Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Long Island Express Co.

The photo above, showing the NY & Long Island Traction Co.'s trolley upon the trestle that overpassed the LIRR right of way at the West Hempstead station, is an early visual record of the effects of a famous drawn out dispute between the LIRR and the trolley company. The trolley company originally incorporated in 1899 as the Mineola, Hempstead & Freeport Traction Co., and when they laid their line from Queens along Hempstead Tpke into Hempstead village, the original plan was to cross the LIRR's West Hempstead branch rail line at grade. The LIRR at the time backed a rival trolley company called the Nassau Belt Line Traction Co. and so they did whatever they could to thwart the NY & Long Island Traction Co.'s plans. The battle was a lengthy one involving appeals, injunctions, questions of air rights and cut wires. Ultimately, by 1904, a settlement was reached that required the trolley co. to build the bridge in the photo over the LIRR line.

The photo also contains a secondary subject, the horse in the foreground, which at first glance bears no particular significance. Actually, there is a story behind it. In the mid 1800s, the Long Island Express Company was established by the LIRR as a freight and courier service that served destinations along their rail lines. The company employed a series of horse-drawn wagons that were dispatched from LIRR stations to deliver passengers, baggage and parcels to their final destinations. Below is a photo from the Hempstead Public Library collection that shows the dispatch team from Hempstead Village.

At the turn of the 20th century their stable for resting their horses was located in Long Island City, a considerable distance from Hempstead. As mentioned in a previous post, among the 400-500 acres of WH land bought up by the LIRR in 1891 was the 12 acre triangle bordered by Hempstead Tpke, Hempstead Ave and Westminster Rd. That entire parcel originally comprised a quaint estate occupied by Adrian V. Cortelyou, a War of 1812 veteran who moved out to Hempstead from Brooklyn. The estate was later sold to Henry M. Onderdonk, editor of the Hempstead Inquirer.

In 1904, the LIRR deemed the parcel unsuitable for being subdivided into smaller lots, and so they decided to convert the land into a stable for the LI Express horses.

The picture below, looking NW, approximates the location of the photo at the top of the post.


Sharon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon said...

Thanks for this post; it helped me identify an old photograph. I'm sure I'll be visiting your site in the future.

george chapman said...

I bought at auction sheets from a delivery ledger in western Mass:
The Long Island Express
at Patchogue Date: Nov. 1886 W. Hawkins Driver.
What the ledger shows are lines of signatures, destinations of passengers, charges and signatures indicating that goods were received in good order.
I would love a copy of your picture to go with my ledger page and I am sure you would like a photo of my ledger.
my email is
contact me and we can exchange. Or call: 413-325-5761.
George Chapman