Learn About The History Of Fanwood NJ

The History of Fanwood: The Old Train Station

It's 6:15 on a Tuesday evening in Fanwood, NJ. A steady stream of people file out of the NJ Transit train arriving from New York and Newark. Women and men of all ages wearing backpacks, carrying bags, talking on their phones, listening to iPods and fishing in their pockets for car keys are making their way home after their workday commute. They climb the stairs of the walkway bridge that crosses them safely over the railroad tracks. Cars pull in and out of the parking lots on both sides. This all happens in the quiet presence of the oldest train station in Union County.

Built in 1874 by the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ), the train station stands in it's original location. It was designed in the Carpenter Gothic style which was popular in North America in the late nineteenth century. It had elements of Gothic Revival in the pointed arch windows and decorative finials. Other train stations in Branchport, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy and Asbury Park were built similar to the Fanwood Station's design but the buildings are no longer standing. The station at Red Bank has been restored and the one in Matawan stands but not in the original form.

The current and long standing location of the Fanwood Train Station was not that of the first railroad line that passed through the area. In the 1830's the Elizabeth and Somerville Railroad were developing a rail line that connected the coal mines of Pennsylvania and New York. At the time, the trains were not powerful enough to climb the hill in the south that exists in what is now Fanwood. Therefore, the railroad ran further north along what is now Midway Avenue. A station was built on Martine Avenue where it intersected with the railroad and was named Scotch Plains Station.

But it was not meant to be. The Elizabeth and Somerville Railroad went bankrupt in 1847. The railroad was reorganized under the Central Railroad of New Jersey. It's development of the line redirected it from the Midway Avenue location and brought it to were it is located today. The Fanwood Train Station was built and the rest is history.

The building stands two stories tall (with a third floor attic space) is yellow with trims and posts painted with dark colors. It has born witness to many changes in the area throughout the years. Remember that the original trains were not even powerful enough to get through the area, now the speeding trains come through almost every hour. Cars of all makes and models line the parking lots on both sides, where in times long passed, horses and buggies would have been the mode of transportation.

Yet the station building has remained, a testament to the history of Fanwood. It is fitting then, that it currently houses the Fanwood Museum which is open for the public on the first Sunday of every month during the hours of 2-4. The building also serves as a meeting place for the Fanwood Historic Preservation Commission, a group that was formed in order to assist the Borough of Fanwood in identifying what is of historic significance and advising on historic preservation.