Wharton NJ 'CANAL DAY' 2016 video

This very successful annual event gave us the opportunity to show the operation of the Canal Society of NJ’s pontoon boat, a canoe, and a horse drawn wagon along the watered section of the Morris Canal in Wharton. The views of the canal, the restored lock and the basin above the lock is what passengers on our planned trolley shuttle would see from the elevated former Central RR of NJ right-of-way. Views of our public displays are also shown. Videography by Mitch Dakelman. The link to the video is: https://www.facebook.com/LibertyHistoricRailway/videos/959275300866270/


Mid-day on June 22, a reopening ceremony of the 1889 CRR of NJ Jersey City Terminal was held at Liberty State Park. It marked the completion of a nearly $20 million restoration of the historic terminal which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. It was the largest Atlantic event on record which struck New Jersey / New York Harbor with a storm surge of 13.88 feet, the highest ever recorded. The wind driven waves blew in doors and windows on the north, east and south sides of the first floor of the Terminal building and blew them out on the west side. Contents were inundated by four feet of water inside the building and the surge and wave action destroyed furniture, exhibits and contents. Highlights of the ceremony were the moving National Anthem and Performance by Liberty: The Monumental New Musical performers. The mail / baggage wagon which was restored by Bill McKelvey before Sandy has been returned to the Terminal waiting room but minus the historic canvass mail bags which we donated in 2012. A gift bag was given to all invitees that included a pair of tumblers with an etched view of the iconic terminal building.

Ralph Shelhamer and Bill McKelvey attended the ceremony and were most impressed with the installation of the full set of track / train announcement curtains / signs on all 20 tracks of the concourse. They represented the 1938 to 1941 period of the peak of name train operation at the terminal as researched with much help from CRR of NJ Veterans members, especially the late Bob Hoeft. Burt Sempier, reporter for WMBC-TV interviewed Bill McKelvey.

Liberty State Park is again host for NJ’s Tall Ship A. J. MEERWALD on its annual 11 day June / July visit with public sails. For schedule and tickets visit: www.bayshorecenter.org The Jersey City car pound on the west side of the park, along Phillip Drive, has been vacated, most likely in preparation for development.


On June 13 Bob Hooper and Bill McKelvey made a PowerPoint presentation to the Wharton Mayor and Borough Council. We also gave them our business plan, copies of letters of support and or pledges from LHRy, Friends of the NJ Transportation Heritage Center, URHS and the Canal Society of NJ, as well as postcard views of the trolley cars we plan to use. We were favorably received.

Next step: to meet with Morris County decision makers.

WHARTON CANAL DAY, Saturday, August 20th

A date for your calendar: Wharton Canal Day Music & Craft Festival, Saturday, August 20, 10 am - 5 pm @ Hugh Force Canal Park, 180 West Central Avenue, Wharton. This is an old time country fair that celebrates the Morris Canal and its contributions to the development of the communities along its banks. Will include free narrated boat rides, craft & art show, traveling zoo, black smith demonstrations, Civil War encampment, food, fireworks, & more. We will also be there with exhibits and sales tables. Free Admission. Off-street parking available - $5. Info: Canalday.org

We were wrong!

We confess that we jumped to conclusions about the history / origin of the little railroad building at the corner of N. Main Street and E. Dewey Avenue in Wharton. Here’s why: The above building is 16.5' x 12.5'. The former CNJ Hopatcong Junction Station, built in 1889, was 26' x 16'. The former CNJ Wharton passenger station, built in 1876, was 51' x 18'. We now think that the surviving much smaller building may have been a railroad section house located near the passenger station, where the CNJ crossed Main Street. It certainly has CNJ architecture and it would have been relatively easy to move it the few blocks north to its present location. However, we have been unable to locate the structure on old Sanborn Fire maps or find any photos which document it. Nor are there any local people who can remember where it was moved from. We would be pleased to gain any information that might help us verify the history of the building for which LHRy recently funded a replacement slate roof.

CNJ Jersey City Terminal Reopens!

We are pleased to report that the CNJ Jersey City Terminal building at Liberty State Park has finally reopened. The structure as well as the Park itself suffered extensive damage during Superstorm Sandy on October 29 and 30, 2012. Unfortunately, the six historic photo panels which LHRy installed on the concourse gates in September, 2012 will not be present. They were damaged by the storm water which rose to four feet above the floor level. However, all the new train - track announcement curtains are now in place. LHRy worked with former CNJ employees and Liberty State Park to make sure that the signs and their placement accurately represent the peak era of name train usage, eg: The Blue Comet, The Williamsporter, The Queen of the Valley, Monmouth Park Race Train, The Royal Blue, The National Limited, The Crusader, and The Wall Street.

