Staten Island Railway

Infobox rail line
name = Staten Island Railway

logo_width = 225px

image_width = 300px
caption = An SIR rush hour local train discharges passengers at the Great Kills SIR station, its final stop.
type = Rapid transit
system =
status = Operational
locale = Staten Island, New York
start = Tottenville (south)
end = St. George (north)
stations = 23
routes =
ridership =
open = 1860 (under the Baltimore & Ohio banner
close =
owner =
operator = New York City Transit Authority
character =
stock = 64 R44SI cars
linelength = 14 mi (22 km)
tracklength =
notrack =
gauge = RailGauge|sg (standard gauge)
el = Third rail
speed =
elevation =

The Staten Island Railway (aka SIR, and formerly known as SIRT) is a rapid transit line operating in the Borough of Staten Island, New York City, USA. It is considered a standard railroad line, but is currently disconnected from the national railway system. SIR operates with modified R44 New York City Subway cars [ [ - R44 car information] ] but there is no rail link between the line and the subway system proper. 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 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. Fact|date=December 2007


In 1925 its three passenger branches were electrified and operated with new subway-type equipment. The lines radiated from the St. George ferry terminal to Arlington on Staten Island's north shore, to South Beach on the Narrows, and to Tottenville at the extreme southern end of Staten Island. Fact|date=December 2007

Freight service

Freight service with steam (later diesel) power continued on all branches, and on freight only operations on Staten Island and on the North Shore Branch as far as Cranford Junction in New Jersey via the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge that spans the Arthur Kill immediately north of the Goethals Bridge; and a South Beach Branch that was effectively a spur of the main line. The now-defunct North Shore Branch was linked with the nationwide rail network; on May 11, 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used it 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 train from Washington, D.C. along the North Shore Branch to Stapleton to start their royal visit to New York City. Freight service was halted between 1991 and 2007. Fact|date=December 2007


In 1971 the former "Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company" was acquired from its parent Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), and became an MTA subsidiary for 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 2007). Fact|date=December 2007

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. Fact|date=December 2007

Current status

Officially the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority (SIRTOA), and publicly styled "MTA Staten Island Railway", the SIR is a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). SIRTOA operates and maintains the rail line on Staten Island pursuant to a lease and operating agreement with the City of New York. The MTA would like to effect a corporate merger of the SIR with the New York City Transit Authority's subway division to form "MTA Subways", [ [ MTA Capital Construction ] ] but necessary approval by the New York State Legislature has been stalled since 2003.

Today, only the north-south Main Line is in passenger service. Schedules are made by Frank Bifulco of 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), and the North Shore Branch saw its last freight train in 1990, although the tracks still exist in some places. The terminal station at St. George provides a direct connection to the Staten Island Ferry. In 2001, a small section of the North Shore branch (a few hundred feet) was reopened to serve the new Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees minor-league baseball team; plans to reopen the remainder of the 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. Fact|date=December 2007

Restored freight service

The freight line connection from New Jersey to the Staten Island Railway was restored in late 2006, and is operated by the Morristown and Erie Railway under contract with the State of New Jersey. The Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge which transports trains from Staten Island to New Jersey over the Arthur Kill waterway was renovated in 2005 and 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 and a new spur to Fresh Kills was constructed. Full service on the line began on April 2, 2007, [ [ Cherry blossoms might be calling visitors back to Washington, WMATA ] ] and Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg officially commemorated the reactivation on April 17, 2007. [ [ - Mayor's Press Release] ] 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 freight from the New York Container Terminal (formerly known as Howland Hook Container Terminal) and other industrial businesses.

