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Newark, New Jersey: The City Subway


The Newark City Subway is operated by New Jersey Transit, a state agency that operates local public transportation throughout the state of New Jersey. It opened in stages in 1935-40 to provide several streetcar lines with grade-separated access to downtown Newark. It was built in the bed of an abandoned canal. By 1952 all of the "feeder" streetcar routes had been abandoned, and only the subway service itself remained. In the tunnel, one can still see where the former streetcar lines branched off.

The route is about 5.1 miles long and extends from Newark Penn Station in the south to Grove Street in the north. Four of the thirteen stations are in the underground subway portion. The rest of the route operates in open cut or on the surface, and is mostly grade-separated from automobile traffic. Much of the surface portion of the route runs along the edge of Branch Brook Park.

At Penn Station, connections can be made with New Jersey Transit commuter trains, Amtrak long-distance trains on the Northeast Corridor, and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson rapid-transit line to Jersey City, Hoboken and New York City.

Until 24 August 2001, the City Subway operated PCC streetcars built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1946-49 for the Twin City Rapid Transit Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. On abandonment of the Minneapolis streetcar lines, they were sold to Newark, and began running there in 1954. Despite their age, they were in very good condition at the end, thanks to an overhaul in the 1980s and expert maintainance. The PCCs were replaced with modern light-rail vehicles of the same type that run on the Hudson-Bergen light rail line in nearby Jersey City. In 2004, several of them were sold to the San Francisco Municipal Railway for operation on their F-Market streetcar line. Currently (fall 2007) there are plans to use some of the remaining PCCs for a streetcar line connecting a new residential development in Bayonne to the Hudson-Bergen light rail line.

The northern terminal was originally at Franklin Avenue. In the fall of 2001, that station and the nearby Heller Parkway station were replaced with a new Branch Brook Park station about halfway in between. In June 2002, the route was extended from Branch Brook Park to Grove Street.

On 17 July 2006, a new branch opened, which splits from the original subway line at Mulberry Street, comes to the surface and runs to the Broad Street station on NJ Transit's Morris and Essex commuter rail lines (formerly operated by the Erie Lackawanna Railroad).

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These pictures were taken in March 1999 and July 2001. In between, NJ Transit upgraded the route in preparation for the new light-rail vehicles, replacing the old style trolley wire with modern catenary overhead. In late 1999 the PCCs were equipped with pantographs so that they could continue to operate using the catenary. In the earlier pictures, the cars still use trolley poles; in the later ones, they use pantographs.

[picture] A tile mosaic in a passageway at the Penn Station shows a view out the front window of a City Subway car, with the names of the stations surrounding it. [July 2001]

[picture] Passengers prepare to board an outbound car at Penn Station. To the right is one of the storage tracks. [July 2001]

[picture] On the storage track next to the outbound platform at Penn Station, we see one of the new light-rail vehicles, which was presumably being used for testing before going into service in a few weeks. [July 2001]

[picture] At the other side of the Penn Station loop, on the inbound platform, two cars have just discharged their passengers. [July 2001]

[picture] A passenger prepares to board an inbound car in the Broad Street subway station. [July 2001]

[picture] Fares are paid on the Proof of Purchase (POP) system, under which passengers must purchase tickets before boarding, and keep them available for random inspection. [July 2001]

[picture] These decorative tiles adorn the Broad Street station. [July 2001]

[picture] The Norfolk Street station is in an open cut, the former bed of the Morris Canal. Here we are looking down into the station from the top of the steps at one end. [July 2001]

[picture] An inbound car at the grade crossing at Orange Street. [March 1999]

[picture] An inbound car at the Bloomfield Avenue station, underneath the Bloomfield Ave. overpass. [July 2001]

[picture] An inbound car approaches the Davenport Avenue station, in a view from above. To the right (east) is Branch Brook Park. [March 1999]

[picture] An outbound car (rear view) passes through the Davenport Avenue station. [March 1999]

[picture] An inbound car approaches the now-closed Heller Parkway station, in a view from above. The car visible in the distance is actually waiting on a storage track at the old Franklin Avenue terminal, which is just out of sight around the curve to the left. [March 1999]

[picture] In connection with the route's extension to Grove Street, the Franklin Avenue and Heller Parkway stations were consolidated into a new Branch Brook Park station just south of the Franklin Avenue station. Here, a couple of PCCs pass through the new station. The ramp at the left leads to the Heller Parkway overpass; it is not finished yet, so the Heller Parkway station is still open. [July 2001]

[picture] A PCC screeches around the loop at Franklin Avenue. A few weeks later, the PCCs were replaced with double-ended light-rail vehicles, and the loop was removed. To the right is a temporary connection to the extension under construction to Grove Street. [July 2001]

[picture #1] | [picture #2] Just north of the Branch Brook Park (ex Franklin Avenue) station, the new extension makes a sharp curve, crosses Franklin Avenue, and climbs an embankment to run alongside Conrail's (ex Erie RR) Orange Branch. These two pictures give a panoramic view of the curve from the north, with a PCC visible in the distance at the left, as it starts to go around the loop. [July 2001]

[picture] The interior of a car, viewed from the rear looking forward. [March 1999]

[picture] The interior of a car, viewed from the front looking towards the rear. [July 2001]

[picture] A closeup view of the interior front, with the operator on the left. [July 2001]

This page was last updated on 18 September 2007.

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