THE BOYNTON BICYCLE RAILWAY


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The Boynton Bicycle Railway was first known as The New York and Brighton Beach Railroad Company on August 4, 1880 in Brooklyn. These tracks went from Locust Grove (Cropsey Ave and 23rd street area), along 86th street between Stillwell Ave and Shell Road, then turned south onto West third street and Ave Y until it crossed the Coney Island creek over a little bridge. After crossing south to the Brighton Beach side of the water, the tracks went a block to the west of today's Lincoln High school yard, through the present Trump Village. Then the tracks swerved to the southeast until it reached Seabreeze Ave and Ocean Parkway. The terminal was a block south of the Ocean Parkway train station of the train. (Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, and John Forsythe from Dynasty went to Lincoln High and Donald Trump's father built the housing towers!)

Trump's section of the neighborhood started out as an area called the Gut. It was like the wild west of Coney Island with saloons, gambling, vaudeville, prostitution and so many undesireable things as early as the 1880s. It was also a place where the New York and Brighton Beach Railroad cut across along W 3 st in today's Trump Village. The terminal of the railroad was unfortunately set on fire, along with most of the Gut area in 1881. Soon after luxury hotels were built by the water, along with nearby racetracks and rides. Many of those things gradually ended soon after too. Then the area became a mostly Jewish middle classed neighborhood with private homes and apartment buildings in the 1910s. A play called 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' by Neil Simon was based on this Brighton Beach neighborhood in 1937. Later, Trump tore part of that down in the 1960s to build Trump Village in what is now the biggest Russian population of New York City.


The Boynton Bicycle Railway, Brooklyn 1890 - 1892

Coney Island itself was 'actually' an island, much the same way Manhattan and Staten Island are! The Coney Island creek was connected with Sheepshead Bay in it's natural state. This may have been the creek where Lady Deborah Moody first arrived from London by ship in 1643 to establish the town of Gravesend; the first official neighborhood in all of Brooklyn and one of the first neighborhoods in the 13 original colonies! There were plans in the early 20th century to dredge and straighten the creek as a ship canal. Instead, the center of the waterway was filled in completely by Robert Moses to allow construction of the Belt Parkway before World War 1 and filled once again in 1962 with the construction of the Verrazano Bridge; forever joining Coney Island with the rest of Brooklyn as a peninsula. Evidence of abandoned ships from long ago and one submarine are STILL near the Cropsey Ave part of the creek all these years.


Brooklyn's first official planned neighborhood from Lady Moody, 1643 - present


A yellow submarine in the Coney Island creek since 1970

Unfortunately, the New York and Brighton Beach Railroad had a very rough start from the very beginning. Residents from 86th were opposed to tracks along the avenue because it would decline real estate values. Additionally, there were problems with other rival railroads of the time, today's , , and trains. These other privately owned railroads were strongly opposed because the New York and Brighton Railroad intersected all of their tracks. Therefore, they were forced to build expensive bridges over their right of way and pushed further into the marshlands where Boynton Place is today. As a railroad, the New York and Brighton didn't do too well, due to the fact there weren't any intermediate train stops between the two terminals.

On July 27, 1881 after the New York and Brighton Beach terminal was set on fire in Coney Island, one of the rival railroads, the New York and Sea Beach Railroad, today's created a junction at 86th street and leased the New York and Brighton as a minor branch on 7/26/1886. They renamed it the Sea Beach and Brighton Beach Railroad. The rest of the tracks in the marshlands were pulled up and used as replacement ones when the Sea Beach line tracks needed repairs. This line was also short lived and lasted only until 1887. If the Sea Beach and Brighton route was here today, not only would it be another branch of the current Sea Beach line , it would have terminated at Stillwell Ave as well as the added bonus of Brighton Beach!

For a few more years in between, the tracks were abandoned, but didn't go to waste. The very first monorail system in the world was experimented on using these very tracks known as the Boynton Bicycle Railroad. It was invented by Eben M Boynton in 1852 but he ran his exhibition of the Bicycle Railroad in 1890. The train was a steam powered locomotive running with one immense driving wheel eight feet in diameter, on a single rail, and kept in an upright position by wheels running on each side of a guide rail above. Boynton's idea was to adapt bicycle technology to railroading. Conventional trains required over a ton of equipment per passenger, and much of the energy was wasted due to wind resistance and side sway. Boynton was convinced a system incorporating a single rail on the ground, plus another on the top of the train for stability would be more efficient. The ride was so smooth that the upper rail seemed unnecessary, transporting people at the then-unheard-of rate of over 60 miles per hour. It could have gone much faster had there been sufficient track for it to reach full velocity. Doctors of the day were concerned about high rates of travel being dangerous to passengers' health.


