AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #75a -- Washington, DC to Boston, Massachusetts
Part 4 - Trenton to New York
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Wilmington to Trenton
New York to Bridgeport


166.5 TRENTON Transit Center, 72 S. Clinton Avenue.  Elevation approximately 29 ft.  Trenton is the county seat of Mercer County, and also the State Capital of New Jersey.  All AMTRAK trains which pass through this station make a stop here. The creek on the northwest side of the station (left if eastbound) is Assupink Creek.  The rocks in the walls of the creek are schist and gneiss of the Precambrian-Lower Cambrian aged Wissahickon Formation.

         Trenton is named after William Trent, a Philadelphia merchant, who originally called the town “Trent’s Town.”  Trent had purchased land from Mahlon Stacy, one of the original Quakers who settled the area in 1679.  Trenton was the original capital of the United States, when the Confederation Congress met here in 1784.  Northerners were in agreement with the choice of Trenton as the capital of the new nation; however, the southerners prevailed, and wanted a capital south of the Mason-Dixon Line; therefore, Washington DC became the ultimate choice for the national capital.  Trenton became the capital of New Jersey in 1790, and was incorporated in 1792.

          In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City opened, which brought fame to Trenton-based John A. Roebling’s Sons, who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, in addition to the George Washington and Golden Gate (California) Bridges, plus the Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio.  After the Civil War, Trenton was also the center of the American pottery industry.

          Trenton is the home of Cadwalader Park, named after Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, a pioneer in the use of preventative inoculation.  Trenton is also home of the New Jersey State Museum, Old Barracks Museum, Washington Crossing State Park, and the William Trent House.

         Geologically, we will be continue to follow the approximate boundary between the Piedmont Province and the Atlantic Coastal plain between here and New York.  Basically, the entire segment of the Piedmont Province in New Jersey is part of the Newark Basin, which is a part of the Piedmont Lowland.  The Newark Basin is a series of flat-floored faulted valleys underlain by red beds of Triassic and Jurassic age as well as Precambrian-aged metamorphic rocks.

167-168 Assunpink Creek is visible on the left (northbound).

169   The railroad is now following a thrust fault between older Precambrian gabbro on the left (northbound) and younger Late Precambrian-Early Cambrian Wissahickon Schist on the right.

171    Pass beneath Interstate 295.

172    Cross Assunpink Creek. We are now following a fault between the older Precambrian rocks on the right (northbound) and the Triassic-aged Stockton Formation on the left.

174.5 Cross Duck Pond Run.

176.5 PRINCETON JUNCTION AMTRAK station, 2 Wallace Circle.  Elevation approximately 82 ft.  The city of Princeton and Princeton University are reachable by connecting bus from this station.

         Princeton is best known as the home of Princeton University, where the likes of physicists Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer lived, taught, and studied.  Princeton was likely named after King William III, Prince William of Orange of the House of Nassau. In 1783, Nassau Hall at Princeton University briefly served as the United States Capitol.  Princeton University was originally the College of New Jersey, which was founded by Royal Charter in 1746 in Elizabeth.  It was later moved to Princeton and named Princeton University in 1896.

          On January 3, 1777, the Battle of Princeton took place here, in which General George Washington defeated the British Garrison of General Lord Cornwallis.

         Princeton was also the home of Peter Benchley of Jaws (movie) fame, Aaron Burr, V.P. under President Thomas Jefferson, country singer Mary-Chapin Carpenter, U.S. President Grover Cleveland, pollster George Gallup, Jr., author John O’Hara, actor Christopher Reeve, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and others.  Princeton is also the home of Bainbridge House, the birthplace of William Bainbridge, the Commander of the USS Constitution during the War of 1812.

177    Cross Millstone River and enter MIDDLESEX County, which was established on March 7, 1683.  It is the second most populous county in New Jersey, and the county seat is New Brunswick. The rail line here initially follows the boundary between the Cretaceous-aged sedimentary rocks of the Coastal Plain on the right (northbound) and the Triassic-aged Stockton Formation of the Newark Basin of the Piedmont Province on the left.

