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Both the Delaware & Lehigh Rivers hosted great volumes of commerce. The junction of the Morris, Lehigh and Delaware Canals was here. Port Delaware, in the proposed heritage center site, was where coal was transferred from rail cars to boats to supply the Morris Canal. In the past, east - west and north - south routes of the Lehigh Valley, Jersey Central, Pennsylvania, Lackawanna and Lehigh & Hudson River Railroads met and interchanged freight and passenger traffic here, in addition to the Reading Railroad (from 1973 to 1976), and New Jersey Transit. At one time there were five major railroad yards, eight roundhouses / turntables as well as five passenger and freight stations in the vicinity. Steam locomotives were built in Easton by the Lehigh Valley Railroad and the first diesel-electric locomotive was built by Ingersoll-Rand in Phillipsburg. Currently Conrail (soon to be Norfolk Southern) and the newcomer Belvidere & Delaware River Railway continue to serve the area. The Bel Del Railway provides the opportunity for an outstandingly scenic excursion ride south along the Delaware River for 16 miles. Trolley service began with the Phillipsburg Horse Car Railroad Co., later the Phillipsburg Transit Co., and the area was also served by Easton & Washington Traction Co. (New Jersey Interurban Co.), Easton Transit Co. (Lehigh Valley Transit Co.), Philadelphia & Easton Transit Co. and Northampton Transit Co. Phillipsburg / Easton was a traditional hub of stage coach and motor coach routes and continues to be served by several bus companies. The area is bisected by the Delaware and Lehigh Navigation Canal National Heritage Corridor. The Morris Canal route is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as is the Central Railroad of New Jersey Heritage Corridor. The Delaware River has been designated a Wild and Scenic River in this vicinity. Phillipsburg has been an historic transportation hub, and remains so today. Much of the historic transport fabric remains in place and many structures survive. Close-by are the major tourist attractions of the Crayola Factory, the National Canal Museum, and the Hugh Moore Park canalboat ride. Phillipsburg is not only the best, but a superb location for the multi-modal future New Jersey Railroad & Transportation Heritage Center.


1590 The Dutch began establishing forts and trading posts on the Delaware River. The early Indian trails and paths began to be used by those arriving from Europe in the Colonial Period and were gradually widened to roads.

1654 An Indian settlement called Chinktewunk located at what is now Phillipsburg was first referred to on a map made by a Dutch engineer.

1673 The General Assembly of the Province of East Jersey passed their Public Roads Act, the first movement toward formalizing roads.

1727 Commercial navigation on the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers began.

1739 David Martin obtained a grant to operate a ferry between Phillipsburg and Easton.

1749 Phillipsburg first appeared on a map of the area.

1779 General George Washington passed through Phillipsburg.

1787 John Fitch operated his steamboat on the Delaware River.

1792 Anthracite coal was first moved down the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers.

1805 A covered wood bridge was built between Phillipsburg and Easton.

1806 The Morris Turnpike was chartered (as the Washington Turnpike) and authorized to be built between Union Square, Phillipsburg, and Morristown. The first New Jersey Turnpike, was chartered to run between New Brunswick and Phillipsburg.

1820 The first coal arks negotiated the Lehigh and Delaware rivers.

1830 The Trenton-Belvidere Stage Line operated on an 11 hour schedule between the two points at a fare of $2.75.

1831 The Morris Canal opened from Newark to Phillipsburg. The first Morris Canal boats which were loaded with Lehigh coal at Mauch Chunk arrived in NJ.

1841 The "Bridges Freshet" occurred sweeping away nine bridges spanning the Delaware. After several years of shadowy financial dealings, the Morris Canal went bankrupt.

1850 The Cooper Hewitt furnace at Phillipsburg yielded 235 tons of iron in one week, a US record.

1852 The Central RR of NJ (CNJ) was completed to Phillipsburg. The steamboat Maj. Barnett commenced regular trips on the Delaware River between Lambertville and Easton.

1854 The Bel-Del RR was completed from Trenton to Phillipsburg. A 90 ton steam powered tunneling machine for the Warren RR (DL&W) was brought to Phillipsburg on the CNJ RR and hauled in pieces by wagons over primitive roads to the Oxford tunnel construction site.

1855 The LV RR bridge over the Delaware was completed. Lehigh anthracite coal traffic began moving from the mines to Phillipsburg and via the Bel-Del to Trenton and South Amboy.

1856 The Easton & Stroudsburg line of stages connected its two namesake towns via the Delaware Water Gap with Bel-Del trains at Phillipsburg for Philadelphia. A steam boat was tried on the Morris Canal.

1859 The steamboat Alfred Thomas was completed for service on the Delaware, but it exploded the next year. Through passenger service was established between New York and Pittsburgh via CNJ and other railroads. Excursions to the Coal Fields of PA were first offered by the CNJ RR.

