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New Jersey Herald - July 17, 1966 issue
Article Subsections

Train Whistle Toots It's Last In Newton

Once Hailed As 'King' Iron Horse Ends Reign

by Vera Gibson

and Maureen Crowley


Was it really such a few short years ago?

When the crescendo call of "Bo-o-o-oard!" raised your spirits along with the conductor's cry in high anticipation of that long awaited holiday, or the excitement of a day's shopping in the city?

When the metallic "clunk" of the engine's first tentative tug at your coach made your heart thump with joy?

When the mournful wail of the train whistle on a frosty winter night made you glad you were sitting cozily by the kitchen stove--or the same whistle on a lazy, warm summer afternoon took your thoughts and dreams along with it to distant places you'd never seen?

It seems incredible to think that, when the first train pulled into Newton just a little more than 100 years ago, it was hailed as the most wonderful thing that ever happened to Sussex county -- a step that assured a prosperous future --a boon to agriculture and industry.

Foresaw Doom

But even then, a reporter from the New Jersey Herald who covered that first trip wrote with prophetic fatalism, in the flowery journalism of the day, almost as though he could sense the transience of the railroad's glory.

His account of the ride from Newton to Waterloo, which was as far as the train went, ended with the following observance:

"At this ancient village where the junction is formed with the Morris and Essex Railroad, stands the ruins of a forge which was in operation before the Revolution. What a miracle has been wrought in the realms of iron since its ponderous hammers sounded through the mountains! The iron track is laid beside it, the iron wheels roll past it, the iron engine, like a flying creature carries along a freight of human life. But the wheel of the old forge is broken--its fires are out--and the wall echoes to the rattling train, 'Progress! Progress! But do not roar too pompously; some offspring of human ingenuity may supersede you, and in a hundred years your voice may be as still as mine'."

And Today the train's voice is stilled, at least as far as Newton is concerned. If that reporter were alive today he would be amazed at how close he came to the truth. He took that first ride on Dec. 13, 1854, and on July 13, 1966, the last train pulled into Newton--111 years and seven months to the day--a comparatively infinitesimal stretch of time in the scheme of things.

Last Lap

 On its final run Wednesday night, the last two cars of no. 1015, relics of 60 years or more ago, dropped their passengers for the last time at the once spanking bright station, now closed and forlorn, with flaking green paint revealing the crumbling bricks beneath. One greeter was on hand to witness the last arrival. "Just curious," he remarked sadly.

The 6:55 trip from Netcong was taken by more passengers than the train has seen in years. About 40 railroad men, children who had never ridden a train and whose chance to do so diminishes with the years, and just plain old sentimentalists joined the regular commuters in marking what is symbolic of the passing of an era.

Holiday gaiety was conspicuous by its absence. The old train which had faithfully carried commuters to their places of business, milk to city distributors, city people to their summer homes, and vacationers on excursions, seemed no longer to be needed, except by those for whom the railroad still held its emotional pull. There was no rejoicing.

Commuter's Lament

 "I remember when there were 30, 35, 40 regulars, no exaggeration," commented Matthias Reister of 80 Madison Street, Newton. A regular commuter for 27 years, Reister will now take the bus to his job in Hoboken.

"It's really a shame," agreed conductor Johnny Keane of Morris Plains, who had been on the Newton run for the past three years. "Newton will be the only county seat in the state of New Jersey without a railroad."

A commuter for the past three and a half years, Louis Schnell of 3 Kory Road, Newton, used No. 1015 to reach his job in Morris Plains. "Sure, we don't like to see these things, but what can we do?" he philosophized. "You might say 'futility'," chimed in the conductor over the noise of the train.

And Edward H. Shields of Lafayette, who has commuted from Newton to Newark for three years said "There's not much that can be done about it. Obviously it couldn't support itself with the number of passengers. It was simply a matter of time." He added bemusedly, "I can't understand, though, why they don't want to maintain an opening here. I don't know their intentions in ending the run, but I think they're rather foolish."

John Drake of Greendell, assistant superintendent of the line, was the last high company official to ride the tracks from Andover to Newton. "Three out of the four railroads in the county have passed out of existence in the last six years," he noted, adding that he, too, had ancestral ties with the railroad. His great-great uncle was the first engineer on the Sussex Branch.

Hobby Riders

Two young men from South Jersey and Jersey City were there, passengers on the Newton Train's last run. George Williams of Maple Shade said, "My hobby is trains. I rode the last one to Branchville Sunday and I just couldn't miss the last one to Newton today. Come to think of it, I've ridden the one to Branchville five times just for the ride." He added, "It's an expensive hobby, but..." and left the thought unexpressed, although the message was explicit.

A Jersey City youth, George Kartanowicz, also came along for the ride. "He's a real railroad buff," noted the train's flagman by way of introduction. George added that he got his interest in trains from his father, a marine division employee of the line.

