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Chapter II

Chapter II:
Keller's "Baltusrol & Pacific"


Louis Keller

What prompted the formation and construction of the Rahway Valley Railroad between New Orange and Summit was a man by the name of Louis Keller.



Keller was a man of some notoriety and wealth. Keller was born in his parent's home on Madison Avenue in the affluent borough of Manhattan on February 27, 1857. Keller was the son of Charles M. Keller and Heloise de Chazournes. Keller’s father was a prominent lawyer who drafted the U.S. Patent Law of 1836 and became the first Commissioner of Patents in the United States. Keller’s grandfather, Felix de Chazournes, was an affluent merchant, importer, and broker of some notoriety.



Although born and raised in Manhattan, Keller spent his summers with his family at their “country cottage” and farm in Springfield, New Jersey. During Keller’s youth his family had as many as five servants living with them.



Keller’s father, Charles M. Keller, died in 1874. There is no record of Keller's attendance at either prepatory school or a university. Keller needed an income but was not inclined to work a normal job. By the age of twenty-three Keller owned his own cartridge manufacturing plant which produced ammunition for rifles and hand guns, but the venture did not prosper. Keller also tried his hand at dairy farming on his family's farm in New Jersey, without any particular success.


Keller was not a member of New York's social elite, as they tended to be members of the long established Protestant "wasp" families while he was a second generation Catholic American. Although Keller was not a member of society, he knew many who were and socialized with them often. It is fair to say that he was an observer and student of society, the he enjoyed socializing with members of society but had no particular urge to join it. In 1885, Keller and a partner started a newspaper devoted to society news and gossip. Two years later, they sold their paper, one assumes for a good profit. Keller got the idea of creating a simple list of members of society, chosen only by him, called "The Social Register." He sold it to those listed in it for $1.75 per copy and published winter and summer editions, showing the summer addresses in that season. As time went on, he expanded its coverage to eighteen cities. This venture was a great success and put Keller on a firm financial footing.


At some point Keller began holding an annual picnic on his family farm in Springfield, hosting all of his friends who were listed in his Register. The picnic grew in popularity and became a "fixture" that was eagerly anticipated. The affair, complete with the guest list, was reported each year in the society pages. It grew to the point that in 1884 Keller chartered a train to transport his guests to the farm from New York City. The beauty of the countryside around the Keller farm was always mentioned in those dispatches.


Keller noted that an increasing number of his acquaintances were learning to play golf (Keller himself had never played the game) and were joining clubs in eastern Long Island and elsewhere, and might be looking for a place closer to New York City in the fall and spring. Keller probably observed as well that many of his friends were summering in the New Jersey countryside and might want a place to stay. Keller decided to start a golf club on his farm, and at long last derive some revenue from it. A nine hole golf course was constructed and Keller's farmhouse was renovated to serve as a clubhouse. The clubhouse was always regarded as charming; and the golf course appears to have pleased the critics. A friend of Keller's had named his farm "Baltusrol Way," derived from a shortening of Baltus Roll who had farmed the land fifty years before, so Keller called his new club "Baltusrol."


Keller launched his Baltusrol Golf Club in April of 1895 when he sent a letter to everyone he knew, including the subscribers to the Social Register, offering memberships with dues of $10 per year. Opening Day occurred on October 17, 1895.

The Club House at the Baltusrol Golf Club, in the shadow of the Watchung Mountains. This building was originally the Keller farmhouse.

Baltusrol's newly formed Board of Governors met on October 25, 1895, about a week after the club's Opening Day, in Keller's office at 35 Liberty Street in New York City. Keller was appointed the club's secretary and as owner of the land on which the club was situated, proffered a lease to the Board which was accepted. Keller retained the office of Baltusrol's Secretary until the day he died. As Secretary, Keller kept a low profile. Keller was a private man, he was rarely photographed, never married, and the press hardly ever interviewed him. On the occasions when he was asked a question of the press, his response invariably was "I will inquire of the Board." Most decisions relating to the operation of the golf programs and the clubhouse were left to those respective committees.

In the early years of Baltusrol, there was a large turnover in membership. As many as a third of the members would join in January and resign in October of the same year. This told Keller that Baltusrol need to be competitive with the other clubs and inspired him to keep improving the golf course and maintaining an interesting schedule of exhibitions and tournaments. Among the improvements Keller wished to implement was to institute better transportation to the club.A news clipping of the time period told of how the club was reached "The club can be reached by about an hour’s railroad ride from either Liberty Street or Hoboken, over the Jersey Central or Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Road to Westfield or Short Hills, with a following drive, respectively, of one and three miles" (“The Week in the Club World”).

Although rail service from New York City was offered to within one mile of the club (the Lackawanna at Summit), direct transportation to the club was somewhat less than desirable. Roads in Springfield, and to the club itself, remained unimproved dirt and gravel thorofares only traversed by the archaic horse and buggy. With the automobile still in the beginning stages of development, the railroad offered the most sound transportation option to the club. 

