The first passenger train to run to Montauk left Long Island City at 8:30 a.m. on December 17, 1895. There were about 50 “excursionists” that day, and 30 of them boarded in East Hampton with lunch baskets in their hands.
“The train consisted of one private dining room car, a parlor car, mail and baggage car, smoker and one passenger car, and was in charge of Conductor Swayzee,” the East Hampton Star reported before going on to list the names of the locals who took part.
Earlier that year, Austin Corbin and Charles Pratt had purchased about half of Montauk from the heirs of Arthur Benson, forming the Montauk Company. Corbin, who was president of the Long Island Rail Road, wanted to extend its service from Amagansett to Montauk to create a shorter route to Europe from New York; ultimately, the plan was to extend the railroad northeast to Culloden Point, where trains would meet transatlantic ships.
Living in broken-down boxcars next to where the tracks were to be laid, railroad workers completed the project. About six months after the passengers’ maiden voyage on December 17, Corbin was killed after being thrown from a horse-drawn carriage. A new railroad president, William Baldwin, resuscitated Corbin’s plan, but Congress declined to make Montauk an official port of entry.
“The train made good speed across Napeague beach and through the hills and over the valleys of Montauk, and as one looked out upon the barren lands and the great stretch of blue water beyond Napeague, it seemed almost like a fairy story to hear the news man on his trip through the cars crying ‘All the morning papers,’” the Star reported. “The train ran at reduced speed over the last two miles of the road and finally came to a stop at the station, which is still in the course of construction, exactly on schedule time, 12:28.”
“The delighted company of passengers alighted on the sands of Fort Pond bay beach, and the first sight to meet their eyes was a flag, which agent Brophy had hoisted on the roof of the station. In a few moments the party was scattered: some had gone to the hill-tops to see Block Island, Connecticut, and all the rest of the grand views that were afforded from the lofty peaks, while others went to the bay beach. The East Hampton party had lunch on board the waiting train and the generous baskets of Mrs. David Osborne, Mrs. E. H. Dayton and Mrs. R. M. Osborne and others provided a hearty repast for a jolly crowd.”
“It was a model winter day,” the article concluded, “and the first train to Montauk will long be remembered by all who embraced the opportunity to be one of its passengers.”
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