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Chapter I

Chapter I:
New Orange & Its Railroad

The story of our little Rahway Valley Railroad traces its earliest beginnings to the bustling little city of Elmira, in upstate New York, in the early 1890s. On a warm summer’s day in 1892 a man, with big ambitions and a grand plan, set foot in the fair little city of Elmira. The man’s name was Charles W. Manahan, Jr. A hardware salesman by profession, Manahan was a native of the town of Norwalk, Ohio. This Midwestern hardware salesman came east to New York that day with grandiose schemes brewing in his head.       

Manahan’s plan would give birth to a northern suburb. Manahan had conceived the idea of purchasing farm land in the northern reaches of the City of Elmira and turn it into a bustling little manufacturing village. Manahan, a persuasive man, was able to attract investors in the likeness of Elmira’s wealthy elite, namely such men as the famous bridge builders Robert Grimes and William S. McCord; the well-known Civil Engineer, William W. Cole; the wealthy grocers, brothers, Ray and Charles M. Tompkins; the banker, Matthias H. Arnot; as well as other men of considerable wealth who made their fortunes from their investments, Howard H. Hallock, Platt V. Bryan, and George W. Robinson , among others.


With a considerable amount of financial backing from Manahan’s investors, the Elmira Industrial Association was then formed. A great deal of land was acquired and within a few short years a bustling village was well underway. As quoted from Manahan’s obituary, “The Industrial Association accomplished the sale of building lots through a system of drawing and in October the drawing of these lots was held. The Industrial Association then sent out inducements to manufactures to locate on the property. Free sites and railroad facilities were offered and it was not long before twenty factories had been erected and were in operation. Factories required workmen and workmen needed homes and the buildings began to appear rapidly and soon the village was growing rapidly. Streets were marked out, stores were constructed, a railroad depot was built, and then came the hotels” (“Man Who Planned Elmira Heights ”).


The little town that Manahan and his associates had begun was thriving, so much so that the bustling manufacturing village was formally incorporated as Elmira Heights on May 1, 1896.


Realizing the success of their endeavor in Elmira, the men backing the Industrial Association inquired of Manahan if another, similar, project was feasible. Manahan was keen to the idea of beginning another manufacturing town, as well as the idea of continued financial success. The associates proposed looking southward for their next project. The farmlands and meadows of New Jersey looked enticing, being within seeing distance of the skyline of Gotham itself. Indeed, a town located within a short train ride of the “Big Apple,” New York City, seemed rather foolproof. Manahan concurred and soon he, accompanied by his wife Julia (nee Russell), moved south to East Orange, NJ.


Soon after his relocation to New Jersey, Manahan began his search for the ideal location for this new manufacturing village. Manahan sought a location that was flat, near a good source of water, free of malaria and mosquitoes, within several miles of New York City, and near a railroad. Manahan’s search turned up a location that seemed to meet all of the aforementioned criteria. This location was in the southwestern part of Union Township, NJ, just west of the City of Elizabeth. This proposed location for the new village was sparsely settled and mostly comprised of third and fourth generation family-owned farms. This area was also near a railhead, the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s mainline lay just a stone’s throw to the south, and had a good running source of water in the form of the Rahway River.


The decision was made and the project that would give birth to the village of “New Orange” was soon underway. The name stemmed from New Jersey’s well-known Oranges (Orange, South Orange, West Orange, and East Orange) which by association would attract buyers, it was believed (Manahan lived in East Orange). With capital set at $500,000.00, the associates formed the New Orange Industrial Association (NOIA) in 1894. Most, if not all, of the earlier associates in the Elmira Heights project reprised their roles at chief investors.





Rather quickly some 3-1/2 square miles of land, comprising of some thirty farms, were acquired by the association for immediate development. Preliminary ideas and plans for the development of this land were soon drafted. What the associates planned to include in their new village were anything but modest. The plans soon began to take on the aura of a city, rather than a village.


