A southbound NJ Transit train passes through Elizabeth, N.J. in August 2003..
A southbound NJ Transit train passes through Elizabeth, N.J. in August 2003. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

ELIZABETH, N.J. — Trains first came to this northern New Jersey city in 1835, with rail service connecting the city with Newark on the New Jersey Railroad.

Around that time, the Elizabeth & Somerville Railroad, using horse-drawn trains, began service between Elizabethtown and Elizabeth. The railroad, which was a predecessor of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, turned to steam in 1839, according to The Historical Guide to North American Railroads, Second Edition.

Union Station was completed in April 1854, the same year a second track was laid between Elizabeth and Elizabethport.

In 1864, the Central Railroad of New Jersey opened a line to Jersey City. And four years later, construction of a third track between Elizabeth and Jersey City began. Grading for that track was completed in 1866.

During the mid 19th century, both the Central Railroad of New Jersey and the New Jersey Railroad remained competitive, often fighting “price wars.”

In 1872, the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s Newark and Elizabeth branch opened.

Between 1891 and 1893, the Central Railroad of New Jersey built the main Elizabeth depot. The station was completed at a cost of $38,600. It was remodeled in 1920 and in 1953 it was modernized at a cost of more than $50,000, according to the city.

In 1988, N.J. Transit rehabilitated the station. The depot was placed on the National Register of Historical Places on Sept. 1, 1984.

On Feb. 4, 1987, N.J. Transit opened the North Elizabeth station. The station continues to see light use today.

In April 1987, Conrail removed the former Central Railroad of New Jersey express tracks between Aldene and Elizabeth. The former right of way can still be seen, passing under the current Northeast Corridor mainline.

More recently, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the city of Elizabeth have identified some projects they say will improve the shipment of goods, including a rail line linking the Staten Island Railroad to Elizabeth.

Published in the August 2005 edition of The Cross-Tie.