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New Jersey Herald - November 27, 1980 issue
Funding Sought for Train Station Fixup

Conversion to Recreation Center eyed

By Kerry Kirk

Staff Writer

Branchville--Although you won't see a train passing through the railroad station on Maple Avenue in Branchville, the old station may become a center of activity once again.

According to Mayor John Whitesell, the town is preparing a Housing and Urban Development grant application for $86,000 under the direction of Sally Francisco of the Culver Brook Restoration Foundation to renovate the station for use as a community center.

"We want to preserve the railroad station," Whitesell said. "It 's something we hate to see disappear and now we can really use it."

The Branchville station was constructed in 1870 {1869} a year after the Sussex Mine Railroad tracks were extended into the borough. During Branchville's peak, it became the chief supplier of milk and dairy products to distant industrial centers of the state, as well as a local dispatcher for mail.

In addition, passenger trains from New England, Albany and Philadelphia made connections at Branchville Junction daily. {Note: Branchville Junction has little to do with the town of Branchville other than the fact that it is where the Branchville line and Franklin line split from the tracks coming from Newton. DR} In the summer months, the train brought visitors interested in the vast outdoor resources the county offered.

However, shortly after W.W.II, with the introduction of tractor-trailer trucks and private automobiles, train travel slackened off and the golden days of the railroad began to fade.

With the decrease in dairying in the county, the need for milk cars also ceased. On July 10, 1966, the last train pulled out of Branchville Junction {Actually it pulled out of Branchville borough and later passed through what once was Branchville Junction on its way to Newton. DR} Since that time the station has fallen into disrepair and has become the victim of local vandals and graffiti artists.

To celebrate the Bicentennial, the town formed a committee under the direction of former Mayor Martin Struck. It became responsible for repairing and painting the exterior of the building and restoring the original Branchville sign.

Until now, no further work has been done on the station. With the possibility of receiving a grant through HUD, Whitesell said the station can once again serve community needs.

"We want to preserve the railroad station and the four acres around it for use as a municipal center," Whitesell said. "The fire department owns three parcels of property in town, We believe this would be an ideal location for a town complex.

Whitesell said no additions will be made on the original structure but that the borough will "possibly move the structure from the site," and keep it "intact and make it the focus of the area.

"The town would benefit from consolidating on one parcel," Whitesell continued. "It will take a year or so to get the application and the money."

Whitesell expects that if the application is accepted, the station will be completed around the middle of 1982.

At a public hearing Tuesday evening, former Mayor Struck said the idea of a borough complex was a long-term one. The primary concern was to gain the money needed to salvage the station.

"The station is a landmark," Struck said.

"The primary objective is the renovation," he continued. "Its usage could be for many, many things."

Mrs. Francisco said in addition to the proposal that the station be used as a senior citizen center, the youth club could also find some use for the building. However, Mrs. Francisco reiterated Struck's sentiments when she said the main objective was to get the grant.

"We won't know until February, if the pre application will be accepted," Mrs. Francisco said. "If it is, the HUD will invite us to apply for the grant."

She said the full application is expected to be complete in April, and funding for the project would begin in about June, after which the project is expected to be complete in a year.