The NOIA hired the likeness of J. Wallace Higgins, the young Civil Engineer, of nearby Roselle, NJ to draw up a “master plan” for the proposed town of New Orange. Higgins, a 23-year old recent Rutgers University graduate, drew up a grandiose plan. Higgins’ plan included such things as wide thoroughfares, a large man-made lake called “Lake Wewanna” complete with its own Yacht Club, an Opera House, a grand City Hall, lots for hundreds of homes, several proposed factory sites, an enormous City Hall, an Electric trolley line, and a railroad which Higgins titled the “Belt Line Railroad” complete with its own grand Central Station. One of the financiers of the project referred to Higgins’ plan as “one of the most substantial he had ever examined.”



These two maps show what the proposed Town of New Orange was to look like. The map on the left is the original plan while the one of the right is a later modified version. Both were drawn up by J. Wallace Higgins. Collection of Rutgers University.


The associates, not having raised the $500,000 startup capital among themselves, began to raise money for their project through the selling of stocks and bonds in their association. An excerpt from an Elmira, NY newspaper reveals how the associated enticed people to invest in the project, “The mechanic or laboring man, who may wish to invest his money in this association can do so and receive the same privileges and benefits as do the largest investors . . . The extraordinary advantages offered in the investments make them of double values to the purchaser, and the sales are unusually heavy as a consequence. One of the best holiday gifts that could be made would be a block of shares in the new association. Make the most of the present opportunity as the stocks are going rapidly” (“Third Week Opens Brightly”). One of the major investors in the project was Matthias H. Arnot, president of the Chemung Canal Bank of Elmira, NY. Arnot subscribed to $100,000 worth of five year bonds in the NOIA. This purchase was used as publicity to entice additional purchasers, “. . . the solid business men recognize the value of the investments . . . Many of the merchants and mechanics of this city are investing their funds in the new association as it is absolutely secure . . . Only a part payment is required upon the placing of the subscription, the balance to be paid in installments. No safer investment could be made . . . “(“Mr. Arnot’s Purchase”).


By 1896 a great deal had been accomplished as is revealed in the following excerpt, “A project to found a model city in New Jersey . . . is now under way. For this purpose a tract of land about three and one-half miles square has been secured . . . The place has been named New Orange . . .  More than one hundred acres have been reserved for industrial purposes, the intention being to erect model factories there. The remainder of the land will be devoted to residence purposes. The New Orange Industrial Association . . . will construct a belt railway passing by the doors of the factories and connecting with the Central [Railroad] of New Jersey . . . the Lehigh Valley, and the Lackawanna Railways” (“A Model City”).


Indeed by 1896 the project of the New Orange Industrial Association was well underway, roads constructed, large quantities of homes being built, and factories being erected. Among those early factories built in New Orange were the “Big Four” and included the Circular Loom Company, the Ricca Manufacturing Company, the New Orange Decorative Leather Company, and the Charles E. Wright Company, as well as other still being built. Factories which appeared shortly, or not long, thereafter were the Palmer Leather Company and Monarch Roofing Company.


With homes being constructed and factories going into operation, the amount of people, and production seemed to warrant the construction of a railroad. The nearest railhead to New Orange was the Central Railroad of New Jersey (“CNJ” or “Jersey Central”) at Aldene in Roselle Park, some two miles distant. Transportation to Aldene from New Orange at this time was being provided by horse drawn carts and wagons. The amount of activity at New Orange called for something more substantial.


With all things in New Orange on the “up and up,” the associates of the New Orange Industrial Association decided that it was time to bring direct rail service to their growing manufacturing town. On May 6, 1897 articles of incorporation were filed for the New York & New Orange Railroad Company (NY&NO) and subsequently a charter was granted for the railroad on June 11th. “Articles of incorporation of the New York and New Orange Railroad were today forwarded to the Secretary of State at Trenton . . . The capital is $100,000 . . . The railroad will run from Roselle, N.J. through the town of New Orange, forming a new suburban belt line railroad and connecting five trunk lines, the Jersey Central, Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and Reading, Baltimore and Ohio, and Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western a dozen miles to the westward of New York City and in the suburbs Jersey City, Newark, and Elizabeth. Work will be commenced on the new railroad next week, and it will be pushed forward to completion this summer” (“New Suburban Belt Line ”).



