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History of  the LIRR Part 1 continued

     [On] April 24, 1834, "The Long Island Railroad Company" was chartered by a special act of the Legislature to build its line "from any eligible point adjoining Southold Bay, in or near the village of Greenport in the County of Suffolk, and extending west on the most practicable route through or near the middle of Long Island, to a point on the water's edge in the village of Williamsburgh; also to construct a branch railroad from the main line to Sag Harbor." The line from Bedford to Williamsburgh was never built.
     At the time the Long Island Railroad was chartered, there was no general Railroad Law so called. Hence the need for the Special Act, known as Chapter 178 of the Laws of 1834. The Commissioners named in the Charter were: Samuel Hicks, John L. Graham, Edwin Hicks, Valentine Hicks, Nicholas Wyckoff, James H. Weeks, Benjamin Strong, Joseph Moses, Edmund Frost, Singleton Mitchell, William F. Blydenburgh, Joseph H. Goldsmith.
     The Charter also provided a scheme for absorbing the old Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad and Turnpike. The new road was intended as a link in an all-rail route from Boston, Mass., to Charleston, S. C. In 1836 the Long Island Railroad leased the Brooklyn and Jamaica for forty five years for $33,000 per year. The line was opened on April 18th of that year by the Brooklyn and Jamaica, and soon afterward the Long Island Railroad began using the same track.
     In the meantime work was being done on the route eastward, and in the midst of the financial crisis of 1837 a single track was completed as far as Hicksville. In April of that year all work was suspended for lack of funds. But on March 1, 1837, the railroad was opened as far as Hicksville. It may be of interest to read a description of this road as it was in 1840, which probably describes its condition in 1837 as well. From Brooklyn to Bedford the rails were supported on cast iron chairs weighing twenty pounds apiece. These in turn rested on stone blocks, the distance between them being three feet, from center to center. An iron bar extended across the track at every stone block to maintain the proper width. From Bedford to Jamaica wooden sleepers or ties were substituted for the stone blocks, and cast iron chairs weighing fifteen pounds were used.

     The tremendous influence for progress which the railroads have had in economic conditions need scarcely be mentioned. But the influence which they have had on history and on the development of civilization and thought has not been told. Although railroading has always fascinated many men, and proven the inspiration of their great careers, it is not in such a direct way that its influence has been felt to the greatest extent. Before the time of the railroads progress was slow. It was a three days' journey from Oyster Ponds [Orient] on the Eastern end over the "Sunrise Trails" of Long Island to Brooklyn at the Western end. Today [1925] the same journey is performed in three hours. In the olden times news of the day and information of all kinds was disseminated very slowly. Each community had but slight connection with the outside world. Progress under such conditions was very slow and uncertain indeed. But the railroads have acted like giant mixing machines, disseminating the advances made in one part of the country over the entire country in a short while. Thus has civilization and the advancement of knowledge been stimulated and promoted by our railroads. On Long Island, in particular, practically every historian has mentioned the building of the Long Island Railroad in 1844 as the dividing line between the olden times and the modern era of progress.

The Early Railroad--The first railroad chartered on Long Island was the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad, in 1832, from Brooklyn on the water's edge to Jamaica, a distance of over ten miles. The work seems to have been pushed with commendable vigor, so that the line was substantially completed by 1834.

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Updated Thursday, March 22, 2001

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