Goals of LHRy to be revised

Liberty Historic Railway was formed in January 2010. Our efforts up to 2013 were specifically aimed at providing historic trolley shuttle service in Liberty State Park to enhance park-user mobility, improve visitor access, and reduce motor vehicle traffic and parking demand, as well as to provide displays of heritage rail equipment under a restored Jersey Central Jersey City Terminal Train Shed. Late in 2013 the directors of LHRy found that a moratorium on continued efforts to these ends was warranted. This is due to continued adamant and fanatical opposition to a trolley shuttle by Friends of Liberty State Park, in spite of an expert independent study which validated the trolley shuttle concept. What a shame that ignorant parochial interests prevailed that will not fulfill a more visionary role and need for Liberty State Park. LHRy feels that their organizational priorities and goals need to be revised, updated, and broadened. Director Ted Brewer is leading this effort.

April 2016 update

A Boost for Wharton Trolley Initiative

For many months we have been working diligently on an initiative to re-install track and build a car barn on the former Central Railroad of New Jersey right-of-way on the hillside above the watered section of the Morris Canal in Hugh Force Park on the west side of the Borough of Wharton. Local and county officials have been supportive. We have received letters of support with pledges of materials, equipment and funding from the following:

  • Friends of NJ Transportation Heritage Center - rail and track parts.
  • North Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society - trolley car(s) and volunteer operators.
  • United Railroad Historical Society - passenger car(s) and a locomotive (if needed).
  • Liberty Historic Railway - funding to construct a car barn, purchase ties, install track and transport supplies & equipment.


New Roof for the former CNJ Hopatcong Junction Station

LHRy has funded a replacement slate roof for the former CNJ Hopatcong Junction station which was relocated decades ago to the corner of N. Main Street and E. Dewey Avenue in Wharton. The following is a link to a time-lapse video of the re-roofing work in progress:


March 2016 update

Record Book Sales

The Jersey Central Train Show and Sale on 6 March in Clark allowed us to make record sales of books: $736 for URHS and $736 for LHRy! The following were the primary donors of used books: John Flint, Gene Graber, Pete Hasler, Tom McConkey, Jack McDougal, Bill McKelvey, and Barbara and Don Oberding.


Donations to Steamtown

Over the past two years we have donated the following items to the Steamtown National Historic Site library and archives: Hard and soft cover books - 1,290 items; Periodicals, public and employee timetables, etc. - 3,530 items; Post cards, photos, maps, broadsides, & other archival items - 1,798 items; for a grand total of 6,618 items! Volunteers who have helped Steamtown catalogue and file these materials included: Dave & Pat Barabas; Bob Barton, Richmond Bates, Dick Brown, Daniel Chazin, John Drennan, Andy Fisher, Tom Hampshire, the late Fred Heide, John Hemmings, Mark Miller, the late Don Oberding, Carl Rose, and John Quinlan.

Unfortunately, due to deaths, moving from the area, and old age, volunteer help has dried up and the donations are backed up at Steamtown. They have advised us that they no longer want donations of this type. We are now donating such worthy items to other libraries, archives, and non-profit organizations.

January 2016 update

Donation to NYS&W T&HS

The LHRy board voted to donate $4,000 to the NY Susquehanna & Western Technical & Historical Society for track rehabilitation below Riegelsville on the Bel Del and toward their planned new locomotive shop.

Donation to steamboat SPLASH

The LHRy board has voted to donate $2,000 toward the operating expenses of steamboat SPLASH, which sails on the beautiful Delaware River at Lambertville May through October.   For information check:  www.SteamboatClassroom.org

Funding for Station Roof

LHRy has signed a contract to fund a new slate roof for the former CNJ Hopatcong Junction Station which survives at No. Main Street and East Dewey Avenue in Wharton.  The structure is owned by the Wharton Historical Society.

LSP Transit Study Report Linked

A link to the Liberty State Park Circulator Cost-Benefit Analysis (Transit Needs Study final report) has been placed on the LHRy website.  LHRy was instrumental in getting that report completed by Sam Schwartz Engineering, D.P.C., prepared for the City of Jersey City in collaboration with North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in 2013.

New LHRy Director

Larry Gross, President of URHS, long time LHRy deligate to URHS, and an EMT with the Morristown Fire Department has been officially voted a Director of LHRy.  Cheers!

December 2015 update

Liberty State Park Update (December) In a late November press release the NJ DEP unveiled possible ideas for development in LSP which arose from a study done by Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV).  They included a low-rise hotel within the preserved / restored envelope of the Train Shed: Re-creation of famous NJ restaurants; and Museums either for immigration or transportation and technology.  These venues would create a World Class Destination and provide the income to properly care for LSP and other NJ parks.  NJ DEP hasn’t made any decisions regarding the development ideas generated in the BVR study or initial NJ DEP review.

NJ DEP has concluded that restoration of the entire Train Shed is “unattainable”.  The NJ State Historic Preservation Office has determined that preserving only part of Shed - its perimeter and exterior “look” - could be acceptable.  The BRV report acknowledges that access to LSP remains an issue, but it avoids mention of the Sam Schwartz Engineering study done for Jersey City that found feasible construction of a trolley / railway connection between the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station near Liberty Science Center and the Train Shed.

