ROXBURY, NJ – The miniature train that last carried children around Horseshoe Lake Park about 40 years might live again, but not in Roxbury.

The locomotive, along with the narrow-gauge tracks and ties that once carried it, are being donated by the township to the Bergen County Parks Department for possible use at Van Saun County Park and Bergen County Zoo in River Edge.

The chain of events that led to the train's possible new lease on life began about a week ago, when Roxbury tore up the tracks and railroad ties, having decided the old train was never going to return to life. The decayed shed that housed the locomotive was demolished.

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Roxbury Public Works Assistant Director Steve Senese mentioned the existence of a similar railroad at Van Saun Park; in fact, Senese said his grandfather once worked on the train, which began operating in 1963.

So a call was made. Notes were swapped. It turned out Roxbury's equipment will fit right in at Van Saun Park.

“They have a train system - that goes around the zoo and the park - and it uses the same gauge track we have,” said Roxbury Public Works Director Rick Blood. “When we reached out to them about the track, they said, ‘We will take everything you’ve got; track, ties, parts. Whatever you have.’”

Even though Roxbury's tractor-engine-powered locomotive hasn't started in decades, the Bergen County folks are thrilled, according to Blood. “We said, ‘We have an engine as well,’ and they said, ‘That’s great. We have a group here that restores them.’”

Workers from Bergen County are expected to be at Horseshoe Lake Park on Thursday to haul out everything. “There’s a whole troop of people coming with all sorts of equipment,” Blood said.

'Donated by Roxbury'

Although Roxbury isn’t getting any money out of the deal, Bergen County does plan to show some appreciation, according to Blood and Senese. They said the county said it will install a plaque on the locomotive telling visitors about its Roxbury legacy.

"This donation will enable us to replace some of our current composite ties back to wood ties as they wear out over time," wrote Bergen County Zoo Director Marianne Vella in a letter to other county officials. "The addition of over 2,000 feet of track can help us expand the current ride or add a needed exchange area while cleaning the train (due to COVID guidelines). This is a unique opportunity to recycle and reuse unwanted materials as long as we cart it away."

The removal of the tracks from Horseshoe Lake Park has been a topic of conversation around Roxbury ever since town workers began the dismantling. Residents, some dismayed, have been calling members of the township council.

But Roxbury Deputy Mayor Fred Hall insists the township had no choice.

“Over the past 12 to 15 years, we have been looking at an opportunity to resurrect the train at Horseshoe Lake,” he said at Tuesday's Roxbury council meeting. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to move that forward. There are some financial aspects associated with that, some safety aspects associated with that and many licenses that we would need in order to run the train.”

In past decades, some volunteers helped attempt restoring the train. New tracks were installed in 2002, according to published reports, but none of those efforts proved viable in the long run.

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