Decades ago, trains traversed the Liberty State Park area, well before late businessman Morris Pesin started pushing in the 1950s for the land to become a park with views of the river.
There are still hints of the area’s railroad past. The old Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ) terminal, restored in 1980, is now a place for sightseeing. It also hosts a ticket office for ferries to Liberty State Park and Ellis Island, and contains the offices for the NJ Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Parks and Forestry, which operates the park year-round.
A study looks to bring historic railroads to Liberty State Park.
Now, train aficionados are working with the state’s Division of Parks and Forestry on a study called “Liberty State Park Rail Access and Internal Circulation Plan for Millions of Annual Visitors.”
It looks at installing a one-mile long historic trolley line to transport the millions of visitors to the park to different sites in the park, as well as a separate track for historic rail equipment to reach the park on its own wheels. The state also could exhibit special trains for major park events.
Right now, the relatively new Hudson Bergen Light Rail has a stop near the park, but it does not go into the park or to specific buildings.
Students did study
The study was created by students of the Rutgers University Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and presented formally to state officials on Aug. 23 in a private meeting in the park.
Bill Vigrass, a former student at the Bloustein School and a railroad history buff, said the study was created starting in spring 2008 by commission from the state, and has been a “labor of love.”
Vigrass said the rail for visitors would run from Liberty Science Center to the CRRNJ terminal, and would cut down on vehicular traffic in the park since the state does not plan to build any more parking lots there in the future.
The display of historic trains fits in with the Annual Jersey Central Railroad Heritage Festival, held every year in the terminal. There, the former employees of the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ), along with other railroad aficionados, show off train memorabilia such as the different trains that used to run through the park.
Vigrass said that whether the initiatives laid out in the study will become reality is contingent on obtaining state and federal funding for the project.
The state’s Division of Parks and Forestry, the students, and railroad historians involved in the study are requesting the funding.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.