177.5-178 Pass through Plainsboro, which was originally settled by the Dutch in the 17th Century.  The township is believed to be named after an 18th Century Dutch tavern here known as “The Planes Tavern.”  In 1897, the Walker-Gordon Dairy Farm opened up, which, among many other things, contributed Elsie the Cow, possibly the most famous cow ever, and The Walker Gordon Diner, which has since been closed.  The site of the farm has been turned into a single-family home community called Walker-Gordon Farm, which consists of over 350 homes. Elsie the Cow is buried at the old Walker-Gordon Farm.

          During a road construction project in 1982, a 3700-year old archaeological site was discovered here.  More than 25,000 artifacts indicative of early settlement were recovered.

180    The wooded area on the right (northbound) was once an active gravel pit, dug into the Upper Cretaceous Raritan and Magothy Formations of the Coastal Plain.  All that is left of the quarrying operation is McCormack Lake.  This area is now part of the Plainsboro Preserve.

182-182.5 Pass through Monmouth Junction, home of the Red Maple Farm, also known as the Gulick House, which was built in 1740 by Joachim Gulick, who ran a stage line from here, and the home was also a stop on the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

184.5 Pass through Deans. We are traversing yet another faulted Jurassic-aged diabase sill.

187.5 Pass through Adams, a residential suburb of New Brunswick.

188   Pass beneath U.S. 1.  The bedrock which are traversing is the Upper Triassic-Lower Jurassic-aged Passaic Formation, which consists of siltstone, sandstone, and shale red beds marked by occasional thin beds of gray lake deposits, reflecting the periodic shifting of the area between a marine (underwater) and a land environment during the Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic periods (200 million years ago).

189    At approximately this point, we are crossing a small normal fault within the Upper Triassic-Lower Jurassic-aged Passaic Formation; however, the fault trace is not visible from the railroad.

191.5 NEW BRUNSWICK station, French & Albany Streets.  Elevation approximately 69 ft.  New Brunswick is the county seat of Middlesex County, and was first settled in 1681 when it was known as Prigmore’s Swamp, and was a ferry crossing on the Raritan River.  In 1714, the town became known as New Brunswick, and was named after the city of Braunschweig, Germany.  The name Braunschweig was spoken as “Brunswick” in the Low German language.  It was incorporated as a town in 1736 and as a city in 1784, and was always an important travel stop between New York and Philadelphia, even in Colonial times.  The Township Act of 1798 made New Brunswick into a town again.

         In 1766, the Queen’s College was founded here.  Classes were held through the American Revolution in various taverns and boarding houses, and at a building known as College Hall on George Street, until Old Queens was erected in 1808.  Queen’s College closed in 1810, and reopened in 1825 as Rutgers University, named after New York City financier Henry Rutgers, who donated $5000 to the school. The New Brunswick Theological Seminary, founded in 1784, moved to the Rutgers site in 1810.  In 1945, it became the State University of New Jersey.  Rutgers today is the largest Institute of Higher Education in New Jersey, and has 3 campuses in New Brunswick. The College Street campus is located just northwest of the AMTRAK station.

          At the turn of the 20th Century, New Brunswick attracted many Hungarian immigrants,. many of whom came to work for Johnson & Johnson, who is headquartered here.  New Brunswick hosts the annual Hungarian Festival in June each year.  New Brunswick also has the 14th highest number of Latino citizens in the State.  New Brunswick was the birthplace of poet Joyce Kilmer, best known for his poem “Trees,” and is also the home of actor Michael Douglas and NFL Great Joe Theismann.  The 1980’s sitcom Charles in Charge was set in New Brunswick.

