20 May 2016

The Central New Jersey Traction Company

On July 14, 1894, exactly two months after the little Hillsborough Township village of Millstone was incorporated as an independent borough, The New York Times - as well as the other daily newspapers - announced the incorporation of "two monster trolley railway corporations" with a plan for a massive electric trolley railway connecting New York with Philadelphia, running right through Millstone.

New York Herald, July 14, 1894
The line was to begin at Paterson by connecting to the street railway system already in place, and then pass through Upper Montclair, Montclair, Bloomfield, Orange, South Orange, Maplewood, Wyoming, Springfield, Westfield, Millburn, Fanwood, and Netherwood until reaching a connection with the Plainfield electric railway.

Weston Station in Hillsborough Township, postcard circa 1905.


Tracks would then run to Dunellen and Bound Brook before crossing the Central Railroad of New Jersey tracks at Finderne and turning south past the Lehigh Valley Railroad station at Hillsboro and the Philadelphia and Reading station at Weston. Then on through Millstone, Rocky Hill, Kingston, Princeton, Lawrencville, Trenton, and on to Philadelphia.

Possible route of the proposed 1894 trolley line through Hillsborough
The two aforementioned companies were the New York and Philadelphia Traction Company, which was capitalized in the amount of $10 million, and the Central New Jersey Traction Company, which brought $500k to the partnership. The proposal wasn't only for the main line between the two great Eastern cities, but also for many branch lines emanating from the major hubs, such as Bound Brook. In fact it was these lucrative inter-city branch lines which began building quickly, while the main line stalled.

Within a year the Central NJ Traction Company was in trouble - with unpaid construction bills flooding the ledger, while the balance sheet showed only one asset - a contract with its partner, NY and Philadelphia Traction Company, to build and equip a trolley line.

1913 Electric Railway map
While many interurban trolley lines were completed in central New Jersey between 1895 and 1915, the line through Hillsborough Township was not among them. By 1912, the Johns Manville company had come to Hillsborough and forever changed the landscape of the Northeast quadrant of the town. But can you imagine what a rural trolley through the farms and fields of Hillsborough might have looked like? Maybe something like this?

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