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Rockaway Valley Railroad

Abandoned rail bed in Bedminster, south of Pottersville NJ.  Photo courtesy of Metrotrails.

Construction of the Rockaway Valley Railroad, which crossed the Somerset Hills, concluded in 1892, and the route remained in service until 1914. Predominantly used to transport peaches, the railroad struggled financially from its inception due to the unreliability of peaches and the lack of major city connections. A peach blight actually occurred soon after the railroad’s opening, further worsening its prospects for profitability. The route also served to transport passengers and other cargo, but demand was low. Running from the Central Railroad of New Jersey in Whitehouse Station to Watnong in Morris County, the shortline failed to extend to any populated areas that would bring demand and warrant maintenance. 

From the beginning, the railroad was poorly maintained and financed. The primary reason for its construction was the sheer over-investment in the railroad industry during the latter half of the 19th century. As commercial success flourished in the steam-powered era, wealth naturally flowed into the industry and spawned small, short-lived lines such as Rockaway Valley Railroad.

Rockabye Meadow Preserve, Peapack-Gladstone, NJ.

Numerous owners tried to make the project profitable, but the only owner to make money from the investment was the final owner, when he sold the scrap metal in 1917 for a high price because of wartime shortages. Despite its short lifespan, the “Rockabye Baby,” as it is fondly nicknamed, remains a part of several local hiking trails, as sections of the old rail bed are visible in Rockabye Meadows Preserve. Even if nothing more than a subtle gravel bump in the forest ground, the Rockaway Valley Railroad’s remains hint at the richness of our local history.

Comments

  1. There is a resident of Gladstone that built a scale model of the bridge that went through Gladstone. It should be recognized or put on display somewhere. I can give info to individual. Lot of history that was in this area. Amazing to see the scale of this model and what was put into this railway back then.

  2. My mother’s family went way back in Peapack-Gladstone. When my uncle T Leonard Hill built a swimming pool behind his house on Pottersville Rd, one edge of the excavation clearly showed the regular, rectangular cross section, now filled in with cinders, of original railroad ties for the “Rockabye Baby” railroad that went through there. His father, G. F. Hill bought the beams from the old trestle when it was dismantled and incorporated them into his feed mill (no longer extant) on Lackawanna Avenue. The Chesson property “Trestle Brook” off Old Chester Rd in Gladstone is where that trestle crossed.

  3. My family lived in the Old Pottersville Hotel in the late 60’s before Southfield Drive was built. Large pieces of the railroad tracks were behind our house.
    Great great place to grow up!

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