The incorporators, and primary investors, of the newly formed New York & New Orange Railroad comprised of investors in the NOIA as well as some local men of note. Of the Elmira faction were Robert Grimes, who was appointed President; William S. McCord, who was appointed Treasurer; and Charles W. Manahan, Jr., who was appointed Secretary. The remainder of the incorporators were local men, major landowner Dennis Long, who was appointed Vice President; as well as lawyer Nicholas C. J. English; Theodore C. English; and George B. Frost. Capital was set at $100,000, the estimated cost to build the railroad.


“These gentlemen, [the Board of Directors], engaged . . . J. Wallace Higgins to lay out the initial right-of-way . . . Roselle Park to New Orange, temporary terminal of the line, with a spur line linking the line with the Lehigh Valley Railroad . . . Surveys were started in the heat of summer, 1897. Mr. Higgins was assisted by Anthony Grippo, a local surveyor” (McCoy 2).


A mere month after the railroad was chartered, work was already in full swing on its construction which is evidenced in a news article that appeared in an Elmira paper, “NEW ORANGE – A New Jersey Town That is Booming Right Along . . . a large force of men and teams [are] at work on the New York & New Orange railroad, which is being built under the supervision of the well-known engineer, Frank H. Bailey, of Elmira, N.Y., who has the entire charge of the construction. The railroad will be completed as fast as money and men can do it . . . New Orange is beyond the experimental period and is sure to be a prosperous city and one of the loveliest of all the Oranges” (“New Orange: A New Jersey Town That Is Booming Right Along”).


The NY&NO leased this 4-4-0 American from the CNJ between 1897 and 1899. CNJ #502 was earlier New Jersey Southern Railroad #24. Collection of Jeff Jargosch.

Construction of the railroad continued throughout the summer of 1897, “Local drag line crews were hired, timber cut, and as grade, ballast and rails were laid, a [Jersey] Central engine and several flat cars were leased to complete the line thru the poultry farms and orchards to the end of track” (McCoy 2). The Jersey Central engine was a 4-4-0 American type locomotive that the NY&NO had started leasing that summer of 1897. CNJ #502 was of 1871 vintage and formerly with the New Jersey Southern Railroad as their #24 (Jargosch).


Work on the railroad’s construction was halted during the winter months of 1897-1898, but resumed after the spring thaw. Within Higgins’ original plan for the “Model City of New Orange” the railroad, as to be constructed, was to have a grand central station, a large rail yard of six tracks, and a large locomotive roundhouse of eleven stalls. Although it looked great on paper limited funds, and perhaps more rational thinking, prevented these grand plans for the railroad from ever taking place.


The original railroad as completed stretched between the Central Railroad of New Jersey at Aldene to New Orange, with a short branch line extending to a connection to the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LV) in Roselle Park (the LV constructed a short spur to connect with the NY&NO near present day Webster Ave. in 1898). The New York & New Orange Railroad only measured 2.96 miles once completed in mid-1898.


The New Orange Station is seen here in this 1902 view. It is said that the station housed New Orange's first telephone.

With plans for their “Grand Central Station” on hold for the moment, a more modest depot was constructed just north of the main road through New Orange, called the “Boulevard,” across the street from the original “Big Four.” What the new depot lacked in grandeur it made up for in its quaint Victorian-style. The new depot, titled “Central Station” on timetables, bore the name “New Orange” on its bay window. Other stops for passenger trains along the new NY&NO included Aldene along the CNJ, Roselle along the LV (later Roselle Park), as well as Faitoute Ave. and Twentieth Street both in New Orange.


Up until this time the NY&NO’s motive power consisted of a single leased locomotive, CNJ #502. In July of 1898 management made the decision to acquire their own locomotive. “The pride of the infant pike arrived . . . at the Roselle Park yards in an eastbound freight. Her long pilot, piston rods, and slide valves [were] all crated in the tender. She was turned over to Duane Kimball, a qualified engineer hired from the Jersey Central, and a few days later, under steam, glided over the new 70 lbs. rails into New Orange, amid much whistle blowing and cheering from the local populace gathered along the right of way. The new depot was the scene of great speech making” (McCoy 4). NY&NO #1 , appropriately named “New Orange,” was a 4-4-0 American type formerly of the Northern Central Railroad (a Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary), numbered as their #322 (Frye).


