The Gladstone Branch (also known as the Gladstone Line) is a commuter rail line operated by NJ Transit from Gladstone station, in the U.S. state of New Jersey, to either Hoboken Terminal or New York Penn Station. It is one of two branches of the Morris & Essex Lines.
The Gladstone Branch junctions with the Morristown Line at Summit. East of Newark Broad Street station, trains may either continue to Hoboken Terminal, where PATH trains or NY Waterway ferries allow connection to New York, or use the Kearny Connection to diverge to New York Penn Station; two weekday peak-hour trains from Gladstone offer direct trips to New York Penn Station.
On weekdays during rush hours, the line operates in two zones: all stops from Hoboken to Summit; or express from Hoboken to Short Hills (one station east of Summit), and then local to Gladstone. All weekend and off-peak service is local across the entire line.
The part of the line west of Summit is single-tracked with passing sidings at Murray Hill, Stirling, Bernardsville and west of Far Hills and operates in peak-direction only on weekday peak hours, except for some service operating reverse-peak from Murray Hill in the PM peak. On weekends the line operates Gladstone-Summit service hourly along the branch. The line is colored pale green on system maps and its symbol is a horse, a reference to the Grand National Hurdle Stakes steeplechase race held in the area.
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The only part of the New Jersey West Line Railroad that was completed was from Summit west to Bernardsville. The New Jersey West Line Railroad was dissolved in 1878 and the assets were sold off. The Summit to Bernardsville line was then purchased by the Passaic and Delaware Railroad. The Delaware Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) leased the line on November 1, 1882 as a branch of the Morris and Essex. The Passaic and Delaware Extension Railroad was chartered in 1890 and opened later that year, extending the line to its current terminus in Gladstone, New Jersey. The DL&W continued to operate this line throughout its lifespan as the Passaic and Delaware Branch, later becoming labelled the Gladstone Branch. In 1960, the DL&W merged with the Erie Railroad to form the Erie Lackawanna Railway, who took over the branch line. In 1983, New Jersey Transit assumed control of the line, and continues to operate it to this day.
The branch received severe damage from Hurricane Sandy on October 29–30, 2012, especially to the catenary and signal system, causing a suspension of service for one month. High winds brought down five tall catenary poles (whose replacements had to be custom-made), approximately five miles of catenary, and 49 trees across the tracks. Gladstone service resumed on Monday, December 3 with electric Midtown Direct trains to Penn Station and diesel-powered trains to Hoboken; full electric operation was impractical until substation damage near Hoboken was repaired in early 2013.
The Gladstone Branch begins at Hoboken Terminal, with the exception of two weekday trains which run in and out of New York Penn Station. The line parallels the Morristown Line all the way from Hoboken or New York to Summit. At Summit, schedules are timed for most Morristown trains and Gladstone branch trains for easy transfers across the platform or one right after the other.
Just west of Summit, the Morristown Line separates and the line curves left at the Summit substation before entering New Providence. After New Providence, the line passes its first grade crossing at a 4 way intersection of Central Avenue and Livingston Avenue. This crossing is one of the few 4 way crossing along NJ Transit rail lines. The line then continues, crossing Foley Place and entering Murray Hill station. At Murray Hill, the track splits in two to allow eastbound trains and westbound to pass each other, since most of the line is single tracked. There is a wooden plank at Murray Hill to allow passengers on westbound trains to get off before the eastbound train arrives on the track closest to the station platform. Schedules are timed for a convenient meetup at Murray Hill. After Murray Hill, the line passes three more grade crossings: at Warner Field Path, at Union Avenue, and at Snyder Avenue. There used to be a siding for the general Chemical Company plant just west of the Snyder Avenue crossing, but this was removed between 2018 and 2019.
The line crosses Plainfield Avenue and enters Berkeley Heights station, which also contains a siding for parking equipment. The line then continues and crosses the Passaic River a second time and enters Morris County.
There are three stations in Long Hill Township. The first is Gillette station. After Gillette, the line crosses Morristown Road and enters Stirling station. At Stirling, the track splits in two, to again allow eastbound and westbound trains to pass each other. The line also crosses Central Avenue at the station. Continuing westward, the line crosses Northfield Road by Millington Elementary School before banking right and crossing Division Avenue and entering Millington station. At Millington, there used to be another gateless crossing on the other side of the platform, where the line will cross River Road, a small connection road between Commerce Street and Long Hill Road, but this crossing was closed off sometime around 2014-2015.
The line continues westward, crossing the Passaic River a third time before entering Somerset County and Bernards Township and crossing Pond Hill Road. After this crossing, the Millington quarry can be seen on the left (going westbound). Here, the track splits in two for a short period of time, acting as a siding, although trains going opposite directions can also pass each other here, but this area is not usually used for that. Lyons station is the next stop. The line enters the station after crossing a bridge over South Finley Avenue. After another crossing at Lake Road near Ridge High School and another bridge over West Oak Street, the line enters Basking Ridge station at the crossing at Ridge Street. Until recently, the original semaphore signal from the DL&W years used to sit atop the Basking Ridge station over the platform, one of the last vestiges of the previous operator of the line.
Afterwards, the line crosses over Interstate 287 before curving left and entering Bernardsville station after crossing under Mount Airy Road. At Bernardsville, the track splits in two again to allow trains to pass each other if necessary and the line crosses Depot Place. Continuing westward, the line parallels U.S. Route 202 and crosses Old Quarry Road, Meeker Road, and Whitenack Road. At Whitenack Road is the site of the former Mine Brook station, a former flag stop from the line's DL&W years. Mine Brook is the only station that was never rebuilt or even acquired by New Jersey Transit. Today, all that is left of the station is gravel where the platform used to be and a small gravel road where the parking used to be. The line then crosses Route 202 and enters Far Hills station, which has a station depot and a freight house to the west. Just west of the station near the freight house, the track splits in two again to allow eastbound and westbound trains to pass each other.