LHRy fully supports the following objectives;

∙ Re-use of the crumbling Train Shed site that stabilizes and restores its perimeter and retains its “look”.

∙ Re-use of Train Shed space that documents its role in immigration and / or transportation history.

∙ Restoration of Track #1 for a covered platform terminus for a trolley shuttle operating from that point to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail station adjacent to Liberty Science Center.

∙ Use of the NJ DEP engineering study, commissioned by LHRy and performed by Curtis & Ginsberg, on stabilization of the Train Shed’s structural perimeter.

∙ An electric trolley shuttle would be an environmentally friendly way to move people, in preference to automobiles, providing mass transit to the currently auto-dependent LSP.

New Train / Track Announcement Signage

The new CRR of NJ Jersey City Terminal Train / Track announcement curtains and signage which was researched and proposed by LHRy have been completed and installed, but the concourse is not yet open to the public.  They now cover all 20 tracks, look wonderful, and will greatly improve the historic interpretation of the past glory of this most important terminal which served four major railroads for a century.

Preservation of a NJ Steam locomotive (December)

Many years ago, the Great Falls Development Corp. acquired an 0-4-0 Saddle Tank steam locomotive built in Paterson by Alco - Cooke in 1910.  It has been displayed, in the open, behind the Paterson Museum for decades.  This past Summer exposed asbestos was discovered, due to the deterioration of the locomotive by the elements and GFDC did not have the funds for the required abatement.  LHRy funded the asbestos removal and consultant’s fees.  LHRy has also proposed funding for full restoration of #102 to working order and that it be housed in a suitable building.

Donation to Whippany Railway Museum (December)

In 2014 LHRy donated their title to the 1906 Stephenson / Lisbon trolley car to WRyM.  Now, LHRy has donated $10,000 specifically designated to the care and protection of that trolley.  We hope it will soon join the many excellent displays and exhibits at the Whippany site.

Donation to the Electric City Trolley Museum Association The Chair of LHRy has made a donation of $1,000 to the Scranton, PA Trolley Museum in the name of LHRy to assist the continuation of the outstanding restoration work they have been doing on their collection of vintage trolley cars.

Donation to New Jersey Fire Museum (November)

The New Jersey Fire Museum & Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial has struggled for decades to establish a dedicated building for the storage and display of their historic fire equipment.  Their dream finally came true in 2015!  LHRy has donated $10,000 to help them along with their new facility in Allentown, NJ.

1990 Dodge Hi-Rail Truck Restored

A 1990 Dodge pick-up was painted Jersey Central Pullman green with LHRy logos.  The 3/4 ton truck with hi-rail gear, acquired from Leopard Trucking, was originally owned and operated by the US Navy @ Naval Weapons Station, Earle and used on their internal railway system.  The truck appeared at the URHS Museum For A Day event at Boonton.  In the past it has been used to haul many, many loads of RR and track materials, supplies, artifacts, Belgian block, etc. to Phillipsburg for storage.   

Liberty State Park Update

The CNJ Terminal windows, doors, and roof which were damaged by Super Storm Sandy have been repaired and restored.  The train / track sign fixtures have been restored and repainted, but replicated train announcement signs have not yet been installed.  Work is progressing on the storm resistant restoration / replacement of utilities.  This work is expected to be completed by Labor Day but reopening of the Terminal may not occur until 2016.  The collapse of one concrete panel of the Terminal Train Shed over track No. 1 appears imminent.  Phillip Street has been milled in preparation for re-paving.

A Restoration Offer From LHRy

We noticed that the wheels, axles, and frames of Thomas Edison’s two 1882 electric locomotives on display outside, in front of his West Orange Laboratory, are in an advanced state of deterioration.  They had been developed and used at Edison’s Menlo Park facility.  The needed  restoration would have been an excellent project for LHRy to fund.  However, National Park staff told us that they had the funding and that the work was to be completed soon.

Promotion Effort

We are most appreciative for the gratis promotional table given to us at the TransAction Conference at Atlantic City by its leader, Frank Reilly.  LHRy Chair, Bill McKelvey and Larry Gross manned the table for the three days (21, 22, & 23 April) of NJ’s 39th annual transportation conference.  We promoted the United Railroad Historical Society, their many member and other local transportation organizations with literature and give away materials.

LHRy Director Moves On

We are indebted to Director Doug McQueen and most appreciative for his service as treasurer for LHRy and his excellent work with the predecessor Rutgers Bloustein School of Planning Graduate Student Studio which explored solutions for future transportation needs and other initiatives for Liberty State Park.  Doug is moving on with his aviation / legal career path and is unable to continue as an active director.  We welcome Doug to the LHRy rank of Director Emeritus!  We will sorely miss his hospitality for our board meetings at the LeClairRyan office.