Good news came in 1897 when it was learned that the New York & New Orange Railroad (NY&NO) had been chartered. The NY&NO planned to construct a rail line from Roselle Park to Summit, a line that would have to pass close to Baltusrol. The railroad, however, was plagued by financial difficulties from the start and only ever reached the town of New Orange, some three miles short of Baltusrol. The NY&NO fell under foreclosure and reorganized as the New Orange Four Junction Railroad (NOFJ) in 1901.

Management of the newly formed NOFJ focused their energies in trying to extend the railroad from New Orange to a connection with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad (also known as the “DL&W” and the “Lackawanna”) in Summit, NJ. This extension would have to pass close by to the Baltusrol Golf Club. This somewhat common interest prompted Keller to enter into the discussions of extending a rail line to Summit from New Orange.

Map of the proposed Cross-Country Railroad
Collection of Frank Reilly

The financial instability of the New Orange Four Junction Railroad prompted the formation of a new railroad company, the Cross-Country Railroad (CCR), in September of 1902. Under the new banner it was hoped new investors would become interested. The CCR's Articles of Incorporation provided only for a rail line to be constructed  from a connection with the Lackawanna in Summit and down the mountain to Baltusrol, although it was planned that the line would eventually be extended to join the NOFJ in New Orange. A branch line extending from Baltusrol through Millburn and onto Maplewood was also called for.


Ray Tompkins

Initial backing for the Cross-Country Railroad came from Louis Keller, William W. Cole (President and General Manager of the NOFJ), and Horatio F. Dankel (Superintendent of the NOFJ) but major funding was pledged by Ray Tompkins and Howard H. Hallock. Tompkins and Hallock, both of Elmira, NY, were both tied in with the New Orange Industrial Association debacle. Tompkins and Hallock both pledged to subscribe a total of 146 shares in the new company.

Right of ways were secured and after a lull in activity of more than a year with the CCR project, it seemed as if the railroad was going to finally be constructed. The Cross-Country Railroad, however, was not to materialize. Although the reasons for the project coming to grief are unknown, perhaps Tompkins and Hallock reconsidered their investments. Both men had great sums of money tied up in the New Orange Industrial Association debacle. Keller, along with Cole and Dankel, remained determined to build a railroad from New Orange to Summit.

The men regrouped and gathered new investors. On July 18, 1904 the Rahway Valley Railroad Company was formed. Incorporators included Keller and Dankel, as well as W. Irving Scott, Charles W. Webb, Edward G. Thompson, Nicholas C. J. English, and George B. Frost. English and Frost had also been investors in the NY&NO and NOFJ. The other men, Scott, Webb, and Thompson, were associated with the newly formed Kenilworth Realty Corporation which succeeding in rescuing the flailing New Orange Industrial Association in 1904. “The Rahway Valley Railroad Company of Union county received a charter from the Secretary of State Monday afternoon which calls for the building of a steam road six miles in length from the New Orange Industrial Association to the town of Summit where connection will be made with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad” (“New Railroad for Union County Folk ”).

The new company was so named after the Rahway River which it planned to cross. The company was formed not only to connect New Orange with Summit and the Lackawanna but also to construct a branch line through Millburn to Maplewood, and of course serve the Baltusrol Golf Club.

The assistance of J. Wallace Higgins, who had planned the town of New Orange and engineered the New York & New Orange Railroad, was again called upon to plan out the route of the new Rahway Valley Railroad. William S. Young recounts Higgins’ planned route, "Mr. Higgins marked the line beginning at a point where the old NY&NO main stem curved westward to skirt the northern fringes of New Orange. Here a large hill had to be removed, so Keller helped form an excavating company . . . Beyond the hill, a half-mile tangent dropped gradually northward to a point later to be known as Wright's Switch. Here tracks bend north-westward and gleamed across the Rahway River Valley in a perfect three mile tangent which stretched on wooden trestlework over the swamps at Springfield and climbed the mountain beyond. Here nestled the Baltusrol Station, where holiday bound golfers swung off as the little engines dug in their heels to get their two car varnishes started up the steep grade. The tiny Moguls and tankers brought the echoes crashing back as they blasted up the hill and followed the giant S-curve which swung them around and behind the mountain, on a high wooden trestle to the next range, and into Summit at last" (Young).

Several railroad depots were also planned to be constructed, two in Union (Doty’s and Katemiller), two in Springfield (Springfield and Baltusrol), and two in Summit (Summit and East Summit (?)).

Surveying the line and acquiring the proper right-of-ways dragged on through the end of 1904. In one instance a dispute was entered into with the Morris County Traction Company, a trolley line, over a certain piece of right-of-way in the City of Summit. “Whether one railroad company can by condemnation proceedings . . . acquire land that was bought by another railroad company for its own uses . . . is a legal question that was raised . . . here today. The contesting corporations are the Rahway Valley Railroad and the Morris County Traction Company. The Rahway Valley . . early this month began condemnation proceedings for the acquirement of a number of parcels of land along the proposed route among them being a tract . . .part of the Martin estate in Summit . . . the Morris County Traction Company, opposed the condemnation of a part of the Martin estate tract on the ground that the Morris County Traction Company had acquired title to it by purchase” (“Railroad’s Right to Land ”).

