Linda A Cowdrick
Wading River and the Long Island Railroad
At the turn of the 19th century when the railroad began expanding to areas of Long Island that may have only been previously seen infrequently by travelers, there was a Wading River train station. This blog article explores how it came to be. Local resident Frank Vaughn not only knows this local history but actually lives on a property once used by the Long Island Railroad as an experimental farm. I had the pleasure of meeting with Frank and his lovely wife Susan on their Randall Rd property just off of 25A. During my meeting with Frank, he shared with me his original photographs and collection of books and other artifacts relevant to his property, stories of the original owners and the LIRR. I received a tour of his beautiful property and the history behind it.
LIRR and Wading River
In 1896, the Wading River River branch of the Long Island Railroad was opened from Port Jefferson ending in Wading River. Stops included Miller’s Place (Miller Place), Rocky Point, Shoreham and lastly Wading River. When the LIRR needed the land to build the tracks, two major farmers, one of which was Wading River resident Elihu Miller, were asked to sell pieces of their property for the endeavor. Elihu sold some of his property but only under the condition that there would be two trains running a day to Wading River, otherwise, his property would be returned to him. As promised, when the railroad could not keep their end of the bargain, Elihu received his property back and thus the Wading River branch was closed. Talks of the closing began in 1932 and the eleven-mile route was officially discontinued in 1938.
The bridge on Woodville Rd. in Shoreham had tracks across it that led to the very attractive Shoreham station that was on the south side of what is now Lower Cross where it meets North Country Rd. The Wading River station was where Soundview Contractors are located now on 25A, though at that time there was no 25A. There were 3 main roads going East to West - South Country Rd, Middle Country Rd, and North Country Rd. Phil’s restaurant was a building that was standing when the Wading River station was open although it was then the Hotel Craig.
Today an effort called ‘Rails to Trails’ is being raised by the Suffolk County Legislature. This effort is to establish a safe and friendly walking trail that covers where the tracks of the Wading River branch once stood from Wading River all the way to Port Jefferson. For more information, you may contact Legislator Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.
LIRR and the Experimental Farm
In 1905, Hal Fullerton who’s position with the LIRR was more or less to create publicity and excitement for the railroad and its new Wading River branch, decided that an experimental farm on an inexpensive property at the end of the line was the perfect endeavor. The purpose of the farm was to teach the local farmers how to yield more for commercial sales. He went to the LIRR president at the time, Ralph Peters and they agreed to purchase 18 acres on the Southside of the Wading River railroad tracks. Fullerton himself ran the farm that became known as Peace & Plenty with his wife Edith. They lived on the farm with their children. Before the farm was running, they had to clear the purchased acres of its trees and brush. In fact, the local farmers said there was no way Hal could have a running farm within a year and he would, in fact, prove them wrong. To clear the land, Hal brought in about 15 labor workers from Manhattan and they took 3 condemned railroad box cars, one of which would be used for the labor workers to live in during the clearing.
As Hal predicted and promised, the farm opened just 11 months after the initial clearing and to celebrate and also to create buzz, he invited the press to come to dinner with a menu sourced by the farm’s produce on August 7, 1906. The farm then offered a ‘Home Hamper’ where for $1.50 you can mail in your address and request and receive a box of produce to your door that moved from the farm to New York City on the railroad. In addition, Hal and his wife Edith wrote books on farming and agriculture, editions of which can be found in the Vaughn home.
Unfortunately, the farm did close in 1914 and the original Fullerton home was burned down in the 1940’s, however, the original barn still stands on Frank Vaughn’s property. Before it closed, Teddy Roosevelt visited the farm and there are some amazing pictures from his visit that day and many other amazing days and feats that took place at Peace & Plenty, also found in Frank Vaughn’s extensive personal collection.