          Other than Rutgers, New Brunswick is the home of the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, the Rutgers Geology Museum, the Bishop House, the Buccleuch Mansion, built in 1739, the William H. Johnson House, the World Headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, and the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

192   On the right (northbound) is the World Headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, a Fortune 500 company engaged in the manufacture of pharmaceutical and medical products, founded in 1885 by Robert Wood, James Wood, and Edward Mead Johnson.

         Cross the Raritan River here and enter Highland Park.  The Raritan River is a short stream in New Jersey, which enters into Raritan Bay a few miles east of here.  The Raritan was the pre-Ice Age course of the Hudson River in New York State.  Following the end of the last ice age, the Narrows between Staten Island and Brooklyn, New York, had not yet been formed and the Hudson flowed along the Watchung Mountains, northwest of here, to present-day Bound Brook, NJ, then followed the modern course of the Raritan east-ward into Lower New York Bay.  The river is named after the Raritan people, an Algonquian tribe that inhabited Staten Island, near the river's mouth.

          Highland Park was created on March 15, 1905, by the New Jersey Legislature.  It was named for its location above the Raritan River.  Highland Park was settled in the 17th Century by several European groups, and was an agricultural area.  The Reverend John Henry Livingston, newly chosen head of Queen's College (now Rutgers University), purchased a 150-acre plot of land in 1809, which would hereafter be known as the Livingston Manor.  The town is primarily a residential community now.  It is the home of the Livingston Manor Historic District.  Highland Park was the home of Earle Dickson, the inventor of the Band-Aid, as well as Robert Wood Johnson (see MP 192 above).

194.5 At this location, a “loop track” once existed, from which locomotives and trains could be shunted onto the loop on the left (northbound) to proceed around the loop track, cross above this line a mile head, then return to this line heading the opposite direction.  The loop track has been dismantled.

195    Papaianni Park and Lake Papaianni are visible on the right (northbound).

196   Pass beneath Interstate 287

197-198 Pass through Metuchen, which was named after a Native American Chief known as Matouchin or Matochshegan. It was originally part of Woodbridge Township, but the town was so far away from the town of Woodbridge that they formed their own identity.  On March 20, 1900, Metuchen was incorporated as a borough by the New Jersey Legislature.  In 1836, the New Jersey Railroad was completed to Metuchen, and the second half of the 19th Century was a period of social, cultural and religious diversification here.

          Magician David Copperfield is from Metuchen.

199-200 Pass through Menlo Park, whose most famous resident was Thomas Alva Edison, who moved here in 1876.  Edison was known as the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” and while he lived here and operated his laboratory, he invented the phonograph and the incandescent light bulb.  Edison also created the first Christmas holiday light display in the area.  In 1887, Edison moved his home and laboratory to East Orange. Menlo Park is the home of the Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower and Menlo Park Museum.

         We are currently traveling through Edison Township, which was also named after the inventor.

200    METROPARK station, 100 Middlesex-Essex Turnpike, Iselin, NJ.  Elevation approximately 69 ft.  The station was built in the 1960’s as a park-and-ride station for the Pennsylvania Railroad’s new high-speed Metroliner trains.  AMTRAK service began here on November 7, 1971. Along with the AMTRAK Northeast Corridor, Metropark is also a station stop for New Jersey Transit commuter trains.

         Iselin is named after 1870’s investment banker Adrian Georg Iselin, who established a finishing school here for wealthy New York girls. The community was previously known as Perrytown and Unionville.  The part of Iselin adjacent to the train station is actually known as Metropark, and consists primarily of office parks and large officer buildings.

         Upon departure from Metropark, we cross the Garden State Parkway.  Bedrock here is the Upper Jurassic—Lower Triassic-aged Passaic Formation.

202.5 Enter UNION County and City of Rahway.  Union County was created on March 19, 1857, from parts of Essex County. It was the last of New Jersey’s counties to be established, and the county seat is Elizabeth.  It is the 3rd most densely populated county in the State, and 15th most densely populated in the nation.

