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How We Got to Coney Island

The Development of Mass Transportation in Brooklyn and Kings County

Brian Cudahy

Publication Year: 2002

How We Got to Coney Island is the definitive history of mass transportation in Brooklyn. Covering 150 years of extraordinary growth, Cudahy tells the complete story of the trolleys, street cars, steamboats, and railways that helped create New York's largest borough---and the remarkable system that grew to connect the world's most famous seaside resort with Brooklyn, New York City across the river, and, ultimately, the rest of the world. Includes tables, charts, photographs, and maps.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iv-v


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pp. vi

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pp. viii-xii

WHAT MENTAL PICTURE ARISES when one thinks of Coney Island? Persons not from the New York area will probably think first of photographs of the beach crowded with thousands of people on a warm summer afternoon. Another image is that of the Steeplechase amusement park. The images are not incorrect, but they are incomplete. Today, the image of Coney...

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pp. xiv-xix

AN IRREGULAR PROCESSION of offshore islands helps define the eastern seaboard of the United States. Formed in many cases of nothing more substantial than shifting sand, and subject to constant change by the natural forces of wind and tide, these islands evoke pleasant images of rolling surf breaking...

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1. A Primer on Coney Island and Brooklyn

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pp. 3-23

TO ESTABLISH some geographic terms of reference for the largely historical narrative that follows, let us take a brief look at the lay of the land in Coney Island today. And what could possibly be a more appropriate way to explore Coney Island in the early years of the twenty-first century than by taking an imaginary ride in a hot air balloon from the eastern...

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2. Street Railways (1854-1890)

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pp. 24-48

FEW MUNICIPALITIES in the world ever enjoyed as close an association with street railways as Brooklyn once did. The National League baseball team that currently plays its home games in Los Angeles and whose white uniform shirts have ‘‘Dodgers’’ written across them in blue script...

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3. Iron Piers and Iron Steamboats (1845-1918)

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pp. 49-66

THANKS TO THE DISTINCTIVE GEOGRAPHY of western Long Island, the shortest distance between New York City and Coney Island is a water route rather than a land route. Prior to the construction of railway lines across Kings County in the 1860s and afterward, travel by water was also the fastest and the easiest route. In the mid-nineteenth century when...

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4. Excursion Railways (1864-1890)

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pp. 67-103

AS CONEY ISLAND GREW in popularity as a seasonal seaside resort, five steam railways were constructed in Kings County in the 1860s and the 1870s to carry passengers there from the southern limits of the city of Brooklyn or from steamboat and ferry connections with Manhattan. The rights-of-way used...

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5. Elevated Railways (1880-1890)

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pp. 104-123

ELEVATED RAILWAYS operating along structures built over busy urban thoroughfares played an important role in the development of local transport in Brooklyn and Kings County during the final two decades of the nineteenth century. Two Brooklyn elevated lines of the 1880s were eventually...

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6. Merger, Consolidation, and the Emergence of the BRT (1890-1900)

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pp. 124-189

IN THE HISTORY of public transportation in Brooklyn and Kings County, from Colonial times to the present day, no decade was as transformational or as important as the 1890s. When the 1890s began, Brooklyn was served by a number of independent street railway companies whose principal motive power was the horse; elevated railways with trains...

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7. Subways and the Nickel Empire (1900-1940)

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pp. 190-249

THE AMALGAMATION of a variety of Kings County transport properties under the aegis of a unified Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT) as the nineteenth century became the twentieth brought measured improvement in travel to and from Coney Island. Now electrified rapid transit service was available...

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8. Coney Island at War (1940-1945)

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pp. 250-265

IT WAS DURING THE YEARS leading up to the Second World War that a singularly controversial public figure, Robert Moses, began to exert an influence on the subsequent growth and development of New York. While many unhesitatingly blame him for the downfall of Coney Island, a more balanced analysis...

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9. After VJ Day (1945-2000)

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pp. 266-286

IN COMPARISON WITH earlier eras, the years between the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the twenty-first century saw rather limited change to the style of transportation that served Coney Island. This is not to say that things were completely static over this interval with respect to Coney Island transportation, and Coney Island itself saw a near...

Appendix A: BRT and BMT Rail Passenger Cars, 1900-1940

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pp. 287-292

Appendix B: Rail and Steamboat Schedules, Summer 1880

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pp. 293-298


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pp. 299-326


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pp. 327-332


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pp. 333-346

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246854
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823222087
Print-ISBN-10: 082322208X

Page Count: 346
Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Transportation -- New York Metropolitan Area -- History.
  • Coney Island (New York, N.Y.) -- History.
  • Local transit -- New York Metropolitan Area -- History.
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