The Boynton Bicycle Railway, 1890 - 1892

His locomotive, "The Flying Billboard" weighed 4 tons, and pulled a series of double-decker passenger coaches only 4 feet wide. The public was impressed with this railroad. Soon after, Mr Boynton began proposing to incorporate his new technology with the city's elevated train lines, and spoke of inter-urban lines to Boston. None of these things ever materialized of course, accept the monorail tram between Jamaica train station on the LIRR and JFK airport in 2003 (How long did THAT take for crying outloud!) Boynton's technology was 100 years ahead of his time but the world just wasn't ready for him yet. Although Boynton's invention fascinated many scientists and engineers of his day, he was never able to garner enough backing to expand beyond his small demonstration line in Brooklyn from Boynton Place to Surf Ave. The line phased out in 1892 but was surprisingly reorganized as the Brighton & Bensonhurst Electric Railroad. It was proposed to become a trolley line from Brighton Beach to 86th street station of the train, but it never materialized. As for the Boynton, the technology lives on in any monorail systems you would see today in Disney-Land and many worldwide airports!

A very interesting history to these particular tracks in relation to me is that they passed through my paternal grandfather's building 73 years before it was built. This is where the Marlboro Projects stands today. Then the tracks continued through my maternal great grand mother's property she owned when the land was still rural, prior to the projects. Then the tracks went through today's Ave X subway shop where her son, my grandfather worked, and turned down my old block West third street where I lived as a kid. Very strange coincidences I just learned about this year. And 2015 was the 10th year this site has been on the internet! A perfect anniversary gift to me the author and very rich history!


The Boynton Bicycle Railway route marked in red, Brooklyn 1890 - 1892


The Boynton Bicycle Railway site in present times near 86th street

One of the spectators of the Boynton Bicycle Railroad named Frederick W. Dunton became acquainted with Mr. Boynton and saw great possibilities. He saw a fast, speedy way to travel from the city to Long Island's eastern towns in addition to Port Jefferson's steamers to Connecticut. From this idea, The New York & Brooklyn Suburban Investment Company was formed making F.W. Dunton the President and George E. Hagerman the secretary & treasurer. Dunton invested his energy on the construction of the railroad while Hagerman operated a large lot selling development in the area of Bellport & East Patchogue. Mr. Dunton had soon completed a one and a half mile test track, running north to south on a location in East Patchogue. The electric powerhouse was built on the south end of the track by the bay and the track ran north to the central line of the Long Island Railroad. The railroad consisted of heavy, wooden framework with a single rail at the top and bottom.


Tracks were elevated to cross over farms, East Patchogue 1894


The Rocket, East Patchogue 1894

In time the experimental car, The Rocket came through from Brooklyn and attracted great crowds as it was moved along South Country Road being pulled by twenty four powerful oxen. These animals were as much a curiosity as the car itself. In 1894 the trial runs began as VIPs were invited from all over the Northeast. The Bicycle car at East Patchogue began running May 10th. Free stages from Patchogue and Bellport depots to the Bicycle Road were run on the arrival of the trains.

Work had begun on the first twenty miles of track when problems begun to plague the operation. Austin Corbin, president of the Long Island Railroad and Frederick Duntonís father in law opposed the rival railroad and blocked its construction. "To extend this road from sound to ocean it will be necessary to cross the property of the Long Island Railroad. Every effort will be made to prevent such a crossing, without which Mr. Duntonís pet scheme, so far as crossing Long Island is concerned, will not be realized." Unfortunately the system failed, costing the enterprise an estimate of $1.6 million. The promoters are 'now' just names. Hagerman is a small lovely community and Dunton is a road in East Patchogue. But even in failure these men should be remembered as visionaries who helped shape Long Island into what it is today. Remains of this venture continue to be searched for today. This "hump" in the road is due to the raised beds of the old Bicycle Railroads Right of Way. The streetbuilders were too lazy to level it so they paved it over!

South Dunton Ave in Hagerman, Long Island, 2000s


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SUNNY SUMMER SUNDAY SPECIAL
MYRTLE-CHAMBERS / BRIGHTON BEACH
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THE MYRTLE AVE EL - (BMT #11)
SEA BEACH - BRIGHTON EXPRESS
MYRTLE-CHAMBERS / FOURTH AVE

BOYNTON BICYCLE RAILROAD
THE BAY RIDGE BRANCH (X train)
BEACH PNEUMATIC TRANSIT