Andover Borough, like many towns, changed both with the advent and decline of commerce and technology. For the borough, the railroad helped to herald in these changes. This community has the distinction of being the initial destination of the first railroad to come into Sussex County.
In the 1840s, Abram S. Hewitt acquired and reopened the Andover mines. He intended to use the mines to feed iron ore to his furnaces and forges in Phillipsburg and Trenton.
In order to transport the ore, Hewitt used heavily-laden wagons hauled by horses or mules. These teams traveled on the Morris Turnpike, which charged tolls in both directions.
Hewitt quickly tired of what he perceived to be excessive fees, and wanted a new way to transport the ore. He decided to build a railroad and in March of 1848 was granted a charter by the State of New Jersey to build the Sussex Mine Railroad. Work on this new railroad began on March 21, 1850. By August of the following year, teams of mules began to haul the ore down the tracks, which ended in the village of Waterloo. Ore was transferred from the rail cars into boats on the Morris Canal, which passed through the village.
Hewitt looked to the future of Sussex County and realized that rail service would be in substantial demand in the next few years. He approached some of his friends and business associates to form a new enterprise, the Sussex Railroad Company. The company was formally chartered by the State of New Jersey, and local investors were sought to facilitate the beginning of construction. Since the terminus of the new railroad was to be in Newton, Hewitt approached local businesses and residents of that town and solicited their purchase of stock in the company. There was a substantial outpouring of support for the venture, as the residents realized how a railroad could benefit their individual businesses and community as a whole.
Work began on the line on May 5, 1853. Despite experiencing several setbacks, the new line connected with the main railroad, the Morris and Essex, and ran up to Andover by September of 1854. This made Andover the first terminus of the new line. By December of that year, that line had officially extended and was completed through to Newton. Although Newton was now the terminus of the line, Andover experienced growth. The Sussex Railroad Company decided that there was a need for facilities in Andover to both serve the traveling public and ease the transport of freight.
The railroad company constructed a freight house and a separate passenger station, both of which were set on the east side of the tracks, just north of Smith Street. The freight house was a relatively small, wood-framed structure with a flat roof. This roof projected out several feet to protect the freight that was being loaded to and from the building from the railroad cars and wagons. The single loading bay that faced the road and ran parallel to the track was set at a height that made the transfer of freight from a wagon into the building very easy. This floor height also made moving freight from the building into a freight car equally easy.
The passenger station was rectangular, slightly larger in size, and located just north of the freight house. This building had a simple gabled roof with slate shingles and board and batten wood siding. A single, small brick chimney extended up through the middle of the roof gable, with a simple brick corbelling set at the top. The side of the building had two doors and a single double-hung window. This same kind of window was located on each end of the building. The station was surrounded by an at-grade wooden platform, allowing passengers to board a train without making their way through mud and dust.
There were several railroad sidings that came off the mail line through the borough. There was a lumber shed situated directly across the tracks from the passenger station that had its own siding. Likewise, a creamery located about 400 feet north of the lumberyard had a siding. The creamery’s cattle pen was located immediately adjacent to the main line, about 800 feet north of the station. Just south of the pen was a switch that permitted a train to be backed onto a siding directly from the main track. This siding led to the top of the Ayers & Young coal pockets. Each pocket was designed to hold different types and sizes of coal.
Like many other railroads during the years following World War II, service on this line began to decline, as travelers had their own vehicles, and common carrier truck service was faster to move freight. In 1953, the railroad ceased having a station master or ticket agent at this station. In 1958, the railroad decided to totally eliminate the passenger station from the property, and sold the station to E.M. Seeley. The building was moved on a flatbed truck to a parcel on Lenape Road and incorporated into a single-family dwelling. The last south-bound passenger train pulled out of Andover on Oct. 2, 1966. Freight service ceased shortly thereafter. The final slight to the county came when the railroad company ripped out the steel rails, ties, and ballast, effectively assuring the demise of rail service here.
Sussex County Historical Society President Wayne T. McCabe may be contacted at email@example.com.