An early edition of the LIRR, passing through bucolic Brooklyn
The Long Island Railroad has been around for a very long time. Last month, in fact, the central railroad turned 187 years old, almost as old as train travel itself. And it is the
The official birthday is April 24, 1834, when the charter was granted, creating a rail link from the city of Brooklyn to the village of Greenport (and then on, via a series of boats and ferries, to Boston).
But that’s only the date of its incorporation. The very first railroad in Long Island actually came two years earlier, running from Brooklyn’s South Ferry along the edge of the East River to around 158th Street in Jamaica, Queens. The LIRR was formed two years later to extend that line deeper into Long Island and up into New England.
They abandoned out of state travel in the 1850s — mostly because they were pushed out by competition — and focused on communities that sprouted up in Long Island.
But the LIRR had only one track that extended through Long Island, and it went down the middle, far from coastal towns where most people lived. Branches were finally constructed throughout the late 19th century.
The website LIRR History has an exhaustive overview of the train lines many successes and hardships.
Below: A map of the Long Island railroad and adjoining steamboat services, circa 1903. Click into pic for greater detail. (courtesy Dunton.org)