A few years ago, the New Jersey Department of Transportation completed the Route 206 Over CSX Project - a realignment of the highway to eliminate the sharp curve as it passes over the railroad near the Montgomery/Hillsborough border. This replaced the first overpass at that location built during 1918. That project also included a brand new state-of-the-art railroad station which opened on December 8, 1919.
|New Belle Mead Station circa 1920|
The new station replaced the three-story station built in the 1870s which was located just to the southwest. Newspapers reported that the new station was better in every way. Here are some of the touted improvements
- An electrical pump brought fresh water from a 150-foot well in the basement, providing for a water fountain and a lavatory.
- A large office for clerical work - which was occupied by the station agent Louis Van Cleef, a longtime employee of the company.
- Access for automobiles at track level with no need to climb stairs down to the platform as in the old station.
|The original Belle Mead Station circa 1910|
The building is 50 by 28 feet and was built of red brick with chestnut trim. Across the tracks is a waiting room for northbound passengers. There was also a 30 by 30-foot freight house.
|Construction of the Route 31 (now Route 206) bridge over the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad at Belle Mead, circa 1919. The top photo is looking south, the bottom photo is looking north, Photos courtesy of Raymond Funkhouser.|
After the passenger railroad upheavals of the 1960s and early 70s, NJ Transit operated this line as the West Trenton Line until 1982. Currently, the line is owned by CSX Transportation and is in use for freight service.
|A steam train passes during a railfan event on 21 September 1963|
The possibility of reopening this line for passenger service from West Trenton to Bound Brook has been studied for more than 10 years. A report issued by NJ Transit in November 2007 seems to indicate re-opening of the line would be just about economically feasible, but not a "no-brainer". One of the concerns is that rail commuters who currently use other lines would merely shift to the West Trenton Line, thereby bringing in no additional revenue.
|Circa 1964 - a little worn but still solid.|
Of more interest to readers of this blog is the opinion of the State Historic Preservation Office, which concluded that the 1919 Belle Mead Station was individually eligible to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and that in order for the re-activation of the West Trenton Line to have no adverse effect the Belle Mead Station must be preserved. The Belle Mead Railroad Station Complex received an opinion of eligibility from SHPO on October 31, 2005.