These two views show New York & New Orange Railroad #1, named "New Orange," on the day she arrived at Aldene on the CNJ. The unit was ex-Northern Central RR #322 and in the photo on the right '322' can be discerned on the number plate. The locomotive arrived inoperable, parts being carried in the tender, but was readied for service by Duane Kimball who is seen in the cab. Left photo: Collection of John J. McCoy, courtesy of Don Maxton. Right photo: Collection of Thomas T. Taber, III.



Although capital for the NY&NO was set at $100,000, estimated costs for construction, but only $50,000 was ever raised by the company. By the time the railroad was in full operation a total of $88,000 had been spent on getting the initial three miles of track in service, leaving the company in a pool of debt. The main backers of the rail line, Grimes, Cole, McCord, Manahan, and so on, probably disregarded this debt as only a temporary condition. The NY&NO, as they saw it, was well on its way to becoming a real money maker. They saw the NY&NO as an integral part of their new town of New Orange.


John J. McCoy recounts those very early months of the railroad, “The area had few roads, mostly wagon trails, impassable during prolonged bad weather. Students commuting to Upsala College in New Orange, city dwellers from Jersey City, Bayonne, and Elizabeth crowded aboard the [Jersey] Central excursion trains, changing at Aldene for the NY&NO for the remainder of their trip to one of the many picnic groves along the line” (McCoy 4).


The lease of CNJ #502 was allowed to expire in 1899 and the CNJ not long after had the locomotive scrapped (Jargosch). Luckily, the NY&NO had acquired its second locomotive in July of 1899. NY&NO #2   was a 4-4-0 American type, of 1880 vintage, formerly of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, numbered as their #80 (Frye).


This drawing of New Orange Station appeared in a scathing 1899 article about the condition of the town of New Orange and the New Orange Industrial Association 

These happy early days of the railroad, and for the town of New Orange, were not to last. The associates painted a pretty picture of the railroad and their town but behind the façade was a completely different story. An article published in the New York Herald on August 12, 1899 revealed much about the status of the town, “Peculiar methods employed to induce workingmen to invest in the new town of New Orange, NJ . . . Town is sparsely settled . . . after 3,000 persons have joined the scheme, and about one-half of the total amounts due under their contracts have been paid, there will be a drawing, and those who have given up their money will learn exactly what they are to receive in return. They may find themselves owners of corners on what are intended to be leading business thoroughfares . . . or they may find that a portion of what is now a swamp is all that they can claim . . . The projectors declare that there will be no blanks. They tell customers that the poorest lots will be worth every cent paid for them, while those who draw the prizes will be able to realize many times the amounts they have invested . . . A large portion of those who have paid their installments have never seen New Orange and know nothing about it aside from what they have been told by the agents who have induced them to part with their money. They have, however, seen the fine maps of New Orange, showing many wide avenues . . . public parks . . . a City Hall . . . and a long lake. There are factory sites and hotel sites and facilities for growth in every direction. It is already a wonderful town – on paper . . . I finally reached New Orange . . . Washington Avenue, on which the hotel fronts may someday hum with traffic. It is cut through for a short distance, and runs to a post office, opposite a dismal swamp, surrounded by high grass, from which mosquitoes . . . Here and there are small frame houses, a few of them tenanted, but the majority vacant and awaiting the influx of the crowd . . . The building of the town has been slower than was anticipated by some” (“Lottery Plan to Sell Town Lots”).


As for the railroad, “The road is largely dependent upon the factories at New Orange for its business. “On account of the industrial depression during the year of 1899 the factories were not running, consequently the light business done on the railroad” (Annual Statements of the Railroad and Canal Companies, 1899). For the entire year of 1899, the NY&NO only accrued an abysmal income of $562.98. Debts surmounted to over $3,000 and the railroad was in financial ruin.


