The New York and Manhattan Beach Railway

 

 

The origins of the New York and Manhattan Beach Railway system start in 1870 with the formation of the NY & Hempstead RR. This company hoped to build a line from the East River in Bay Ridge across Brooklyn to East NY and then to Valley Stream. It was thought, since Bay Ridge was the closest point to the busy New Jersey terminals of Elizabeth, Bayonne and Jersey City, that such a route would enable the company to provide cheaper freight rates than were charged by the other railroads. Much grading and excavating was done in 1871 to 1873, and in 1873 the company was leased by the South Side RR, which ran through Valley Stream. However, the financial panic of 1873 caused all work to cease on the project without a single rail having been laid.

The project was restarted in 1875 when the NY, Bay Ridge and Jamaica RR Co. was created. The ROW that was laid out follows closely the present Bay Ridge branch of the LIRR from the East River to a point where it approaches the Canarsie line (then known as the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach RR) near Linden Blvd. By the summer of 1876, the line was completed to Bath Junction at 62nd St. and New Utrecht Ave. where it crossed the Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island RR (the predecessor of today’s West End subway line – B train). A temporary agreement was made between the two RR’s and in August, 1876 passenger trains started running from Bay Ridge to Coney Island, even though it was still thought that freight traffic would eventually be the primary business of the NYBR&J.

In November, 1876 the NYBR&J was sold to Austin Corbin (later to become one of the most important figures in LIRR history) and was reorganized as the New York and Manhattan Beach Railway Co. Immediately the whole purpose of the new RR was changed from freight to passenger, in order to service Corbin’s proposed line to the site of his immense Manhattan Beach Hotel that was being constructed on the east end of Coney Island. In addition, Corbin decided that the NY&MB railway would be narrow gauge (3’ instead of the standard 4’8-1/2"), which meant that the rails already existing from Bay Ridge to Bath Junction had to be relaid. The branch to Manhattan Beach diverged from the main Bay Ridge line at Manhattan Beach Junction, and continued south on a ROW just east of the current Brighton line (at that time the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island RR). Corbin hoped that the Manhattan Beach line would draw passengers from both the Bay Ridge and East NY ends of the Bay Ridge line. On the East NY end, Corbin had negotiated a deal with the Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach RR to run his line all the way up to Atlantic Ave., using the outer edge of the latter’s ROW. The Metropolitan Hotel, on the corner of Fulton St. and Van Sinderen Ave. was used as the terminal station. On July 19, 1877 the new railroad opened with much fanfare. There were 13 trains a day each way from both Bay Ridge and East NY to Manhattan Beach. click HERE for an article from the Brooklyn Eagle of July 19, 1877 describing the event.

Next, Corbin focused his efforts to get a ROW from East NY to northern Brooklyn, and succeeded by buying the Glendale and East River RR ROW. The line was built from Oak and West Sts. in Greenpoint east to where it crossed the South Side’s Bushwick branch at Varick St. (South Side Crossing), then between Wyckoff and Irving Aves. east to the Cemetery of the Evergreens (hence the current name "Evergreen" branch), then turned south to hook up with the Bay Ridge line in East New York. It opened for service on May 15, 1878, when the entire Manhattan Beach line opened for the summer.

The last, and very short-lived, piece of the Manhattan Beach puzzle fell into place on June 29, 1878, when the Kings County Central RR (which was leased by the NY & Manhattan Beach) opened for service. This line, owned by Electus B. Litchfield, started from the edge of Prospect Park at Flatbush Ave. and Malbone St., ran east through Malbone to Clove Rd., then south on Clove to Clarkson, then to a junction with the Manhattan Beach line. On September 30, 1878 the Kings County Central closed down for the season. It never reopened. It had been sold to a group which wanted to standard gauge the line and build their own railroad to Manhattan Beach, but due to both bad management and bad luck, the plans never materialized and they were forced to liquidate their holdings in the spring of 1879. By July, the ROW had been completely stripped of everything.

Here's a map of the Manhattan Beach Railway system from 1878 (V. Seyfried Collection).

 

 

 

In 1881, after the entire LIRR had been bought by Corbin, the decision was made to standard gauge the entire Manhattan Beach Line and connect it to both the LIRR’s Atlantic Ave. and Montauk (Long Island City) branches. By 1883, all this had been done. It also meant that the Greenpoint line was no longer needed, and the portion from Greenpoint to South Side Crossing was abandoned for passenger service after the 1885 season (it was completely abandoned for freight also in 1890 and was torn up). A connection was made at South Side Crossing between the Bushwick branch and the Evergreen, which was then standard gauged, and a new service from Bushwick to Manhattan Beach was started, which lasted until 1894.

