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Newark City Subway Signals

Through the kindness of the Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center in Phillipsburg, NJ, the Whippany Railway Museum has been given three unique, early-1930s vintage signals from the Newark (NJ) City Subway (formerly owned and operated by Public Service Coordinated Transport, and later, NJ Transit).

When NJ Transit modernized and extended the Newark City Subway in 2001, all the old 1930s-era signals were removed and replaced with new technology. The Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center – which was looking to have a NJ State Rail & Transportation Museum sited at Phillipsburg – became the recipient of at least 30 of the obsolete signals, plus other outdated trolley infrastructure. Unfortunately, the State Transportation Museum effort at P-Burg did not come to pass, and the Friends group had held these artifacts for a good twenty years.

WRyM had approached the Friends about the possibility of WRyM acquiring a couple of signals from the Newark City Subway for eventual restoration and display at Whippany. The feedback was positive, and a tour of the Phillipsburg storage site was arranged. When WRyM officials saw the signals, they knew right away that these artifacts would make great displays for Whippany.

On July 15, 2022 five WRyM members made the trip to Phillipsburg and met up with Friends Director, Ken Miller, who opened up the property. Also on hand was a new acquaintance, Phillipsburg resident Ron Titus, who arrived with his John Deere loader to assist in lifting and loading the signals.

The first signal extracted was No. 083… this had to be lifted out of place first in order to get close enough to No. 112 so it too, could be retrieved. Removing both signals was somewhat challenging, as they were nearly hidden by dense foliage, and entwined with entwined with 20 years worth of growth and extremely thick vines. But, in the end, Ron’s loader helped to make everything safe and easy.

Upon return to Whippany (after a stop on Rt. 78 for lunch at the Clinton (NJ) Diner, and dining onboard the former CNJ ‘BLUE COMET’ observation car “Biela” ) the signals were off-loaded with the help of local contractor Bruce Brueche, who lent his CAT machine for the unloading. The aging sentinels were carefully moved and set on the ground next to WRyM’s outdoor G-scale model railroad, where they would eventually be set up for public display.

The very next day – Sunday, July 17th – Museum member Alan Wishengrad didn’t waste any time in starting the initial work of removing nearly nine decades worth of peeling paint, crud, and rust from the first two signals.

Three weeks later, the WRyM crew returned to Phillipsburg and once again met up with Ken Miller and Ron Titus in order to acquire one more Newark City Subway signal – No. 118.

Arriving back at Whippany, Alan Wishengrad again set right to work on this latest acquisition… quickly removing the brass “118” numerals and giving the signal a much closer inspection before any real restoration work began. Alan and a few other WRyM members worked steadily for a full year to restore signal Nos. 083, 112 and 118. It’s safe to say that these signals have been given a new lease on life !

The next task at hand was to do some excavating for the foundations and pour cement for the signals to sit on… those tasks were accomplished in the Fall of 2022 with the assistance of Museum friends Frank Minerowicz and Gary Napolitano. In late-July 2023, with the help of Gary Napolitano, the three Newark City Subway signals were at last erected and set on their new concrete foundations at the Museum site. The final phase (now in-progress) will be wiring the signals so that they can be illuminated, and display their various aspects.

The real prize here is Signal Number 112, which stood just before the Orange Street (Newark) crossing on the Inbound (to Public Service Terminal) track. Prior to 2001, Orange Street was the only “at grade” crossing on the original Newark City Subway.

At this point in time, we are not quite sure just where Signal No. 118 was located along the Newark City Subway right-of-way. Judging from how the numbers of the signals ran – (even numbers were on the Inbound track to Newark Penn Station, while odd numbers were on the Outbound track to the Franklin Ave. Loop) – No. 118 was probably located on the Inbound track somewhere beyond Orange St. station (but long before Park Ave, station) and alongside Branch Brook Park.

Keep in mind that the Subway was (and still is) in an underground tunnel (operating in what was the original bed of the former Morris Canal) from Newark Penn Station until it emerges into daylight (and all above-ground running) at the tunnel portal at Newark’s Warren Street, a short distance from Norfolk Street where we believe Signal No. 083 was originally located on the Outbound track. These three signals now join former Newark City Subway signal No.167, which had been previously restored and set up at Whippany in June 2022.

WRyM extends it’s sincere thanks and appreciation to Ken Miller and the Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center, as well as great thanks to Ron Titus and Bruce Brueche for providing their machines, time and assistance in helping WRyM transport these signals.