          Rahway was likely named after Rahwack, a local Indian chief.  European settlers began arriving in the area in the 1660’s, and in January, 1777, the American rebels were victorious over the British at the Battle of Spanktown, during the American Revolution.  George Washington passed through Rahway prior to his inauguration in 1789.  Rahway became incorporated on April 19, 1858. 

         Rahway is the home of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Company, founded by George W. Merck.  Rahway was also the home of astronomer Carl Sagan and economist Milton F. Friedman.

204    Cross Rahway River.  Before the Pleistocene Ice Age glaciation, the Raritan River flowed through this stream valley, instead of flowing west and south through New Brunswick.

206-207 Pass through Linden, named after its many linden trees which were imported from Germany.  Linden was  originally formed as a township on March 4, 1861, from portions of Elizabeth, Rahway and Union Township.  Linden was incorporated as a city by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on January 1, 1925, replacing both Linden Township and Linden Borough, based on the results of a referendum held on November 8, 1923.  Actor Hal Linden, of television’s Barney Miller fame, was born Harold Lipschitz, but based his stage name after this city, when he passed the water tower in town reading “Linden” on a trip from New York to Philadelphia.

         We are now traversing an area in which there are very few bedrock exposures, as we have now entered the glaciated portion of New Jersey, which was covered by large continental ice sheets during the Pleistocene Ice Age.

207-210 Pass through Elizabeth, the county seat of Union County and New Jersey’s 4th largest city.  It was founded in 1664 by English settlers, and originally named Elizabethtown, after the wife of Sir George Carteret, one of the original proprietors of the Colony of New Jersey.  Elizabeth was the first capital of New Jersey.  The city was created on March 13, 1855, by the New Jersey legislature  In 1746, the College of New Jersey was established here, which later moved to Princeton as Princeton University (see MP 176.5 above).  The first major industry in Elizabeth was the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and in 1895, the Electric Carriage and Wagon Company was founded, and manufactured an early car known as the Electrobat.

          On September 18, 2016, a backpack holding five bombs was discovered outside NJ Transit's Elizabeth train station.  One bomb detonated accidentally when a bomb squad robot failed to disarm the contents of the backpack; no one was hurt.  Police were initially unsure if this event was related to bombs in Seaside Park, New Jersey and Manhattan that had exploded the previous day.  On September 19, police arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old Afghan-born naturalized U.S. citizen, for questioning in connection with all three incidents.

         Elizabeth was the home of Admiral William “Bull” Halsey of World War II fame, both Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, John Phillip Holland, maker of the first successful submarine purchased by the U.S. Navy, Gen. Winfield Scott, the 1852 Whig candidate for U.S. President, novelist Mickey Spillane, and actor Thomas Mitchell, best known for playing the bumbling “Uncle Billy” in the Liberty Films movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

211    Enter ESSEX County, named after Essex County, England.  The county is New Jersey’s 3rd most populous county, and was originally formed as one of the 4 administrative districts in the Province of East Jersey, in 1675. The county was created in its present form on March 7, 1683.  The county seat is Newark.

212    NEWARK-LIBERTY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT rail station.  Elevation about 10.  From the station, monorail lines connect passengers to terminals at Liberty International Airport, adjacent to the station.  Liberty Airport was the first commercial municipal airport in the nation.  In addition to some AMTRAK trains, New Jersey Transit commuter trains also stop here.  The station is owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and opened on October 21, 2001.  There are no parking areas, bus docks, waiting or drop off areas here.

         Pass beneath Interstate 78 just north of the station.

213    Enter City of Newark

215    NEWARK Penn Station, 1 Raymond Plaza West.  Elevation approximately 27 ft.  Newark is the county seat of Essex County, and is the largest city in New Jersey.  Newark was founded in 1666 by Puritans from the New Haven Colony of Connecticut, led by Robert Treat.  The settlement was named after Newark-on-Trent, England.  On February 21, 1798, Newark was incorporated as a township by the New Jersey legislature.  It was not incorporated as a city until April 11, 1836.