1861 The borough of Phillipsburg was incorporated.

1862 The CNJ RR advertised as the shortest route to Chicago.

1864 CNJ began operating the first sleeping cars in NJ through Phillipsburg.

1865 The Morris & Essex RR was completed to Phillipsburg.

1867 The Phillipsburg Horse Car Ry. Co. was chartered.

1868 Interchange connections were established between the Bel-Del, LV, Morris & Essex, Lehigh & Susquehanna, and CNJ Railroads at Phillipsburg.

1870 The Phillipsburg Omnibus Line operated every hour from Easton through Union Square, Phillipsburg to Cooper's Furnace.

1871 The LV RR leased the Morris Canal for a period of 99 years. Cars of the Phillipsburg Passenger Ry. began operating to Center Square, Easton.

1875 The LV RR (Easton & Amboy) was completed from Phillipsburg to Perth Amboy.

1876 Six men dumped 532 cars of coal at Port Delaware, loading 45 canalboats in 9 hours.

1877 "The Great Upheaval," a railroad strike, was also the worst in the history of the state of NJ and impacted Phillipsburg severely.

1879 The Morris Canal Co. decided to move their boat yard from Washington to Port Delaware at Phillipsburg. In a single day 100 rafts containing 25 million feet of lumber passed down the Delaware River.

1882 Railway Post Office Service was established on the Bel-Del, the CNJ and the Lehigh & Hudson River Railroads.

1884 The second lodge of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was organized at Phillipsburg. One of the Seitz beer boats from Easton plied the Morris Canal selling porter ale, lager, soda water, etc. A record 21 loaded coal trains passed down the Bel-Del in one day.

1885 Phillipsburg Horse Car RR Co. tracks were extended over Delaware River through the covered wood bridge to Center Square, Easton.

1886 One hundred and fifty-three canalboats loaded with coal were frozen in the Morris Canal between Phillipsburg and Jersey City.

1890 Twenty-five new canalboats were ordered and being built at Phillipsburg for the Morris Canal.

1893 The first electric motor operated semaphore was installed on the CNJ RR in Black Dan's Cut, near Phillipsburg.

1894 Phillipsburg trolley lines were electrified and extended.

1901 Automatic electric block signals were installed on the CNJ main line between Bound Brook and White Haven, PA.

1903 The CNJ Veteran Employees Assn., the first in America, was founded.

1906 The Easton & Washington Traction Co. commenced service in Phillipsburg.

1912 The famed Pennsylvania RR Federal Express traveled from Washington to Boston via Phillipsburg. The first solid concrete highway in NJ was constructed between Stewartsville and New Village, along the Morris Turnpike.

1913 Ingersoll-Rand introduced the world's first RR tie tamper and compressor. A Sunday excursion to Washington, DC operated over the Bel-Del was so popular that it required 34 cars in three sections to carry the 2,000 passengers.

1914 The Phillipsburg Horse Car Co., a subsidiary of the Easton Transit Co. was acquired by the Lehigh Valley Transit Co. A DL&W train experimenting with train-station wireless communications between East Stroudsburg, PA and Washington, DC ran down and back on the Bel-Del.

1915 Circus trains frequently operated over the Bel-Del. The Barnum & Bailey - "Greatest Show on Earth" required 85 double length rail cars to transport their 1280 people, 700 horses, 40 elephants, and a menagerie of 110 cages. The Liberty Bell traveled down the Bel-Del en-route back to Philadelphia from the Pan American Exposition at San Francisco. S.J. Wildrich of Phillipsburg began operating a bus making four round trips between Phillipsburg and Belvidere for a 30 fare.

1918 The War Trophy (Relics) Train No. 2 visited Phillipsburg with exhibits of captured enemy weapons and paraphernalia to support a subscription drive for the 4th Liberty Loan.

1920 Ingersoll-Rand developed and began to sell multi-cylinder vertical oil (diesel) engines.

1922 The Morris Canal was abandoned.

1923 Ingersoll-Rand completed the first diesel-electric locomotive.

1925 The Interurban Coach Co. was granted permission to operate in Phillipsburg. The Waer Bus Line began operating a Phillipsburg - Easton - Philadelphia run.

1927 The injured from the DL&W Rockport wreck were transported by the RR to local hospitals in the Phillipsburg/Easton area.

1928 Ingersoll-Rand powered locomotives were first equipped with multiple-unit control, now a standard feature on railroads.

1929 The PRR received permission to abandon the Lehigh Junction Station in Phillipsburg. The Bullet passenger train was established between Wilkes-Barre and Jersey City on the CNJ. Phillipsburg's American Horse Shoe Works ceased operation.

1931 The Phillipsburg Transit Co. trolley routes were abandoned.

1933 LVT discontinued their Easton to Alpha bus operation and Royal Blue Coaches expanded their bus service. Edwards Lakes-to-Sea-System established through bus service between NY and Cleveland via Phillipsburg and Easton.

