Early Troubles of the L.I.R.R.

Footnotes to Long Island History

UNE 9, 1949


Thomas R. Bayles

      The long Island rail road was incorporated on April 24th, 1834, mainly for the purpose of constructing a link from Brooklyn to Boston. Because of the many rivers and hills on the New England side which would have to be bridged, a travel route was planned by train to Greenport, by steamer to Stonington Conn., and by train again to Boston from that point.

       The line was opened to Jamaica in April, 1836, to Farmingdale in Oct. 1841, and to Greenport in July, 1844. Previous to the opening of the railroad to Greenport it was a two or three day trip by sloop or stage coach from the city to the east end of the island, and this was now shortened to three hours by train.

       The railroad was not extended to Patchogue until 1868, and in 1869 a line was built from Manorville to Sag Harbor. It was not until 1881 that the road was extended from Patchogue eastward to connect at Eastport with the line running from Manorville to Sag Harbor. During the intervening years mail and passengers were carried from the main line station to Patchogue and the south side villages by stage coach. In 1872 the railroad was extended to Port Jefferson, and in 1895 to Amagansett and Montauk.

       An interesting account of the operation of the road during its first years, by Preston Raynor who lived in Manorville during those years, has been published in the Long Island Forum. According to this story, the east and west sections of the railroad met at Manorville, and as they could not get enough rails to finish the job so as to run trains as scheduled, flat bars of iron measuring 3 inches by three quarters of an inch were utilized for three miles west of Manorville. the engines burned mostly pine wood, and 2,000 cords were piled around the station at times. The wood was cut in three foot lengths and thrown upstairs in a large wood house alongside of the tracts, where it was cut in two by several men with buck saws. At first the wood was thrown by hand into the engine tenders, but soon dump boxes were put in use.

       The water for the engines was pumped from a well with a homemade wooden pump that required two men to pump the water into the engine tank. When coal came into use, a horse treadmill was used to pump the water. Manorville was an important stop in those days not only for fuel and water but for refreshments for the passengers on the "Boston" trains.

       It wasn't long before the engines began setting the woods afire, and some livestock were killed. This so enraged the local people at one time that they tore up section of the tract causing several accidents. The railroad kept watchmen on duty at night between Yaphank and Riverhead and ran a handcar ahead of each train between Yaphank and Riverhead. Local men let the handcar by and then pulled some spikes moved a rail and again there was an accident and the train derailed One time the Boston train of several cars ran off the rails cast of Terry's cut but no one was hurt. This went on until the railroad management and the people got together and the railroad agreed to pay one half of all the damage caused.

       The story is told of the woman who had a cow killed by the railroad, and who went out every morning and soaped the rails so the train couldn't get through until the management paid her for her cow.

       In time the timber and flat rails were replaced with t rails. After James Weeks of Yaphank became president of the road he built a large woodhouse at wampmissic (west of Manorville) and had the trains stop there, as he owned a large and much woodland there. 

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