No, Wiman Place doesn’t look like much to write home to Mother about. It’s a two-bock, rubble-strewn alley tucked behind the historic St. Mary’s Church on Bay Street in Rosebank. Along with the somewhat lengthier Wiman Avenue in Great Kills and Erastina Place in Mariners Harbor, it commemorates Erastus Wiman, who helped bring railroads to Staten Island.
Non-residents of Staten Island may not know that the borough has its very own rail line which, although resembling a subway, isn’t run as a subway at all. Formerly known as Staten Island Rapid Transit, the Staten Island Railway was begun by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1851 for the purposes of linking Vanderbilt’s Landing in Stapleton to Clifton. By 1860, the line was extended to Eltingville, then on to Annadale, and finally to Tottenville.
In 1883, Erastus Wiman, in partnership with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, built a line to South Beach and along the North Shore. By 1885, what would become the SIRT was complete, with the completion of the tunnel between Stapleton and the St. George Ferry. The ferry terminal opened in 1897 (the present-day terminal was constructed in 1951 after the original was destroyed in a fire in 1946).
By 1953, ridership had dropped to such a degree (due to reduced bus fares) that the B&O threatened to terminate all passenger service. The City agreed to subsidize service on the Tottenville line and terminate service on the North Shore and South Beach branches. The B&O ended its involvement with Staten Island Rapid Transit in 1971, selling it to NYC for $3.5 million. Quaint B&O passenger coaches that had operated on the line since 1925 were replaced by modern R-44 subway cars. Finally, the MTA changed the name of the SIRT in 1994, renaming it the Staten Island Railway.