From Edison’s Great Train Robbery to The Station Agent: Newfoundland Film Locations


“Edison was no stranger to Newfoundland, he would spend an evening at Idylease while working on a magnetic ore extracting device at the Franklin/Ogdensberg Mine.”

In 1903, an employee of Thomas Edison’s motion picture company produced a movie with a story. At twelve minutes long, the movie was considered a milestone in film making. The early motion picture used a number of then-unconventional techniques, including composite editing, on-location shooting, and frequent camera movement. It was called “The Great Train Robbery.” It told a simple story of a group of western criminals who steal money from a train. Later they are killed by a group of police in a gun fight. The movie was extremely popular. “The Great Train Robbery” started the huge motion picture industry. Scenes were filmed along the Pequonnock River and along the Sequehanna Railroad with tracks still running through Newfoundland. Edison was no stranger to Newfoundland. F. Fichter Hoagan, a longtime business manager at Idylease often reminisced about the days when Thomas Edison would spend an evening at Idylease while working on a magnetic ore extracting device at the Franklin/Ogdensberg Mine. He fished on the banks of the Pequonnock River and would have his car serviced at a garage in Newfoundland when heading to the mines in Franklin from his lab in West Orange.

Historically, New Jersey is the recognized as the birthplace of the motion picture industry. In 1892, the motion picture industry was launched in the state with the erection of the world’s first motion picture studio at the Edison Laboratory in West Orange. It was a small, frame building, black inside and out and mounted on a revolving base so that the sun could be followed. This studio was called the Kinetographic Theatre, but was better known as the Black Maria.

In 1978, Paramount Pictures filmed scenes for the Movie King of the Gypsies in Newfoundland. The film starred Eric Roberts, Sterling Hayden, Shelley Winters, Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields, Annette O’Toole and Judd Hirsch.

MTV Films at Idylease

Between 1995 and 1997, David Schoner, Location Coordinator of the NJ Film Commission brought two film companies to Idylease as production sites. The sketch comedy television series “The State”, was broadcast on MTV between December 17, 1993, and July 1, 1995. The show combined bizarre characters and scenarios to present sketches that won the favor of its target teenaged audience. Season 2, Episode 3 entitled “Lincoln Logs” was filmed on the main porch and in the lobby of Idylease. The MTV Music Video from the album “Sunshine In Popopia” by Battershell was Filmed at Idylease in 1997 utilizing the blacksmith shop and grounds at Idylease.

In 2003 Miramax Pictures filmed the independent feature film “The Station Agent” at the Newfoundland Train Station. Located off of Route 23 off Greenpond Road is the wooden train station built in 1872 that was the focal point of the movie. The film chronicles Finbar McBride’s (Peter Dinklage) move to an abandoned Newfoundland train station, to live the life of a hermit. His attempt at solitude is soon interrupted, however, by interactions with his neighbors, including Olivia, a struggling artist coping with the recent death of her young son, and Joe, a thirty-year-old with a talent for cooking and an insatiable hunger for conversation–whether anyone wants to talk to him or not.

New Jersey was the film capital of the world during the early years of its inception with a long and varied history of location shooting. No doubt Idylease will serve as the locale for future productions in the State of New Jersey and thus– adding to its illustrious history.

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Idylease: Preserving the Past

Preservation is defined as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property in all forms. -Richard Zampella

Definition: pre·serve (pr-zûrv)

  1. To maintain in safety from injury, peril, or harm; protect.
  2. To keep in perfect or unaltered condition; maintain unchanged.
  3. To keep or maintain intact

Idylease (/ˈaɪdəl.iːz/ “idle-ease”), a former resort hotel located in Newfoundland, New Jersey, was erected in 1902 and is an architecturally and historically significant example of early 20th century resort architecture in Northwest, New Jersey. The only surviving example of resort facilities in the region, it recalls the popularity of the region as the vacationland for the middle class in the late nineteenth century. Edited by Richard Zampella at Idylease

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