Even before the railroad, Chatham and Madison had relatively convenient overland transportation. What is today Main Street finds its origins in the Minisink path, an overland trail of the Leni-Lenape. In 1801 the "Morris and Essex Turnpike Company" was formed and the era of the stagecoach began. Rides to Newark were uncomfortable and took as long as three hours (tolls were collected at what is today the club maintenance building at Canoe Brook Country Club).
On October 2nd, 2017 (180 years ago today) the engine “Orange,” pulled two 20-foot carriages through Chatham to the end of the line at Madison. Seth Boyden, one of America’s most prolific inventors, served as the lead conductor on that maiden voyage. The first engines employed teams of oxen to make the trip uphill to Summit (known then as Turkey Hill).
The first rails were made of wood and covered with strips of iron. Sometimes the iron, under the weight of the train, would snap upward and impale passengers. This was known as a "snakehead" and can be compared favorably with the hazards of modern commuting.
In 1914 the Delaware Lackawanna company, working with the towns of Chatham and Madison, elevated the rails. In 1930 they were electrified. The era of steam finally came to an end on this line in1953.
By 1957, Chatham and Madison stations had reached 73 daily train trips, including trains that went to Chicago and Buffalo. The era of steam in Chatham and Madison finally ended in 1953, with the final passage of the Since the train’s arrival in 1837, Chatham and Madison’s daily trains have reached 79 daily trains.
Boxcar is proud to join the rich history of private transportation companies that have come before us in providing superior service to the commuter towns of Chatham and Madison.
Some pictures of the railroad through the years:
There were two proposed routes for the railroad, one (the Northern) through Summit, Chatham, and Madison, another (The Southern) through Irvington and Springfield. The reason the railroad followed the northern route? Residents of Chatham and Madison were among the largest purchasers of the company stock.
As they elevated the tracks, they had to elevate the stations as well.
Pictured below, Chatham Station being raised.
Plenty of parking...Madison Station in 1916
Commuters waiting for an Erie Lackawanna Train in Chatham Station, 1977
(2 years before the formation of NJ Transit)
Erie Lackawanna commuter train, Madison, NJ (1977)
The "Fishawack Papers" were used as a source for a great deal of the above information. If you are interested in the local history of Chatham and the surrounding area, they are a terrific and publicly available resource.