Nature of the line

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 west of the Academy of St. Dorothy, a Roman Catholic elementary school, 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 to the Coney Island shops of the subway.Fact|date=December 2007

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), but various economic, political, and engineering difficulties have prevented this from happening.Facts|date=December 2007


The cash fare is US$2.00. Fares are paid on entry and exit only at St. George and Ball Park (and in the case of the latter, only on trains to Tottenville, not St. George). Rides not originating or terminating at St. George or Ball Park 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. Fact|date=December 2007

Passengers often avoid paying the fare by exiting at Tompkinsville, and taking a short walk to the St. George ferry terminal. The MTA is installing high entrance/exit turnstiles (HEETs) at Tompkinsville, along with a new stationhouse. Some rush hour trains skip Tompkinsville. Certain trains run express from New Dorp to St George in the morning rush hour, and express from St George to Great Kills in the evening rush hour. During this time, local trains terminate at Great Kills. On December 3, 2007, the MTA added morning Tottenville-bound express service, which runs express fom St George to New Dorp.

Fare is also 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). Fact|date=December 2007


NYCS service legend
alltimes = show

* Passengers may board/alight trains:

At Clifton using the first three cars (St. George-bound trains only; all cars in Tottenville direction), at Richmond Valley using the first three cars only in both directions, and at Atlantic using the last car only in both directions.

** Planned to be replaced by Arthur Kill Road station.

Former stations on closed lines

North Shore Branch (closed at midnight on Tuesday March 31, 1953) abandoned, Future restoration planned (5.1 miles)Fact|date=June 2008
*St. George (0.0)
*RCB Ballpark (Station, which serves Richmond County Bank Ballpark and utilizes a short portion of the abandoned north shore ROW. It was opened in 2001 and currently in service during playing season.) (0.1)
*New Brighton- Located at the northerly end of Jersey St. (0.7)
*Sailors Snug Harbor- Located at Clinton Avenue and Richmond Terrace (1.2)
*Livingston - Located at Bard Avenue and Richmond Terrace (1.8)
*West Brighton - Located at Richmond Terrace between North Burgher Avenue and Broadway; now situated on private property - a fact that has proven problematical in efforts to restore service on the line (2.4)
*Port Richmond- Located at Park Avenue and Church Street (3.0)
*Tower Hill- Located between Treadwell and Sharpe Avenues (3.4)
*Elm Park - Located at Morningstar Road and Innis Street (3.9)
*Lake Avenue - Located at Lake Avenue (4.3)
*Mariners Harbor - Located at Van Pelt Avenue (4.6)
*Harbor Road - Located at Harbor Road (4.9)
*Arlington - Located at South Avenue (5.2)
*Port Ivory (formerly Milliken -- named for the Port Ivory manufacturing plant of Procter & Gamble, where Ivory Soap was once made) (6.1)

South Beach Branch (closed at midnight Tuesday March 31, 1953) Abandoned and demolished except for remaining stanchions on St. John's avenue and Robin road (4.1 miles)Fact|date=June 2008
*Bachmann's Brewery (Eliminated in 1937) - Located between Lynhurst and Chestnut Avenues Overpasses (2.0)
*Rosebank - Located at Virginia Ave. and Tilson Pl. (2.1)
*Belair Road - Located near Belair Rd and Seth Loop. (2.5)
*Fort Wadsworth - Located at Fingerboard Rd. (2.7)
*Arrochar - Located at Major Ave. (3.2)
*Cedar Avenue - Located at Cedar Ave. between Conger St. and Railroad Ave. (3.5)
*South Beach - Located at Sand Lane. (3.9)
*Wentworth Avenue - Located in weeded area at the now abandoned section of Wentworth Avenue (4.1)

Industries serviced

*North Shore: Procter & Gamble, United States Gypsum, Staten Island Ship Building, Car Float
*Travis Line: Gulf Oil Port, Con Edison coal plant
*Tottenville Line: Nassau Smelting, Staten Island Advance, Pouch Terminal
*South Beach Line: Bachmann's Brewery

Future service

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 are plans to construct a new station named Arthur Kill Road, near the southern terminus of the line, which will essentially replace both the Atlantic and Nassau stations, which are in the most poor condition of all the stations on the line. Also, there is discussion of possibly building 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 spur of the railway.

ee also

*List of rapid transit systems
*Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel


External links

* [ Staten Island Railway]
* [ History of SIRT]
* [ - SIRT: Staten Island Rapid Transit]
* [ - Staten Island Rapid Transit]
* [ Gary Owen's SIRT South Beach Line Tribute Page]

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