Brief History of the Pelham Park and City Island Railway
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The archives of the University of Michigan contain a bound typewritten manuscript entitled "Toonervilles of the Empire State" by Felix E. Reifschneider, prepared in 1947. Among the fascinating summaries of tiny railroads and trolley lines that once crossed communities throughout the State of New York is a summary of the history of the Pelham Park and City Island Railway. I have written extensively regarding this railway that began as a so-called horse railroad. A bibliography of articles with links appears at the end of today's article.
Reifschneider's brief summary of the history of the railway stitches together various stories of the "Railway's" many iterations over the nearly forty years that some form of public transportation served the route between Bartow Station on the Branch Line and Belden Point on City Island. The Reifschneider summary is only a page long and is well worth a read.
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
A 1.6 mile horse railroad named the "Pelham Park Railroad" opened between Bartow Station and Marhall's Corner near the Marshall Mansion on May 20, 1887. According to Reifschneider, the line was built with thirty pound rail at three-feet-six-inch gauge. Five days later a "companion enterprise" named the City Island Railroad "extended the operation another mile and a half to Brown's Hotel on City Island." As I have written before, people in the Town of Pelham -- particularly those who lived on City Island -- were furious because two fares had to be paid to the two inter-related railroads to ride the single short line between Bartow Station and Brown's Hotel.
Within a few years, the City Island Railroad track was extended several times until it finally reached Belden's Point at the southern tip of City Island, a distance of 1.8 miles. According to Reifschneider, "[c]ars made thru trips from Bartow to City Island over the single track, as the two roads were always operated jointly as one."
After the annexation of the Pelham Bay Park and City Island region by New York City in 1895, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company "[f]or some mysterious legal reason," bought the two horse car lines "so as to use their charters as the basis of its vast subway-elevated system." A few years later, on July 9, 1914, the "Interborough disposed of them" to the Third Avenue Railway.
In 1910, the railway companies became involved with the Monorail Construction Company which led to a particularly famous (or, better said, infamous) chapter in the history of City Island. Reifschneider says the Monorail Construction Company "was probably looking for a likely place to try its invention." Clearly, the technology was unproven. An article published in 1910 called it "The One Legged Railroad of Tomorrow."
The monorail was constructed in early 1910 and began operation, according to Reifschneider, on July 15, 1910 from Bartow Station to the north end of the City Island Bridge near Marshall's Corners. There passengers disembarked and either walked the rest of the way or had to board a horse railroad car.
On July 19, 1910, while loaded with passengers, the newly-opened monorail derailed. The structure was badly damaged a number of passengers were seriously injured. The monorail car and the superstructure were quickly rebuilt and service resumed on November 14, 1910 "with speed restricted to 15 miles per hour."
The passengers injured during the monorail derailment, however, filed damage claims that forced the companies into receivership "from which emerged a consolidated Pelham Park and City Island Railway Co. on July 1, 1913." Less than a year later, on March 16, 1914, the monorail was taken out of service.
The life of the little railway line between Bartow Station and Belden Point was coming to an end. According to Reifschneider, after discontinuing monorail service:
"The company leased a gasoline bus and a horse drawn stage while new standard gauge track was being built. On August 17, 1914 thru operation began with 12 leased single truck storage battery cars over a 3-mile route, as a part of the Third Avenue Railway System. The little battery cars were a familiar part of the scene on City Island, a favorite resort for fishermen and boat enthusiasts. But rising expenses forced abandonment of the line on August 9, 1919."
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"PELHAM PARK AND CITY ISLAND RAILWAY
The Pelham Park RR was a 1.6 mile horse car line built with 30 lb. rail, at 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. It ran from Bartow station on the NY New Haven & Hartford RR to Marshall's Corner, and started operation on May 20, 1887. Five days later a companion enterprise, the City Island RR, extended the operation another mile and a half to Brown's Hotel on City Island. Within the next few years, the track was extended several times for short distances until it reached Belden's Point, a total distance of 1.8 miles. Cars made thru trips from Bartow to City Island over the single track, as the two roads were always operated jointly as one line.
For some mysterious legal reason the Interborough Rapid Transit Co. bought the two tiny horse car lines in 1903 so as to use their charters as the basis of its vast subway-elevated system. The Interborough disposed of them to the Third Avenue Ry. on July 9, 1914.
In 1910, the companies became entangled with the Monorail Construction Co. The latter was probably looking for a likely place to try its invention. A single monorail car began operation on July 15, 1910 from Bartow to the north end of the City Island Bridge, where passengers had to transfer to a horse car to complete their trip. The car was rather narrow with wedge shaped ends. A single rail was supported on ties in the ballast in the usual manner, with a second rail supported by a steel overhead structure. Wheels on the roof of the car pressed against the overhead rail which kept the car upright, a much more expensive scheme than using two rails on the ground. On July 19th, the monorail car was derailed, damaging the structure and seriously injuring a number of passengers.
After reconstruction, operation was resumed on November 14, 1910 with speed restricted to 15 miles per hour. Damage claims from the accident had forced the companies into receivership, from which emerged a consolidated Pelham Park and City Island Railway Co. on July 1, 1913.
The monorail system was discontinued on March 16, 1914. The company leased a gasoline bus and a horse drawn stage while new standard gauge track was being built. On August 17, 1914 thru operation began with 12 leased single truck storage battery cars over a 3-mile route, as a part of the Third Avenue Railway System.
The little battery cars were a familiar part of the scene on City Island, a favorite resort for fishermen and boat enthusiasts. But rising expenses forced abandonment of the line on August 9, 1919."
Source: Reifschneider, Felix E. Toonvervilles of the Empire State, p. 26 (Orlando, FL: Sep, 1947) (typewritten manuscript).
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I have written about the City Island Horse Railroad more than thirty times. For examples, see:
Thu., Jan. 22, 2015: Lawsuit in 1884 Cleared the Way for Construction of Horse Railroad from Bartow Station to Lower Part of City Island in Pelham.
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.
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?
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Labels: 1887, 1903, 1910, 1913, 1914, 1919, Bartow Station, City Island, City Island and Pelham Horse Railroad, Horse, Horse Railroad, Monorail, Pelham Park and City Island Railway, Transportation, Trolley