The Central RR of Long Island
- (Click HERE for some pictures) (Click HERE for Art Huneke's Central RR pages)
The history of the Central RR is also the history of Alexander T. Stewart. Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1803, he emigrated to the U. S. when he was sixteen and set up an extremely successful business in the fashion industry. He amassed great wealth selling dress trim, lace, gloves and fans. By 1862, his business had moved into what was then the largest store in the world, at Broadway and 10th St. in New York City.
In his sixties and having no heirs, both his chidren having died at very young ages, he wanted to do something worthwhile with his fortune. In 1869 he found that something, which would eventually be the village of Garden City, Long Island.
In the center of what is now Nassau County, lie a huge tract of mostly undeveloped land known as the the Hempstead Plains. Stewart envisioned transforming this land into a model city with the finest homes and, on July 17, 1869 he bought the entire tract at a then unheard of sum of $55 an acre. The land was roughly 10 miles long, from New Hyde Park Road in the west to what is now the Meadowbrook Parkway in the east and 2 miles wide, from Old Country Road in the north to the village of Hempstead in the south.
Included in Stewarts plans was the construction of a private railroad to allow a means of travel for the residents of his new city to New York. To get to Flushing was no problem, since the land for the ROW was available. However, in order to have access to the East River, where ferry service was available to Manhattan, he had to "feel out" the owners of the already existing railroads (LIRR, Flushing & North Side and the New York & Flushing) for a possible deal to allow Stewart's line to lease the use of their rails. In December, 1871 an agreement was made with Conrad Poppenhusen of the F&NS, whereby i) the Stewart line would connect with the F&NS in Flushing, ii)Stewart agreed to build a double track line from Hyde Park to Farmingdale, iii) Poppenhusen would build a double track line from Flushing to Hyde Park, and iv) double track the F&NS existing line from Flushing to Long Island City (Hunter's Point). See the Flushing and North Side RR page for more information and pictures of the Central RR.
With this agreement, the combined Central and F&NS became a formidable competitor of the LIRR.
Although the building standards of the new lines were set very high, using the best available materials, construction proceeded pretty smoothly, except for the area known as Rocky Hill, near the present-day intersection of Springfield Blvd. and the Grand Central Parkway. Thousands of cubic yards of earth had to be removed using the primitive steam shovels of the time and a mile of trestles erected. (It's ironic that, when the GCP was being built in the 1930's, thousands of cubic yards of earth had to be refilled! Sorry, Robert Moses.)
The line from Flushing to Garden City was finished in June, 1872 and from Garden City to Farmingdale in July. The line crossed the existing LIRR at three locations: i) over the main line just east of the Floral Park (then Hinsdale) station; ii) at grade with the Hempstead Branch at Hempstead Crossing; and iii) at grade with the main line again near Bethpage. Also built was a branch to Hempstead which paralleled the LIRR Hempstead Branch a few blocks east of it and a short spur from Bethpage Junction north to Bethpage. There was also a line to Hempstead situated just east of the LIRR's branch to Hempstead.
The next year, the line was extended from Bethpage Junction to the Babylon Town Dock.
The following timetable from November, 1875 is from a scan provided by "Big John, fan of the Sunrise Trail"
The stations of the line were as follows:
Central Junction - in Flushing at the intersection of Sanford Ave. and DeLong St. (now the site of a Home Depot)
Hillside - Main St. and Rose St.?? (I cannot find any Rose St. on the map. There is a Rose Ave. which, if it ever did intersect with Main St., is too far southwest. One possibility is that it was located somewhere near the present Queens Botanical Gardens). (added 2/11/2002) Thanks to Michael Spiteri, we can see exactly where Rose St. was on this map.
Kissena - Kissena Blvd. (at the edge of Kissena Park)
Frankiston - 73rd Ave and 208th St. (now inside Cunningham Park)
Creedmoor - Range St. and 88th Ave.
Hinsdale - 254th St. just north of Jericho Tpke./Jamaica Ave.
Hyde Park - at the present Stewart Manor station.
Garden City - Park Ave. and 7th St. close to the site of the present Garden City station. This was the showpiece station of the line. Click HERE for a picture of the station in 1879.
LIRR Crossing - near where the present Hempstead Branch turns south towards Hempstead
Hempstead - Fulton St. (probably near Washington). After the Central was assimilated by the LIRR in 1876, the LIRR ROW was abandoned and the Central's was used exclusively. When the current West Hempstead branch was built in 1893, which at that time also went to Hempstead, the ROW was shifted to its current location.
Meadowbrook - Between the present Meadowbrook Pkwy. and Merrick Ave.
New Bridge Road - probably just south of Salisbury Park Dr.
Island Trees - Jerusalem Ave. probably just south of Cornflower Rd.
Central Park - In Plainedge at Stewart Ave.
Bethpage Junction - At the Junction of the Central RR and LIRR ROW's
Bethpage - Winding Rd. in Old Bethpage
Farmingdale - Main St. just south of Fulton.
Breslau (Lindenhurst) - Wellwood Ave.
Belmont Junction - ??
Babylon - Temporarily at Merrick Rd. and East Neck Rd. After 1874, the South Side's station was used.
The Central RR Right of Way (ROW)
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