In 1885 a connection was made with Andrew Culver’s Prospect Park and Coney Island RR (the current Culver line – F train) at Parkville, which enabled Culver trains to go to Manhattan Beach. Corbin bought out the PP&CI from Culver in 1893 and operated it as a division of the NY & Manhattan Beach. In 1895, a connection was made between the Fifth Ave. Elevated line and the Culver line, enabling trains to now travel directly from Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan Beach.

Here's a very nice 1885 map, courtesy of "Big John, fan of the Sunrise Trail"

 

 

 

In June, 1896, Austin Corbin died as a result of a fall from his horse carriage. It was also the start of a long and slow death for the Manhattan Beach line as a passenger line. The Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) system had been busily uniting all the various rapid transit lines and in late 1896 a connection between the Fulton St. El and the Brighton line, long and successfully opposed by Corbin, was made which cut into Manhattan Beach revenues.

Finally, on April 1, 1899 an "Agreement of Alliance" was made between the LIRR and the BRT whereby both agreed to keep out of each other's sphere of interest. The LIRR would not oppose the BRT’s acquisition of all the Brooklyn Elevated railroads and the BRT would make a connection with the Manhattan Beach line at Sheepshead Bay, so that Brighton line trains could now travel directly to the Manhattan Beach Hotel. Shortly later, the BRT took over control of the Culver line.

The early years of the 1900’s saw the transformation of the Manhattan Beach line from mainly passenger service to freight service. A gigantic grade-elimination project was started in 1906 and completed by 1915. On January 17, 1918 a connection was made between the Bay Ridge line and the NY Connecting RR over the Hell Gate Bridge. In 1907 the Manhattan Beach Hotel was razed, and in 1916 its sister hotel, the Oriental, was also demolished. In 1908 and 1910, the Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay race tracks were closed, respectively. Finally, on May 14, 1924, passenger service ended over both the Manhattan Beach and Bay Ridge lines. Freight service on the Manhattan Beach portion continued for several years and it was completely torn up in 1937. The Bay Ridge branch continues as a freight-only line to this day (now operated by the New York and Atlantic Railway [NYA] since 1997, along with all other freight operations over LIRR tracks).

Click here for track Maps of the Manhattan Beach line

Stations of the Manhattan Beach Line - from Manhattan Beach Junction to Manhattan Beach

South Greenfield - Opened July, 1877 - between Chestnut Ave. and Ave. M. Closed 1879, reopened 1889. In 1909, a new station was built which shared the embankment with the Brighton line. Lasted until 1924.

Kings Highway - Opened 1883 - Like S. Greenfield, this station was rebuilt in the Brighton line embankment and lasted until 1924. (thanks to "Big John - fan of the Sunrise Trail" for the scan of this ticket and others on this page)

 

Wyckoff's Switch - 1877 only

Neck Road - Opened 1893 - Same as S. Greenfield and Kings Highway afterwards.

Sheepshead Bay - Opened July, 1877 - Just south of Sheepshead Bay Road. Same as above, again, except that from 1913 to 1921 the station was also the terminus of the Marine Railway. Here's a picture of the Sheepshead Bay station in 1903. (Courtesy of Vincent Seyfried - see Bibliography)

Manhattan Beach - Opened July, 1877, behind the Manhattan Beach Hotel. New station built in 1909 at West End Ave. and Oriental Blvd. Lasted until 1924, but the depot was used as a gas station until 1938. Here's a picture from 1918 (Ron Ziel collection)

Oriental Hotel - Opened 1883 - also in Manhattan Beach, several block east of the Manhattan Beach station.

Stations on the Kings County Central

Prospect Park - East side of Flatbush Ave. between Empire Blvd. (formerly the infamous Malbone St.) and Washington Pl.

Nostrand Ave. - Opened 8/3/1878. - On the NE corner of Nostrand and Empire

County Buildings - Opened 6/29/1878. -South side of Clarkson St. between New York Ave. and E. 34th St.

Church Ave. -

Holy Cross Cemetery -

Kings County Central Junction - One could change here for Bay Ridge, Manhattan Beach or Greenpoint.

 

Stations and pictures of the Bay Ridge branch.

Pictures of the Greenpoint "Evergreen" branch.

Prospect Park & Coney Islande RR (Culver Line).

 

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