         The city saw tremendous industrial and population growth during the 19th Century and early 20th Century, and experienced racial tension and urban decline in the second half of the 20th Century, culminating in the 1967 Newark race riots.

         Newark’s midtown area is the home of the Newark campus of Rutgers University, as well as Seton Hall Law School, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Essex County College.  In Newark’s Military Park are the “Wars of America” monument sculpted by Gutzon Borglum, who also sculpted Mount Rushmore, and a bust of President John F. Kennedy.,  Newark is also the home of the Newark Museum, New Jersey Historical Society, and Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

          Newark is also the home of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, the Portugal Day Festival, the McDonald’s Gospelfest, and the Lincoln Park Music Festival.  Many of the scenes from the HBO television seriesThe Sopranos were filmed in Newark, and the 2012 season of America’s Got Talent was also filmed here.

         Newark was the home of author Stephen Crane, rapper Ice-T, comedian Jerry Lewis, actor Joe Peschi, actress Keshia Knight-Pulliam of Cosby fame, actresses Queen Latifah and Eva Marie-Saint, as well as singers Connie Francis, Gloria Gaynor, Whitney Houston, Frankie Valli, and Sarah Vaughan.  Newark is also the home of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the home of former NBA Great Shaquille O’Neal.

          Upon departure from the Newark station, cross the Passaic River and enter HUDSON County.  The Passaic is an 80-mile long river which begins in the mountains of western New Jersey, and follows a circuitous course toward Newark Bay.  The river formed at the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age, as it flowed from the large Glacial Lake Passaic, located west of here.  The original course was different than the modern course, as glacial ice blocked the original outlet.  As the glaciers began to melt and recede north, the lake level in Glacial Lake Passaic rose, and a new outlet was naturally created for the Passaic River.  Prior to European colonialization along the Passaic in the late 17th Century, the valley was the territory of the Lenape groups now known as the Acquackanonk and Hackensack, who used the river for fishing.  To that end, they built weirs, or overflow dams, to create pools where the fish could be trapped.  Many of these archeological sites are still present and, in some cases, in good condition.

          Both the Passaic and the Hackensack Rivers (see MP 218.5 below) have become heavily polluted in recent years, due to the extensive industrial areas along their shore, especially here in the New Jersey Meadowlands, a large system of wetlands, which was formerly a large area of Atlantic white cedar growth, before European settlement of the area.

          Hudson County is the last county we will pass through in New Jersey.  It was named after explorer Henry Hudson, who is also the namesake of the river which separates Hudson County from New York City.  Hudson County is the 4th most populous, and fastest growing county in New Jersey.  Jersey City is the county seat.

          The area was originally inhabited by the Lenape Indians. Hudson County was created on February 21, 1798, by the New Jersey State Legislature.

215.5 Pass through Harrison, named after President William Henry Harrison.  The area that is now Harrison was a part of a charter granted to Captain William Sandford of the Barbados. Sandford sent his nephew, Major Nathanial Kingsland, to enter into an agreement for the purchase the land from the Unami Native Americans, a branch of the Leni Lenape Indians.  Harrison Township was established on April 13, 1840, in the new county of Hudson. Harrison was incorporated on March 25, 1869, replacing the previously-created townships of Harrison, Kearny, and Union.  At that time, due to its industrial development, Harrison was known as “the Beehive of Industry.”  The town is now transitioning from a manufacturing center to a residential and services center.

          The railroad is paralleling Interstate 280 on the left (northbound).

217    Pass beneath Interstate 95, the New Jersey Turnpike.

218.5 Cross Hackensack River, whose source is north of here, past the New Jersey Palisades.  The name of the river is from the Lenape Indian word Ackingsahsack, which means “flat confluence of streams” or “stony ground.”  Like the nearby Passaic River (see MP 215 above), the Hackensack has been extensively polluted by industrial waste; however, in recent years, it has seen a modest revival.