After much field work and legal wrangling, contracts for the construction of the line were finally let in the fall of 1904 to J&H Cornell of New York. “Work has at last been commenced upon the extension of the Rahway Valley Railroad from New Orange to Summit. The Rahway Valley Railroad, better known as the New Orange Four Junction Railroad, of which H.F. Dankel is superintendent, runs from the Aldene station of the Central railroad to New Orange, from which place the extension line begins to cross the country and connect with the Lackawanna railroad at the Summit depot, where accommodations have been planned for this new line. Over 200 men are now at work upon the extension. They are scattered along the route from the Rahway River at the Harnecke place on Westfield road in Springfield to New Orange, busily engaged in making the roadbed. The contractors who are doing the work are J&H Cornell, of New York, and they are to have the road completed by August 1, 1905” (“Railroad to Summit ”).

The Rahway Valley Railroad's first locomotive was #4 which came from the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western's Morris & Essex Division in 1904. This locomotive was built by Dickson in 1889. Collection of Thomas T. Taber, III.

To facilitate the railroad’s construction a locomotive was acquired. An ex-Lackawanna 2-6-0 Mogul of 1889-vintage was acquired in 1904. The locomotive was numbered #4 , falling in line with the three earlier locomotives owned by the New Orange railroads.

Construction continued into the winter months. Crews in the vicinity of the Rahway River found construction quite difficult due to the marshy ground in the area. “The story is told how disaster struck, as the line was being built toward Springfield. The grading crew knocked off work at sundown, about 450 yards west of Branch Junction. Returning the next morning, found that about 100 cubic yards of fill had disappeared into the marshland on the approach to the Rahway River. Considerable delay in the construction timetable resulted while a coffer dam was built and the soft footings removed. A firm bed was found somewhat lower and grillage dropped. The Rahway River span itself redesigned from the original plate span to a heavier truss bridge, mounted on stronger reinforced abutments” (McCoy 10).

Just before Christmas, 1904, a somewhat alarming disturbance occurred in New Orange. “A small riot occurred at New Orange last Friday in consequence of a misunderstanding between the foreigners employed in building the extension of the [New] Orange Four Junction Railroad and the paymaster. The latter had put in the workmen’s envelopes the money earned to Dec. 10th, while they expected payment to the 15th, and thought that they were being cheated out of five days’ pay. The police of Cranford were called by telephone, and their timely arrival saved the paymaster from bodily violence. He subsequently entered a complaint against Dominick Floyd, the leader of the gang, and the latter was arrested by Special Policemen Jennings and Jackson. After a hearing by Justice Mendell, the prisoner was committed to jail to await action by the grand jury” (“Labor Troubles at New Orange ”).

RV #5, ex-CNJ #710 nee #23, an 0-6-0T type locomotive constructed by Baldwin in 1882. Collection of John J. McCoy, courtesy of Don Maxton.
Work on the Rahway Valley’s construction stalled through the coldest winter months of early 1905. During this time the Rahway Valley Railroad Company was formally consolidated with the New Orange Four Junction Railroad Company. An agreement between the two parties was not all that difficult to reach. When the Rahway Valley Railroad was formed it was done with the understanding that it would eventually consolidate operations with the NOFJ. The agreement reached was simple, the stockholders of the RV and those of the NOFJ would be given, share for share, a stake in the new company. On March 1, 1905 the New Orange Four Junction Railroad Company and the Rahway Valley Railroad Company were consolidated, forming the Rahway Valley Railroad Company (a new company, but keeping the name of the latter company). Through the consolidation the RV inherited NOFJ #3.

Once the weather broke and warmer weather came, construction recommenced on the Rahway Valley Railroad and the railroad acquired another locomotive. Through railroad equipment dealer J.E. Bowen of Norfolk, Va., the RV acquired #5 an 0-6-0T engine built by Baldwin in 1882 for the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ).



Louis Keller and his special train reached Springfield on May 24, 1905. The Springfield Station, pictured here in 1913, may have been under construction at the time. Two other, smaller, stations had been constructed in Union: Katemiller and Doty's.

Crews completed bridges over the Rahway River and Van Winkle’s Creek. By May track had reached the future site of the Springfield Station. On May 25, 1905 the railroad was formally opened as far as Springfield.
“The line of the new Rahway Valley Railroad was formally opened yesterday afternoon, when a party headed by Louis Keller, Secretary of the company, rode from New Orange to Springfield in a special car. It is thought that the line . . . will be completed . . . this summer” (“Rahway Valley RR Open”). Another news outlet reported,
“The new Rahway Valley Railroad has been formally opened. A party headed by Louis Keller, secretary of the company, rode from New Orange to Springfield, about four miles, in a special car. There was no special ceremony connected with the opening” (“New Railway Line Links Jersey Towns ”).



