The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway: The Susie Q, Tourists A-Plenty, Train Robberies & The Station Agent

newfoundland-nj
The New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Provided Passenger Service to Newfoundland from 1891 until 1966

The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway, also known as the Susie-Q, or simply the Susquehanna, was formed in 1881 from the merger of several smaller railroads. Passenger service, including commuter service from Northern New Jersey to New York City, was offered until 1966.

In 1871, the New Jersey Midland Railway, predecessor of the New York, Susquehanna & Western , began constructing a rail line between Newfoundland, NJ and Hackensack NJ. The line was part of a plan to connect with the New York & Oswego Midland (later New York, Ontario & Western) in Middletown, NY and provide rail service from the Great Lakes to New York Harbor.

The Susie-Q has had a very interesting past in its 125+ year history. The New York, Susquehanna & Western officially began as a culmination of six small railroads that had been hit hard by the Financial Panic of 1873; the Midland Connecting Railway, New Jersey Midland Railway, Northern Jersey Railway, Paterson Extension Railway, Pennsylvania Midland Railway, and the Water Gap Railroad. These companies dated as far back as the Hoboken, Ridgefield & Paterson Railroad of 1866 and were quite small, serving primarily the region around and just west of New York City in New Jersey and extreme eastern Pennsylvania. The new railroad was to be called the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad Company, founded in the summer of 1881 as a means of handling coal from eastern Pennsylvania to New York City.

At the peak of the once thriving tourism industry in Newfoundland, passengers could board a ferry at Debrosses Street in New York City and catch a train from Hackensack to Newfoundland to escape the confines of the urban overpopulation of the city. Guests utilized the Susquehanna to frequent to travel to the many resorts that adorned the Newfoundland area. Destinations such as Brown’s Hotel, Idylease and the Green Pond Hotel catered to the burgeoning tourists that flocked to the area for its scenic beauty and heathly climate. The 1920’s also marked the height of passenger service provided by the NYS&W at the Newfoundland Station. Thirteen passenger trains in each direction stopped at Newfoundland Station on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the Great depression struck in October 1929 and lasted well into the late 1930’s and the growth slowed dramatically. In 1937, the NYS&W declared bankruptcy and shortly thereafter was spun off from its parent, the Erie Railroad, which had controlled it since 1898. Also, the mass production of the automobile in the 1930s rendered the railroad someone obsolete with more distant locales such as the Poconos and the Adirondack more desirable to travel by car. Passenger service ceased completely by 1966.

In 1973, a ten mile section of unused New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad trackage running between Newfoundland and Beaver Lake, New Jersey was leased for an excursion train ride that advertised itself as the great train robbery. (Actors portraying Jesse and Frank James boarded the train from horseback and demanded fake money to give the two masked robbers). The excursion remained successful for a number of years. However, on December 14, 1980 the last two runs from Newfoundland left the station and returned for the final time. The closure was caused by a decline in visitors in the late 1970s, mostly due to national economic declines and the gas shortage, in addition to increasing costs and major repairs necessary to keep the steam locomotives operating.

the station agentIn 2003, The Station Agent an American comedy-drama film written and directed by Tom McCarthy. Was filmed along the former tracks of the Susquehanna in Newfoundland. It stared Peter Dinklage as a man who seeks solitude in an abandoned train station in the Newfoundland.

Today, the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway serves as a freight line with 85 customers and has a diverse traffic base ranging from lumber/building materials, plastics, paper and chemicals to aggregates and food grade products. The railroad also offers the option of bulk transfer facilities. It is now larger, hauls more tonnage, and is more profitable than it ever was at any point in its more than 130 year history.

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Newfoundland’s Oldest Home: DeMouth-Snyder House

peter snyder house newfoundland, nj

Perhaps the oldest home still standing in Newfoundland is located on Green Pond Road. The original section of the house was erected in 1732 by a member of the DeMouth (DeMont) family. There is a strong possibility that the family had originally built a log cabin before constructing the substantial stone cottage. In that era, the family would have shared the land with tribes associated with the Lenni Lenape Indians.

For years the home was referred to as the “Stone Cottage” and there must have been quite a settlement in Newfoundland prior to 1730, or a structure of that kind would not have been undertaken.

These lands would be inherited by the wife of Peter Snyder, who expanded the house in 1773. Several generations later, the Cole, Davenport, Brown, Eckhart and Kanouse families would emigrate to Newfoundland from England & Germany. A sister of Leonard Cole married Israel Holley and verbal history in 1902 suggested that the Indians carried away one of their children, who grew up with the local tribe.

The local 19th century historian, J.P. Crayon reasoned that Dutch settlers came to Newfoundland as early as 1715 because of the existence of records that indicated that Dutch ministers were dispatched to Newfoundland and held services throughout the region. Those same ministers would eventually organize the First Baptist Church of Newfoundland and The Presbyterian Church of Oak Ridge.

The towns of Clinton and Charlotteburg would also be included on the circuit where ministers would visit. The village of Clinton derived its name from Sir Henry Clinton (c. 1738-1795) who was a British general in the American Revolutionary War and a veteran of the French and Indian War.

The Town of Charlotteburg was named after Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Sophia Charlotte; 1744 – 1818) who was the wife of King George III. She was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from her marriage from 1761 until 1818. A Revolutionary War Furnace still remains submerged under the Charlotteburg Reservoir which had been built in 1768 and was operated by Hessian soldiers. Many of these Hessians remained in the area after the war and settled at Macopin, where they established the first Catholic Church in New Jersey that would become St. Joseph’s.

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The Lost Baptist Church of Newfoundland, NJ

Newfoundland Baptist Church
The Newfoundland Baptist Church was Established in 1877

The church was founded by Conrad Vreeland in 1877. He was born at Echo Lake and in early manhood he moved to Brooklyn as a contractor & real estate broker whereby he acquired a fortune.

In 1873, he returned to his native place, Echo Lake. There, but limited religious privileges were enjoyed. A Methodist minister preached once in two weeks in the morning and a Presbyterian, once in two weeks in the afternoon.

Mr. Vreeland was not limited to Echo Lake. Six miles away was Newfoundland, where more than sixty years before, in 1804, a Baptist church was. It had had an uncertain life for nearly fifty years. But in 1850, disappeared, save as a few venerable men and women tarried on earth.

In November 1877, thirty-seven members of Echo Lake church were dismissed to organize anew at Newfoundland. Mr. Vreeland was called to be pastor at Newfoundland and was ordained at the recognition of Newfoundland church. At Newfoundland, Mr. Vreeland provided house of worship at his own cost, also securing a supply at Echo Lake.

The church building disappeared from the Newfoundland landscape at some point around the turn of the century and the lot and cemetery were sold to Lawrence Turner between 1918-1920. The overgrown church cemetery quietly marks time at the corner of Clinton & LaRue Roads in Newfoundland, NJ.

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