After Far Hills, the line snakes through the Far Hills area before entering the borough of Peapack and Gladstone while crossing over the North Branch Raritan River and under Peapack Road. Peapack station is next at the crossing at Holland Avenue. The line then crosses a walkway in Liberty Park before entering Gladstone yard. At Gladstone yard, the track splits into 5 to allow for parking of trains. One of the tracks switches back to condense into one or can act as a siding, while the other 4 tracks condense back into one. West of the yard, the tracks enter Gladstone station and its freight house. One track leads to the freight house, while two lead to the station.
Something to note is that the timetables are arranged so that most of the trains meet at Far Hills and Murray Hill. While Bernardsville and Stirling each have two tracks at the station, the second track is less commonly used unless a train is running late.
Most service is provided by Arrow III electric cars built by General Electric and Avco in 1978. The two weekday round trips to New York use Bombardier MultiLevel Coach or Comet coaches powered by ALP-46 Electric or ALP-45DP Dual-Power locomotives, since Arrows cannot make the voltage change at the Kearny Connection. In the months following Hurricane Sandy, service to Hoboken used Comet trains powered by ALP-45DP locomotives.
At the time of NJT acquisition, freight service was operated by the Conrail. Upon the breakup of that company, the Norfolk Southern Railway inherited the business. Customers on the line dwindled, and the last customer, the Reheis Chemical Company, was bought out by the General Chemical Company and planned to close down in 2008. The apparent last freight train made its run on November 7, 2008; however, seven months later the facility began receiving shipments again, on June 19, 2009. Although this industry is east of the Berkeley Heights station, the freight trains actually operate as far west as Stirling, where the engine uses the siding to run around the train to reverse direction. In 2019, the Dover and Delaware River Railroad took over freight service along the line.
Like the Morristown Line, the Gladstone Branch is electrified using overhead catenary at 25 kV 60 Hz. Traction power comes from the NJT substation at Summit, which also powers much of the Morristown Line. The Summit substation is located north of New Providence on the Morristown Line, between the Summit and Chatham stations, and receives power from the nearby Summit Utility substation. In addition to the NJT Summit traction substation, three other switching facilities are located along the line.
|Date opened||Date closed||Connections / notes|
|9||Summit||Summit||22.7 (36.5)||September 17, 1837||NJ Transit Rail: Morristown Line|
NJ Transit Bus: 70, 986
Lakeland Bus: 78
|New Providence||New Providence||24.4 (39.3)||January 29, 1872||NJ Transit Bus: 986|
Lakeland Bus: 78
|10||Murray Hill||26.0 (41.8)||January 29, 1872||NJ Transit Bus: 986|
|11||Berkeley Heights||Berkeley Heights||28.4 (45.7)||January 29, 1872||Lakeland Bus: 78|
|12||Long Hill||Gillette||29.7 (47.8)||January 29, 1872|
|14||Stirling||31.1 (50.1)||January 29, 1872 (1974)|
|Millington||32.7 (52.6)||January 29, 1872|
|Basking Ridge||Lyons||34.3 (55.2)||January 29, 1872||Lakeland Bus: 78|
|16||Basking Ridge||36.2 (58.3)||January 29, 1872||Lakeland Bus: 78|
|Bernardsville||Bernardsville||37.2 (59.9)||January 29, 1872||Lakeland Bus: 78|
|Mine Brook||Former minor DL&W minor flag stop located at Whitenack Road|
|Far Hills||Far Hills||41.6 (66.9)||October 10, 1890||Lakeland Bus: 78|
|18||Peapack-Gladstone||Peapack||43.9 (70.7)||October 10, 1890|
|Gladstone||44.9 (72.3)||October 10, 1890|
- Stern, Robert A.M.; Fishman, David; Tilove, Jacob (2013). Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City. New York, New York: The Monacelli Press. ISBN 9781580933261.
- "Christie Administration Announces Gladstone Branch Rail Service to Resume on Monday, December 3". njtransit.com. New Jersey Transit. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
- "Gladstone Branch Repairs To Be Completed Friday". njtransit.com. New Jersey Transit. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
- Associated Press (December 13, 2012). "Hoboken station 2-plus months from electric power". Daily Record. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- "Dover and Delaware River Railroad". Chesapeake and Delaware, LLC. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
- "Morris & Essex Line Timetable" (PDF). New York, New York: New Jersey Transit. November 19, 2014. Retrieved November 27, 2014.
- "Morris and Essex is Seventy-Nine Years Old". The Madison Eagle. June 16, 1916. p. 10. Retrieved April 3, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
- Stitcher, Felecia (January 27, 1972). "100 Years Ago Saturday the Iron Horse Arrived". The Bernardsville News. p. 42. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "New Shelter [Photo]". The Echoes-Sentinel. Warren Township, New Jersey. August 29, 1974. p. 5. Retrieved January 2, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Stuart, Sandy (April 26, 1990). "Competing Railroads Pulled Into Peapack 100 Years Ago Last week". The Bernardsville News. p. 3. Retrieved October 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- Operating Passenger Railroad Stations in New Jersey (Report). National Register of Historic Places. 1981. p. 41. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
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