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New Jersey Railroad Information

 

                    

The Mercer & Somerset Railroad

An interesting little railroad.  I have found very little information on and will probably be one of my next efforts.

The Mercer & Somerset ran from Delaware river, south of Washington's Crossing at town called Somerset  to the Millstone River in Millstone and a possible connection with the Millstone & New Brunswick railroad.   The actual language used in the company's own annual report is "The road extends from Somerset Junction, on the line of the Belvidere Delaware Railroad, to East Millstone, the terminus of the Millstone and New Brunswick Railroad, and is 22 1/2 miles in length"

There were stations at Hopewell and probably Harlingen and Millstone. It appears to have shared a structure with the Bel-Del at Somerset Junction.

Notes in 1872 annual report indicate that "the road will be completed early next season to the route of 22.7 miles".  In 1872, only 9.8 miles were built.  The President at this time was Ashbel Welsh.  The construction completed in 1873 and a connection was made with the Millstone & New Brunswick.  In 1874, the railroad was reported as fully operational.   However, it  was already loosing money.  In the first year of operation,  income was $19,689 and operating expenses were $25,978 or a loss of $6,297.

Things did improve though.  In 1875, the railroad did record a small profit $637.16.  It is also in 1875, that the annual report mentions that it extended to "the terminus of the Millstone and East Brunswick."  However, this profit didn't last long.  In 1876, the M&S lost $20,467 as expenses increased far faster than revenue.

The road had a few stations in villages and towns that are mostly obscure by 20th/21st century standards.  The right of way, as near as I can determine - seems to have been very close to following the current Rt 31 North from Somerset, and then Rt 518 / 634 through Mercer county then turns NE paralleling the former Reading and passes through the towns of Harlingen, Hillsboro before terminating where current Amwell Road  (514) hits the Millstone River in Millstone. 

The most impressive remainder is the is Pennington station.  A reader pointed out that is it currently located on Delaware Ave, west of Route 31.  I haven't had the chance to check it out, but I hope to soon.

Jacobs Creek Road in Ewing and Hopewell Townships is built on the RR ROW and some of the railroad culverts are in use by the road. 

There appears to be some remnant of the ROW in Harlingen.  This is at the intersection of Rutland and Harlingen road.  There is also a small building that has the lines of a Railroad station - though it looks more modern (early 20th century) and more substantial than anything I would imagine that the M&S would have built.

The major footnote in history is that of the Frog Wars.  When the Camden & Amboy ruled New Jersey, the M&S was building its route across the state under it's auspices.  The competing Delaware and Bound Brook (a Reading ally) railroad had to cross the M&S and thus the Frog War was born.  Both railroads fought - the D&BB to build and the M&S to stop - eventually, the crossing was built.

In 1878, its last year of operation, the M&S had income of $2,152 from Passengers, $3,395 from Freight and $890 from other sources.  Its operating expenditures for the year totaled more than $23,000.  Obviously, this couldn't last much longer.  And, in 1879, the M&S defaulted on its bonds.  The railroad was bought in action, scrapped and abandoned.  There was an 1880 annual report showing revenue of about $300 in 1879. 

The M&S lived a fairly short life, ceasing operation in 1879.  At this time, there was many other cross-NJ lines and the M&S passed through sparsely populated farming areas and generated almost no on-line traffic.  

The rails were removed in 1880 and the right-of-way reverted back to the original property owners.

This places its abandonment even earlier then the Rockaway Valley Railroad - quite probably this is the earliest NJ Railroad to be abandoned.

 

Did it connect?? - YES!

There are the remains of the bridge pier  in the Millstone River where the Millstone & New Brunswick terminated.  The history of Franklin Township indicates that the bridge was built to connect to the Mercer and Somerset.  

An alert reader has pointed me to a map that indicated a connection did exist, but that same map also indicates that ROW of the Morris and Essex branching from Millington, passing through Liberty Corner and joining the Elizabeth & Somerset near Whitehouse - a route that I know was never built. 

The Trenton Gazette, November 14th 1873 mentioned that the bridge over the Millstone River is complete and that trains now connect with the Millstone & New Brunswick.

Mercer and Somerset Railroad 1870-1880

(c) 1999 - Phil Paone

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