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Preserving the Legacy of 2000-2003

The Gladstone Branch

Much of the development of Long Hill Township centers on the railroad.  This history is excerpted from a number of sources, some printed, some on-line, some oral.  Corrections and amplification are welcome.
Prologue
When the Morris and Essex Railroad (M&E) reached Morristown in 1838, residents could get to New York City by taking the daily  stage coach  to Morristown.  The train ride from Morristown to Jersey City took three hours.  (This is only 5 years after the first regular steam service in New Jersey ran in 1833.)

DL&W logo   
 
The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad was formed to haul coal within Pennsylvania, from the Scranton area to the Delaware River, starting in 1856.  By 1868, the DL&W had extended its tracks eastward across the Delaware River to Washington, NJ, where it connected to the tracks of the  M&E  to reach Jersey City.  In 1869, the DL&W acquired the M&E through a long-term lease.

The Gladstone Branch - 19th Century
The Passaic Valley and Peapack Railroad was chartered in 1865 to extend a railroad "from Union or Essex County through New Providence and Basking Ridge to Peapack".  In 1869, a charter supplement gave the railroad the right to extend itself to the Delaware River, and to build a bridge across the Delaware to connect to any railroad in Pennsylvania. 

With that authority in hand, the PV&P came to the attention of the Lehigh Valley RR, which wanted to build a through route for coal shipments from its easterly terminal in Easton, to the New York Harbor.  In 1870, Lehigh Valley RR began buying an interest in the PV&P, and the charter was supplemented to change the name to the New Jersey West Line Railroad.  In 1872, the charter was further amended to permit construction eastward all the way to the Hudson River (although that proved unnecessary, due to connection to the M&E at Summit.)

  • Construction started in Summit in 1870.  The railroad passed through the Cornish farm in Passaic Township.  George Howell was an engineer who surveyed for the construction of the West Line Railroad.  While working in the area, he married Rachel Gillette Cornish, and he chose his wife's middle name for one of the stations in the town.
  • The first train on the West Line ran from Basking Ridge to Summit on December 23, 1871 (and from Bernardslille a month later, on January 29, 1872).  The West Line did not extend beyond Bernardsville (until 1890). 
  • The railroad came just five years after Passaic Township was formed.  It caused an immediate change in the Post Offices and mail addresses in town.
  • The Lehigh Valley RR built a different (more southerly) route across New Jersey, and lost interest in the West Line.  The West Line was bankrupt in 1878.
In 1878, the West Line was reorganized as the Passaic and Delaware Railroad.  The reorganized  P&D  chose the Chairman of the DL&W to be its new Chairman.  The P&D was a separate railroad, but was informally operated as part of the M&E.  In 1882, it was formally leased to the DL&W.  In 1890, after 19 years of ending at Bernardsville, the P&D was finally extended to Gladstone.  The mountains west of Gladstone proved too costly to cross, so the line never pushed further west.  The Rockaway Valley Railroad passed through Gladstone (running between the M&E at Morristown and the CRRNJ at White House), but the half mile gap between the two railroads was never closed.

When Bernardsville service started in 1872, the scheduled time from Bernardsville to Hoboken was 95 minutes.  In 1887, the scheduled time for the fastest express train from Millington to Hoboken was 73 minutes.  When service opened to Gladstone in 1890, the Gladstone express reached Hoboken in 75 minutes.  119 years later, the current best time (to Hoboken) is 54 minutes from Millington and 77 minutes from Gladstone.

