The “Morris & Essex” a bit of an overlapping train line, with the “Morristown Line,” which heads out to Hackettstown, NJ, and the “Gladstone Branch,” which terminates at the Gladstone Station. Also intertwined is the Montclair-Boonton Line, which also terminates in Hackettstown, and shares several stops at the end of the line with the Morristown Line.
The Morris & Essex Line(s) average daily ridership is between 33,00 and 34,000 “boardings” per day.
Our coverage of this line is somewhat limited, as most of the stations are quite outside of the scope of this publication.
The stations we’ll touch on are:
NJ Transit Morris & Essex Line Schedule (as of June 2018)
Below is an “encyclopedia” section with facts and history about the Morris & Essex Line.
About Morris & Essex Lines
The Morris & Essex Lines are a group of former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad railroad lines in New Jersey now owned and operated by New Jersey Transit. The lines are so called as much of the right-of-way was constructed by the Morris and Essex Railroad.
The lines include service offered on the Morristown Line and the Gladstone Branch, and the former Montclair Branch before 2002. Service is available directly to Hoboken Terminal or via the Kearny Connection (opened June 10, 1996) to Secaucus Junction and Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan. The Morristown Line runs from Hoboken Terminal to Hackettstown, or from New York Penn Station to Dover. The Gladstone Branch runs from Hoboken Terminal to Gladstone. Passengers can transfer at Newark Broad Street or Summit to reach the other destination if necessary.
Overview of the Morristown Line
The Morristown Line is one of New Jersey Transit’s commuter lines and is one of two branches that run along the Morris and Essex Lines. Out of 60 inbound and 58 outbound daily weekday trains, 28 inbound and 26 outbound Midtown Direct trains (about 45%) use the Kearny Connection (opened June 10, 1996) to Secaucus Junction and New York Penn Station; the rest go to Hoboken Terminal. Passengers can transfer at Newark Broad Street or Summit to reach the other destination.
There is frequent service weekdays, with hourly service to/from New York (none going beyond Dover) on weekends. Until August 13, 2006, there was also hourly service to Hoboken. On that date, service between Hoboken and Summit was cut back to once every two hours on weekends. On May 11, 2008, off-peak weekday Hoboken-Dover trains (600 Series) were cut. In addition, weekend Gladstone trains were cut back to Summit, and a shuttle train is operated every two hours between Newark Broad Street and Hoboken Terminal.
Recently the line between Millburn and Summit underwent extensive rehabilitation. This included the replacement of the creosote crossties on both tracks with concrete crossties, the replacement of all crossties on the double trestle over Short Hills Avenue, and the replacement of several sections of rail. More recently work has been progressing briskly on rehabilitating both tracks between Summit and Dover with concrete crossties and new welded rail, and rehabilitation of select road overpasses.
Hurricane Sandy inflicted severe damage on the Morristown Line on October 29–30, 2012, as fallen trees brought down catenary and signal wires and washed out sections of track, most notably through the New Jersey Meadowlands on both the main line and the Kearny Connection. Midtown Direct service was restored from Dover to New York on November 12, 2012; service to Hoboken and west of Dover resumed on November 19.
Overview of the Gladstone Branch
The Gladstone Branch (also known as the Gladstone Line) is a branch of New Jersey Transit’s Morris and Essex Lines. The Gladstone Branch primarily serves commuter trains; freight service is no longer operated. Out of 24 inbound and 27 outbound daily weekday trains, 2 peak-hour inbound and 2 peak-hour outbound trains use the Kearny Connection (opened June 10, 1996) to New York Penn Station, bypassing Secaucus Junction except for one inbound train. The rest go to Hoboken Terminal. The part of the line west of Summit is single-tracked with passing sidings at Murray Hill, Stirling, and west of Far Hills and operates in peak-direction only on weekday peak hours, except for some service operating reverse-peak from Murray Hill in the PM peak. Bernardsville also has a passing siding, but is no longer used, as the Far Hills one is currently in use. On weekends the line operates Gladstone-Summit service hourly along the branch.
The branch received severe damage from Hurricane Sandy on October 29–30, 2012, especially to the catenary and signal system, causing a suspension of service for one month. High winds brought down five tall catenary poles (whose replacements had to be custom-made), approximately five miles of catenary, and 49 trees across the tracks. Gladstone service resumed on Monday, December 3 with electric Midtown Direct trains to Penn Station and diesel-powered trains to Hoboken; full electric operation was impractical until substation damage near Hoboken was repaired in early 2013.
More about the Morristown Line
The Morristown Line begins at the Hoboken Terminal or at New York Penn Station. Morristown line trains departing for points west of Dover, NJ require diesel locomotives. Immediately after leaving Hoboken, the route passes the coach and diesel yards before entering the 1908 Bergen Tunnel under the New Jersey Palisades just past the East End interlocking. At the west portal of the Bergen Tunnel is West End interlocking, where the Main Line, Bergen County Line, and Pascack Valley Line branch off to the north. The Morristown Line then crosses over Lower Hack Lift, a vertical lift bridge built in 1927 over the Hackensack River. The line crosses under Route 7 and then passes NJ Transit’s Meadowlands Maintenance Complex (MMC).
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and the New Jersey Turnpike cross overhead. The Midtown Direct trains join the Morristown line from New York at Kearny Jct. just past this overpass. The Morristown Line parallels the Amtrak Northeast Corridor and PATH lines and Interstate 280 for a short distance here. The Waterfront Connection is just prior to the overpass at Meadows interlocking. It allows selected North Jersey Coast Line and Raritan Valley Line trains to reach Hoboken from the Northeast Corridor Line.