As if almost in tune with the downward spiral, the NY&NO encountered its first accident on September 1, 1899, “The train was backing down to Aldene at the crossing of Westfield Avenue and struck a top wagon containing Theo. S. Harrison of Newark, NJ, throwing him out of the wagon. He sustained bruises and a laceration of the right leg, and a contusion to the back of the head” (Annual Statements of the Railroad and Canal Companies, 1899).


A change in day-to-day management of the railroad occurred when C. A. Millard, the NY&NO’s Superintendent, left the railroad in April of 1900 to attend to business matters in the West. Horatio F. “Harry” Dankel, who had previously been with the Central Railroad of New Jersey at Roselle, NJ, was hired on and appointed to the Superintendent’s post (“Harry Dankel’s New Post”). Dankel would remain with the railroad for many years to come.


This early view shows the Rahway River Branch somewhere between N. 19th St. and N. 20th St. looking west.  The house seen just up ahead still stands on N. 18th St.  The cows belong to Mr. David Stein, local milk dealer, who allowed his cows to graze freely around the area. New Orange, and later Kenilworth,  remained mostly rural until industrial development brought on by World War I.

Despite the financial turmoil an extension of the railroad’s track was afforded in the fall of 1900. Under the direction of the new Superintendent, work began on the NY&NO’s “Rahway River Extension.” This spur line was later officially known as the Rahway River Branch. “The chief improvement of the week . . . is the completion of the New York and New Orange Rahway River Extension through the heart of New Orange to the Palmer Leather Works, near the banks of the Rahway River . . . Superintendent Dankel . . . is entitled to a great deal of credit for the manner in which he has pushed work on this extension during these autumn days. The line, extending . . . through the heart of the new city, presented some rather difficult problems in railroading. Yet day after day for the past week the tracks of the railroad have been pushed on through the cut which was made where the old Higgins homestead was torn away, across the bend at Monroe Street and on to Palmer Leather factory. The ties are all down, the rails are in place, and just as soon as Mr. Dankel and his gangs of men can complete a switch on the side of Monumental Hill, thus allowing the removal of gravel for ballast, trains will be running to the Palmer Leather Works. The gravel lies in such a convenient position that ballasting will prove only the work of a very few days and it is believed that next week will see the trains running . . . This mile of extension . . . is of importance in more ways than one. In the first place it opens up a new tract of land to steam railway traffic and bring a large amount of property into direct passenger communication with New York City as well as provide excellent freight shipping facilities for the Northern section of New Orange. In the second place it enables work to be finished on the Palmer Leather factory without any delay. This completion of the Rahway River Extension will give New Orange four railroad stations and possibly five. There will be the station at the Palmer Leather Works, the present station at Twenty-second street, the Central Depot, near which are located the new Wright Machine Shops, the Clothing Factory, and the Ricca Musical Instrument Factory on Faitoute avenue. President Cole, of the railroad, has not yet determined whether a station will be ordered at the curve at Monroe Avenue or not. This and other important matters connected with the train services will be taken up at a conference of officials at some time in the near future. But with four railroad stations within the limits of the town the people will certainly be well off for transportation facilities” (“News of New Orange”).


Surmounting debts, costs of the Rahway River Extension, and possibly a settlement paid to Mr. Harrison, spelled the end for the New York & New Orange Railroad by the end of 1900. Being unable to pay its taxes the railroad fell into foreclosure on November 8, 1900, to be auctioned off at a Sheriff’s sale at a later date. 


Now under foreclosure, things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the little railroad but they did. On the night of December 3, 1900 thieves broke into the New Orange Station. “The terminal station of the New York and New Orange Railroad at New Orange, NJ was entered by thieves last night and robbed of $30 in small change, a large number of railroad tickets, and several express packages. The thieves forced open a window through which they entered the station. There is no clue to their identity” (“A Railroad Station Robbed”).


The associates, realizing the dire straits their railroad was in, quickly organized a new company called the "New Orange Four Junction Railroad Company" (NOFJ) on February 4, 1901. The goal of the NOFJ was to acquire the old company, the NY&NO, and extend it all the way to Summit as called for in the original plans. The organizers of the NOFJ included William W. Cole, William S. McCord, Charles W. Manahan, Jr., Platt V. Bryan, Albert M. Bennett, Dennis Long, and Nicholas C. J. English . All except the latter two men were of the Elmira faction that organized the New Orange Industrial Association. 