The Gladstone Branch - early 20th Century
In January, 1931, the electrification of the Gladstone Branch was completed.  Thomas Edison did NOT drive the first train, but he did drive the first electrified train on the Montclair Branch in 1930.
  • The DL&W electrified it's lines with 3000 Volts DC on an overhead catenary.  The DL&W was the only commuter railroad in the country that used a 3000 VDC electrification scheme, and it was incompatable with the 12,000 Volt AC electrification of the Pennsylvania RR.  This decision made it impossible to use PRR trackage to get into New York, and it means the MU (multiple unit) cars were unique and could not be bought from or sold to other railroads.
  • The 141 powered MU's placed in service in 1931 were built by Pullman Co. for this service.  An additional 141 trailer cars (these operated as a pair with the powered cars) were created by modifying existing DL&W commuter coaches purchased as early as 1912.  Because there were no other 3000 VDC commuter railroads, there were no additions to the fleet for over 50 years, and no way to replace the 40 units lost to attrition, accidents and old age.  These green MUs simply ran until the re-electrification was complete in 1984.
  • The MUs could accelerate at 1 1/2 MPH/sec.  (0-60 in 40 seconds.)  This is 4 times the acceleration available with the earlier steam locomotives.
Although passenger service was electrified in 1931, freight was carried for many years after that.  Goods carried included U.S. Mail (until 1965), coal and feed to the dealers at Stirling and Millington, livestock to the stock yards at Gladstone and Far Hills, shipments from the clay pits in Gillette and from the factories in Stirling and Millington (see more below.), stone from the Millington Quarry, raw milk to the creamery in Orange, package express, and general merchandise.  The "P&D Drill", as it was called, was pulled by steam until the early 1950s, and then by diesel engines until the end of regular freight service in the 1970s.  Occasional freight service was provided by Conrail, and later, by Norfolk Southern, over NJ Transit tracks, until 2008.  The only freight on the line today is an occasional NJ Transit diesel engine pulling carloads of track maintenance supplies.
The Gladstone Branch - late 20th Century
Erie Lackawanna Logo   
 
In the mid 1950s, both the Erie and the DL&W were again in financial trouble.  They began merging lines in upstate New York, and in 1956 the Erie closed its Pavonia Avenue (Jersey City) passenger terminal and began using the DL&W passenger terminal in Hoboken.  On October 17, 1960, the two railroads merged, and the commuter service was then operated by the Erie-Lackawanna RR.  The MUs were not repainted.  The word  ERIE -   was just painted in front of  LACKAWANNA  on the letterboards, and for their remaining life,the new combined name was  off-center .

The commuter ferry from Hoboken to New York City stopped running on November 22, 1967.  It had run continuously since 1775.  "....and the long and colorful history of the Hudson River ferries came to a sad and  irrevocable  end." - Cudahy

Conrail Logo   
 
   Segment of the Conrail acquisition planning map
 
In 1968, the E-L became the Erie Lackawanna Railway, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Norfolk and Western RR.  In 1972, Hurricane Agnes did tremendous damage, and the E-L declared bankruptcy.  It struggled until April, 1976, when it was swept into Conrail - which had been created by Congress in 1973 to take over the bankrupt Penn-Central.  The planning map shows that Conrail was only interested in retaining the Gladstone Branch as far as Millington (presumably to access the Millington Quarry to obtain ballast for itself.)  The NJ Department of Transportaion was forced to buy the line from Millington to Gladstone, in order that the commuter service could continue.  From 1976 through 1982, commuter service was provided by Conrail, under contract to NJ DOT.
NJ Transit Logo   
 
New Jersey Transit acquired the east end of the Gladstone Branch, as well as most other commuter railroad lines in New Jersey, and began operating them on January 1, 1983.  NJT resurrected an old name.  This is the Gladstone Branch of the M&E on the NJT timetables.
   E-L MU waiting restoration
DLW MU 2541 (later EL 3541) waiting restoration
by the United RR Historical Society of NJ
for probable display at the
NJ Transportation Heritage Center at Phillipsburg.
 
The re-electrification of the DL&W commuter lines was completed on August 28, 1984, after 10 years of talking, studying, and budgeting.  The project converted the overhead power supply to 27,500 Volt AC service.  The re-electrification had a number of advantages.
  • The 50+ year old MUs were finally retired (along with the last of the subscription cars.)  The old MUs were sold off, rattan seats and all.
  • NJT's modern "Jersey Arrow" MU commuter coaches could now run on the Gladstone branch, bringing air-conditioning and better seats to the line.
  • The  technology of electrification  was now uniform throughout the state, which removed the technical barrier to allowing Gladstone (all x-DLW) trains to run on the Amtrak (x-PRR) tracks into Pennsylvania Station in New York City.
Stourbridge Line coaches   
Stourbridge Line coaches Irad Hawley and Philip Hone, ex DL&W #3509 & #3596.
 