After following Interstate 280, the line crosses a 2-track swing bridge, the Morristown Line Bridge over the Passaic River into the renovated Newark Broad Street station with two high platforms serving all three tracks. After Newark Broad Street Station, within the city limits the line runs in a cut and crosses under many streets, Interstate 280 and the Newark City Subway, and at the abandoned Roseville Avenue station, now the location of Roseville interlocking, the Montclair-Boonton Line splits off to the right.
After passing an abandoned station at Grove Street (now the location of Green interlocking) and over the Garden State Parkway, East Orange is the next stop, on a viaduct. Brick Church and Orange follow, also elevated stations. The line curves south over Interstate 280 past Highland Avenue and Mountain Station. South Orange is next, which is an elevated station with two platforms and three tracks. Seton Hall University is located here. Maplewood follows, with a side platform and a center platform serving all westbound and some eastbound trains. After Maplewood, the line narrows to two tracks at Millburn interlocking. Millburn and Short Hills have two side platforms, with two tracks.
Summit, a major station is next with two high platforms and the station building above the tracks. A glass crossover passes above the platforms. Some weekday locals terminate and originate here. Many of the area’s private schools are located in Summit and commuting high school students are a major source of traffic for this station. Schedules are timed for most Morristown trains to have a convenient transfer to a Gladstone branch train across the platform.
Just west of Summit the Gladstone Branch separates and the line crosses over the Passaic River (the second time) into Chatham. Chatham station is on an embankment with two side platforms. Madison on a viaduct is similar, with a recently refurbished 1916 station house on the eastbound side.
The line passes its first grade crossing at Convent Station at the College of Saint Elizabeth. This station has two side platforms with the station building on the eastbound side and a brick waiting house on the westbound track. An old freight station is on the eastbound side. After this station, there are two more grade crossings.
Crossing Interstate 287 the line enters Morristown. The Morristown station has two low side platforms and a large station building open 7 days and is the focal point of a new transit village development. Mini-high level platform ramps for ADA access at both ends. An abandoned freight station is at the west end. West of the station, the Morristown & Erie Railway’s main office are located. The Morristown & Erie’s main line diverges at this point.
The next station on the line is Morris Plains, with a 1915 brick station. A local model railroad club is located in the freight house just north of the station. After Morris Plains, the line curves through wooded areas, under Route 10, and past several crossings before stopping at Mount Tabor, a small stop in Parsippany located at a grade crossing. This stop is served by selected weekday and limited weekend trains and lacks an eastbound platform.
Denville station is a short distance from Mount Tabor. The Morristown Line rejoins the Montclair-Boonton Line just past this station.
The line passes over Estling Lake and alongside the Rockaway River into Dover. Dover, the final stop in the electric territory, is next. The 1905 station was recently renovated in the mid-1990s and has a single high platform. No electric Midtown Direct trains and most Hoboken service continues on past here towards Hackettstown. The Morristown Line catenary wires end about a half-mile west of the station near the US Route 46 overpass. However, there are plans (currently unfunded) to extend the electric service to Lake Hopatcong as the Dover Yard is at capacity, and the substation at Wharton to supply this extension has been in service since 1984.
Two tracks continue west over the Rockaway River and past D&R Junction in Wharton where the Morristown & Erie Railway’s Dover-Rockaway Branch splits off. Chester (Lake) Junction is on the left and provides the connection to the Morristown & Erie Railway’s Chester and High Bridge Branch. Mount Arlington park/ride station is next, with two high platforms and 285 parking spaces near Exit 30 on Interstate 80.
After passing under Interstate 80, Lake Hopatcong station is next. The connection to the Lackawanna Cutoff is on the right as the train approaches Port Morris Yard, where the Montclair-Boonton and Morristown line’s diesel fleet is based. Netcong station has a brick house on the low platform. Until late 1994, this was the endpoint of the line. Crossing under Interstate 80, the line enters the Mount Olive International Trade Center, where a station is located at Waterloo Valley Road.
The route passes through Allamuchy Mountain State Park and along the Musconetcong River to Hackettstown. A spur to the M&M/Mars plant is on the right before the line crosses US Route 46 in downtown. The Hackettstown station is shortly ahead, with one low platform and a mini-high ADA ramp. Trackage south of Hackettstown is owned and operated by Norfolk Southern as part of the Lackawanna Washington Secondary to Phillipsburg.
Lackawanna Cut-Off (to Andover) coming in 2020
The Morristown line is the main line of the historic Lackawanna Railroad. Until 1970, passenger service continued beyond Dover, to the Poconos, Scranton, Binghamton and Buffalo via the Lackawanna Cut-Off. Service on the Cut-Off as far as Andover is slated to begin again in 2020, with future plans to possibly extend rail service into northeastern Pennsylvania, perhaps as far as Scranton. Service would be scheduled to Hoboken and New York City. By 2030, it is estimated that the service could transport 6,000 passengers a day to jobs in northern New Jersey and New York City.
The Morristown Line east of Dover Station is electrified, using 25 kV, 60 Hz AC overhead catenary wire. The line was electrified in 1930 at 3kV DC but was re-electrified in 1984 at the contemporary standard of 25 kV, 60 Hz. The connecting Gladstone Branch and Montclair-Boonton Line were also re-electrified at this time.
Weekday local service between Hoboken and Dover now is mainly diesel, but was formerly Arrow III electric MU cars. All Midtown Direct service is push-pull, utilizing electric ALP-46 locomotives and Comet cars on most trains, and Multilevel vehicles on select trains. Through service west of Dover from Hoboken uses GP40PH-2, F40PH-2CAT, PL42AC, or ALP-45DP diesels with Comet cars.