Freehold to Matawan

The Freehold Branch

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This is where the Freehold Branch came off of NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line in Matawan, NJ. Photo by Eric Kreszl, February 2009.

It is not known when this 12-mile line was built, but it does appear in an 1895 railroad map, being owned even then by the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ). It had a connection at both ends: In Freehold, to the south, the line connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad; to the north at Matawan, it connected with the New Yok and Long Branch Railroad. The line saw both passenger and freight service; passenger service was discontinued in 1954.

Freight service continued for a while. In 1975, as a result of the Conrail merger, the US Railway Association omitted the line from Conrail's service area, leaving no one to operate the line. However, freight service continued undeterred due to subsidiaries made available by local programs. In 1977, the state of New Jersey purchased the line and contracted Conrail to serve the line.

The line was finally last abandoned in 1983. The state, which still owned the right-of-way, began to see other opportunities for the line: the communities of Freehold and those to the south were burgeoning, and a commuter line along the Freehold Branch was considered more than once as a means of mass transportation. However, each attempt to re-open the line has met fierce opposition from towns along the right-of-way.

Today, some bridges and tracks remain, but there seems to be no interest in reviving the Freehold Branch anymore.

Stations along the line:

MPStation
0.00Freehold (connection with PRR)
1.87East Freehold
4.12Malboro
5.62Bradevelt
6.79Wickatunk
8.85Morganville
10.45Freneau
11.60Mohingson Junction
12.09Matawan (connection with NY&LB)

Track charts for Freehold Branch:

I had lived in NJ from the early 1970's to the late 1980's and crossed over these tracks by car many times throughout many different towns and cities. I have found many old maps of "The Railroads of NJ" on the internet (some at http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu). I have found an 1873 map showing this line as the "Monmouth County Agriculture RR". I have found another map from 1887 calling it the "Freehold and New York R.Way" and I have found undated maps calling it "NJ Central" and "Central RR of NJ".

Richie C
West Palm Beach, FL
7/12/2009

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I grew up in Freehold, NJ, and my grandfather, Frank L. Witman, was the station master of the CNJ station. It was sad to see all of the rail service stopped, due to the "Nimby's" along the right-of-way. This is one time the state had more foresight than the residents.

F. Logan Witman
Ft. Myers, FL
11/9/2009

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In Marlboro the township has a sign encouraging residents to use public transit yet the town council condemns reactivation of the rail line. This is a north-south route and the only one that makes sense since it's the most direct route to north Jersey/NYC.

Mark
Marlboro, NJ
3/3/2010

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The line is currently serving as a rail trail, though usage has been reportedly slim. The trail has also been closed since 9/09 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Hudson_Trail) for a super fund clean up at the site of the former Imperial Oil Company. A very ill-conceived rail trail, mainly to please the wealthy constiuents in Marlboro.

Paco
Phoenixville, PA
6/10/2010

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This line was another case of NJ govt waste of taxpayer dollars. The state built a bridge for this line over route 18 and the tracks were already abandoned. PS...commuter lines add to property values. Look at the North Jersey Coast Line...Boonton Line...all through really wealthy communities...not I can't afford to live anywhere else communities.

Will
freehold,nj
6/23/2014

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The Freehold and New York Railway existed in 1881, when William H. Heyer was Agent. Monmouth County Archives has an invoice for 4 berry shipments from McCue to Hartshorne in July and August.

George Joynson
Holmdel, NJ
9/27/2014

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I've lived in freehold all my life. The railroad actually goes all the way west to Jamesburg, NJ, and the train does come into town every once in a while. It's always headed by either a CSX or NS SD40-2 and serves the local Builders' General (lumber) and the Prestone anti-freeze factory (Kozloski Road, Freehold Township). It is completely abandoned east of the Prestone factory, but is used in the section by what used to be the 84 Lumber yard, but is now Brick Recycling, across from the Collingswood flea-market.

Alex Earhart
Freehold, NJ
12/27/2014

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Actually, the trail seems to be doing okay now. The cleanup was successful (and it's no longer polluting the local waterway, which is good). Besides, vegetation removal is a huge pain in the ass, and the lease as a trail is only good until 2020. If it doesn't renew, they'll rip up and recycle the asphalt in a heartbeat and presumably build the railway if there's sufficient interest. NJT still owns the land.

Joel
Wilmington, DE
1/6/2015

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It is a shame no one took an interest in the former station at Freneau and who it was named for. Also a shame to confuse this with the Sea Girt - Jamestown route. I grew up in Long Branch -- in 47 & 48, worked at Red Bank & MR Towers.

John Simpson
Livingston, TX
3/2/2015

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I am a retired NJ Prof. Land Surveyor and have authored a book titled "Surveyors and Mappers of Monmouth County New Jersey 1851 to 1900" Chapter twelve deals with all the railroads including corporate filings with the Secretary of State, records at the State Archives of New Jersey. Railroad map included in Appendix B on CD. Book may be purchased from the New Jersey Society of Professional Surveyors www.njspls.org .

Robert F Kunes
Port Richey, FL
9/9/2015

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"Back in the day" of railroads not only did Freehold used to have two rail roads, it had two passenger stations so there may be some confusion over names here.

"Monmouth County Agriculture RR" (thanks Richie C) and now the Henry Hudson Trail: The abandoned north/south tracks featured on this page. Freehold used to have a very large Karagheusian rug mill for it's time at 40.260591,-74.268364. The nearby passenger station at or about 40.261894,-74.266898 was very popular with employees of the mill.

Freehold and Jamesburg Agricultural Railroad (now Freehold Secondary Line): current east/west line through Freehold is lightly active. The sidings by now Builders' General lumber yard are the primary destinations, with some trains going further down the line to Farmingdale. But in the spirit of Abandoned Rails, the track becomes abandoned for awhile at 40.237972,-74.242222. The passenger station at 40.259314,-74.276432 is now the "Freehold Center" bus station.

There used to be a huge Brakeley (Brakely) cannery for it's time off of Bowne Ave at 40.260031,-74.285310 that drew a lot of rail traffic. The buildings were horridly dilapidated in the late 1990s and replaced with something different. This track has been abandoned longest and was a siding from somewhere near Builders' General. You can see hints of the spur from Google Satellite View at 40.262970,-74.285728. Suspect the spur was paved over until they leave the lumber yard, after which they were pulled up.

Tip: stick a "https://www.google.com/maps/place/" before the coordinates and Google Maps will take you there.

Gilbert H
Freehold, NJ
8/8/2016

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