The The Raritan River Rail Road Historical Society, Inc. is an incorporated organization founded in November of 2011 by members of the Raritan River Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which was formed in January 2011 by former railfans and history buffs, former employees, and local residents, who were all interested in preserving the history and legacy of the Raritan River Railroad (RRRR). Membership in the organization is open to anyone interested.
Since 2001, after many years of getting together at informal and unofficial gatherings, a core group of people with an interest in the Raritan River Railroad decided to officially organize, first as a Chapter of the National Railroad Historical Society (NRHS) and then as a non-profit corporation specifically dedicated to preserving the artifacts and history of the Railroad.
Working in cooperation with the local town based historical societies, such as the Milltown Historical Society (MHS), we help research, document and disseminate historical information about the RRRR, which operated in Central New Jersey from 1888 to 1980. The Railroad had a big impact and helped shape many of the towns along its line, bringing passengers and freight to the many towns and industries that located in the area. The line was very small, being just 12 miles in length, but had a very profitable and important role in the local area. Even in its later years, when the larger railroads were going bankrupt, the little Raritan River continued to remain profitable, until eventually being forced into Conrail in 1980.
Starting about 2001, a local group of residents, railfans and local historians started to meet regularly, to discuss the RRRR and to research and document what became of it. This lead to more and more gatherings, which opened the door to meeting former employees, discovering lost documentation, and the discovery of former rolling stock, such as engines, boxcars, and cabooses, all which miraculously survived and were never scrapped. Even the last Freight Station, built just before World War I, sits empty on private property. Since there is no current museum or local historical society specifically dedicated to preserving these artifacts, they remain scattered and undocumented in local or private collections. This was our motivation to organize.
Our official organization has given official credibility to the group and its activities. While there were a few other historical societies in the area, none had a focus specifically on the RRRR. This focus has allowed us to be recognized and contacted for all things related to the Raritan River.
Presently, we are working diligently with the Milltown Historical Society to obtain and move the last surviving Freight Station of the RRRR. The station is currently privately owned and sits on private, but valuable property. The owner has expressed an interest to sell the building to the town of Milltown, NJ, for one dollar, as long as we can move it off his property. Working with Middlesex County, we have approval to relocate the station to county Open Space property across the street.
Once we obtain our official non-profit status, our organization will be able to research and obtain grants from many other Railroad Historical Societies (such as the United Railway Historical Society and the National Railway Historical Society), clubs (such as Amherst Railway Society, Inc), county and state of NJ resources, to assist in our desire to move and restore the Milltown Freight Station.
Over the years many of our colleagues and members have amassed large collections of railroad memorabilia from the RRRR. This memorabilia would be protected and preserved in an official collection, managed by the Raritan River Rail Road Historical Society, Inc. Our goal would be to collect and preserve, restore, and display much of the memorabilia that exists today, possibly opening a museum to display and store the artifacts.
Today, some of our members are the keepers of the official operating documents from the line. These documents include timetables, financial statements, tonnage reports, accident reports, official company photos, official company maps, and board of director reports. It is our plan that the non-profit society take ownership of these (and many more) documents, to set up safe and climate controlled storage, restore, and to display them and use them for research as needed and requested.
Recently, we were able to work with the local cable company in East Brunswick, NJ, EBTV, to document and film the Milltown Freight Station, as well as discuss the history of the line. This video is now online and frequently watched, as there are very few videos of the line, and no video history ever recorded. One of our projects as the Raritan River Rail Road Historical Society, Inc would be to continue to work with our local cable companies and other larger Cable Networks, (such as the History Channel) to script and record an official video history of the line.
We have started the process to put together hundreds of photographs to compile into a Pictorial History of the line. We have contacted the Images of America series, and continue to work towards getting that book published. There is but one book about the RRRR ever published, and since that time, new information has been discovered and researched, so our plans also include researching and writing an updated history of the line.
There were many Silent Movies recorded on the RRRR in the early 1910s, which at times used stations and rolling stock from the line. The Sayreville Historical Society has worked to obtain and restore one of these movies. We would like to continue the goal of researching and restoring these movies, if they can still be found.
Bigger long term goals are be to research, obtain, and restore, and bring back to Milltown some of the remaining Cabooses, Boxcars, and the one Engine that still exists today in private collections.
The Raritan River Rail Road Historical Society, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization, having no paid staff. Funding is provided by member contributions, and donations from the general public. Future sources would include grants from government and from other nonprofit organizations. Revenue currently averages $500 annually, all of which is allocated to operations. The organization has no investments or hard assets at this time. For the purposes of this application, the RRRRHS’ activities are summarized below, with estimated percentages of resource (cost and volunteers’ time) allocation.
45% – Volunteer services (general maintenance, building restoration, fund raising)
25% – Research of historical and cultural information
15% – Administration (meetings, correspondence, accounting, records keeping)
5% – Web site (webmaster functions, content, email)
5% – Authoring, printing and distributing articles for free distribution to the public
5% – Annual meeting and other membership events
It is our expectation that we would be granted official non-profit status as a historical and educational association, a charitable organization as a public charity under tax code 509(a)2, similar to the Jersey Central Railway Historical Society, Clark, New Jersey, EIN: 22-2295956. Under the premise that the Raritan River Rail Road Historical Society, Inc will not receive more than one third of our support from gross investment income and unrelated business income and at the same time more than one third of our support from contributions, fees, and gross receipts related to exempt purposes.