The newly formed New Orange Four Junction Railroad acquired the New York & New Orange Railroad at auction on February 16, 1901. The name of the NY&NO quietly faded into history but as one paper put it, "What immortalized the New York and New Orange road was a statement made by an Elizabeth attorney that he could walk from Aldene to New Orange quicker than the train could take him, because the engineer stopped at every crossing to talk politics with the flagman" ("New Jersey Has 3 Great Railroads").


William W. Cole was instrumental in the development of New Orange and later Kenilworth. Cole also helped guide the fortunes of the New Orange railroads.

William W. Cole , the well-known Civil Engineer of Elmira, NY who accrued his wealth by organizing various Public Utilities and had also served as a division engineer on the Toledo, St. Louis, and Kansas City Railroad, personally took charge of the newly formed railroad and served as its President and General Manager throughout its existence.


Cole retained Harry Dankel as the line's Superintendent. Cole, whose home was in Elmira, NY and conducted business affairs in New York City, left much of the day-to-day operations of the railroad to Dankel. Both remained determined to extend the railroad to Summit and make a connection with the Lackawanna there. The pair focused upon the goals and aspirations of the new pike and the railroad became ever more distanced from the New Orange Industrial Association.


Even after the industrial recession of 1899 concluded, things with the New Orange Industrial Association continued to deteriorate. The association found itself in several legal proceedings and also suffered from the loss of several of its original founders. President of the NOIA and former General Manager of the NY&NO, Charles Millard Tompkins, died on July 1, 1900 after a bout with appendicitis. The well-known bridge builder, Robert Grimes , who was a major investor in the association and a past president of the NY&NO suffered a paralyzing stroke in December, 1898 and passed away on December 8, 1903. The most devastating blow was the death of Charles W. Manahan, Jr ., founder and General Manager of the New Orange project, and secretary of the NY&NO and NOFJ. Manahan's health had deteriorated in the last months of this life and he passed away on November 14, 1901 at this home in East Orange, NJ.


Levi Naylor helped organize the Kenilworth Realty Corp. in 1904, successor to the NOIA.

Howard H. Hallock , a major investor in the association, as well as the railroad, took charge of the New Orange project after Manahan's death in 1901. Hallock attempted to circumnavigate the inner and outer turmoil of the New Orange Industrial Association's financial situation for more than three years. In 1904 the remaining investors, including Hallock, brought Levi W. Naylor, a native of England, into their midst. Together they reorganized the project and reset their goals. The "Kenilworth Realty Corporation" was formed to carefully manage the sale of the remainder of the old NOIA land holdings. A set of more modest ambitions was set forth for the new organization. Dreams of grand city halls and yacht clubs quickly faded. Slowly but surely a town emerged from the village of New Orange and the failed New Orange Industrial Association. Several years later the Borough of Kenilworth was formed on June 18, 1907.


Meanwhile, the New Orange Four Junction Railroad looked for more lucrative business prospects. Up until this point the NOFJ, and its predecessor the NY&NO, relied upon the few factories in New Orange for its main source of revenue. Other revenues came from shuttling passengers, twelve times a day, from New Orange to connections with the CNJ and LV at Aldene and Roselle Park, respectively. These revenues were relatively negligible and never outweighed expenses for the little railroad. Like its NY&NO cousin, the NOFJ was in a financial rut. Cole and Dankel both firmly believed that the railroad could become a success should it complete an extension to Summit and connect to the Lackawanna.


