Remembering The Past: Elizabeth & Somerville Railroad

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By Diane Norek Harrison

ELIZABETH-Here is more from the material given to me by South Amboy resident Jerry Celecki:

On Feb. 9, 1831, the start of the rail line which was to become the CNJ, the Elizabeth & Somerville Railroad was chartered by the New Jersey Legislature.

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The first piece of rolling equipment owned by the Elizabeth & Somerville Railroad was the “Town Car.” Fashioned after a Stage Coach, it was drawn by four horses and equipped with flanged wheels for movement on rails over the 2 ¼ miles of track. Passengers were carried on the roof, a sort of upper deck, as well as inside the “Town Car.”

Plans for expansion westward and track laying had begun almost immediately after opening of the line on Aug. 13, 1836. Since the 13 miles between Elizabethport and Plainfield required more substantial equipment than a horse-drawn car, the railroad purchased one 9-ton locomotive, its first locomotive and a tiny one by today’s standards.

Built by a new enterprise called M.W. Baldwin Company, which later became the world-renowned Baldwin Locomotive Works.

In addition to “The Eagle” as the first engine was SNAMCD, the railroads rolling stick in 1839 included one 8-wheel passenger car, a float car which served as a tender to carry wood for the locomotive, and four 4-wheel box cars.

This became a first train to ride the rails between Elizabethport and Plainfield on Jan. 1, 1839. When packed with VIPs and local officials, the train made stops in all the towns along the way. Each had a gala celebration to commemorate the historic event.

Early Linden Catholics

LINDEN-This is from The History of St. Elizabeth’s given to me by Walter Tylicki dated 1959:

The area of the City of Linden originally formed part of Rahway and Elizabeth. The region was known as Elizabethtown, which incidentally was the first English settlement in New Jersey. On March 4, 1861 The Township of Linden formed, taking its name from the trees that grew along Park Avenue.

Through the efforts of Ferdinand Blancke a Borough of Linden was formed. However the actual City of Linden came into existence, only when the Borough of Linden consolidated with the Township of Linden by a court order of April 3, 1924 and the city began to function as such, on Jan. 1, 1925.

Present day Linden was originally salt meadows. Perhaps it was due to the nature of the soil that few of the first settlers were Catholic since the vast majority immigrants came from largely agricultural countries. Most likely the reason for the paucity of Catholics stems from the antipathy of other settlers for in the city of Elizabeth in 1829 only three known Catholics were registered and these “when their religious principles were discovered were asked to as no employment would be given them.”

The first mention of Catholics in Linden as an established group is found in the minutes of a meeting of the Trustees at the Linden Avenue School Hall granted the Catholics of Linden for religious services on Sundays.

If you have your own memories or past material from Union County you can email me c/o dianenorekharrison@juno.com or send copies of your material to me c/o CMD Media 1139, East Jersey St,. Suite 503, Elizabeth NJ, 07201.


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