Rail station on the right track to restoration

1883

BY KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

MILLTOWN — After many years of discussion, the revival of the last remaining structure of the Raritan River Railroad may finally come to fruition.

Tom Reynolds, the president, and Kenneth Durrua, the vice president, of the Raritan River Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society said after six years of raising funds, they believe they have raised enough money to move and restore the Raritan River Freight Station that faces Washington Avenue.

It was originally constructed as a passenger station and station agent office about 100 years ago. The first passenger train reached Milltown in 1891.

“It’s significant in the history of the railroad [and] undoubtedly more so [significant] in the history of Milltown,” Durrua said.

Durrua and Reynolds appeared before the Milltown Borough Council last month to discuss their plans for the station. They said the hope is by spring 2017, the station would find its permanent home on county land across the street.

“The Raritan River Railroad was an intricate part to the commerce and prosperity brought to the town,” Durrua said.

He said the development of automobiles and trucks changed the function of the railroad. The passenger service of the station ended in 1938.

The Raritan River Railroad was only 12 miles in length with stations in South Amboy, Parlin, South River, Milltown and New Brunswick.

Milltown at the time was a small and growing little industrial town, and with a train station, people and industry could connect with the world.

After passenger service of the station ended, the station building was moved slightly down the tracks and the platform height was raised so that the building could be used for freight service.

“It remained this way almost to the absorption into Conrail in 1980 and shortly thereafter, the [property has been in the] hands of private owners, currently Jim Curran,” said Durrua.

He said the station is the last remaining structure of the Raritan River Railroad.

“Time is taking its toll on its exterior and this may be the last chance to save it,” he said. “The interior however is still in remarkably good condition as it retains most of its original finishing character from its original use as a passenger station.”

Reynolds said they have worked with the Milltown Historical Society to raise funds to move and restore the station.

“After six years, we believe we are at the point that we have enough money to start the process to move the station,” he said.

Reynolds said they attended the meeting to look for an understanding and approval from the council to acknowledge and sanction their plan to move the station onto the county property.

The next steps, Reynolds said, would involve paperwork on agreements of where the station would go on the county property, authorizations, and any legal matters that need to be taken care of.

“It may be a nine-month process to move [the station] across the street,” he said.

Borough Engineer Michael McClelland said preliminary legwork has been done on the site where the station will be moved.

“We have met with county [officials] relative to landscaping behind the Ice Cream Depot,” he said, adding that on those preliminary plans, the county has conceptually agreed to an area for the location of the train station.

McClelland said in discussion with county officials, they are flexible in where the station is placed on the property.

Durrua said once the station building is moved, the building needs to be restored and hold some type of occupancy.

“We will continue to have fundraisers,” once a stabilized goal for the station is set, he said.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@gmnews.com.

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