An Amtrak train passes through Metuchen, N.J., in 2003. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)
An Amtrak train passes through Metuchen, N.J., in 2003. (Photo by Todd DeFeo)

METUCHEN, N.J. — The first trains passed through this Central New Jersey town in 1836 when the New Jersey Railroad was completed.

The current railroad depot is situated in the center of town and was built in 1888, the same year the railroad right-of-way was elevated above the street. It was rededicated on Dec. 13, 1979, and today serves N.J. Transit commuter trains.

A second line, the Easton and Amboy Railroad, reached Metuchen in the 1870s. At Metuchen, Easton and Amboy passenger traffic connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad and continued to the Pennsylvania’s Exchange Place in Jersey City, a connection that lasted until 1891 when the LVRR established its own route to Jersey City from South Plainfield.

The line was abandoned in 1991. A portion of the former right-of-way is today a part of the Middlesex Greenway.

A third railroad, the Reading Railroad, passed through town starting in about 1892. The line remains in use today and is part of the Conrail Shared Assets Operations (named the Conrail Port Reading Secondary).

In March 1907, the boiler of a Pennsylvania Railroad mogul locomotive exploded shortly after passing through town. The train, traveling from Jersey City, N.J., to Philadelphia, was “drawing a long train of freight cars” at the time, according to a report in The New York Times on March 12, 1907.

The explosion sent “white-hot pieces of iron” in every direction while scalding steam burned the engineer and fireman, killing both along with the head brakeman, who was also in the cab.

On March 31, 1932, 13 cars of a freight train just east of the Pennsylvania Railroad station, according to “Metuchen” by Stacy E. Spies. The wreck knocked down several of the poles used to electrify the line.

In June 1977, 17 cars of a Conrail freight train derailed near the Metuchen train depot. Cars spilled onto the streets and blocked all four tracks of the Northeast Corridor mainline. The train apparently derailed after an axle of a freight car overheated and the metal separated or melted away, a situation known as a hotbox.

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