Historic trains from New Jersey’s past find a place to be slowly restored to their former glory. But first, this place needs some work.
Railroad historians began raising funds to furnish a building in Boonton that would be where United Railways Historical Society plans to restore some of the 65 historic trains that represent the history of the state railways.
This is a step on the road to New Jersey’s goal of having its own State Transportation Museum, a dream that historians have pursued for 40 years.
Late last month, UHRS moved into a 6,600-square-foot building in the small storage yard that it has rented from NJ Transit since 2007 and which houses most of the company’s collection. For the first time in 37 years of history, the UHRS has an indoor space to work on its trains, rather than an outdoor space, said Kevin Phalon, president of the company.
The latest acquisition, a locomotive that circulated the streets of Hoboken before waterfront industries were replaced by condos and townhouses, was kept last year and will be on display at the UHRS facility this year.
Now the building is just an empty shell and far from the restoration workshop that the organization would like it to be. UHRS launched a $ 25,000 fundraiser to equip the building with the basics: lights, pavement, electricity, compressed air system, Internet and security system, he said.
“This $ 25,000 would cover all the essentials on this list,” he said. “We would need more than that to continue building other parts of the store and purchasing equipment from the store. «
The building, recently vacated by a tenant, would allow UHRS members to work on the team inside as efficiently as possible, Phalon said. This will also allow them to stabilize the trains awaiting restoration against further deterioration from the elements.
“These old trains are deteriorating every day they wait outside to be repaired,” he said. “A simple paint job can add decades to the life of any car or locomotive on this job. «
Donations can be made to URHS online at UHRS.org/donar or by mail to 104 Morris Ave. Boonton, NJ 07005. Future plans for the building include acquiring more shop machinery such as lathes, a milling machine, and other metalworking tools to outfit a “soon-to-be machine shop.” said Erik Stenzel, UHRS chief engineer.
“We have gradually gathered the many pieces in our collection here,” said Phalon. “There are currently 50 locomotives and cars in the yard. We expect 10 more teams to finally return to Boonton in 2022. “
Part of the building will also be used for UHRS offices and as a “welcome base” to maintain the Hickory Creek, a restored New York Central Railroad observation car, and the saloon car at Tavern # 43, both artifacts from the era of the Streamlined train from the 1940s and 1950s.
Both cars are part of UHRS Hudson River Rail Tours that wrapped up fall foliage tours on the Hudson River last year that were so popular that the first set of trips sold out in 8 minutes online.
The ultimate goal of UHRS is to build a 50-acre transportation museum in the state, complete with an indoor exhibition building and an educational center and track for people to take the restored trains, he says. These operational rail museums exist in other states, as close as Pennsylvania, which opened its State Railroad Museum in 1975.
“We can never get to this point without conserving the artifacts that we have,” he said. “That’s why this restoration building in Boonton is not only beneficial, but necessary.”
A permanent transportation museum in New Jersey has been an elusive goal, studied since 1980, but not achieved. The UHRS approached this goal in 2005, when it found a 35-acre site in Phillipsburg. But this site was used for the development of the waterfront.
“New Jersey missed that, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Phalon said. “We have the history and we have the artifacts. We just need some space.
Meanwhile, the UHRS and other railway museums and historical societies have stored vintage trains, many of which were donated by NJ Transit after replacing old equipment from previous railroads. The UHRS has done an impressive job, cosmetically restoring various locomotives and trains to their past glory.
People could see them again this summer when UHRS first opens its tour facilities. In the past, it has hosted an open house in the fall.
“It is our top priority that the public can see and enjoy the trains here in Boonton,” said Phalon. “We are very excited to finally be able to do it. We will sell tickets on our website once the dates are set. «
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Larry Higgs can be contacted at [email protected].