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Capsule history and photographs

Prototype Notes

Contact Information


Capsule History of the Atlantic and Hibernia Railroad.


The Atlantic and Hibernia was conceived in the mid 1830's to fill a gap in New Jersey's growing railroad map. Two of the region's most important cities, Paterson and Morristown, were being linked to tidewater by different railways. Paterson had the Paterson and Hudson River Railroad running to what would become Jersey City, while Morristown had the Morris and Essex running to Newark.


It was not easy to move freight between the two towns by the Morris Canal. The canal ran several miles north of Morristown and using it first required a wagon trip to Rockaway. At the other end of the journey there were other problems. The Morris Canal did not enter Paterson, but skirted the side of Garrett Mountain above the city. Dock facilities were limited and all freight had to be lifted up to the level of the canal. Furthermore the slow canal boats found few passengers and every winter there was the inevitable interruption of navigation.


The Atlantic and Hibernia was chartered in 1836 to "build from Paterson via the Great Meadows and to the south of Hook Mountain to the vicinity of Morristown." This stipulation came from canal interests who wanted to keep the railroad away from the iron furnaces at Pompton and Boonton. The Morris and Essex supported this restriction as they were planning to build into Boonton and two years later would receive a charter for that purpose.(1) Thus the route selected utilized the relatively flat ground through Caldwell, Fairfield, and Parsippany.(2)



One of the railroadıs grasshopper type engines with a passenger train.

The building in the background is an early New Jersey college.


If the middle of the route was easy, the start was not. The railroad's main challenge was to build up the side of the trap rock escarpments that formed the western boundary of Paterson. Eventually the engineers created a wide curve to the west and north of Paterson gradually working up the escarpment until reaching the level of the Passaic River.(3) But such grand designs had to wait.


Construction funds were limited by the Panic of 1837 and the railroad had to begin above the city near the Great Falls Hotel. Passengers endured a hair raising ride up the mountain on a stagecoach. There they could refresh themselves at the hotel before boarding the primitive passenger cars.


Once the railroad reached Morristown the tracks were quickly extended into the rich iron mining region north and west of the city. The portion of this region known as Hibernia gave the railroad its name and contained several important mines.(4) Meanwhile tracks reached across Paterson to Acquackanonk and the navigable portions of the Passaic River.(5) By 1842 the railroad was essentially completed.


The first locomotive on the railroad was a 4-2-0 similar to the Experiment of Jervis. This engine was a total failure and only ran briefly.(6) More motive power came with an 0-4-0 similar to the one used on the Mohawk and Albany but mechanical problems also limited the career of this locomotive.(7)


In a search for more reliable motive power the Atlantic and Hibernia purchased a "grasshopper" type locomotive which handled passenger trains and two English built 2-2-0 "Planet" class engines for freight work. The railroad was one of the last American lines to keep buying English built engines. This practice culminated with the purchase of the 2-2-2 Agatha Troy Allyn resplendent in gleaming red paint and polished brass.(8)




The Agatha Troy Allyn running under the Morris Canal aqueduct on the side of Garrett Mountain, Paterson, New Jersey.



The road's first 4-4-0 was the Ramapo. She featured a high domed boiler and an open cab. The Ramapo was followed by the Passaic which was something of a step backwards having a single driver and a 4-2-4T wheel arrangement.




A planet class 2-2-0 with a freight train about to cross the truss bridge.


The Atlantic and Hibernia prospered until the late 1890's. Not only had New Jersey's iron mining begun to diminish, but Acquackanonk was no longer an important port as commercial navigation on the Passaic River was also in decline. By then the route was superseded by others. The Lackawanna's Boonton Line avoided the long climb out of Paterson. Morristown had long been served by the Lackawanna and planning for the Morristown and Erie had already begun.


The Atlantic and Hibernia was broken up and sold piecemeal. Portions of the line were absorbed into the Lackawanna, Erie, and several traction companies. Today the only remaining sections of the railroad serve industrial customers although there has long been talk of restoring passenger service to Hibernia for the region's growing number of commuters.




