First Train Through Tunnel

Footnotes to Long Island History

First Train Through Tunnel

By Thomas R. Bayles

         The first train on the Long Island Rail Road that ran through the new tunnel under the East River on September 8, 1910 was given an enthusiastic reception by residents of the various villages on Long Island. 

The following clipping from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for that date gives some idea of the enthusiasm that ran through the Island at the prospect of being at last linked to New York city by direct train connection:

“New York of the future will look back upon today as commemorative of one of the greatest engineering accomplishments of modern times, and the added comfort of the thousands benefited by it will be it greatest tribute.  The throngs that gathered in Jamaica and the other Long Island towns today expressed the feelings of the people as eloquently as did the speakers who addressed them.

“ Today is unquestionably the greatest in Long Island’s history and the future alone can express the true measure of it.

“ While the first train out of the new Pennsylvania station left that depot at 3:40 am today, the big crowd of the day arrived about 9 o’clock, when delegations of citizens from all points on Long Island began to arrive to take the official train at 9:32 for Jamaica.

“ It was Conductor Rushmore’s Train No. 204 that bore the glad tidings this morning over the main line that Long Island was officially linked to New York.  This was the first passenger train on that line, drawn by an electric locomotive, to pass through the tunnels carrying passengers who paid their way.  It was a signal honor for Conductor James D. Rushmore, who is the oldest conductor in point of service on the road, having been in the employ of the railroad since 1866.

“His train got away at 8:25 and was followed by the Montauk Division through train at 8:30.

“One of the passengers on the main line train was the Rev. James M. Denton of Yaphank, a well known Presbyterian minister.  His father, who is 89, is taking great interest in the Jamaica celebration today.  He well remembers the first Long Island locomotives, the Aerial and Postboy, and marvels at the wonderful changes in locomotion over the road from that time to this.   

“ As the trains passed through every station, the passengers composing the celebration committees representing each town, leaned out of the train windows or gathered on the platforms, waving and cheering in exchange with the enthusiastic greetings that they received at their depots.

“ Bright skies and fair weather lent an effect to the whole programe of the celebration that aroused the excitement of people to fever point.  Each town had its favorite method of carrying out the celebration scheme.  Parades through the business centers of the villages in which the town officials, prominent citizens, fire companies, societies and residents took part, and formed a big reception delegation at the station, made up the programe for the most part.

“ At Babylon this morning 500 school children were massed in the depot park when the first train to reach there after passing through the tunnels, arrived.  The train was greeted with cheers and the children sang patriotic songs.  The front of the depot was artistically decorated with goldenrod arranged by William Wincott, superintendent of Mrs. Arnold’s estate in West Islip.

“ At Islip 700 school children marched from the post office to the station, each carrying a small American flag. The station was literally covered with large American flags and the effect was fine.  The station grounds were completely filled with autos and fine turnouts and the platform packed with 1200 people before the train arrived.  On the arrival of the train at 10:27 there were prolonged cheers.  The tunnel opening means much to Islip.

“ Patchogue had a turnout of over 100 citizens who assembled at the station to greet the train which arrived at 10:55 a.m. amid the tooting of the fire whistles and the cheering of the assembled people.  The Village trustees and members of the board of trade were on hand to extend greetings.  Patchoguers were delighted to gaze at the new steel-cars marked ‘Pennsylvania’ and there was general rejoicing at the prospects of greatly improved transportation.”      

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