Tomís Raritan River Railroad Page

www.RaritanRiver-RR.com

 

 

 

History of the Milltown Freight Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

History of the Milltown Freight Station

 

 

The Raritan River Railroad Freight Station in Milltown, NJ is a great reminder of just how important Milltown was in years gone by.The fact that it still stands is a testament to its endurance and legacy.Some people never even notice it, some may even think itís an eye sore, but to those who know, they can see the history and the life of a once prosperous little town, station, and railroad.Here is the story, as best I can tell it, of Milltown, the Raritan River Railroad, and how the Milltown Freight Station united them both in history.

 

 

From its beginnings in 1888, the little Raritan River Railroad built a modest and profitable little railway.Only 12 miles in length, it just happened to run though some of the busiest parts of the state.With stations in South Amboy, Parlin, South River, Milltown, and New Brunswick, the railroad gave the residence and industry of Milltown a way to connect with the rest of the nation.Milltown was a small and growing little industrial town, and with a train station, people and industry could now connect with the world.

 

 

 

Raritan River Railroad Locomotive #4

Built in 1899, picture taken about 1910

 

 

The first passenger train reached Milltown in 1891.The current Milltown station was built in the early 1900ís as a replacement to an earlier shelter.This new station served the local area well, giving shelter to both passengers and freight.During train time, Milltown was a bustling and busy place.With the huge Meyer Rubber complex, industry literally ran all day and night in Milltown.And now with a rail connection, bigger and better industry, and bigger and better jobs, would come to Milltown.

 

 

Old map of Milltown showing the Fresh Ponds Spur

as well as all the little branches and spurs in the area

 

 

In the early years, a new spur was built in Milltown called the Fresh Ponds spur which went down along the creek to the sand pits.Eventually, the Meyer Rubber Company turned into the sprawling Michelin Tire Company, with hundreds of jobs for local residents, and tons and tons of freight for the little Raritan River Railroad.A new spur was added just for this complex.

 

It was a very prosperous time for Milltown.Eventually a Public Service Trolley line would also run through Milltown for local passenger stops.Even the Trenton and New Brunswick Electric Railway, an Interurban Line (high speed trolleys that ran city to city) would also pass through Milltown.The remains of this line can be seen in Farrington Lake.

 

 

Raritan River Railroad Engine #15 with Passenger Combine Car and

Railway Express car in back

If you look at the back door, you can see the

Railway Express Agent standing in the open door!

March 21, 1934

 

 

The Milltown Station was a very busy place at train time. The Milltown station had a Railway Express agent, which would be like the equivalent of a FedEx office today.High Priority packages would be shipped on special rail cars at the back of the fastest passenger trains for shipment all over the nation.(As seen in the above photo).More and more industries and people moved into the growing little area of Milltown.

 

Passenger and freight traffic continued to grow well into the teens.The busiest period being recorded in World War I with a total of 22 passenger trains running per day.With all the munitions plants located in Sayreville, almost 9000 passengers per day were moved on the little Raritan River Railroad.Hundreds of people per day would board trains in Milltown and come home in the evening.Many would board in Milltown for the 2 hour 15 minute ride to Jersey City via connections with the Jersey Central Railroad in South Amboy.

 

Milltown Passenger Station

1917-1923?

Possibly an ICC Evaluation Photo

After Passenger Service Ended in 1938, this station was remodeled,

the door was widened, it was lifted off the ground to the height of a freight car door

and then it became the Milltown Freight Station

From the Bob Kipp Collection

 

 

 

 

By the 1930s though, the depression has hit the US hard, and poor Milltown and the Railroad took fatal blows.The huge Michelin tire factory closed its doors early in 1930, leaving Milltown with a void that wouldnít be filled for many years.Many of the Michelin tire employees would pack up and go back home to France, abandoning poor Milltown.Freight volumes were down almost 50% on the railroad, and passengers continued to take buses or cars, leaving the Raritan River with fewer and fewer passenger trains too.Eventually, the public service trolley line was abandoned in favor of the busses.

 

 

Passenger Timetable from 1937

Shows only one daily train running

Better not miss the 7:41 out of Milltown!

 

By 1938, the Raritan River Railroad had but one passenger train left.See attached schedule.In April of 1938, the Raritan River Railroad stopped passenger service altogether between South Amboy and New Brunswick.No more passengers would enter the Milltown Station.

 

Also in 1938, all Express Car service also stopped on the RRRR.Express Car Service was the equivalent of todayís FedEx systems, only back then, the packages all went on the back of the fastest passenger trains.Without the passengers, there could be no more Express Service.This once lucrative commodity would never pass through Milltown again. The Freight Station was still open for freight, but things just didnít move as fast as they used to.

 

Things donít change much in the next 30 years.World War II brought a surge of traffic to Milltown and the Raritan River Railroad.The railroad also moved tons and tons of dirt and sand to Milltown to help build the New Jersey Turnpike in the early 1950ís.The steam engines we all loved get replaced by Diesels in 1956.Freight continues to fall every year, but the railroad continues to downsize and adapt.The Fresh Ponds spur in Milltown, one of the first spurs built in Milltown in the early 1900s gets abandoned and tracks ripped up.The Michelin Tire complex gets rented out to a few different industries over the years, keeping the line connected, but rarely used.