(1) The Morris and Essex did not actually complete the line until the 1860's and it eventually became the Lackawanna's main line and finally New Jersey transit's Boonton Line.


(2) This is very similar to the line eventually constructed as the real life Morristown and Erie.


(3) Historians have not been able to locate the exact route of the railroad in large part because the modeler is unfamiliar with that section of Paterson, although he did get lost there once in 1986 and again in 2002. So he simply assumed the route was possible.


(4) Hibernia was the scene of important early dates in the courtship between the modeler and his future wife.


(5) Acquackanonk was an important port in the coastal trade. Historians have counted up to 80 different spellings of this township's name before someone had the sense to change it to "Clifton" in 1915.


(6) A Bachman HO scale inspection-car chassis and motor provided the power. I think it ran once.


(7) It was Bachman's De Witt Clinton.


(8) Historians are uncertain why the line continued to use English built engines long after American built types were widely available. Several logical arguments included the fact that English investors often furnished engines or iron rails instead of cash. However these remain speculations and the only known reference to the English prototypes was the comment that "inside cylinder engines are easier to scratchbuild."


Software: Microsoft Office


The model railroadıs mainline passes a through this growing commercial center. The buildings are, left to right:


Cobblerıs shop (white clapboard, prototype in Colonial Williamsburg)


Bank (grey stone, freelanced)


General Store (red with vertical board siding, freelanced)


Cooperıs workshop (hidden by passenger coach)


Station under construction (frame)



Prototype Notes:


The Fabulous (18) Forties


The principle portion of the railroad represents an imaginary 1840's college town somewhere in the hills of New Jersey. The college building is one the left while an embryonic commercial center is depicted on the right. The rest of the community, houses, churches, shops, elementary school, taverns, and village green were not modeled.



They were as Charles Dickens said, "The best of times, and the worst of times." American historians call it the Antebellum Era while their British counterparts prefer saying it was the Early Victorian age. Whatever we call it, the people living between the 1830s and 1860s bore the full brunt of the industrial revolution. It was a time of great social change and almost unimaginable psychological disruption.


Many educated Europeans, Charles Dickens was one, came to America expecting to find a democratic sylvan paradise. They found the reality to be very different. Streets in all but the largest cities were rivers of mud, carpets were covered in tobacco juice, and everywhere there was the hypocrisy of a people who talked endlessly about liberty, but tolerated slavery.


The rise of industrial employment created cities and social conditions that were new in human history. Labor was divorced from the home, farm, and small workshop for the first time. A new competitive commercial climate demanded new ways of thinking about work and careers. Hours were long and work was brutal in the mines and factories. Many found these new conditions unendurable and the home increasingly was seen as the refuge from them. Society's demand that women maintain the refuge erased any gains made for their rights during the American Revolution. Cities grew with only a minimal understanding of public health. Diseases swept through the country with alarming speed and devastating impact.


The sense of disorientation was made worse by a crisis in organized religion. A great reawakening movement swept over the country but later degenerated into a frenzy of theological squabbling and inter-denominational rivalry. After more than a decade that America's Protestant churches spent tearing themselves apart, the Irish Potato Famine brought thousands of Catholic immigrants to the country. For the first time, Americans were confronted by immigrants who refused to embrace their transplanted English institutions and Protestant ideologies. A wave of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant hatred swept through the eastern states where the Irish settled.


In other ways, they were the best of times. The nation was growing and for the first time America produced artists, educators, scientists, writers, engineers, and statesmen who were the equal of any in the old world.


America's intellectual life was stimulated by the great writers and thinkers. Alcott, Dickinson, Emerson, Melleville, and Thoreu became world famous. The painters of the Hudson River school gave America a new vision of itself. America's scientists made important contributions to fields as diverse as chemistry, medicine, geology, and oceanography. America's churches emerged from their period of crisis with a new dedication and mutual respect.


There was a new mood and yearning for human freedom. Latin America had cast off Spanish Colonialism, democratic reforms were made throughout Europe, and in America, the abolitionist movement breathed new life into the nation's political system. At a time when women were not even allowed to own property, a far-thinking minority envisioned the day when they would vote. If the Irish brought out the worst in Americans, then the Germans would soon bring out the best. Before they arrived, Americans were seen as a humorless people who did little but work. The Germans, with their traditions of the beer hall and love of song, literally taught their new nation to sing and enjoy life.


