Gunther and His Railroad by Morton Morris
Page 2

  The author, in 1886. Paul Matus Collection

The Transportation Problem

That was a problem that gave myself and my neighbors of what is now Bath Beach, Ulmer Park and Coney island more food for thought 35 years ago [from 1906] than it does today. Ulmer Park was then called Guntherville; Bensonhurst was Locust Grove, and Benson Avenue and Bay 18th Street was Wright's Corner station. other regular stops on, the old Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad, that ran between 25th Street and Fifth Avenue to Coney Island, were: New Utrecht Avenue, now Van Pelt Manor; The Gully, now 74th Street station; Kowenhoven's Lane, now Homewood; Weir's Hill, now 62nd Street; and City Line, now called 39th Street.
     Those were the regular stops.
     Then there were many irregular ones.
     But first something about the owner and president of the road.
     The old Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad was the first ever run to Coney Island. it was built by Charles L. Gunther.
     Mr. Gunther was born February 7, 1822. His parents were German, his father having been Christian G. Gunther, and for about fifty years was the leading fur merchant of New York.
     He was educated at Nazareth, Pa., and on returning to New York entered the Columbia Grammar School. At an early age he was taken into the firm of C. C. Gunther & Company, comprising his brothers and father.
     He was interested in politics and became a member of the Young Men's Committee and cast his vote for Polk and Dallas, in 1844.
     He was one of the founders of the Democratic Union Club.
     In the spring of 1863 he was elected a sachem of Tammany Hall, having two years previous to that time been nominated for mayor, but defeated.
     In 1863 he ran again for mayor and was elected by a plurality of 7000. He took his seat January 1, 1864.
     After his retirement from the mayoralty, he devoted himself entirely to his private affairs and was one of the first to recognize the great possibilities of Coney Island. He built the first steam railroad to the beach, thereby incurring the enmity of the old Dutch farmers of Gravesend and New Utrecht. He also built a hotel at Coney Island called the Tivoli, but it never proved profitable. He also built another hotel at Locust Grove, now about Cropsey Avenue and Bay 29th Street, but that was destroyed by fire.
     Later he went into politics again, and ran for senator of the seventh district, but was defeated. He died January 22, 1885.
     At the beginning of the operation along what is now the West End Line of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit system, horse cars were used. They were operated from 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, along New Utrecht Avenue, then known as "the old plank road." At first these cars made one trip in the morning and one in the afternoon.
     When the spirit of progress decided to flap its wings over the situation, a small "dummy" engine was purchased. The engine proper and passenger car were all one, with seats for about forty people. The fare for the round trip from Coney Island to 25th Street was fifty cents, with an additional five cent fare if a passenger wished to continue into the business district of Brooklyn. In other words, the car fare for the round trip in those days from the vicinity of Fulton Street and Myrtle Avenue to Coney Island was sixty cents. The ferry charges were additional, of course, to get to New York and back.
     The arrival of a spick and span "double ender" engine, called the "Modock," was celebrated with considerable enthusiasm as a most determined step in the march of progress in the transportation development.
     By "double ender" it was meant that this marvel possessed the alacrity of being able to run either forwards or backwards. We soon di that this accomplishment of the Modock's possessed a never-ending source of entertainment for the patrons of the line.
     Not even the engineer was ever quite positive at any time, on starting out on a trip, which part of the Modock would become animated first or which direction it would be most likely to take.

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