Whippany (NJ) Railway Museum

Whippany (NJ) Railway Museum

As a child, I remember reading a fairy tale entitled, “Seven-League Boots” and being utterly fascinated by it. The premise was that if one were to wear such boots, one could travel seven leagues in a single bound. Clearly, the story was told before our time, when the idea of rapid transit was but a fantasy. The memory of that idea, however, would persist and, blessed by the power of human commitment, would, over time, evolve to produce the realization of cars, trains, and air (and space) travel.

There is no doubt that railways played an important role in the development of our nation. There is also a huge romantic component which is still evident today as the mere mention of the names of the great railway companies continues to inspire awe in those of us who still celebrate successful shuttle launches, historic feats on battlefields and the election victories of great men who would go on to lead our nation to its present position as one of the world’s great powers. This parabolic rise in America’s fortunes can in no small part be attributed to the role played by its railroads.

As a child, I had always had an electric train in my arsenal of toys. My paternal grandfather was an engineer for the SBB (the Swiss National Railroad). At my insistence, he would often take me down to the switching yards to watch the trains maneuver ever so gracefully over a virtual scrabble of rails and switches. At one time I knew more about rolling stock than I knew about my school mates or even the members of my own family. There have been several instances when I’ve been on a train knowing that my beloved grandfather was up front at the controls.

For those of us living in the New York Metropolitan area, there’s now an alternative to going all the way down to Strasburg’s heritage Railroad Museum (of Pennsylvania) to delve into (U.S.) railroad history. In fact, in the late 1920’s, early 1930’s all the innovative railway action was precisely up here in our neck of the woods as Thomas A. Edison – resident of West Orange, NJ – took the lead in successfully introducing electrification to our very own Lackawanna commuter lines.

The Whippany Railway Museum is located right here in our own backyard among a maze of major highways and is therefore easily accessible. Officially it’s only open Sunday’s 12–4, April through October, but you can go there and nose around any time. I myself have never visited there during ‘official’ hours. It’s mostly outdoors; and anyone can park near-by and walk over to the tracks where the great locomotives and passenger cars stand silently waiting for some signal that would return them to service.

It’s a great place to take pictures of these ancient beasts that clearly have weathered so many seasons. There are always cars in the process of being re-painted, their once proud logos infused with fresh color. It really does send a shiver up one’s spine to walk among the old sleepers, the dining cars, the great engines and cabooses; tangible symbols of an exciting, but now by-gone era. 

Just as cheap oil has made railroads into an afterthought; expensive oil may yet bring them back. Any nation must have an efficient way to move its people and its goods. Clearly, we now stand on the cusp about what to do when running our cars and trucks becomes prohibitively expensive. Perhaps a revived rail system will become a part of the solution. As such, the Whippany Railway Museum may not only afford us a glimpse into the past but may also show us what could still lie ahead.

For directions, fees, schedules and events consult their website: www.whippanyrailwaymuseum.net

Peter Koelliker pkoelliker8@yahoo.com

Whippany RR Museum photo attachment # 1 Whippany RR Museum photo attachment# 2
1. American Locomotive Company 1. Chipped Paint
2. Blue (Royal Rail) 2. Club Car (Kitchi Gammi)
3. Dry dock (Morristown) 3. Crane
4. Locked Center 4. Eastern
5. Water Tank 5. Lackawanna
6. Ticket Office 6. Whippany Board
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