 

Up to this point, individual boxes, packages, and freight could still be delivered to stations, including the Milltown Freight Station.This freight was called LCL, for Less-Car-Load freight.Fright could be shipped to Milltown, and picked up at the station by the individual customers.Compare it to a slower USPS system of today.The Raritan River Railroad followed along with the bigger lines and discontinued this service in the late 60s.

 

 

Milltown Freight Station showing Box Car and Semaphore Signal

1971

 

At this point, only fully loaded Boxcars could be delivered to Milltown, and by the late 60ís there were not many of them being delivered anymore.New Jersey was changing from a manufacturing and industrial center, to a residential and commercial center.Industries were moving out, people and corporations were moving in.

 

Thus, the late 1960ís and early 1970ís was a really bad time for the railroads.The Raritan River Railroad was always a profitable company, but they were jointly owned by the Central Jersey Railroad Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, and they were not profitable anymore.The Jersey Central had been bankrupt since 1967.

 

In 1969, the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with the New York Central Railroad to become the Penn Central.At the time, the Penn Central was the largest railroad in the world.Unfortunately, just 2 years after that merger, the Penn Central was now bankrupt too.Both parent companies were now bankrupt!Could it get any worse for the little RRRR?

 

By the time the Penn Central went bankrupt, they were the largest bankruptcy in world now too.In fact, most railroads on the East Coast of the US were bankrupt by the early 70ís.Surprisingly, though, the little Raritan River railroad was still fairly profitable.

 

The US Government came in and created the Consolidated Railroad Company (Conrail) in 1976 to absorb the many bankrupt companies.It was a mater of financial health of the entire US economy.It was absolutely necessary to keep the freight moving, to keep the industries supplied; to keep the jobs going.

 

Amtrak was created in 1971 for the same reasons.Passengers needed to efficiently move between the cities, so the government stepped in to get the entire rail industry on its feet again.

 

The Raritan River Railroad was not included in the initial 1976 creation of Conrail.They would fight to stay independent, but their efforts would be in vain.

 

Sadly, in April 1980, after 92 years of uninterrupted and reliable service, the profitable and reliable Raritan River Railroad was absorbed into Conrail.They had no choice.Their parent companies had been absorbed, and now it was their turn.

 

The Milltown Freight Station was up for abandonment.Conrail didnít need freight stations anymore, so plans were made to tare it down.At the last minute, the adjacent property owner purchased it for storage.Here it sat for a long time.

 

For the next 25 years, the Milltown Freight Station sat neglected.The station platform is long gone.The base has begun to rot away, exposing the concrete foundation.Rented out many times, eventually the condition would become so bad, even renting it wouldnít be possible anymore.

 

Raritan River Railroad

Freight Station Open House

April 9, 2005

 

In April 2005, a friend of the owner hosts a small open house at the Raritan Riverís Milltown Freight Station!For the first time in 25 years, the station is open.For the first time in 67 years, its open to the public!

 

Inside the Milltown Freight Station

Check out the red wood walls and ceiling!

 

For the first time in almost 67 years, regular people are allowed in the station, and into the waiting room in the back.Not since the last passengers left in 1938 has anyone been allowed back here.This room has literally been closed for almost over 50 years.Two ex-employees of the Raritan River Railroad also showed up to talk all day about their jobs on the line and its history.

 

Today the station sits, boarded up, locked up, and awaiting its fate.Today, after many years of fine service, and many more years of neglect, the station is in dire need of repairs and support.Maybe someday someone will step up and restore this historical treasure.Maybe someday someone will save it.But today, the Milltown Freight Station just sits and waits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Information

 

For more information on the Boro of Milltown, click here

 

For a more detailed history of the Raritan River Railroad, click here.

 

For more pictures, maps, and history of the Milltown Station, click here

 

For more pictures of the Engines of the Raritan River Railroad, click here

 

For more Timetables of the Raritan Railroad, click here

 

For more Maps of the Raritan River Railroad, click here

 

For more information on the Raritan River Railroad, click Back to Main Page

 

 

 

 

  • Contact Me, Please!
    1. If you have a Raritan River Story to tell, or just wanna chat about the old Ricky, send me an e-mail.I would love to hear from you and post your stories. Also, if you see an error in my details, please let me know!
      1. Tom_E_Reynolds@yahoo.com
      2. Send me a letter at:

Thomas Reynolds

Morgan Stanley | Technology

100 Front Street | Floor 10

West Conshohocken, PA 19428

Phone: +1 610 260-7363

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Questions? Comments?

Tom_E_Reynolds@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Other Fine Sites Dedicated to the Raritan River Railroad

 

www.RaritanRiverRailroad.com

 

http://www.geocities.com/transit383/rrhist.html

 

http://jcrhs.org/raritanriver.html

 

 

Here is an entire forum dedicated to discussions of the RRRR!

 

www.railroad-line.com/forum/forum.asp?forum_id=2