After Keller’s impromptu excursion to Springfield, construction crews pressed on towards Baltusrol, just 6/10 of a mile beyond the Springfield Station. Excitement was building as Keller’s dream of rail service to the Baltusrol Golf Club came closer to being a reality. “All aboard for Baltusrol via the Rahway Valley Railroad! On August 15 trains will be running over this new steam road to the Baltusrol Golf Club, which is to informally observe the even in some way not yet settled. Louis Keller, secretary of the club, sailed yesterday for abroad, to be gone a month or more, so he will not be back until the road has been opened. He has been the main factor in building the railroad, which will connect four big systems, the Central New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Lehigh Valley, and Lackawanna. Someday, too, by means of a little extension, the Erie will also tap it. At present, the nearest railroad station to Baltusrol is two and a half miles distant over a roundabout, hilly road of poor quality. The new station will be in the woods, less than half a mile from the club and over a smooth stretch of nearly level road. This will not only cut off the expense of the stage trip, but is to cheapen the carfare from New York, being more direct. By September through trains will be running from Jersey City over the Central New Jersey to Summit, which will be the end of the Rahway Valley line. The road branches off near Elizabeth, running through Springfield. While the road at first may fairly be called a golf railway, it is expected ultimately to carry a lot of freight and build up the neighborhood in a residential way. It is likely to swell the ranks of the Baltusrol Club, which now has more than six hundred members and is probably the largest exclusively golfing organization in the country. While northing official is given out, it is hinted that a handicap or tournament will be given in the fall to mark the opening of Baltusrol’s direct connection with the outside world” (“Golf Railroad to Baltusrol Will Be Running by August 15”).


Unexpected delays kept the railroad from opening to Baltusrol and the August 15th date came and went. A tentative date for the commencement of passenger service to the Baltusrol Station, being constructed, was pushed back to approximately December 31, 1905.



While final preparations for opening the line to the golfers continued, construction pressed onwards and closer to the Lackawanna connection in Summit. A magnificent horseshoe curve was constructed around the brim of Baltusrol Mountain (a.k.a. “Springfield Mountain,” part of the Watchung Mountains) with a gradient varying between 2% and 5%. A grade crossing of Shunpike Road was made (Later Shunpike Road was realigned to be in line with Orchard Street in 1912-1914, the roadway was depressed and the railroad constructed a bridge over the new roadway) and crews passed close to Louis Keller’s stone quarry, operated by the Baltusrol Stone Company, which later became the Commonwealth Stone Quarry.



Crews finally reached Summit, more specifically the area of the city known as “East Summit.” The RV was to have an elevated route through the city. Initial construction included a substantial wooden trestle to later be filled with soil, giving the RV an elevated grade high above the streets and eliminating all grade crossings. The RV would cross four streets in the city, Russell Place, Ashwood Avenue, Morris Avenue, and Park Avenue (later Broad Street).



This drawing, which appeared in a period news-paper depicts the manner in which the RV's bridges were removed in Summit.

Work commenced on the Ashwood Avenue and Russell Place bridges in the fall of 1905. Soon after the construction of the two spans the RV ran into trouble with the City of Summit on the night of October 5, 1905. “The Rahway Valley Railroad, which is building a line from [Summit] to Aldene, to connect with the Central Railroad, has encountered trouble in its work here. When many of the residents of the eastern section of the city arose this morning they were surprised to find that the railroad bridges erected across Ashwood avenue and Russell place had been torn down during the night and the materials moved off the street. Folks living in the neighborhood were awakened about 11 o’cock by the noise of falling timber and the choo-choo of the city’s steam roller. They found a large number of men at work. Nobody attempted to interfere with the destruction of the bridges. One end of the piers of the bridges was in the center of the sidewalk and the other in the roadway. The city applied to the Court of Chancery for a permanent injunction to restrain the company from completing its work. The injunction was refused on the ground that, although the construction of the bridge was illegal, the city could show no damage done. Fearing that it would take a year or more for redress or to have the bridges removed by law, the citizens took the matter into their own hands and last night removed the bridges, sawing the timbers in two and tearing down the ten-ton iron girders. The girders and all heavy material were removed with the city’s steam road roller. It is thought that the city authorities were cognizant of the fact that the bridges would be torn down and that the steam roller would be used. Now that the bridges have been torn down, the city has placed officers on guard to see that when the bridges are again erected they will not encroach on the streets” (“Summit Smashes Bridges”).



Nicholas C. J. English, general counsel for the Rahway Valley Railroad, lobbied before the Summit City Counsel to terms in which the railroad could construct the bridges in a manner that was agreeable to both parties. Delays encountered with the city pushed back the completion of the railroad for almost a year.


Interestingly during this time an “East Summit Station” appears alongside Russell Place, as shown in a 1906 property owner’s map. Due to legal wrangling with the city over its bridges perhaps trains of the RV were planned to, or in fact did, terminate for a time at East Summit. The East Summit Station never appears in RV timetables and perhaps was only ever a planned or temporary stop.


This early postcard view, which shows RV #4, revels much about how the railroad was constructed through Summit. A large wooden trestle was constructed and then filled in with soil. The bridge in the foreground is Morris Ave., the opening just around the bend is Ashwood Ave. The Russell Place bridge is just out of view, being obscured by the next row of houses.