Many MUs were reconditioned and placed in service elsewhere.  This photo shows two of four of these cars now in service on the "Stourbridge Line", a seasonal tourist excursion train operated at  Honesdale, Pa. 
Midtown Direct service, which terminates Morristown and Gladstone trains in Penn Station, New York rather than Hoboken, opened on June 10, 1996 with the completion of the "Kearny Connection" in the meadowlands.  Two Gladstone Branch trains run direct to/from Penn Station on weekdays, and there is hourly service (and weekend service) to Penn Station via transfer at Summit.  You may have noticed that these 2 trains are not MUs, but rather are pushed/pulled by  electric locomotives .
Structures
The station at Gillette was only a shelter.  It never had an agent. (18xx-19xx).

At Gillette, there was a siding extending east across Mountain Avenue to the clay pits.  It was removed about 1960.

  
Stirling Station in the 1920s. 
From the collection of the Long Hill Historical Society.
 
The station at Stirling was built by Herbert G. Torrey under a contract (for $1375.00) with the West Line RR dated 1877.  Mouseover the photo to read the contract specifications.  Torrey personally donated the adjacent park to the township.

The station was severely decayed and was demolished in 1972.  It was the last of the 19th century frame stations in use in New Jersey.  The station agent in the 1920s was also the township Tax Collector, and he used the adjacent Freight House as the tax office.

At Stirling, there was a passing track (still used 3 times per day) and sidings to the silk mill (WWII piston ring plant) and coal dealers.  (The remains of the coal pockets can be seen at the east end of Railroad Avenue.)  Immigrants who settled in Stirling rode the train to their jobs at the Quarry (see below).  .

  
Millington Station. Late 1920s. 
From the collection of the Long Hill Historical Society.
 
The first station at Millington was built in the 1870s.  A stone station building replaced it in 1901 (and celebrated its Centennial year in 2001).  The Millington Station is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  It is widely rumored that the Railroad Station image in the original Monopoly game is patterned after this building.  The building and adjacent mini-park are owned by New Jersey Transit, leased to the Township, and the building is sub-leased to the operator of the Millington Cafe.  Millington station is exactly 30 track miles from Hoboken.

At Millington, there was a passing track (removed about 1995) and sidings to support the factory complex (Smith Asbestos - then National Gypsum - now TIFA) and several local coal and feed dealers.

  
Four MUs crossing Millington Gorge, Jan, 83. 
Photo by Gary Stuebben. Used with permission
 Mouse here  for an earlier view taken in June, 1977.
 
Millington High Bridge crosses the Millington Gorge of the Passaic River about a third of a mile west of the Millington Station.  See Historic Trivia for more.   It is easily accessible. .  The current plate-girder bridge was built in 1928 to replace the  truss bridge  constructed about 1895 (to replace the badly rotted wooden trestle built in 1871.)  In the 1983 photo at right, note that old MUs are running under the new  27,500 VAC catenary .  See an earlier view taken in  June, 1977 , with the old 3000 VDC catenary still in place.

The Millington Quarry is just west of the Gorge (and visible from Pond Hill Road).  The quarry began operation in 1895.  The quarry had a long storage track and two sidings where the railroad would load crushed stone for use as track ballast on all its nearby lines.  About 1990, NJ Transit stopped buying stone from the quarry because the quarry did not have a scale - so there was no way of verifying that the contracted amount of stone was being loaded.  The quarry chose not to install a scale at the siding and gave up the business of supplying stone to NJ Transit.  Soon thereafter, the sidings were removed.

Trainwatcher Lists   Millington   Stirling   Gillette
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History of the NJ Transit Gladstone Branch
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