NOFJ #3 is seen here with a lone combine, coming off the Lehigh Valley at Roselle Park. Springfield Public Library.
Despite its aspirations of expansion, the NOFJ remained small and inconsequential through its existence, and a bit of a peculiarity in the world of railroading. What the line lacked in length, it made up for in folksy rural charm. The following story is told of the line's conductor, "Bill Harding is among the loneliest conductors in the land. He is the only man who separates people from their tickets on the little New Orange and Four Junction Railroad, the smallest in the State. Back and forth Bill goes between Aldene and New Orange over the two and a half miles stretch of road until one would think he would get suck looking at the same scenes and barn yard fowls that salute him as he flits by. Bill is not an old man, but knows his own road all right and all the people who ride with him, which is something less than a million per diem" ("Gossip on the Railroads"). Other employees of the railroad at the time included names such as Halladay, Shallcross, Haines, and Bell. Unfortunately the NOFJ’s beloved conductor, Bill Harding, died as the result of a coupling accident that occurred on May 11, 1904.


What the little NOFJ was afforded at this time was a new locomotive, well new to the line. NOFJ #3 was purchased in 1901, an ex-Pennsylvania Railroad unit of the 4-4-0 American wheel arrangement. By April of 1903 the NOFJ had discarded the two locomotives it inherited from the NY&NO, #1 and 2.


In 1902, an article appeared in the New York Times reporting the following, "The Pennsylvania Railroad Company is interested in a new line, the survey for which is being made, from Summit to New Orange. The route is through Springfield and along the Baltusrol Golf Grounds. The line, which will be known as the New Orange [Four] Junction Railroad, will be extended later to give connection to the New Jersey Central, Lehigh Valley, and Pennsylvania" (“New Orange Junction Railroad”).


Joseph Gow, foreman on the Tin Kettle Hill removal job, poses along side a steam shovel used in the project. It took three years to remove and transport the soil to the marshes. Collection of John J. McCoy, courtesy of Don Maxton.

A Pennsylvania Railroad train rolls across an embankment composed of soil from New Orange's Tin Kettle Hill. Collection of John J. McCoy, courtesy of Don Maxton.

Just how much interest the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) had in the NOFJ is to be questioned. What is known is that around this time the PRR was embarking on several rail projects in the Garden State, some of which required great deals of fill. In October, 1902 the PRR purchased Tin Kettle Hill in New Orange for this very purpose. “The Pennsylvania Railroad Co. has purchased Tin Kettle Hill at New Orange and will use the soil for filling in the meadows between Newark and Jersey City” (“Tin Kettle Hill Purchased”). The 186-foot tall Tin Kettle Hill, being along the NOFJ, prompted the PRR to contract with the little New Orange pike to carry out carloads of excavated soil for forwarding to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s projects in Newark and Jersey City. McCoy expounds on this time period, “A bold and expansive development by one of the rail giants made a brief but tremendous impact on the [NOFJ], as well as the surrounding countryside. The original main line, New York to Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Railroad ran thru Newark to the terminus at Jersey City, on the banks of the Hudson, where passengers and freight were transshipped via steam ferryboat . . . to Manhattan. An enterprising railroader from Georgia, Mr. W.G. McAdoo, constructed a tunnel beneath the [Hudson] river, from New York to Jersey City, thru which he ran an electric railway, and on across the South Kearny meadows, paralleling the [PRR] mainline to a terminal in Newark, with passenger interchange with the [PRR], at a point called Manhattan Transfer. This service reduced the arrival time reduced the arrival time for the [PRR] trains from the west and south by thirty minutes. Encouraged by Mr. McAdoo’s success, the [PRR] built a tunnel under the mighty Hudson at the site of their projected multi-million terminal at 33rd St. Manhattan. The approach required the construction of a 4-mile electric rail line, elevated well above the tidal marshland, connecting with the old main line at Manhattan Transfer. For the enormous job of backfill, embanking and grading, millions of cubic yards of fill dirt were required. Among other sites, Tin Kettle Hill was purchased, the removal of which brought intense activity to the little [NOFJ] Railroad. Wide eyed locals watched as gigantic steam shovels . . . began ‘moving the mountain.’ Long trains of earth filled gondolas moved out to the connecting lines eastward to the ‘Kearny high line’” (McCoy 6).


