Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lawsuit in 1884 Cleared the Way for Construction of Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to Lower Part of City Island in Pelham

Prior to the opening of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line in the early 1870s, a stage coach line established by a man named Robert Vickery traveled from City Island to Mount Vernon.  In about 1873, so-called horse cars replaced the stage coach line. When the horse car line first began, it was owned by Judge Henry DeWitt Carey, a banker. 

The first horse car line involved a car pulled by a single horse. According to one source, "it left Belden Point and stopped at three locations on the island - Horton, Fordham, and Bridge Streets. People desiring to travel to New York City would then take the horse car to Bartow Station, pay a 5ยข fare to Westchester County and board a trolley to 177th Street, where they would make another connection to the Battery." See Scott, Catherine A., Images of America: City Island and Orchard Beach, p. 48 (Arcadia Publishing 1999; reissued 2004). The cars looked much like trolley cars. Later, beginning in the mid-1880s, the horse cars were replaced with a "horse car railroad" that ran on tracks, but were pulled by a pair of horses.  Indeed, for sixteen years the two principal horses used to pull the horse cars were known as "Bob" and "Harry".

When the time came to convert the simple horse car line to a horse railroad line, two things had to happen:  (1) the commissioners of highways of the Town of Pelham had to approve the laying of tracks; and (2) either a majority of adjacent property owners had to consent to installation of the line or a court had to find the horse railroad to be "necessary."

In 1883 and 1884, plans were underway to build a horse railroad from Bartow Station on the New Haven Branch Line and the southern tip of City Island.  Two companies were created, each to build half of the line.  The Pelham Park Railroad Company was created to build the tracks on the mainland from Bartow Station to the City Island Bridge.  The City Island Railroad Company was incorporated to build the tracks from the City Island Bridge to the tip of City Island.  There reportedly were plans to merge the two companies after the horse railroad tracks were constructed.

Once the tracks were laid and the horse railroad began running, City Islanders were livid and felt they had been snookered.  Each line charged a separate fare.  In effect, a passenger had to pay two fares to proceed from Bartow Station onto City Island.  That resulted in controversies that should be the subject of a future Blog posting.

Today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog transcribes an excerpt from a news article published in 1884.  At the time, both companies had successfully obtained the approval for construction of the two railroads from the commissioners of highways of the Town of Pelham.  However, although the City Island Railroad Company successfully obtained the consents of a large majority of property owners for the construction of its half of the railroad, the Pelham Park Railroad Company failed to obtain such consents from a majority of the property owners its half of the line would affect.  The Pelham Park Railroad Company went to court to obtain a judicial determination that its half of the line was "necessary" so that it could build its half without the necessary consents of affected property owners.  The news article excerpt describes a resulting judicial decision that cleared the way for the construction of the horse railroad.


Last spring, the Pelham Park R. R. Co. and the City Island R. R. Co. were incorporated, for the purpose of building a railroad from Bartow to City Island.  The road was divided into two parts, the first-named company agreeing to build the part on the main land, and the City Island Company the part on the island, it being understood that the two roads should be consolidated after their completion.  Both companies readily obtained the consent of the commissioners of Highways to the construction of their roads, and the City Island Company also obtained the consent of a large majority of the property owners along its line.  The Pelham Park company was, however, unable to obtain the consent of the requisite number of the property owners along its division of the road, and it accordingly appealed on Monday of last week to the General Term of the Supreme Court in Brooklyn for the appointment of commissioners to determine whether its road was necessary and should be built, notwithstanding the objections of the property owners.  At the hearing the company was represented by W. R. Lamberton of Pelham Manor, and the property owners by chas D. Burrill of Bartow, Miller, Peckhouse & Dixon, of New York and others.  The opposition to the motion was based upon alleged defects in the moving papers and in the incorporation of the company, on the unconstitutionality of the statute under which the company was incorporated, and on the law prohibiting the construction of a railroad in a public park.  The court reserved its decision at the time, but on the following day decided in favor of the company, and appointed Elisha Horton, of White Plains, Arthur Burns of Yonkers and Stephen D. Horton of Peekskill as Commissioners.  This decision, it would seem, finally settles the question of a railroad to City Island, as there appears to be no doubt regarding its necessity.  City Island now contains over 1500 inhabitants and has the distinction of being the only place of its size in the United States without the convenience of a railroad, and this fact is the more remarkable because of the close proximity of the Island to New York City.  With the completion of the new road it is expected that the Island will have a regular 'boom,' and will become within a few years the most popular summer resort in the neighborhood of New York.  It has every advantage in the way of location, and all it now needs is a convenient means of communication with the metropolis."