Meanwhile, more exuberance was building for the opening of the line to Baltusrol. The following is a descriptive account of the railroad at the time, “All aboard for Baltusrol and hurrah for the second golf railroad in the United States! Unless there should be a good deal of bad weather the remainder of this month, the new route to the largest golf club in the metropolitan district will probably have its christening about New Year’s Day. The new station, which is to be called Baltusrol, after the club, has been finished except for painting and platform, and the construction force has finished the line to East Summit. Eventually it will go to Summit, connecting with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western . . . At present the trains are running only to Springfield, which, however, is but half a mile from the Baltusrol Club in a straight line, although father by the regular avenues of travel. The writer took a trip over the new route yesterday and then pieced it out it out in the cab of the construction locomotive, in order to give the golfers an advance peep. At Aldene a train of one car will be found waiting. The conductor, being also the baggage master is obliged to wear overalls as part of his uniform. At one end of the car, cutting off the trail to the ice water tank may frequently be found a couple of baby carriages and a few overgrown dress-suit cases. Dogs can be carried in the car for there is no other baggage coach. There is no extra charge for the acrobatic stunts that the conductor executes in freeing himself from the tangled thickets of baby carts, babies, and dogs and other pet animals. After backing up on a curve the locomotive turns about, making a chance of face. Then at Kenilworth the iron horse takes a big drink. No one knows how much of its life is lost by the engine’s smoking and drinking so, but the passengers are known to lose years of time. The next station is called Doty, chosen simply because it is a short word and east for the conductors, who desire to save unnecessary wear on the organs. The next station is called Katemiller, which it has been suggested was named by Mr. Miller for his wife or maybe by some man after someone else’s wife. By this time the brush heap of baby carriages has begun to grow beautifully less, and the conductor can squeeze by them without having all his clothing torn off. The next station is Springfield, which makes folk think of Jamaica because “all change” there. Beyond Baltusrol will be Silver Lake and then the Summits. The line will carry folk to within a third of a mile of the clubhouse against nearly two miles via Short Hills. Speaking in the strictest sense the road will be used eventually for other things than golf, so it can hardly long be classed with the two cars rolling stock of the Midlothian Club of Chicago. Secretary Louis Keller, of the Baltusrol Club, and his associates, however, are the chief promoters. There will be a carnival at Baltusrol when the regular trains begin to run and here’s hoping that no steers ever get loose at Jersey City to the line up into bowknots, as was the case with a certain large road, during the recent women’s national championship” (“Second Golf Railroad in the United States”).



Baltusrol Station. Regular train service commenced to Baltusrol on January 1, 1906 with three trains. Springfield Public Library.

On New Year’s Day, January 1, 1906, three regular trains travelled to Baltusrol for the first time on record, commencing regular passenger train service to the Baltusrol Golf Club. The new Baltusrol Station was located just about two hundred yards from the course’s clubhouse.


The Lehigh Valley Railroad, with which the Rahway Valley Railroad connected to at Roselle Park, offered to run excursion trips to Baltusrol which the RV kindly agreed to. In September, 1906 the “Baltusrol Special” through-train service from New York was inaugurated. “The Lehigh Valley Railroad has inaugurated through train service from New York to Baltusrol Station via the Rahway Valley Railroad. This train runs through solid, leaving New York from the foot of West Twenty-third Street, Desbrosses Street, Cortlandt Street and foot of Fulton Street. Brooklyn, every Saturday and Sunday morning, stopping at Newark, Elizabeth, Roselle Park, returning Sunday P.M. The Rahway Valley Station at Baltusrol being within two hundred yards of the Baltusrol Club House, the necesseity of cab-hire is thus obviated. This service is somewhat a matter of experiment, and should it prove so successful as to warrant its continuance, better service will be established later. The train equipment is in every way up to the Lehigh Valley’s standard deluxe, and being intended solely for visitors to the Baltusrol Links, the clientele will be most select” (“New Train Service to Baltusrol Golf Links”). This “experimental” service lasted for some duration. While the “Baltusrol Special” did not continue in perpetuity, the Lehigh Valley and Jersey Central both were known to run special trains in conjunction with the Rahway Valley for a variety of special events.


This large group is the New York Conference of the Augustana Lutheran Church, posed here behind the Kenilworth Station of the Rahway Valley Railroad. The group was travelling to Upsala College for a conference. The Lehigh Valley Railroad ran a special excursion train for the event, at least two LV passenger coaches can be seen in the background. 1910. Collection of Don Maxton.

Earlier issues with the City Counsel in Summit delayed construction there for quite some time. The Rahway Valley Railroad was not completed through the city until the summer of 1906. The RV established a terminus on Park Avenue (later Broad Street) at the base of Overlook Mountain. A depot, freight house, and a small three track yard were established here.



On August 6, 1906, after nine long years, regular train service commenced between Aldene and Summit on the Rahway Valley Railroad, “Today the Rahway Valley Railroad, formerly the New York & New Orange Railroad, will begin running trains on a regular schedule between Aldene on the . . . Jersey Central and Summit on the Lackawanna. The company has acquired several new cars and a new engine” (“Rahway Valley R.R. Will Open Today ”).



