ROXBURY, NJ — Like it or not, the blasts from locomotive horns still echo through parts of Roxbury as N.J. Transit trains, and those on the Dover and Rockaway River Railroad, traverse the township.
But rail activity in Roxbury these days is meager compared to the industry's heyday when Port Morris was a bustling hub on the Lackawanna Railroad, complete with a roundhouse, and long freight trains regularly plied the Central Railroad of N.J.
Given Roxbury's rich railroading history, there must be a trainload of photos of local “railroaders” in Roxbury attics and basements. If you have some, the county wants to hear from you.
“Morris County historians are compiling lists and records of the local men and women who built, supported and just made the railroads go in those early days and are asking anyone with photographs to share them,” said the county in a statement. “The county is interested in any aspect of railroad employment.”
In making its request, the county pointed out that “there was a time when “Railroaders,” as they were known, were revered in New Jersey and around the nation.” It said the term “became a catchall phrase for railroad employment, from those who worked on the railroad and at the depots to ticket agents and, of course, the engineers, who were written about in absolutely heroic terms in early newspapers of the 19th Century.”
That century, when many of the tracks through Roxbury were constructed (which spelled doom for the Morris Canal), “was a time in America when the railroads served as a commercial boon for the towns they served, whether it be commuter trains or the freight lines,” added the county, noting that railroads “were once a staple of Morris County life.”
Those who have, and are willing to share, photos with the county are asked to contact Jan Williams at the county Department of Planning and Conservation. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The county noted Morris County “boasts” its own steam locomotive: United States Army Steam Locomotive No. 4039, which is listed on both the state and national Registers of Historic Places.
"The locomotive has been under restoration with the help of a large federal grant, public donations and funds from the Morris County Historic Preservation Trust Fund," the county said. “The fund also has helped to restore and preserve historic railroad stations, such as in Butler and Lake Hopatcong, and even support systems, including the Boonton train trestle.”
Locomotive No. 4039 will be housed at the Whippany Railroad Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and recording the history of railroad activity in the region.
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