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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

The Trains Come to Glen Rock

For this year's Quasquicentennial Celebration, The Rock Recorder Blog will post a chronological (as much as possible) history of Glen Rock, NJ. My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt. This is Part #4 of the series.

In the mid-1800s, steam railroads were coming into use. The first in this area was the Paterson and Hudson River Railroad in October 1834. This line ran from Paterson to Snake Hill in Hudson County. About a decade later, the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad connected Paterson, New Jersey and Suffern, New York. This began operations in October 1848. The Union Railroad took over the Paterson and Ramapo Railroad and the Paterson and Hudson River Railroad in 1850. Two years later, the Erie Railroad took over the Union Railroad; today, this is the Main Line track system. The Erie then changed its terminus from Piermont, New York to Jersey City, New Jersey. There was a small building at the Rock Road crossing on the Main Line that housed a combined ticket office plus living quarters for the ticket agent on the second floor. This building was located about where the old Glen Rock Savings Bank is now, on the east side of the tracks. Today's Main Line Station - home to the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society - was built in 1905.

Public tennis court at the Main Line Station, circa 1917

In 1876, Ridgewood Township was formed from part of Franklin Township. It comprised the area of the present Village of Ridgewood, a section of Midland Park and a part of Glen Rock.

In 1881-1884, the Bergen County (Short Cut) Railroad was built by the Erie Railroad so that its long freight trains might by-pass Paterson and Passaic. The Bergen County Short Cut connected with the Erie Main Line at Rutherford and Ridgewood junctions. A signal tower, designated WJ, was built at the Ridgewood junction. The tower was located in the angle formed between the two sets of tracks at the end of the present Valley Road section of Glen Rock. When the Erie four-tracked and revamped its signal system around 1910, this tower was abandoned. A new tower was erected just over the line in Ridgewood on the east side of the tracks. This new tower burned down and was replaced by the present tower on the same site, retaining its WJ designation. At the time of the Blizzard of 1888, the cut north of this tower was clogged with snow-buried engines.

Emerson E. Horton, who lived on Rock Avenue (now South Highwood Avenue) in Glen Rock, was one of the telegraphers at the WJ tower. He had been employed by the contractor who constructed the Bergen County Short Cut. At the completion of this work, when the railroad took over, Horton was employed by the Erie as a pilot for the first trains running over the new line. The pilot's job was that of riding with the engine crew and informing them of the road bed conditions along the way. After that, he was employed by the Erie as a tower and signal man. He was known as Bergen County's minstrel. It was his delight to entertain with song and banjo at a number of entertainments in old School #1 (the wooden school that stood next to Central School).

In the WJ area were the homes of the railroad section hands, among them the Burns, Osborne, County, Mulholland and Cayton families. The early section hands had been Dutch, followed by the Irish, who were in turn followed by Italians. Barney Mulholland's first home burned, though a trace of its foundation was still visible in 1969. His second home, greatly renovated, stands at the corner of Harding Road and Hamilton Avenue. After the deaths of Barney and his widow, both caused by trains [details unknown], Hugh Eagan purchased the house, moving in on Election Day, 1898. A year elapsed before all the papers of conveyance were signed by the Mulholland relatives in Ireland and returned to the Eagans. Hugh Eagan was a Civil War veteran serving with the New York Fire Zouaves. He saw action at Gettysburg, where he was wounded. He also served with the 9th New York Volunteers. He was a veteran of the New York Fire and Police Departments. It was his custom to leave Glen Rock on the 6:47 A. M. train and return on the 7:05 P. M. train, both on the Short Cut. The section of today's Hamilton Avenue that runs between Maple Avenue and Broad Street was originally called Eagan's Lane. The Hubschmitt family always enjoyed a pleasant chat with him as he cut through their yard on his way home from the evening train.

Steam engine at the Main Line Station circa 1905

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