This diminuative locomotive was an identical sister to RV #6 which began life in 1889 as a 2-4-2T type built for the Suburban Rapid Transit line in New York City.

The new locomotive, #6, was not purchased until December 4th of that year. The engine, a small 0-4-4T Forney type came from the Silver Lake Railway of Perry, NY.



After a few short months of operating between Aldene and Summit, and the completion of the bridge across Park Avenue, all the cards were in place for a connection to be made with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad at Summit. Harry Dankel, the RV’s Secretary and General Manager, made a formal application for a connection to T.E. Clarke, General Superintendent of the DL&W, on October 3, 1906. Enclosed with Dankel’s application were petitions of shippers along the RV such as American Circular Loom and Charles E. Wright, both located in Kenilworth.



T.E. Clarke passed the matter from department to department of the Lackawanna, to confer with others on this matter. The question of a connection with the RV at Summit even made it to the desk of W. H. Truesdale, President of the DL&W.



Dankel was given an answer by Clarke in a letter dated December 1, 1906. In short, Clarke and the Lackawanna denied the RV’s application for such a connection to be made. The Lackawanna cited such reasons as “. . . sufficient business would [not] be furnished to warrant any connection with out line . . .” and “. . . such traffic would interfere with our passenger service . . .” To further add insult to injury, Clarke continued “We confess that we have no feeling of responsibility in connection with this matter . . . you contemplated connecting with us at that point, and without consultation with us as to whether it would be practical or feasible . . . If you had taken the matter up with us . . . we should have advised you as above” (T.E. Clarke letter to H.F. Dankel).



Dankel, as well as the Board of Directors of the Rahway Valley Railroad, did not let this matter pass without conflict. Clarke’s response was not acceptable. Without a connection to the Lackawanna, the RV would surely fall flat on its face financially.


RV #7 takes a drink of water from the water tank at Summit. The Rahway Valley constructed its terminal station in Summit on Park Avenue at the base of Overlook Mountain. Connecting service was never provided with the Lackawanna whose Summit Station was located right across the street from the RV's. 1915. Courtesy of Don Maxton.

Dankel retained the services of Elmer L. McKirgan, a prominent and successful attorney from Summit as well as a friend of Louis Keller’s, to fight the Lackawanna’s decision and compel them to make a connection (McKirgan later served on the RV’s Board of Directors and as Vice President). McKirgan took the matter to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the federal organization which regulated the railroads, and they handed down their decision on June 24, 1908. “Work was received today by Elmer L. McKirgan, cousin for the Rahway Valley Railroad Company, that the Interstate Commerce Commission has decided that the Lackawanna Railroad must install, by September 1, 1908, two switches, to be known as the east and west switches, on its line here [in Summit], with which the tracks of the Rahway Valley can be connected” (“Loses Fight About Switches ”).



Not waiting for the Lackawanna to construct the connection, the RV all too hastily went ahead to construct the switch. “We have been watching the matter of attempt by the Rahway Valley RR to connect with our road at Summit, NJ. Last night a force of men was working there and about 1:00 AM they seemed to have made all arrangements to make the connection. We communicated with Mr. Rine who arranged to have engine 968 sent from South Orange and placed on track so that no connection could be made. When this was done the men put out their lights and left” (Chief Special Agent letter to T.E. Clarke).


The Lackawanna continued to refuse the Rahway Valley a connection to their line at Summit, despite the ICC’s decision. William S. Jenney, counsel for the Lackawanna, filed suit with the United States Circuit Court to overrule the ICC’s decision on August 24, 1908. Judge Lacombe granted a preliminary injunction on October 22, 1908, suspending the ICC’s order for a switch connection.

The Interstate Commerce Commission, not to have its power as the railroad regulatory body, took the case to the next level. The ICC filed suit with the United States Supreme Court and began a case titled ICC v. DL&W. A decision was not handed down by the Supreme Court for more than a year but on March 7, 1910, in the matter of ICC v. DL&W, the court ruled in favor of the Lackawanna.

The Rahway Valley Railroad continued to fight however. The text of the court’s decision indicated that if the application had been made by some shipper along the RV, instead of the RV itself, it would be more likely to secure a connection. William Flowers, manager of F&F Nurseries, pleaded with the Lackawanna on behalf of the RV for a connection to be made at Summit. Mr. Flowers’ application, however, fell on deaf ears. The matter of a RV/DL&W connection at Summit would not be brought up again for some time.


Without its Lackawanna connection the Rahway Valley was having a rough go of it. The completed extension to Summit only tapped the business of two stone quarries in Springfield one of which belonged to Louis Keller. Lacking on the freight side of things, Keller had the line run a total of nine round trip passenger runs over the line a week but without the Lackawanna connection it seemed like the RV wouldn’t make it. “Keller blundered on, giving the road fine depots, water tanks, and coal bunkers . . . Then he sat down and waited for the “overwhelming” business to come” (Young). An engine shed (or sheds) was erected in September, 1905 along the Rahway River Branch. The engine shed, however, was destroyed not long after its construction by a freak tornado that struck Kenilworth on May 27, 1906. The Warren Street Station, replacing the stop at N. 20th Street, was also erected on the branch (McCoy 11).