         We are continuing to cross the New Jersey Meadowlands.

219    On the left (northbound) is Laurel Hill, a Jurassic-aged diabase sill, which is likely connected to a much larger regional formation north of here, known as the Palisades Sill.  We will not be seeing the Palisades Sill from this route.  Laurel Hill has been extensively quarried through the years, for crushed stone. It was formerly a location for several TB sanitariums, contagious disease hospitals, and penitentiaries.  In the 1970’s, the Hudson County leased much of the hill for Laurel Hill Park.  Unusual and museum-quality rock specimens have been recovered from the hill, including a new mineral known as Petersite, collected in 1982.

          On the right (northbound) is a smaller hill known as Little Snake Hill, which is part of the same Jurassic-aged diabase sill. (Laurel Hill was originally known as Snake Hill).

          The New Jersey Turnpike is adjacent to the railroad on the left (northbound) here.

221.5 Enter Pennsylvania Railroad Tunnel and pass beneath Weehawken.  The hill we are passing through is composed of Jurassic-aged diabase.  The name Weehawken is based on an Algonquian Indian name which means either “maize land,” “place of gulls,” or “rocks that look like trees.”  Weehawken’s history dates back to 1609, when Henry Hudson sailed down the North River (now known as the Hudson River) to Weehawken Cove.  In 1630, European settlers had begun coming to the Province of New Netherland, which was ceded to the British in 1674 and became part of East Jersey.  During the American Revolution, the heights here were used as lookout positions by the Patriots.  On March 15, 1859, Weehawken Township was formed by the New Jersey legislature.  The bluffs above the Hudson River were the site of the famous duel between General Alexander Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr, on July 11, 1804.  Hamilton was fatally wounded in the duel, and died the following day.

         Weehawken was the home of actor/dancer Fred Astaire, jazz pianist Thelonius Monk, Kate Pierson, a founding member of the rock group The B-52’s, and statesman Daniel Webster.

223.5 We are now beneath the Hudson River and entering New York City.  The rocks we are boring through here are metamorphic schists and gneisses of Ordovician age, known as the Manhattan Formation.

224   Emerge from railroad tunnel and pass through the Hudson Yards.  We will be passing beneath New York City buildings again here momentarily, and will be underground until Penn Station.

224.5 NEW YORK Penn Station, 8th Avenue & W. 31st Street.  This is the terminus of this route.  All AMTRAK trains which pass through this station make a stop here.  Elevation approximately 38 (ground level).  Penn Station is located in the center of mid-town Manhattan near the financial district, and directly beneath Madison Square Garden.  As you detrain, you will take an escalator up into the station, where you will be within walking distance of many of the mid-town attractions, including Times Square, Herold Square, and the Empire State Building.

         New York is the largest city in the United States, and consists of 5 boroughs – Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.  The boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn are located on Long Island.

         What we now know as New York was originally inhabited by the Algonquian and Iroquois Native American groups.  The first European to visit the area was Italian Giovanni de Verrazano, in 1524.  In 1609, Henry Hudson explored what is now the river which was named after him.  In 1624, the Dutch West India Company established a colony known then as New Netherlands, and a Dutch trading post known as New Amsterdam was established on the southern tip of what is now Manhattan Island.  In 1674, the settlement was ceded to the English and renamed New York, after the Duke of York, who later became King George II.

         New York is today the financial and commercial center of the country, as well as the nation’s largest city, with an average population density of 23,300 people per square mile!  More than 17% of the City is devoted to parks and recreational areas., including 880-acre Central Park.

                                                                                               New York is the headquarters city of many major corporations, and much domestic and international trade is conducted in the City. New York’s port and transportation facilities are part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the city contains 2 international airports, Kennedy Airport, and La Guardia Airport, both located in the borough of Queens.