The big steam shovel is seen here loading a string of gondolas. The locomotive seen here might have been a contractor's engine as it does not appear to be similar to any of the NOFJ's locomotives. Collection of John J. McCoy, courtesy of Don Maxton.
The job of moving Tin Kettle Hill, carload by carload, for the Pennsylvania Railroad did get the cash flowing for the little New Orange railroad. In 1904 the NOFJ reported a surplus on the books, the first time in its history. For a time things looked upwards on the little NOFJ. “Once more the little [New] Orange Four Junction Railroad has been heard from. It is not heard from very often, because it is so small and inconsequential that something out of the ordinary has to happen before it gets into print . . . The Pennsy is now using the magnificent sand banks of New Orange as a filler for the unfilled portion of the Greenville yard, and the Lehigh Valley Railroad is hauling it to a connection with the PRR, and it is arriving by the train load every day” (“One of New Jersey’s Shortest Railways”). Carloads of fill travelled over the NOFJ, and its successor, for upwards of three years before the final carload was carried off.


While the NOFJ enjoyed the profits of hauling fill for the PRR, management of the NOFJ continued to concentrate their efforts on an extension to Summit to assure continued success. The aspirations of the little NOFJ captured the attention of Louis Keller who had founded the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ in 1895. The course itself was just a few miles to the northwest of New Orange. Keller, since the club’s founding, desired it to have better transportation options offered to its members. Many of the club’s members included the rich and powerful of high society.


With their aspirations similar, Cole and Dankel began serious talks with Keller about building a rail line from New Orange to Summit. It was surmised that the financial situation of the NOFJ would inhibit it from further expansion and ward off potential investors, a new company would have to be formed to accomplish their goal.


Blueprint showing the planned route of the CCR. Not only did the CCR plan to connect New Orange with Summit, a branch line was also planned to extend through Millburn to Maplewood. Collection of Frank Reilly.

September of 1902 witnessed the formation of the Cross-Country Railroad (CCR), organized to construct a railroad from a connection with the Lackawanna in Summit and down to the Baltusrol Golf Club, a distance of 1.5 miles. While only this construction was outlined in the incorporation papers, plans for the railroad included an extension to New Orange as well as a branch line through Millburn to Maplewood. Initial backing came from Keller, Cole, and Dankel as well as some Elmira, NY capital. Ray Tompkins and Howard H. Hallock, both tied in with the New Orange Industrial Association pledged to subscribe 146 of the 250 issued shares. 


With these developments, newspapers touted that the New Orange Four Junction Railroad was finally going to be extended from New Orange to Summit, "The rumors which have been current for a long time that the projected line of the [New Orange] Four Junction Railroad would be built in the near future have been strengthened by the fact that a representative of the road has been getting extensions of time on the right of way, setting the limit at Jan. 1 next, and giving assurance that work would be started this Fall. The course of the road will be from New Orange . . . into Summit and terminating in a station to be erected adjoining the Lackawanna railroad station. The company now holds a clear right of way over the entire route, and contracts for the work have been let. It plans to compete with the Lackawanna between Summit and New York, and besides a promise of better time, the new route is more direct" (“To Build New Railway”).

For more than a year the Cross-Country Railroad project sat idle, no construction ever having been performed. In March of 1904 interest in constructing the CCR was again ignited, “The Cross [Country] Railway Company, which is believed by many to be the successor of the New Orange Railway Company, which about a year ago purchased considerable property through the eastern section of Summit for a railway line and later abandoned the project, made application last night to the Summit Common Council for trackage rights in several Summit streets. The company proposes to connect Summit and Elizabeth by a steam railroad. Louis Keller, organized of the Baltusrol Golf Club, signed the application . . . should Summit grant the trackage rights asked for the company would agree to begin the work of construction of the line early during the coming Summer” (“Jersey Railway Project”).


For unknown reasons the Cross-Country Railroad never came to fruition. Perhaps Tompkins and Hallock, who had their money tied up in the New Orange Industrial Association, backed out of the project. Keller, Cole, and Dankel however remained determined in their efforts to construct a railroad between New Orange and Summit. They regrouped, gathered new investors, and on July 18, 1904 the Rahway Valley Railroad Company was formed.



NOFJ #3 is seen here pulling into New Orange Station. Collection of John J. McCoy, courtesy of Don Maxton.

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