1990-2020 PRRH CELEBRATES 30 YEARS
Part 1 - The First Decade
On April 1st 1990 the Phillipsburg Railroad Historians was incorporated in the State of New Jersey as a 501c3 non-profit corporation to preserve the rich railroad history in the Phillipsburg area. Our founding President J Peter Terp was a member of other preservation groups, a well known local shop owner (Viking Auto Parts) and lifelong railfan. Other founding officers were Lester (Rocky) Rockafellow, Rick Young and Dave Griffith. Board / membership meetings were held in Pete's auto parts store on Sitgreaves Street.
An early priority was to locate and acquire property for a museum and any acquired rolling stock. Ted Merritt, owner of the Merritt Brickyard, indicated his willingness to donate to PRRH 5 acres that were once part of the PRR Kent yard. The property ran from the abandoned Lehigh Valley Railroad Delaware River bridge southward along the Bel Del to the south end of Delaware River Park. The property was narrow at the north end and widened out closer to the south end. Plans were made to clean up the property, much of which was overgrown with trees and weeds after years of neglect prior to it's abandonment by Conrail in 1982. The Town of Phillipsburg loaned us a bulldozer and two of our early volunteers (Al Vernon and Glenn Terminelli) proceeded to clear the area.
About the same time, Ingersoll-Rand decided to abandon their Phillipsburg plant railroad. Stored on that railroad were seven pieces of old Lehigh and Hudson River rolling stock and a GE 44 ton plant switcher. Many groups expressed an interest in obtaining this equipment but I-R decided it would be easier to donate it all to one organization and we were the lucky recipients. In March of 1991 we started moving the rolling stock from the Ingersoll property to the brickyard. We were also gifted rails from the I-R property so work began on that project as well.
1992 - Moving the Centerville and Southwestern Miniature Railroad
When the Becker Dairy Farm closed in 1972 most the Centerville and Southwestern Railroad was donated to Monmouth County NJ. The county had planned to set up the railroad in one of its parks but that never came to pass. By the early 90's Monmouth County was looking for another municipality to take possession of the railroad. Pete Terp discussed this with Phillipsburg City Council and they agreed to take possession of the railroad with the understanding that it would be moved at no cost to the town and the Phillipsburg Railroad Historians would store, maintain and operate it.
In the early summer of 1992 with the donated help from Easton Foam, who provided trucks and foam, and several trips with a flatbed owned by member Glenn Terminelli, the Centerville and Southwestern was moved out of storage in Monmouth County to temporary storage on farms in Bloomsbury and Pohatcong Township.
1992 also saw work in the brickyard property to stabilize the condition on our newly acquired collection and stockpiling rail we acquired from various locations.
A highlight of the year was the operation of the Centerville and Southwestern on a short length of track in Walters Park as part of the annual Ole Town Fest. This was the first time the equipment was run since it ceased operation on the Becker Dairy Farm in 1972. A few weeks later the same short C&S set up was operated in Ringos for the Black River's Railroad days.
1993 A new location to store equipment.
In 1993 we leased a firehouse that was no longer in use on Chambers Street from the City of Phillipsburg. Much of the Centerville and Southwestern rolling stock and engines were moved into storage there.
1994 - Back to the drawing board!
After much time and effort was put into clearing the brickyard property and moving equipment and rails there, a downturn in the economy made it financially impossible for Ted Merritt to donate the land to us. Pete Terp took a look at a town tax map and determined that the land that was once the Central Railroad of New Jersey Phillipsburg Yard was now owned by the Town of Phillipsburg. Once again Pete went to the city, this time looking for a lease.
1995 - Clean up part deux.
With a firm lease in hand work began yet again to clear years worth of growth, the land was was a jungle. The building we now use as a museum was barely visible behind the trees, vines and vegetation.
1996 - 1997 Let's build a couple railroads
1996 saw a flurry of work at our new site. The land was graded and ballast laid down for both standard gauge and C & S scale track. Ties and rail were brought over from the brickyard and work commenced laying ties and track.
In April of 1997, after 7 years of hard work (and a set back) the volunteers finally had achieved a small part of the goal. Some of the Centerville and Southwestern Railroad was moved to the new site and operated over a short section of track. Even Mayor Corcoran came to help celebrate the occasion and take a ride.
1998 A heavy move and a parade.
Work continued laying ties and ballast. The last piece of our collection remaining in the brickyard (GE 44 ton engine) was moved to our new site with the help of the NJ National Guard and one of their heavy duty trailers designed to move tanks.
Also in 1998, as a way to announce the arrival of the Centerville and Southwestern Railroad, we loaded up a few of pieces of equipment on Glenn Terminelli's flatbed trailer and participated in the annual Phillipsburg / Easton Halloween Parade.
The museum building got a coat of paint and the Centerville and Southwestern Ticket Office was moved to the property and put into place. The first phase of the C&S track realignment was completed. This moves the C&S to the south side of the museum building allowing another full size track to be laid next to the north side of the museum.
1999 The wall and a future carshop.
The first project of 1999 was nicknamed "the Great Wall Project." The land on the south side of the museum building fell off steeply to the street. To be able to route the C&S along that side a retaining wall had to be built and fill brought in. Once again member Glenn Terminelli provided his flatbed to move the blocks from Easton.
Full size track work continued throughout the year. Grading and site work began in the fall in preparation for construction of the engine house.
Our next page looking back at the second ten years of PRRH will be coming soon.