The NJ, Hudson & Delaware RR -- Predictor of the New Jersey Highway Network
of the 20th & 21st Century

The New York Public Library digital collection has a map that would be useful to those interested in the history of the Midland Railroad system of the 1870s and in the line that formed in New Jersey in the wake of its demise, i.e. the New York, Susquehanna and Western RR. The map is entitled "Map Showing Lines Filed by New Jersey Midland Railway Co, New Jersey, Hudson and Delaware RR Co., Hudson Connecting Railway Co., and Midland Terminal Co. in Hudson Co NJ (Together With Railroads Now Constructed Terminating on the West Shore of the Hudson Opposite New York)". The map is dated in the mid-1870s. It extends well past Hudson County to Union County and the western edge of Essex County. The map provides an interesting snapshot of rail routes in service in NJ in the mid-1870s, and shows some additional routes where railroad building had been anticipated, but hadn't taken place.

One such route is for the New Jersey, Hudson and Delaware RR. This was one of the predecessor companies of the NYS&W railroad. Although this rail company had not built much track, it did have some accumulated cash and land, along with engineering plans for railroad construction across New Jersey. On the NYPL map referred to above, a dashed line shows the planned but never built route of the NJ, H&D line. It starts along the Hudson River in Weehawken, NJ and proceeds west, and then turns northwest from the vicinity of Wayne, NJ. In Wayne, a branch line originating in Paterson, NJ joins the line from the Hudson River. The line was "filed on Jan. 27, 1867" according to the map.

Map of NJ, Hudson & Delaware Proposed Route in northeastern New Jersey

The proposed right of way for the NJ,H&D route never saw rails or trains. But what is very interesting is just how well they predict a portion of New Jersey's highway route map from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The proposed NJH&D right of way running west from Weehawken eventually became the route of NJ highway S-3. Highway NJ 3 merges into US highway 46 on the border between Clifton and Little Falls, just west of the north-south running Morris Canal. The proposed NJ,H&D route accurately predicts the course of Route 46 from Clifton west as far as the Mountain View section of Wayne. At that point, the NJ,H&D main turned north along what would later became NJ highway 23.

And finally, there is the proposed spur running west from Paterson and joining with the main track near Mountain View / Wayne. What later highway might this route foreshadow? Nothing less than US Interstate 80, in its route around Garrett Mountain west thru Mountain View. This segment of I-80 was built in the early 1970s, partly using the abandonded right of way of the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad's Boonton Line

I suspect that the 20th Century highway planners of New Jersey were unaware of these filed and proposed railroad routings. It seems more likely that these routes were naturally advantageous given the existing New Jersey landscape and topography, and that the railroad planners of the 1860s and 70s and the modern highway planners in the 1950s and 60s all recognized it.

Nonetheless, I myself still found it quite astonishing to see a 150 year old document that predicts what the highway map in Northern NJ would someday look like. The next time I drive on one of these roads, I will try to imagine what they might have been like as a railroad. Well, in the few seconds here and there where one is not dealing with passing trucks and rude drivers weaving between lanes. The highways in northern NJ are rather unpleasant places to drive. Too bad that the dreams of the NJ, H&D in the 1860s were not meant to be!