25 October 2019

Raritan Valley Bus Line (1930 - 1939)

In November of 1928, Hillsborough farmer William Favier applied to the Somerville Council for permission to operate a bus line from Neshanic to Manville passing through the borough. The ability to pick up and discharge passengers in Somerset's county seat would be crucial for the viability of the line. Over the next year, as he waited for final approval from the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission, Favier picked up additional "municipal consents" from Hillsborough, Branchburg, Readington, Raritan, and East Amwell Townships, as well as Raritan and Manville Boroughs, and decided to expand the bus route all the way to the border of Flemington Borough.

6 January 1930 Courier News
When the final State approval finally arrived, it was not without some restrictions. In an effort to avoid stealing business from other public transport companies, Favier agreed to not pick up passengers who were only traveling between Ringoes and Flemington, and likewise to not pick up passengers who were only traveling between Manville, Somerville, and Raritan.

1930s Postcard showing typical 1930s bus in Somerville.
Contrarily, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, which operated the South Branch Railroad between Somerville and Flemington, offered no objection at all to the proposed bus route as by 1929 they were already contemplating curtailing passenger service on this moderately used branch road.

The Courier News described the route as follows:

"Leaving Manville, at the railroad station, thence on River Street to the Borough of Somerville, then on South Street, then on Doughty Avenue to Raritan, then Frelinghuysen Avenue to Thompson Street, then on Canal Street, South Branch Road to South Branch, then continuing over this road to Neshanic, then to Centerville, then continuing on the county road to the boundary line of Flemington and Raritan Townships, returning by the same route."

On the day the service on the Raritan Valley Bus Line finally began, January 6, 1930  - with just one bus running - The Courier News printed the schedule:

"Westbound buses will leave Manville at 7 and 10:30 a.m. and 2 and 5:35 p.m. The last run will be only to Ringoes. On Saturday night, a special run will be made, leaving Somerville at 11 o'clock and reaching Ringoes at 12:10 a.m. 
Eastbound runs will leave Flemington Boundary at 9 a.m., 12:30 and 4 p.m. A special run is arranged to leave Neshanic at 6:15 a.m., reaching Manville at 7 o'clock, this being for the benefit of factory workers and store clerks. A special Saturday night run leaves at 6:51 o'clock, reaching Somerville at 8:01 o'clock." 

The one-way trip from Manville to the border of Flemington took about 100 minutes!

In short order, Favier, encouraged by the CNJ railroad, obtained permission to operate within the borough of Flemington. By April, rail commuters were protesting the railroad's plan to cut service from five trains per day in each direction to just one commuter train eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening. When it was suggested that rail riders take the bus instead, they pointed out that the bus traveled 30 miles in 100 minutes, while the train connected the two boroughs with a much straighter 16-mile route, with significant savings of time. Not reported at the time was the fact that Favier was promised a subsidy by the railroad for operating the bus service which allowed them to downsize their own costly operations.

25 August 1930 Courier News

Despite the fact that the railroad didn't always make its subsidy payments, Favier continued on - 
adding a second bus before the first year was out. In 1935 he purchased a franchise to operate another bus line between Somerville and Flemington on the newly constructed Route 29 (now Route 202) but stated that he couldn't do it profitably without another subsidy.

Neshanic Hotel Garage
At the close of 1938, after starting a farm equipment supply business in Somerville with his sons, Favier abruptly discontinued the Raritan Valley Bus Line. At the start of 1939, he stated that bus service would soon return, and it briefly did - but operated by the Royal Blue company of Whitehouse. In June 1939, the Board of Public Utilities revoked Favier's franchise and that was the end of bus service through our community.

Interestingly, there still exists one odd remnant of the Raritan Valley Bus Line in Hillsborough. To the right of the Neshanic Hotel, you will see a two-door garage dating from around 1930. The garage was built by the owner of the hotel, Mrs. Minnie Titman Connor, at the request of William Favier who agreed to rent the space to keep his two busses overnight. In 1931 Mrs. Connor sued William Favier because he never, in fact, used the garage or paid any rent. She was awarded $225!

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