The engineer and flagman between them had almost a century invested in railroad work. Thomas Powell of Bloomfield, the engineer, noted he had worked 44 years for the railroad. Even in his three short years on the Newton run he had witnessed the steady decrease in business.

Nicholas Gallo of Morris Plains, the flagman has been with the railroad for 53 years, working in the Newton-Andover-Branchville area for years. "I guess they had enough time to think about it," he commented on the discontinuance of the run. "There are two ways to look at it." He didn't look too exuberant, however.

"Remember When"

 Gallo and Arthur Harris of Newton, who was retired from the signal department of the Sussex Branch after 42 years of service, reminisced about former times. "Those were the good old days," smiled Gallo, "the days of the three-wheeled velocipede and..."

"They went out around 1930 in this area, 1930 wouldn't you say?" queried Harris.

"Remember New Providence... Mike Schwartz and old Dick from Morristown...?"

Ed Quinn of Spring Street, Newton, also had memories. "I used this train way back in the 30's to attend summer school in South Orange, and for about five years to commute to New York. Way back then they had even older cars, old plush seats and everything."

Russell Walker of 2 Howard Street, Newton, the lone greeter at the station, remarked, "I just came in to see it. You might say from curiosity. You remember that reception for Hoffman," he mused, "how long ago was it...can't pinpoint it exactly... the band and everything. That was quite a day."

Among the area residents who went by bus from Newton to Netcong Wednesday to catch the last train was Mrs. Leo McCluskey, whose grandfather, "Uncle Joe" Quackenbush, was the engineer on the first train into town. [unlikely-DR] The McCluskey's are still in possession of the whistle on that engine.

The special three-toned whistle was presented to Uncle Joe by fellow members of Harmony Lodge 8, F & AM, and he used it on "Old Sussex" until he retired in 1908. He later gave it to a close friend, Watson Littell, who used it on the Littell Bottling Works in Franklin for many years. When that business closed, the whistle was returned to the family, going first to Quackenbush's daughter, Mrs. William Hendershot of Newton, and after her death to her daughter, Mrs. McCluskey.

Hardy Men

Railroad men were a rugged lot in the early days--by necessity. Quackenbush, for instance, had to walk from his home in Andover to Waterloo to pick up his train every day, then walk back home from Waterloo every night. On one of his nightly hikes, he encountered a wildcat on the tracks, one of the largest he had ever seen. Armed with nothing but the lantern he was carrying, he managed to scuff up a large rock with his foot as he kept an eye on the snarling beast, then threw it with all his might into the cat's face, knocking it screaming off the tracks and down the bank.

Uncle Joe lost no time going on his way, and after that always made sure he carried a weapon of some sort on his lonely journeys by foot.

That first train to come from New York to Newton was the forerunner of a service that grew to mean much to the county. As the "Sussex Mine Railroad", it had been incorporated in 1848 to build a line from the Andover Mines, and Newton, if desired, to Waterloo on the Morris Canal. Before the line was completed, the name was changed to the Sussex railroad Company.

Branching Out

At Waterloo, connections were made with the old Morris and Essex Railroad, which was geared for all westbound traffic. However, when it was decided to run trains eastbound from Waterloo, it became necessary to turn the locomotive on the turntable and put the engine on the other end of the train, an awkward, slow procedure.

Years later, in 1901, a cut-off was constructed from a point east of Cranberry Lake to Netcong and the Port Morris Yard to eliminate this nuisance. In the meantime, the Sussex had opened a line to Franklin in 1869, serving the miners there, and to Branchville. A connection was made with the Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad at Franklin when that line was brought south from Warwick, N.Y. But plans to extend the line from Branchville toward New York State never came to fruition.

The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western bought an interest in the Sussex in 1869, then gained control in 1881. In the days of the Lackawanna, there was a daily interchange of cars and freight trains between the Lehigh and Hudson River and the Lackawanna at the Port Morris Yard. L&H locomotives and crews worked into Port Morris every day from Maybrook and Warwick, getting on the Sussex Branch at Andover Junction. Today, though, the Port Morris Yard is a "ghost Yard" with practically all its tracks taken up.

14 A Day

The popularity of such spots as Cranberry Lake and Culver Lake with city vacationers brought added business to the railroad, and in the 1920's there were as many as seven passenger trains in each direction on the Sussex Branch on week days, and six on Sundays.

Few people are aware that the once famous "Boston Flyer", which ran from Hoboken to Boston every night in the early 90's actually traversed Sussex County on its way. It worked like this--operating over the Boonton Branch, the Flyer reversed direction and turned the engine at Waterloo, then traversed the Sussex Branch to Franklin Junction where the L&H did the honors to Maybrook, with the C.N.E. taking the train over the Poughkeepsie Bridge, via Danbury, Waterbury and Hartford to Boston.

The trip took 12 hours!

