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Railroad Model Craftsman - July 2003 issue
(This is the text of my article as submitted to the publisher. Back issues are still available from Railroad Model Craftsman)

The DL&W's Andover Depot

This small wood station was located on the Sussex branch

David E. Rutan

Who would realize that behind the row of antique shops on the main street of this small town of Andover Borough, a quaint, old fashioned railroad depot once stood. Diagonally across Smith Street from the town hall, a flat-roofed freight house and a simple passenger station once served the community as a lifeline to the outside world. Today, only an empty lot and a Park Service sign, denoting the presence of the Sussex Branch trail, mark the site.

Andover Borough holds the distinction of being the destination of the first rail road built in Sussex County, New Jersey. After Abram S. Hewitt re-opened the Andover iron mine to feed his iron works in Phillipsburg and Trenton, he quickly tired of the turnpike tolls necessary to cart the ore to the Morris Canal at Waterloo Village.
On March 9, 1848 he received a charter from the state of New Jersey to build the Sussex Mine Railroad. Work was begun on May 21, 1850. By August of 1851, teams of mules were hauling ore cars, called "jimmies," from the mine located off Limecrest Road near Old Creamery Road, to Waterloo. From there, the ore was transported via canal to Phillipsburg and Trenton.

While the mules plodded, Hewitt plotted to extend his railroad to Newton, the county seat, However, it was more than an extension he envisioned. Hewitt planned to completely rebuild his road to the standards of the iron horse and bring Sussex County its first ever steam railroad.

The newly incorporated Sussex Railroad Company would join with the Morris and Essex railroad below the village of Waterloo as the latter company was building west from Dover. Construction was begun on May 5, 1853. After several setbacks, iron ore from the Andover mine began moving under steam in September of 1854.
Passenger service from Waterloo to Newton was opened on December 11 of the same year. Within a short time, the produce of much of Sussex County was trundling through Andover past the newly constructed depot.

Andover was the site of several mishaps during the Sussex Railroad's early years. In 1870 one of the most serious derailments occurred at the switch for the mine spur, (now the approximate location of the Andover Diner.) The engine Franklin "mounted the rails on the curve of the road at that point, and the passenger car becoming disengaged from the locomotive it was suddenly whirled down an embankment twenty feet high, a complete wreck." Several of the seriously hurt passengers were cared for in a local residence until a doctor was summoned from Newton.

In 1905, the Lehigh & Hudson River Railroad and the Lackawanna came to an arrangement for hauling quick freight to New England thus eliminating the need to 'float' it across the Hudson from Hoboken to Harlem. A new connection with the L&HR was built just north of Andover. Locally, rumors spread that because this new interchange was expected to generate so much traffic, the Sussex Branch would soon be double tracked from Andover to Netcong. It was also rumored that the recently abandoned connection to Waterloo would be re-tracked and used for western freight.

A few years later, the Lackawanna Cut-Off was built through the southern end of the Borough. One of the base camps was in Andover as the Sussex Branch was convenient for shipping men, supplies and equipment for this engineering feat.

In July of 1909 a car load of rails destined for the Cut-Off was being transferred across the active tracks at the depot. While one of the rails was being dragged across, it became disengaged from the hook which was carrying it and fell across the track dead center in front of an approaching train.

The pilot of the engine picked up the rail and it caught between two signal towers, wrecking them and bending the rail into a 'U' shape. Amazingly, no one was injured.

In the post war years, trains continued to roll through the borough, however, some passenger runs were eliminated as the economy of Sussex County changed. The station agency at Andover was discontinued on March 6, 1953. Long time Lackawanna employee, Daniel Plant was its last agent.

Guy Puffer, a resident of the Borough, rode the Lackawanna trains a few times to the high school in Newton. He remembers the interior of the depot.

"...the door on right went into the passenger waiting area which had some bench-type seats around the perimeter and a big, black pot-belly stove in the middle of the room. I seem to remember wainscoted wall treatment. Separated from the waiting area was the ticket office with a small bank-style window with bars behind which sat the ticket agent. I can only imagine the door on the left of the track-side went into that
area. The floors were narrow-boards, oiled to keep
down dust. The interior was a dark, almost black color,
and always had a lingering smell of coal fumes even in

Around 1959 the depot building was purchased by E. M. Seeley. It was moved on a flatbed truck to a lot on Lenape Road, less than a mile from the original station site. There it was transformed into a dwelling which still exists today.

After the merger of the Erie and the Lackawanna, the Lehigh & Hudson freights ceased running past the depot site, as the EL's preferred interchange was changed to Maybrook New York. The EL continued running it's 'diesel powered prairie schooners' and the modicum of remaining freight through the town.

In 1966, when the Erie Lackawanna abandoned the Sussex Branch, Andover was given a reprieve of about two and one half months to enjoy the very last passenger service in Sussex County. The last passenger train to Andover left on October 2, 1966.
The rails sat rusting for almost a dozen years. The railroad likely held onto them because of the slim possibility of their use via the connection with the Lehigh & Hudson River at Andover Junction. Finally, they were removed, and like the rails that were laid to the mine over a century before, they live only in memory.

Don Spiro wrote a great article about scratchbuilding the Andover depot. While I will not include that in my archives (It ran in the same issue as this article,) the plans that he used as a basis are on my site here.