Hopes Were High for Success of Bicycle Railroad in 1800's

February 6, 1964


Hopes Were High For Success of Bicycle Railroad in 1800’s

By Thomas R. Bayles


            The Advance for January 28, 1893 carried the following article:

"It is understood that a bold plan to secure the right of way on the south country road from here to Brooklyn is being laid by the projectors of the Bicycle Railroad.    The surveyors who were at work here this week were very close mouthed and little information could be secured from them.  We understand, however, that the Company intends to build the railroad at the side of the main road from Bellport to Brooklyn. No town or county official who has the interests of the people at heart could think of granting this right. It would ruin the road for travel. No man or animal could get used to electric trains whizzing by every 30 minutes at 90 miles an hour, and on Main Street in Patchogue would ruin the street for business. It is safe to say the Brookhaven Town Board would never grant such an outrageous franchise."

The Advance for April 29, 1893 carried an article that had appeared in the "Electrical World," and we quote in part from it:

A novel experiment is to be tried on Long Island, some 50 miles from Brooklyn, in the near future, which consists of the operation of a bicycle railroad operated by electricity, over a two-mile track already constructed.  The car runs upon two wheels placed fore and aft as in the familiar bicycle of the day. These wheels, five feet in diameter run on a single heavy iron rail resting on 12-inch stringers and bear the whole weight of the car. Directly over this rail at a vertical distance of nine feet, are suspended the guide and trolley rail.  The former consists of an inverted wooden trough, in the channel of which is fastened an iron rail, which does service as conductor for the current. In the car which has just been completed and christened "The Rocket," but one motor will be employed. Ms car is 65 feet long, four feet wide and is divided into six compartments, each containing two double seats seating four people. Each compartment has a separate door of its own on the same side of the car, and these doors are controlled by the conductor so they may be opened or closed from his end of the car. At Hagerman a power station has already been erected for the initial link of this road with a Westinghouse generator of 75 kw capacity, a New York Safety engine of 100 horse power and tubular boilers of the locomotive type.

"For various reasons the New York and Suburban Investment Company of New York, which owns large tracts of land near Hagerman, and which is the real backer of the scheme, preferred to transport this car from Brooklyn to its destination over the country pikes instead of by the Long Island Rail Road. They procured an enormous four wheel truck, upon which the boat shaped car was placed, and to this they attached 14 yoke of oxen, and on April 4 pulled out upon their journey through the wilderness and jungles of the great Long Island. Many were the adventures that were met, and many of the country bridges over the numerous streams were constructed to bear no heavier burdens than a well filled hay wagon or a drove of cattle."

The "Rocket" finally reached East Patchogue, and as it passed, through the villages along the way attracted so much attention that people rushed to purchase some of the stock in the company.

The Advance for July S.1893 carries the following account of the trial nm of the car.

“This week a trail of the bicycle car was successfully made at East Patchogue with President Dunton and Secretary Hagerman on hand together with Supt. Boynton. The car flew over the track at 40 miles an hour. Some changes and improvements will be made before the public is invited to ride. A great many have been down to see the car speed over the track."

The Advance for May 4, 1899, carried a full-page article with pictures of the car, and the following quotation is from the article:

"Yesterday Messrs. Dunton and Boynton were here with their supervisors from Queens and Suffolk counties, who were introduced to the bicycle railroad and shot over the ground at a mile a minute. The inspection was satisfactory and no one doubts this novel system of rapid transit. The Bicycle car has been running every day this week and will run Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 am. to 4 p.m. Free stages will run from Patchogue and Bellport stations.”

We have been unable to find any further mention of the bicycle railroad in the Advance until the following item in the Bellport news of the November 14 issue in 1902.

"The Bicycle railroad, which held out such glittering promises of rapid transit to New York, will soon be only a memory. The framework of this novel contrivance is about to be tom down. Fast time was made in their experimental runs, but the promoters failed to Interest sufficient capital. J. W. Overton has bought the timbers and will bring them down to his lumber yard here to be utilized for various purposes requiring yellow pine lumber."

The bicycle railroad was a complete failure, and the two- mile piece of experimental track was all that was ever laid. Those who bought stock in the company lost their whole investment.

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