NJ Transportation Heritage Festival 2012

By Frank Reilly, President, United RR Historical Society of NJ

This first of its kind event was held on Sunday, September 16 at the United Railroad Historical Society’s rail restoration and storage facility in Boonton. It was a huge success and the attendance was much larger than ever expected. Approximately 2,400 to 2,500 or more people attended, which was attributed to two factors; excellent weather (one of the 10 best days of the year) and extensive publicity.

Everyone who attended was delighted with the event, which included displays of electric and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, an NS locomotive and caboose, a “Friends” NJ Public Service bus, vintage military trucks and jeeps, vintage trucks, a magnificently restored and operating carousal full band organ, a model trolley car operating layout, several tables of railroadiana for sale by the URHS and URHS member groups, some antique automobiles.

Throughout the day there were several very well received 45 – 50 minute presentations by noted NJ railroad historians Bob Bahrs (the final days of the DL&W’s old electric mu’s), Mitch Dakelman (PRR’s movies on GG-1s and other vintage movies), Kathy Fisher (The Dam RR in Boonton – Rockaway River & Montville RR), Bill Greenburg (Morris County Traction Co.), Bill McKelvey (Rails along the Morris Canal and another on NJ’s street cars), and Frank Reilly (NJ’s railroads ca. 1950s & 1960s) as well as the on-going NJT Operation Lifesaver presentations by Grace Mancini-Introna. Operation Lifesaver gave out 600 pencils and 750 coloring books and other items.

The historical presentations were so popular that all seats were taken for each presentation and there were people standing around the sides and back of the room and out into the hallway! The local nature of the presentations were a big attraction!

Several hundred hamburgers and hot dogs plus drinks and sides were sold at reasonable prices and dining tables were set-up adjacent to the recently restored PRR GG-1 #4877. What a great place to have lunch!

Special presentations of appreciation were made by event chairman Pete Hasler to URHS Boonton rail yard volunteers Alan Bird, Larry Gross, and Phil Francis; to Boonton Mayor Cy Wekilsky; to John Sobotka (who heads the Toys for Tots trains in northern NJ each year), and to Bill McKelvey.

No admission was charged, but large donation jugs with donation signs were placed throughout the site. As people entered and departed they were channeled through a narrow area to assure they had to pass next to a donation jug and this worked very well. A raffle for a $50 Shop Rite gift card and one for a dinner for two at The Station at Mountain Lakes restaurant, a former Delaware, Lackawanna & Western RR station restaurant generated addition donations. Many guests made another donation as they left because they enjoyed the event so much!

Boonton Mayor Cy Wekilsky was very impressed with the huge number of attendees who patronized local businesses after our event. The URHS also received two $500 donations from two of generous volunteers after the event!

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