A look at the Allentown-Upper Freehold of the past.

By: John Fabiano
   Taken from the Thursday, March 17, 1904 issue of the "Allentown Messenger."
   If you are not in a hurry and want to get a bird’s eye view of a good section of farming country from a car window take a trip some day over the Pemberton and Hightstown Railroad, which is operated by the Union Transportation Company. Take the westbound morning train from Hightstown and you will have plenty of entertainment all the way to Birmingham, at which point the Pennsylvania Railroad takes charge of the train. So says a writer in the Mt. Holly HERALD, who continuing, thus describes his trip:
   The first stop after leaving Hightstown was Allens [Perrineville Road], where a lone can of milk was the only object in sight that looked like business. As soon as this was lifted aboard the conductor pulled the string and away we went for Shrewsbury Road [Route 524], the next stop. Here is a shed for six horses only, as there are seven teams that cart milk to this station every morning, the drivers strive to get there in time to secure one of the stalls. The natural result is that one of the rigs is invariably left out in the cold. On this occasion a bay horse with four white feet had to take the outside berth, and was tied to a cedar tree where the wintry breezes lifted his blanket up like a balloon. As soon the milk was loaded we took a fresh start, after giving the Chautauqua salute [How?] to the milk shippers.
   In a few minutes Imlaystown [actually Nelsonville on Route 526] was reached. The passenger station was destroyed by fire some time ago, and we took a melancholy interest in surveying the ruins. All that was left was a portion of the station stove and the lid of the water cooler, which made it easy for the insurance company. The station will be rebuilt soon, and in the meantime the company is using a passenger car on the siding for a station, baggage room, express and telegraph office.
   As a shipping point Davis station [near Route 539] is a pretty good one for its size and shape. The country is not very thickly settled, but it makes up in quality what it lacks in population. An object of interest at this station was the calf pen, in which there were lonesome calves of the "monkey" variety awaiting shipping and bawling all the time, to the great annoyance of the agent, who has an ear for music that he is having cultivated.
   After listening to the music of the calves for awhile the conductor gave orders "Full speed ahead," and in due time Cream Ridge was reached — the stamping ground of all the real blue bloods in this part of Jersey. So said a native who boarded the train there, but afterwards admitted there were a few good people at other points along the road.
   At Hornerstown the agent of the company devotes considerable time to floriculture. The end of the waiting room is a perfect bower of flowering plants. The waiting passengers had the room full of tobacco smoke, which they explained was good for the plants. No one seemed to object, and the agent only smiled when the subject was mentioned. Just then one of the trainmen began to discuss the decadence of the marl industry, which in former years was a feature. "They used to ship several train loads a day from the beds at Hornerstown," he said, "but it ain’t anymore. The marl company has gone out of business and no one ships it any more. Still, I think it is a good deal better than the patent fertilizers that so many of the farmers are using nowadays. They don’t do the land any real good. You’ve got to keep increasing the dose each year. It’s like trying to keep a man up on whiskey. The farmers around here still stick to marl, and they raise as good crops and keep their land in as good condition as you will find anywhere."
   By this time the train was slowing down for another stop and the trainman shouted "Neegypt." What he meant to say was New Egypt, the headquarters of the U.T. Railroad Company, the land of milk and money, and the greatest resort for summer boarders to be found between Hightstown and Camden. The Egyptians are a thriving people. A lot of them got aboard the train, the president of the road, F.S. Gaskill, among the number, and everyone got up and shook hands with him. Then the conversation became general, and while a boy in the corner seat whistled "Marguerite" the rest of the passengers discussed the probable cost and durability of slate roofs as compared with shingles, and also the reason why all the crows in that vicinity invariably flew in the direction of Archertown.
   Before these topics were disposed of Cookstown was passed by, and the train reached Wrightstown, the greatest milk shipping point on the road. This is the meeting point for trains, and the crews made a swap. As it takes a long time to load the milk, the passengers get out and take a walk around the town, secure the morning papers and inspect the vicious hog scalder that stands alongside the station, looking as if it was about to fire a solid shot right through the train. There is plenty of time for refreshments here and none of the metropolitan hurry and bustle that we read about in the newspapers. And no one finds fault. People who travel fast all the time are apt to feel the jolt when they bring up in a hurry.
   Finally the conductor gave a warning signal the passengers hopped aboard, and we set sail for Pemberton, said to be the only strictly moral political town of its size in the county. Here there was a decided increase in the number of passengers and a lofty tone to the general run of conversation, which was both ethical and financial. Then came Birmingham, where our train was hooked on to the Pennsylvania line from the sea shore.
   In conclusion, the Union Transportation Company is deserving of more than passing mention. When it was organized several years ago to operate the Pemberton and Hightstown Road, which had been abandoned, there were many predictions of failure, as the men composing it had no experience in the management of a railroad. But they have demonstrated that they were not slow to learn. They have practically rebuilt the road, putting heavy steel rails as the old ones were worn out, and making other improvements, and all done out of the earnings of the property, without resorting to that modern feature of railroading — a bond issue for all betterments. The freight and passenger business shows a steady increase each year and the daily shipment of milk to Philadelphia will average 15,000 quarts.
Historically Speaking is a regular feature presented by John Fabiano, president of the Allentown-Upper Freehold Historical Society. For information about the historical society, send e-mail to AllntwnUFHistSoc@aol.com or call (609) 259-9127.