This railway line originally started out as the New York and New Orange Railroad in 1897. Chartered to run between Kenilworth and Summit, only 4 miles were completed between Kenilworth and Aldene. While built to serve local industries in New Orange (now part of Kenilworth), the industries ultimately failed, leaving the NY&NO with passenger service as its only source of revenue. Failing to make a profit, the NY&NO went into foreclosure and reorganized as the New Orange Four Junction Railroad in 1901.
Despite the interest of the Pennsylvania Railroad to acquire the line, desiring to extend it northwards to Summit, the New Orange Four Junction RR did not lay any more track and floundered as well. Moreover, the state of New Jersey chartered a second railroad, the Rahway Valley Railroad, to build between Kenilworth and Summit in 1904. Thus, with similar intentions, both the NOFJ and the RVRR consolidated in 1905.
The RVRR indeed fulfilled the charter and built to Summit in 1906. After being prosperous in World War I due to a nearby gunpowder factory (which saw both freight and passenger service), it struggled to make a profit over the next 20 years. Despite connecting to three different railroads (the Delarawe, Lackawanna and Western in Summit, and both the Lehigh Valley and the Central Railroad of New Jersey in Kenilworth), as cars and trucks started finding more prevalent use, traffic on the line declined. The formation of Conrail, which consolidated all three rail carriers that connected with the RVRR into just one, caused even more financial havoc. Ultimately, the RVRR was sold to the Delaware Ostego Corporation (a rail holding company) in 1986, who let the RVRR fall into an "out-of-service" condition.
Recently, the right-of-way has been the focus of some interest in reviving passenger transit, and in fact a small portion of the line was revived by the Morristown and Erie Railway to serve a sole customer, but this activity ended in 2012.