Gunther and His Railroad by Morton Morris
Page 4

     One of the enjoyable pastimes for the little boys of those days was to play train wreckers. Among those boys were Willie Dean, George Abbott, Lewis (now Alderman) Potter, Garret and Jack Ormick, and Robert Ewing. There was really never any chance to wreck the train, for any boy could outrun it, but they would take their shovels and pails and pile sand on the track, and when the train came along, the passengers would have to wait until the engineer got out with a shovel and removed the sand.
     The train also afforded the boys much sport in the winter time as well, and it was not an uncommon thing at that season of the year to see several boys "towing" behind the train with their sleds.
     It never occurred to a boy in those days to pay any fare between Coney Island and Unionville. The boys would jump on the train when it left the island, and when the conductor came around for their fares, they would jump off and run along beside the cars, then as soon as his attention was demanded elsewhere, they would jump on again.
     One invariable rule was that the train never ran on time or never reached its destination on time. There was only the single track, having switches at Kowenhouven's Lane, Bath Beach and City Line. When one train arrived at one of these switches, it would wait there until the train due from the opposite direction arrived.
     How long a passenger would have to wait would depend on whether there was any sand on the track, or there had been any fence rails handy at points along, the route where the trains could be relied on for their regular irregularities.
     The regular running schedule for the run from 25th Street and Fifth Avenue to Coney Island was one hour. The last train would leave 25th Street at 6:05 p.m.
     If you missed that train you walked six miles.
     On the down trip, at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue, then called City Line Hill, the engines were unable to pull the passengers up the hill. For fear of being sand-bagged or being robbed of his fares, the conductor would walk up the hill and seat himself behind a big boulder that was there, and make up his cash reports while the engine and passengers would be laboring away climbing the ascent.

This picture was taken about the time this story was written. A single car West End train crosses the Long Island RR's Bay Ridge branch, at that time in the process of grade crossing elimination.   Paul Matus Collection.

Continued on page 5

Copyright 1975 by Third Rail Press, 1999 by The Composing Stack Inc.
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