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Three Buildings, One Stop: A Closer Look at the Aberdeen-Matawan Train Station

The three buildings represent different points in the towns' joint history

Anyone who has traveled through the "Gateway to the Shore" has seen first hand Aberdeen-Matawan's newest station building and has admired the .

They have probably also noticed two abandoned buildings resting on the other side of the tracks. One white, with very little flourish and one green, with a historic appearance.

The original building, now a National Register of Historic Places landmark, was opened in 1875 as a temporary station, according to the book, Images of America: Around Matawan and Aberdeen by Helen Henderson. It was the first station built on the line and was estimated to cost between $4,000 and $6,000 at that time in history.

“The railroad was initially supposed to be routed more to the north, closer to the bay,” said Montfort. “But Matawan had more power and money at the time and got it re-routed through Matawan."

Montfort recalls using the old train station building when he first came to Matawan in 1977.

"The old train station had two buildings, the ticket office and a freight building,” Montfort said.

However, after over eighty years of usage, the building was in need of costly repairs and improvements. New Jersey Transit opted to close the original station in 1982, which was still classified as a temporary station, according to Around Matawan and Aberdeen. NJ Transit created the second, white station in its place, also labeled for temporary use, Montfort said.

Montfort speculates that NJ Transit wanted to move the station to the opposite side of the tracks in order to accomodate New York City commuters during rush hour, rather than pay to renovate the original station.

“I believe they wanted to get the ticket counter on the northbound side of the tracks to facilitate morning rush hours and minimize people crossing when in a hurry or late to buy a ticket and then have to cross the tracks,” Montfort said.

But when the original structure closed their doors, they were not closed permanently. It has housed several local businesses, including an engineering firm and a snack bar. Eventually, however, the building was deemed unsafe and has remained shut ever since. 

According to Montfort, past plans for the redevelopment of a transit village included revitalizing and preserving the station for historical purposes. The transit village project aas been tied up in litigation for years and and Matawan are both just restarting the project from the beginning.

“The RFP (request for proposal) for consultants to develop plans included a requirement to save the old station and to incorporate it into their plans. Unfortunately, due to fighting consultants between Matawan and Aberdeen and long lawsuits, nothing has really happened," adds Montfort. He has little faith that with the economy being where it is, that the redevelopment project will be seen through to completion.

According to Montfort, NJ Transit paid little attention to the historic landmark until recent years. 

“The old train station, for many years, was not maintained by NJ Transit and it suffered significant deterioration. Finally, a few years ago, the State Preservation Office pressured NJ Transit to stabilize the building. The roof was repaired, all of the canopies were removed from the building and the building was painted as you see it today," Montfort said. "That was a major accomplishment and improvement to the building. More restoration is promised, I believe, subject to funds becoming available. At least the building was saved.”

The white building, which closed after the new station was built, was used by the Borough to manage parking, in addition to doctor's office. Those tenants did not stay long, according to Montfort, and the building now lays dormant.

Nina S. Wittling October 26, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Definitely, the original station should be preserved as part of Matawan's history even if the area is redeveloped. Matawan is rich in history. Just look at the old homes on main street - I have lived in Matawan for 30 years, raised my son in this wonderful town and I feel that I really belonged to a community unlike other towns that you cannot feel a "belonginess" (if there is such a word) but just a slew of "cookie-cutter" homes. However, more should be done like giving incentives by way of tax break or a competition of sort to the preservation of hold homes on Main Street and the surrounding neighborhood to make their homes and the surroundings more curb appealing. Sort of mainataining the old era in the 21st century. Maybe, I am being nostalgic, but everytime I see reruns of "Little Women" I always think of Matawan at the turn of the century. We cannot turn back the clock, but we certainly can preserved what we have inherited. I too, have the previlege of having experience using the old station when we first moved here in 1979.The old train station building is a historical landmark and should be preserved by way of converting the inside of the building to house a cafe boutique of sort or other businesses that would generate income for it's maintenance. The old train station building and this town has so much potential that it would be so sinful if the town's history is not preserved.
Barzillai October 29, 2011 at 09:14 PM
Back in 1979, there wasn't a train platform and no fence between the tracks. The tracks had a gentle curve to them. Passengers had to step up from the ground level and grab the handle on the side of the train to board. The station had a wooden floor with space between the well-worn boards. Lots of cigarettes down between those slats as i recall. I often wondered why the place didn't burn down. There was an old radiated heat system. There was a ticket booth with a glass window and a door. The ticket agent used to have a set of blank monthly tickets and a sheet of colored stickers that he would apply. The ticket agent was arrested in the early 1980s for some sort of scam related to those monthlies. For those new to the area, South Amboy was the end of the electrified track for many years,so a ride to Matawan involved switching engines at South Amboy. Passengers would jump off the train and hightail it to the liquor store there and buy drinks and snacks for the ride to the Jersey Shore. The diesel engine would whiz by and then there would be a big thud as the engine engaged the train. I didn't know the white building had been declared unsafe. Interesting. If it was temporary, why don't they tear it down? Who decided that the new taxi company could make a taxi stand out of the sidewalk in front of it? Why not make a formal waiting area for passengers to get out of the rain?
Barbara Jastrab October 31, 2011 at 07:27 PM
I first rode the train in 1968. We skipped school and rode to Red Bank. I am 56 now and some of my fondest memories are of the rail. The smell of the old station in the summertime, the inside of the trains with thier plush seats and porters. Waiting with anticipation for our ride down the shore. The old station is as big a part of Matawan as the lakes or the parks or half a dozen older buildings that have survived. Yes bvy all means save the building, perhaps make a mini museum of life on the rails or how the trin station had and has an impact on life in Matawan.

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