While Elmer McKirgan dealt with the railroad’s legal issues with the Lackawanna, General Manager Dankel had his own set of problems to deal with along the rails of the Rahway Valley. “. . . the RV got more and more in the hole with each succeeding year. Passengers were scared off for various reasons" (Young). On Saturday, March 24, 1906 a coal hopper tied down on the mountain broke loose of its fastenings and proceeded on its merry way down the grade in nothing flat. The Saturday passenger train stood at the Springfield Station, and the crew on the engine were entirely unaware of the approaching runaway. Suddenly it struck the engine, demolishing the coal car and damaging the engine, #3. James B. Gray, the engineer, was caught in the wreck and his foot was so badly mangled it was necessary to have it amputated above the ankle. #3, the venerable old American 4-4-0, was so badly damaged that it was decided not to repair her and she was eventually scrapped. Gray, who started out as a fireman on the RV, soon left his position nad instituted legal proceedings againt the railroad for damages. "Soon after, another . . .  passenger train [pursued] through the Springfield stop and across the valley for several miles while terrified passengers gripped their seats” (Young).



By the end of 1906 the Rahway Valley, as a result of construction, legal battles, and various purchases and expenditures, had amassed a floating debt of $350,689. Over half of the accrued debt was owed to J&H Cornell, contractors, which had constructed the railroad. During the operating year the RV had only brought in a total income of $19,874. Bills were going unpaid and the outlook was grim. The RV, just like its NY&NO predecessor, was being faced with the possibility of foreclosure.



Matthias H. Arnot, the wealthy Elmira, NY banker, financed not only the town of New Orange and in-turn the construction of the NY&NO, but also helped procure the RV a mortgage in 1907. The mortgage was given to secure an issue of $400,000 worth of 5% gold bonds, a good portion of which Arnot himself purchased. Elmiran interests remained in the RV up until the 1920's.

To this problem came the Chemung Canal Trust Company of Elmira, NY. William W. Cole, who was acting as President of the Rahway Valley Railroad, retained contacts in Elmira. One of Cole’s contacts was Matthias H. Arnot, President of the Chemung Canal Trust Company. Arnot was an extremely wealthy man and had partially financed the New Orange Industrial Association as well as the New York & New Orange Railroad. Arnot agreed to issue the Rahway Valley a massive mortgage. The mortgage was given so that the Rahway Valley could secure an issue of $400,000.00 worth of 5% gold  bonds, most of which were purchased by Arnot as well as Ray Tompkins (also involved with the NOIA and later the CCR).


As a result of these transactions, for many years there was an Elmira presence at the Rahway Valley Railroad. Ray Tompkins, as well as representatives of Matthias H. Arnot, sat on the RV’s Board of Directors. After Tompkins and Arnot had both died, attorneys handling their estates (such as Alexander D. Falck) sat on the RV’s Board of Directors.

With the Rahway Valley Railroad in financial turmoil any dreams of expansion for the line, such as its goal to hitch up to the Erie Railroad, were squashed. Even constructing a long freight siding was out of the question. To construct a 1,400 foot long freight siding to Keller’s stone quarry in Springfield a separate company had to be formed. The Baltusrol Railroad Company was formed on June 24, 1907 to construct such a siding, but for whatever reason the Baltusrol Railroad was never constructed. The company itself was dissolved on May 27, 1908, having disappeared as quietly as it was formed.

For a short period of time all of the RV’s debts were paid as a result of the massive $400,000 mortgage the railroad had secured in 1907. This brief period of time gave the railroad a much needed chance at acquiring new motive power. The RV’s roster at this time included #4, 5, and 6. All of the RV’s “teakettle” locomotives dated from the 1880s and each required some sort of heavy repair work. To remedy this situation an order was placed with the Baldwin Locomotive Works for a new locomotive. “. . . the road’s first new locomotive, No. 7, a custom built 2-4-4T, double ended, built by Baldwin . . . this locomotive proved equal to the grade and tight curves with the passenger consist, it operated economically on this run, where frequent stops required constant acceleration and braking. Since the arrival at Aldene was timed to make connections with the . . . Jersey Central trains, the schedule had to be closely maintained” (McCoy 10-11). #7 would be the only locomotive that the Rahway Valley ever purchased new.

A builder's photo of #7, the RV's only new steam locomotive.

As freight and passenger revenues proved unable to outweigh expenses for the RV, the line continued to look for other outlets to accrue more revenue. One source of revenue for the little railroad for several years came from the silent movies made along its tracks. “The bucolic countryside and the leisure schedule of the Rahway Valley Railroad, brought the movie makers to Kenilworth. Horses were rented from a nearby livery stable, and train crews were enlisted and production of the 2 and 3 reelers began. Edison, Biograph, and Esanay did several films, including such epics at “The Switchman’s Daughter” and “The Midnight Flyer.” The railroaders enjoyed the $1.00 per day bonus as well as the free beet and lunch furnished by the movie makers. The pleasant activity came to an abrupt end when a movie technician accidentally blew up a shack along the right of way, sending 4 actors to the hospital in Elizabeth, blowing out all the windows in the depot, and bringing down the curtain on a glamorous era for the Rahway Valley” (McCoy 11). Another film known to of been filmed along the rails of the RV was the “Escape From Andersonville” which was released in 1909.

