Monday, April 7, 2008

An Ode to Dashing Dan

The article reads "Long Island Railroad: Complaints of the public -- fewer trains and higher fares." Taken from today's headlines? Alas, this article appeared in The New York Times on January 27, 1881!
Photograph by Max Hubacher from the H-WPL collection

Last month, the MTA once again increased its fares, leaving commuters wondering where it will all end. For better of for worse, this lament is not unique to Long Island and has been the refrain of commuters since the railroad's earliest days.
The Long Island is the country's oldest continuous operated rail line. Incorporated in 1834, it eventually merged with several of its competitors. The first train ran on April 18, 1836.

In 1868, Conrad Poppenhusen, who made his fortune in rubber manufacturing, opened the Flushing and North Side Railroad. He invested between $3 and $6 million to consolidate several existing lines into the Long Island Railroad, a move which eventually cost him much of his wealth.

A letter to the editor of The Times, entitled "The Wail of the Long Island Railroad Commuter" (January 28, 1881, p. 5) bemoans the increase in fares which will bring an annual expense of $40 for travel from Flushing to Long Island City and then $2.50 per month for the ferry ride to Manhattan! In addition to this outrage, the long lines for punching of tickets before entering the train result in substantial delays. Because of this, the author complains, the 7 1/2 mile trip takes 35 minutes.
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