This wall of rocks, near the first sharp curve of Brookside Drive in Millburn’s South Mountain Reservation, is a stone abutment. It’s one of the last remnants of the New Jersey West Line Railroad east of Summit.
(Below is what this stone wall looks like from the road, if you’re NOT the type to go climbing up steep poison-ivy filled hills to get better photos of historical ruins [cough]. See it peeking through, there on the left?)
This stone abutment originally supported a wooden trestle locally known as the Ghost Bridge, so-called because there was never actually a railroad built on top of it.
There was never a railroad on it because east of Summit, the New Jersey West Line was never fully constructed.
Construction started in 1870. They bought the land for the right-of-way, and they graded the land, and they even laid tracks in some places… but construction was stopped by 1873, in part due to corporate politics, in part due to lack of finances (Panic of 1873, anyone?).
Before 1873, everyone was so certain it would be built that the railroad started appearing on several maps. Here’s an 1872 map with the Morris & Essex line highlighted in blue, and the proposed New Jersey West Line highlighted in red (hint: not the county boundaries). (Click to see it larger.)
If part of the NJWL on that map looks familiar… that’s because WEST of Summit, the New Jersey West Line became the modern-day Gladstone branch of the Morris & Essex line!
(As a New Providence resident, I use the Gladstone branch every day! Hooray for partial construction of the NJ West Line!)
This isn’t to say that NOTHING east of Summit was ever built on the NJWL. There was a quarry in the South Mountain Reservation that needed to export its rocks to the rest of the world. The solution? Reclaim an unused bit of the NJWL that conveniently connected to the Morris & Essex Millburn station! Here’s a map from 1906, showing the railroad spur in use long after construction had otherwise ceased on the line:
And that’s all I know. Abandoned railroads are fun!
Beers, F.W. (1872). “Topographical map of Hudson, Union, and Essex Cos, New Jersey.” State atlas of New Jersey based on State Geological Survey and from additional surveys by and under the direction of F.W. Beers. Beers, Comstock & Cline: New York, NY. From the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. http://www.davidrumsey.com/.
Lampe, O.W. (1999, 2000). Images of America: Millburn. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC. ISBN 0738504130.
The Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society. (n.d.). The Map Room. “1906 Atlas Map of Millburn, Plate 32.” http://www.mshhistsoc.org/map-room.
Wikipedia. (2010, last edit). “New Jersey West Line Railroad.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Jersey_West_Line_Railroad.
(P.S. Hey, speaking of railroads and history, Amtrak is sponsoring National Train Day this weekend, in honor of the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869. If you live near a city, and you’re into trains, why not check it out?)