Welcome back then to the tumultuous decades where repression and freedom, fear and hope, optimism and disorientation, conflicted in the human heart, those fabulous (eighteen) forties.



College, This one building was the whole school. Dormitories for students and faculty were located in one wing, classrooms in the other, the center housed a small library. If the college had pretensions to teach science, there would also be a philosophical cabinet filled with minerals, fossils, and laboratory apparatus.


The students are lined up on the lower field to play a rough predecessor of football or rugby. The exact rules of the game have been lost over time, but the basic idea seems to have been for one team to have the ball and to be left standing at the end of the game.


The cannon belongs to a volunteer company of artillery. In the early days of the republic, these organizations helped a cash-strapped nation provide for its defense. Later they became social clubs. The Mexican War and the Civil War both proved that part-time social-club soldiers were no substitute for a properly equipped and trained army.


Like so much else, the industrial revolution was changing the nature of higher education. For many students, college was a genteel preparation prior to entering the law, medicine, or the clergy. With a few notable exceptions, true professional education in such disciplines as banking, chemistry, engineering, geology, and management was still done on the job in a sort of whitecollar apprenticeship. However, the need for trained professionals prompted the expansion of many college programs.


The first major expansion of higher technical education was the Land Grant College. The limits of good farmland in the eastern states and a better understanding of the scientific underpinnings of agriculture led to the establishment of these colleges. But farmers were slow to take advantage. Few farm families could spare sons who were in their prime working years and young men who aspired to own land could not take time off from earning money. So the first graduates of these schools were educators, engineers, and scientists.


Truss Bridges, The truss bridge was America's first great contribution to civil engineering. The truss was not invented in America, Medieval students who wanted to study advanced mathematics first had to pass the Bridge of Fools, a geometry problem that resembled a triangular bridge truss. But in America, hundreds of rivers needed to be crossed and while there was a shortage of skilled labor, timber was abundant. The American truss bridge enabled a bridge builder to construct a strong span using abundant material and available labor. Dozens of truss bridge designs were patented before the Civil War and many of them are still in use today.


Bank, Banks were highly isolated institutions. They were allowed to issue their own notes that served as paper currency. While it helped maintain liquidity, the practice was open to widespread counterfeiting and at one time it was estimated that half of the paper money in circulation was counterfeit. In response to this situation, the government established the Secret Service as a branch of the Treasury Department. Operating in isolation and without a system of insurance, bank failures led inevitably to financial panic. Until the New Deal of the 1930's there was no deposit insurance or a reliable method to rapidly move funds to help a bank through a difficult period.


General Store, The store was more than a place to buy things. For people living in remote areas it was the principle point of contact with the larger world with the storekeeper often serving as the middleman for the rural farmer selling in the urban markets. Manufactured goods, coffee, chocolate, imported liquors, citrus fruits, fabrics, finery, and books could be found there. The general store usually housed the post office as well.


Cobbler (White foreground), Not everyone worked in a factory. This shop represents a typical shoemaker's. Note the cobbler's bench at the rear of the building.


Cooper (Brown background), The cooper would continue to be a vitally important tradesman for many more years. The ordinary wooden barrel was the primary shipping container for most materials, not just liquids. Barrel hoops made from saplings were an important wood product from the New Jersey Highlands. It was not until the post Civil War oil boom in Western Pennsylvania that new technologies such as tank cars and pipelines were developed for moving bulk liquids.


Railroad Station (under construction), This model represents a new direction in station architecture. The earliest stations were large barn-like buildings with tracks running through them so that the trains were completely covered. Although a great convenience for passengers, these structures restricted the size of rolling stock and were vulnerable to fire damage from locomotives. Even the later steel and glass trainsheds built as major terminals were often damaged by acids formed by the chemical reaction between the nitrogen and sulfur in locomotive smoke and the moisture trapped under the roof. (This is of course the same process that creates acid rain.)


Contact Information


Kevin Olsen







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