1936 The CNJ operated a sightseeing excursion through Phillipsburg to Mauch Chunk, Tamaqua, Pottsville, Reading, Valley Forge, Philadelphia and back to NY. The trip was narrated via a public address system through the entire train, a first in railroad history. The LV RR Black Diamond train was provided with air conditioning. The first of a series of "Off the Beaten Track" excursions was operated through NJ by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was routed from Philadelphia via Trenton, the Bel Del (through Phillipsburg), the Delaware Water Gap, Scranton, Nanticoke, Norristown and return to Philadelphia.

1938 The new US Rt. 22 bridge across the Delaware north of Union Square, Phillipsburg was opened. For publicity photo purposes, 8 new Mack buses of the Lehigh Valley Transportation Co. were lined up in front of the Wardel Hotel in Phillipsburg.

1942 The PRR experimented with a radio telephone system on the Bel-Del which proved a success and was later adopted by them and other railroads.

1944 The Bel-Del became the first line in the US to use a radio-telephone communication system.

1946 Delaware River Coach Lines built a new garage on Broad St. in Phillipsburg to house their transit bus fleet.

1947 Two new Vista Dome coaches made a demonstration run on the LV RR, the first appearance on any RR.

1948 The last circus train, the two sections of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey train traveled over the Bel-Del en-route from Washington, D.C. to Boston. President Truman traveled from Allentown to Elizabeth and Jersey City over the CNJ RR.

1949 The PRR filed a petition to withdraw all passenger trains from the Bel-Del. The Bel-Del Phillipsburg station was torn down. The CNJ Phillipsburg engine terminal was closed due to dieselization.

1954 Mack railbuses, built for the New Haven RR, were transported on flat cars through Easton/Phillipsburg en-route to the purchaser via the L&HR RR and Maybrook, NY.

1955 The "Killer Flood" spawned by tropical storm Diane caused the collapse of the center span of the Phillipsburg-Easton Northampton Street Bridge. The same storm paralyzed the Lackawanna line east of Scranton, forcing it to reroute traffic, including the Phoebe Snow via the LV RR between Phillipsburg and Pittston Jct. The RR Enthusiasts sponsored a steam trip using CNJ #774 (the last operating camelback locomotive) from Jersey City, Phillipsburg, Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown to Jim Thorpe with B&O dining car service.

1956 The CNJ Phillipsburg station, the last to be abandoned and the last in the town, was put up for sale.

1958 The L&HR became the first RR in the northeast to be completely equipped with two-way radios. The LV RR became the first major passenger carrier to petition for total discontinuance of passenger service.

1961 The first hot-shot piggyback freight train from Boston to Chicago passed through Phillipsburg on the Bel Del.

1965 Centralized Traffic Control was installed on 13 miles of the CNJ between Hampton and Phillipsburg.

1967 The High Iron Co. operated a steam excursion from Allentown, PA via Easton/Phillipsburg to Warwick, NY on the L&HR using Canadian Pacific locomotive #1286.

1969 A Pennsylvania Canal Society field trip to the Morris Canal drew 120 participants.

1972 Phillipsburg gained the dubious distinction, unparalleled in American railroad history, of being the only municipality in the US served by six bankrupt railroads: Penn Central, CNJ, LV, L&HR, Erie Lackawanna and Reading.

1974 The Morris Canal was placed on the National Register.

1976 Conrail took over the bankrupt railroads of the northeast.

1977 The American Freedom Train rolled through Phillipsburg.

1979 Morris Canal Plane #9 W., Stewartsville, was designated a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

1982 NJ Transit began direct operation of rail commuter service.

1988 The NJ RR and Transportation Museum Study Commission toured the proposed Phillipsburg site. The Delaware & Lehigh Navigation Canal National Heritage Corridor was established.

1989 Interstate Rt. 78 was opened across the Delaware River to PA south of Phillipsburg.

1991 Six L&HR RR cabooses, the last plant diesel switcher used by Ingersoll Rand and a flanger were donated by IR to the Phillipsburg RR Historians and moved by PRRH by truck to the former Bel Del yard area.

1992 The town of Phillipsburg acquired the miniature Centerville & Southwestern RR.

1995 The CNJ RR Main Line was placed on the National Historic Register. Phillipsburg made a presentation to the reconstituted NJ RR & Transportation Museum Commission. Conrail sold its Delaware Secondary rail line, the section of the former Bel Del from Phillipsburg south to Milford, NJ to the Belvidere & Delaware River Railway.

1996 The NJ RR & Transportation Museum Commission announced their recommendations of Phillipsburg, Plainfield and Netcong/Port Morris for the Heritage Center to the legislature.

1998 The Lord Cultural Resources study concluded that there was a tie between Phillipsburg and Netcong/Port Morris in the site selection process. The NJ RR & Transportation Museum Commission voted to proceed with a master plan for the Phillipsburg site.

Suggestions for corrections, edits, additions, updates and deletions are always welcome. Write to Capt. Bill at 103 Dogwood Lane, Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922-2327, or FAX to (908) 464-9335.