Rail historians raising $25K for space to restore trains, eventually become N.J. museum

1/9/2022 11:20:00 PM

Rail historians raising $25K for space to restore trains, eventually become N.J. museum

Rail historians raising $25K for space to restore trains, eventually become N.J. museum

A railroad historical group finally has an indoor ace to restore and preserve the rolling artifacts of the states transportation history and strives toward a future goal of having a state transportation museum.

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A former NJ Transit locomotive debuted how it looked when operated by its original owner, the New York Central railroad at a United Railroad Historical Society open house in Boonton in September 2014.30 and will be revisited in a week.The UHRS will now occupy the building behind the locomotive and the Hickory Creek observation car and use it as a home to restore other vintage trains.By Larry Higgs | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com The historic trains of New Jersey’s past are getting a place to be slowly restored to their former glory.But first, that place needs some work.The 2022 tour will be a make-up of a postponed 2020 tour, while also including the live debut of Bon Jovi’s album “2020,” which was released in 2020.

Railroad historians have started raising funds to outfit a building in Boonton that would be the place where the United Railroad Historical Society plans to restore some of the 65 historic trains representing the state’s railroad history.It’s a station stop on the way to a goal of New Jersey having its own state transportation museum, a dream historians have pursued for 40 years.Late last month, the UHRS moved into a 6,600-square-foot building at the small storage yard it’s leased from NJ Transit since 2007 that houses most of the society’s collection.For the first time in its 37-year history, the UHRS has an indoor space to work on its trains, instead of outdoors, said Kevin Phalon, president of the society.The latest acquisition, a locomotive that ran on the streets of Hoboken before waterfront industries were replaced by condos and townhouses, was preserved last year and will be displayed in the UHRS facility sometime this year.

Now, the building is an empty shell and far from the restoration shop the organization would like it to be.The UHRS embarked on a $25,000 fundraising drive to outfit the building with the basics – lights, a paved floor, electricity, a compressed air system, internet and a security system, he said.“That $25,000 would cover all of the bare bones essentials in that list,” he said.“We would need more than that to continue to build out other parts of the shop and purchase shop equipment.” The building, recently vacated by a tenant, would allow UHRS members to work on equipment indoors as efficiently as possible, Phalon said.

It also will allow them to stabilize trains waiting for restoration from further deterioration for the elements.A pair of Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 electric locomotives, that served NJ Transit after it was formed have been cosmetically restored by the United Railroad Historical Society in Boonton, as seen during a 2014 open house.Guided tours of the collection could resume this summer.“These old trains deteriorate every day that they are waiting outside to be worked on,” he said.“A simple paint job can add decades to the lifespan of any car or locomotive in this yard.

” Donations can be made to URHS online at UHRS.org/donate or mailed to 104 Morris Ave.Boonton, NJ 07005.Future plans for the building include acquiring more shop machinery such as lathes, a milling machine, and other metal working tools to outfit a “soon-to-be machine shop,” said Erik Stenzel, UHRS lead mechanic.“We have been progressively bringing the many pieces of our collection together here,” Phalon said.

“Currently there are 50 locomotives and cars in the yard.We have plans for 10 more pieces of equipment to finally come home to Boonton during 2022.” Part of the building also will be used for the UHRS offices and as the “home base” to maintain the Hickory Creek, a restored New York Central Railroad observation car and tavern-lounge car No.43, both artifacts from the streamlined train era of the 1940s and 1950s.The former Twentieth Century Limited observation car Hickory Creek departs Poughkeepsie N.

Y.on one of several fall foliage train trips the United Railroad Historical Society ran this fall on tracks along the Hudson River.The restored Hickory Creek is one of the gems of the groups collection.Both cars are part of the UHRS Hudson River Rail Excursions that completed fall foliage tours on the Hudson River last year that were so popular, all the first round of trips sold out in 8 minutes online.The UHRS ultimate goal is to build a 50-acre transportation museum in the state, with an indoor display building and educational center and track so people can ride the restored trains, he said.

Such operating rail museums exist in other states, as close as Pennsylvania, which opened its state rail museum in 1975.“We can never get to that point without maintaining the artifacts we have,” he said.“That is why this restoration building in Boonton is not just beneficial, but necessary.” A permanent New Jersey transportation museum has been an elusive goal, studied since 1980, but not realized.The UHRS came closest to that goal in 2005, when it found a 35-acre site in Phillipsburg.

But that site was used for a riverfront development instead.“New Jersey has been lacking that, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Phalon said.“We have the history and we have the artifacts.We just need the space.” Meanwhile, the UHRS and other rail museums and historical societies have stored antique trains, many donated by NJ Transit after it replaced old equipment that came from predecessor railroads.

The UHRS has done impressive work, cosmetically restoring various locomotives and trains to their past splendor.People could get to see them again this summer when the UHRS opens its facility for guided tours for the first time.In the past, it has held a one-day open house in the fall.“It is our top priority that the public gets to see and enjoy the trains here in Boonton,” Phalon said.“We are so excited that we will finally be able to do that.

We will sell tickets on our website once dates are set.” Please subscribe now and support the local journalism YOU rely on and trust.Larry Higgs may be reached at lhiggs@njadvancemedia.com.Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.

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