Take a look at the official seal for the Township of Mahwah. You will see a small yellow building with dark trim, obviously built during an earlier era. It is the town’s original train station, built in 1871, and located near the station in use today. It is easy to see from the train window if you look out the left side of the train, going toward New York State. Mahwah is the last stop in New Jersey, before Suffern.
The station was retired in 1904 and found use as a storage shed. The second station did not last long; it burned down in 1914. The current station, built to replace it in 1915, is still in use. So is the original station. Today it is a small railroad museum, featuring the history of the Erie Railroad in this part of New Jersey and neighboring New York. There is more railroad memorabilia outside, including a caboose that once saw service on the Erie, now parked permanently on a short stretch of track.
John Fesen, who is a trustee of the Museum, told the Railgram, “The station allowed the town to be transformed from an agricultural township to eventually winding up to be a thriving, prosperous suburban community.” According to Fesen, the Paterson & Ramapo Railroad in 1848 and later the Erie Railroad first served the town as a flag stop, without a station. Riders had no shelter, and they had to flag the train down as it approached. The station was not built until 23 years later. Today, it retains its original appearance: board-and-batten construction, painted yellow with dark brown trim. The museum opened last spring, following an extensive restoration project.
The museum in the station is a component of the Mahwah Museum, a more-general museum that covers the history of the town. It has a three-level model railroad layout and also much more, including an exhibit about one of Mahwah’s favorite sons: legendary musician and prolific inventor Les Paul. The town is also the home of Ramapo College.
Both museums are open on Saturday afternoons from 1:00 until 4:00 during September and October. The Mahwah Museum is a few blocks away, but the original station is only steps away from the Mahwah stop on the Main Line, which runs every hour on weekend afternoons. A few Bergen County Line trains stop there, too.
The main museum is located at 201 Franklin Turnpike, and the phone number is (201) 512-0099. The museum’s web site is www.mahwahmuseum.org. Some Lackawanna Coalition members are planning a visit on September 25th. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining us.