. It uses NYC Transit-standard 660 V DC third rail power. Its equipment is specially modified subway vehicles, purchased at the same time as nearly-identical cars for NYCT. Heavy maintenance of the equipment is performed at the NYCT's Clifton Shops. Any work that can't be done at Clifton requires the cars be trucked over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to the subway's Coney Island Complex shops in Brooklyn.
The right-of-way also includes elevated, embankment and open-cut portions, and a tunnel near St. George.
Over the years there have been several proposals for connecting the SIR with the subway system (including tunnels and a possible line along the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge), as it uses B Division-sized cars and loading gauge, but various economic, political, and engineering difficulties have prevented this from happening. 
The cash fare is US$2.25. Fares are paid on entry and exit only at St. George, Tompkinsville, and Ballpark (and in the case of the Ballpark, only on trains to Tottenville, not St. George). Rides not originating or terminating at St George, Tompkinsville, or Ballpark are free. Prior to the 1997 introduction of "1 fare zones" that came along with free transfers from the SIR to the subway system and MTA buses by using the MetroCard, fares were collected by the conductors on the trains for passengers boarding at stops other than St. George.
In the past, passengers often avoided paying the fare by exiting at Tompkinsville, and taking a short walk to the St. George ferry terminal. Because of this, the MTA installed turnstiles (HEETs) at Tompkinsville, along with a new stationhouse. Recently, there has been discussion of restoring fare collection along the entire line.
Fare is payable by MetroCard. Since this card enables free transfers for a continuing ride on the subway and bus systems, for many more riders there is effectively no fare at all for riding SIR. Riders are also allowed to transfer between a Staten Island bus, SIR, and a Manhattan bus or subway near South Ferry. Because of this, the SIR's farebox recovery ratio in 2001 was 0.16—that is, for every dollar of expense, 16 cents was recovered in fares, the lowest ratio of MTA agencies (part of the reason the MTA wishes to merge the SIR with the subway proper is to simplify the accounting and subsidization of what is essentially a single line).
On December 26th, 2008 at 6:27 a.m., a train was pulling into the Tottenville station to accept passengers for its a.m. rush hour run to St. George when it ran into the bumper block and subsequently derailed. No passengers were on the train at the time of the incident. The Staten Island Advance reported that the incident is under investigation.
|Staten Island Railway|
|Station service legend|
|Stops all times|
|service on game days only|
|Time period details|
|Stations||Connections and notes|
|St. George||Staten Island Ferry|
|Service to/from St. George or Tottenville enter/leave here|
|RCB Ballpark||Richmond County Bank Ballpark|
|Service to/from St. George skip RCB Ballpark|
|Great Kills||Historic Richmond Town|
|Eltingville||Staten Island Mall|
|Annadale||Blue Heron Park|
|Arthur Kill Road||Under construction|
The North Shore Branch closed to passenger service at midnight on Tuesday March 31, 1953. Although it is now mostly abandoned (except for freight service in the west and passenger service in the east), future restoration is being planned along this 6.1-mile (9.8 km) line.
The South Beach Branch closed at midnight Tuesday March 31, 1953. It was abandoned and demolished except for remaining stanchions on St. John's Avenue and Robin Road. This 4.1-mile (6.6 km) line left the Main Line south of the Clifton station and lay to the east of the Main Line.
The Staten Island Advance reported in May 2006 that Staten Island business and political leaders are looking to restore service on the North Shore Branch. They are seeking approval of $4 million in federal funding for a detailed feasibility study, to revive the North Shore line as a commuter line ending at the St. George Ferry Terminal. Alternatively, there has been talk of adding light rail service to Staten Island.
Completion of the study is necessary to qualify the project for the estimated $360 million it requires to develop the 5.1-mile line. A preliminary study found that ridership could hit 15,000 daily.
There is a new station that will be named Arthur Kill Road to be built near the southern terminus of the line. It will essentially replace both the Atlantic and Nassau stations, which are in the poorest condition of all the stations on the line. There is also discussion of rebuilding a Rosebank station, which will bridge the longest gap between two stations (Grasmere and Clifton). A Rosebank station once existed on the now-defunct South Beach Branch of the railway.