Sourcve:  PELHAM AND CITY ISLAND, Supplement to The Chronicle [Mount Vernon, NY], Dec. 19, 1884, p. 1, col. 7.

Below are a number of interesting images of the City Island Horse Railroad over the years.

"City Island Car"
Source: "Chapter XX: City Island" in History of Bronx Borough City Of New York
Compiled for The North Side News By Randall Comfort, p. 62 (NY, NY: North Side
News Press: 1906). NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

Pelham Bay and City Island Horse Railroad Car, Circa 1910.
Source:  Image Captured from eBay Auction.

"Antiquated Railroad Car, Connecting City Island City With the Outside World"
The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, MO), Mar. 30, 1902, Part II, p. 12, cols. 3-4.
NOTE: Click on Image to Enlarge.

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I have written about the City Island Horse Railroad on numerous occasions.  For a few examples, see:

Mon., Sep. 22, 2014:  New York City Sport Fishermen Travel the Horse Railroad in 1886 to Fish in Pelham.

Mon., Jul. 18, 2011:  City Island Horse Railroad Temporarily Shut Down in 1892 Over Cruelty Concerns.

Thu., May 13, 2010:  More on the Early History of the Pelham and City Island Railroad.

Tue., May 4, 2010:  Questions Regarding the Trolley Franchise from Bartow Station to the Tip of City Island Arose in 1915.

Mon., May 3, 2010:  Efforts To Reorganize the Operators of the City Island Horse Railroad and Monorail in 1914.

Fri., April 30, 2010:  "Truly, An Illuminating Little Passage in the History of New-York!" - Efforts to Develop Shore Road Trolley Line in 1897.

Thu., April 29, 2010:  City Islanders Complain and Force the Operators of Their Horse Railroad to Agree to Replace Antiquated Cars in 1908.

Wed., April 28, 2010:  Efforts by the Pelham Park Horse Railroad to Expand and Develop a Trolley Car Line on Shore Road in 1897.

Tue., April 27, 2010:  New York City's Interborough Rapid Transit Company Sued to Foreclose a Mortgage on the Horse Railroad in 1911.

Mon., April 26, 2010:  Public Service Commission Couldn't Find Marshall's Corners in 1909.

Fri., March 5, 2010:  Construction of the City Island Horse Railroad in 1887.

Thu., March 4, 2010:  Beginnings of Horse Railroad - News from Pelham and City Island Published in 1884.

Wed., March 3, 2010: 1879 Advertisement for Robert J. Vickery's City Island Stage Line, A Predecessor to the City Island Horse Railroad.

Tue., March 2, 2010:  1901 Report Indicated that The Flynn Syndicate Planned to Buy the Pelham Bay Park & City Island Horse Car Line.

Mon., March 1, 2010:  Flynn Syndicate Buys the City Island Horse Car Line in 1907 to Incorporate It Into Electric Trolley Line.

Fri., February 26, 2010:  1913 Decision of Public Service Commission to Allow Reorganization of City Island Horse Railroad for Electrification.

Thu., February 25, 2010:  Photograph of Patrick Byrnes and Article About His Retirement of the City Island Horse Car in 1914.

Wed., February 24, 2010:  Attempted Suicide of City Island's Long-Time Horse Car Driver

Wed., February 3, 2010:  Early Information Published in 1885 About the Organization of the "City Island Railroad", a Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to City Island

Tue., February 2, 2010:  Information About the Pelham Park Railroad at its Outset

Fri., January 22, 2010:  1884 Account of Early Origins of Horse Railroad Between Bartow Station and City Island.

Mon., January 4, 2010: 1888 Local News Account Describes Altercation on the Horse Railroad Running from Bartow Station to City Island.

Wed., December 2, 2009:  Accident on Horse-Car of the Pelham Park Railroad Line in 1889.

Thu., December 31, 2009:  1887 Election of the Board of Directors of The City Island and Pelham Park Horse Railroad Company.

Tue., September 1, 2009:  Pelham News on February 29, 1884 Including Talk of Constructing a New Horse Railroad from Bartow to City Island.

Wed., Jan. 04, 2006:  Another Post Card Image of the Horse Car That Ran Between Bartow and City Island.

Fri., Dec. 30, 2005:  Subdivision Development Map Created in 1873 for Bartow Village in the Town of Pelham.

Mon. Dec. 12, 2005:  19th Century Subdivision Map of Planned Bartow Village.

Thu. Jul. 21, 2005:  Today's Remnants of the Bartow Station on the Branch Line Near City Island.

Thu., June 23, 2005:  Horse Cars Come To City Island in the Town of Pelham in the 1880s.

Thu. Mar. 24, 2005:  The Bartow Area of Pelham in the 19th Century: Where Was It?

Archive of the Historic Pelham Web Site.

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