But times change, faster for some than for others, and walking and trains both seem to be on the way out as far as transportation is concerned. Cars, trucks and buses have taken over on the county scene--planes for distance travel--and here and there across our county we find bare rail beds stretching for miles like dirt tracks, their ties and iron rails torn up and carted away.

Abandoned railroad stations and freight offices echo with emptiness or have been converted to other uses. And if there are any ghosts in the Newton station, they must be haunted themselves by the memories of a day described by the editorial writer in 1854 as "an epoch in the history of Sussex County when, for the first time, did her citizens speed from her centre to her circumference, borne along by the mighty energy of an iron steed."

The editor's version of the occasion continued thus: "The previous announcement of this event drew together a large assemblage of persons from different parts of the county...About half past 12 o'clock, a wild scream echoed among the hills, and in a moment many eyes beamed with pleasure, and many hearts throbbed with a generous emotion as the engine rolled rapidly forward, like a thing of life, to the feet of the expectant multitude.

"Farewell old times, jolting coaches and venerable nags are among the things that were. Although in their day they did their duty as well as can be expected, we give them up without a sigh. They must clear the track, their destiny...telling them to move on."

'Twas ever thus, the old making way for the new, but in the case of the railroads, at least for some, certainly not without a sigh. And they may yet be back, in some more modern version, when highways and skyways are no longer enough to cope with the ever growing multitude of travelers.

Photo Captions:

LAST PUNCH...Newton - Commuter Louis Schnell (second from right) has his ticket punched for the last time by Erie-Lackawanna conductor, John Keane, for the last trip made by the train Wednesday Evening. Among the railroad buffs and local officials who joined the few remaining commuters for the final trip were Newton Mayor Edward Hicok (left) and Sussex County Freeholder Director Denton W. Quick (right). Now that the line operates only as far as Andover Junction, the county seat is left without any rail service.

END OF THE LINE... The two-car train pulls away from Newton after completing its commuter run for the last time. George Williams, railroad buff from South Jersey; John Drake, assistant supervisor of the line, and Flagman Nicholas Gallo bid farewell to Leo McCluskey, who organized a special bus trip from Newton to Netcong to catch the last train, and to over a century of railroad service to Newton.

NOW HISTORY... Dwayne Lockburner, four year old son of Freeholder and Mrs. Francis Lockburner of Fredon, explores the workings of the train's steam generator with Tom McGowan of Scranton, foreman. Dwayne, who had never been on a train, took what as time goes on becomes a diminishing opportunity to ride the railroad. McGowan, whose regular job is on the morning train, stayed with the run to the end.

GO AHEAD... Flagman Nicholas Gallo, who worked the Andover-Newton-Branchville run for years, signals to the engineer that all are aboard for the last journey from Netcong to Newton. After Wednesday night, Sussex County railroad service to Newton ended and trains will now come only as far as Andover Junction.

ALONG FOR THE RIDE...Mr. and Mrs. William Aumick settle back for the short jaunt from Netcong to Newton, as veteran railroad man of 53 years, Nicholas Gallo of Morris Plains, checks their tickets. For the Aumicks it was the last opportunity to ride to their home by train.

MOST IN YEARS... The cars on the Erie Lackawanna's Newton run were filled with more passengers than they had carried in years, as railroad lovers gathered to witness the passing of all passenger and freight service to Newton. "On a normal run," commented the conductor, "we could get by with maybe two, three seats."

FIRST ENGINEER... "Uncle Joe" Quackenbush, engineer on the first train to come to Newton, is shown in this old picture with the special three-tone whistle given to him by his fellow masons, and which he used on the "Old Sussex" until he retired.

BLIZZARD OF '88 VICTIM... "Through rain and sleet and dark of night" the Old Sussex wended its way faithfully from Newton to Waterloo. But it didn't quite make it during the great blizzard of '88, which on March 11, the train had just reached Whitehall, below Andover, when nature's snows overpowered man's iron creation and forced it from the track, the cars piling up behind it. The rescue engine, at left, was sent out the next day, met with little better fate, and it was two days before the weary train crews got out.

AND LIFE GOES ON... A Newton Housewife intent on getting her groceries home pays little attention to the Saturday afternoon train and its railroad buff passengers who went along for the ride and took pictures on the last Saturday run, July 9.

LINE'S END...Andover--Installation of a barricade taking another cut into Sussex County's rail service took place Friday Afternoon, when the section gang from the Port Morris Yard put this barricade in place at the Lehigh and Hudson crossing on the Erie Lackawanna track at Andover Junction. Supervising the operation, which followed the last run of the commuter train to Newton. Wednesday night, are Michael Menna foreman, and Joseph Esposito, track supervisor. The engine in the background took the remaining cars from above the cut-off point before the track was sealed off. Unlike spiking, barricading does not ruin the track.]


{Can anyone tell me what kind of or which engine pulled this train?-DR}

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