As the result of some mismanagement and delinquent tax payments the control of the Rahway Valley Railroad Company reverted to the Elmira interests which held RV bonds. Keller was able to set up an operating organization called the Rahway Valley Company, Lessee on February 27, 1909 to lease the Rahway Valley Railroad Company. “. . . in February, 1909, they chartered the Rahway Valley Company to lease the entire railroad . .  . this way Keller was on the receiving end . . . and had the added financial support he needed . . . A five year lease was signed in March, 1909, with rental to be $4,000.00 the first twelve months and $6,000, $8,000, and $12,000 and so on in the same proportion each succeeding year until 1914. In 1914, Keller scrawled his signature on a three year lease . . . This new arrangement did little good, except give the RV a new ‘lease’ on life. 1910 four both factions keeping books in red ink” (Young).

The lessee company also afforded the RV to construct that spur to Keller’s stone quarry in Springfield (later the Commonwealth Stone Quarry), which was previously to have been built by the Baltusrol Railroad Company. “The RVC paid for construction of a three-quart mile branch . . . for the Commonwealth Quarry, but in view of the tremendous expense, which included [the] erection of a track scale at Springfield, couldn’t make a profit on the venture” (Young).

Railbus #10 of the Rahway Valley Railroad was constructed by the Railway Motor Car Company of Marion, Indiana.
The next couple years witnessed the RV’s General Manager, Harry Dankel, attempting to cut costs and reduce deficits for the line. In February, 1912 the Public Utilities Commission granted the railroad a rate increase. Communication rates were bumped up to $0.75 and fifty trip tickets between Kenilworth and Bayonne were raised to $1.50.
Gross daily passenger receipts for the railroad at the time only surmounted to $10 a day while it cost the line $25 a day to operate. In an attempt to reduce costs of running the daily passenger trains, Dankel became interested in investing in a railbus to take over the runs. In July, 1912 such a car was tested on the RV. “A new 100-horse power gasoline motor car is being demonstrated on the Rahway Valley R.R., by the Railway Motor Car Company, with a view to its adoption for general use in caring for the passenger service over the line from Summit to Aldene. In appearance the car is not unlike the improved trolley type of car, runs by its own power and may be operated from either end. It has a baggage compartment, seats 34 people, is lighted by acetylene, and has a hot water system of heating. It is said to be able to make 45 miles an hour” (“RV Testing Out New Rail Car”). The RV purchased this car as well as a Mack railbus later on. “At this time Keller bought two gasoline combines – jitney buses, the railroaders called them – and put them into service, knocking off all steam varnish runs. For a time Number Ten and Number Eleven, with motors inside, did well. They ran up . . . the mainline as far as Baltusrol. There were turntables at Baltusrol . . . and Kenilworth, for them, with a little wooden roundhouse at the latter point” (Young). The two buses curtailed expenses for the Rahway Valley for just a short while. “In 1914, however, a Millburn, NJ trucker won the RV’s old mail contract away from the line. Keller discarded the railcars, which had handled the mail, and put his old three car train back on to Summit” (Young). At least one of the buses, most likely #11, was retained as late as the 1920’s. The Rahway Valley was also known to operate mixed trains, with a combine tacked on to the rear of a freight train.

The end of an era came on June 14, 1913 when the railroad’s longtime Secretary and General Manager, Horatio F. “Harry” Dankel (previously the Superintendent of the two New Orange railroads) died. Up until this point, despite marginal deficits, Dankel had kept Keller’s Rahway Valley going through all the turmoil.

James S. Caldwell was elected to fill the vacant positions of Secretary and General Manager. Another new face, Andrew A. Lockwood, soon became the railroad’s auditor. The ensuing years would miss the management of Harry Dankel, as Caldwell and Lockwood’s inability would bring about the near collapse of the Rahway Valley Railroad. “Keller’s Rahway Valley struggled along from day to day, not knowing where it’s next dime was coming from” (Young).



A family, on an outing, proudly poses with RV #7 at the Kenilworth Station in this view. Passengers who frequented the Rahway Valley travelled to some of the many picnic groves along the line such as Miller's Grove in Roselle Park, Petrilla's Grove in Kenilworth, and Farcher's Grove in Union. Connecting trains with the Jersey Central and Lehigh Valley allowed residents of Bayonne, Jersey City, Newark, and New York City to enjoy a day out in the country. Roselle Park Historical Society, courtesy of Don Maxton.


Information regarding Louis Keller and the history of the Baltusrol Golf Club comes from "Louis Keller, Founder. Baltusrol's Founding Father" by Dick Brown.

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