The "Dinky" at Princeton Junction
|System||New Jersey Transit|
|Locale||Mercer County, New Jersey|
|Daily ridership||1,021 (FY 2012)|
|Owner||New Jersey Transit (since 1984)|
|Operator(s)||New Jersey Transit|
|Rolling stock||Arrow III|
|Track length||4.3 km (2.7 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Electrification||Overhead catenary since 1936|
The Princeton Branch is a commuter rail line and service owned and operated by New Jersey Transit (NJT) in the U.S. state of New Jersey. The line is a short branch of the Northeast Corridor Line, running from Princeton Junction northwest to Princeton with no intermediate stops. Also known as the Dinky line, or the Princeton Junction and Back (PJ&B), the branch is served by special shuttle trains. Now running 2.7 mi (4.3 km) along a single track, it is the shortest scheduled commuter rail line in the United States. The run takes approximately 5 minutes.
At the initiative of Princeton University, the Princeton station was moved approximately 460 ft (140 m) closer to Princeton Junction in order to construct a new University Arts Center. The new station opened on November 17, 2014.
The Princeton Branch provides rail service directly to the Princeton University campus from Princeton Junction, where New Jersey Transit and Amtrak provide Northeast Corridor rail service, heading northeast to Newark and New York City, and southwest to Trenton, Philadelphia and Washington. As of 2016, the weekday branch schedule includes 41 departures in each direction. The line is served by a single or two-car set of Budd Arrow III self-propelled electric coach cars.
When the Camden and Amboy Rail Road and Transportation Company opened its original Trenton-New Brunswick line in 1839, the line was located along the east bank of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, about one mile (2 km) from downtown Princeton. The new alignment (now the Northeast Corridor Line) opened in 1863, but some passenger trains continued to use the old line until the Princeton Branch opened on May 29, 1865, at the end of the American Civil War, using a Grice & Long steam dummy for passenger service. The Pennsylvania Railroad leased and began to operate the C&A, including the Princeton Branch, in 1871. The branch was double-tracked in 1905 to handle popular college football weekends, upgraded to a gasoline electric train in 1933, fully electrified in 1936, and single-tracked again in 1956.
Penn Central Transportation took over operations in 1968, and discontinued the little-used Penns Neck station in 1971. When Conrail was formed in 1976, the Final System Plan called for the transfer of the Princeton Branch to Conrail and then to the New Jersey Department of Transportation, but the transfer to NJDOT was not made until 1984.
The Princeton train, locally called the "Dinky" or the "PJ&B" (for "Princeton Junction and Back"), is a unique symbol of Princeton University that has grown over time to emblemize the University. It is mentioned in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "This Side of Paradise", featured in the TV program "Family Ties" when young Alex Keaton goes for his on-campus interview, and it is also in the 1934 Bing Crosby movie "She Loves Me Not". The theme of Princeton and the train is repeated again in the University's own traditional homecoming song "Going Back to Nassau Hall" by Kenneth S. Clark (1905). In it, the lyric "We'll clear the track as we go back" refers to the Princeton Branch track leading to the campus.
The Great Dinky Robbery was an incident on May 3, 1963, in which four men boarded the Dinky and abducted four passengers. Princeton was not yet co-educational, and weekend dates from women's colleges usually arrived by train. On a Friday evening, four Princeton University students, riding horses in Western attire, ambushed the train as it was arriving at Princeton station. A convertible was parked across the track, forcing the Dinky to come to an abrupt halt. The men, including George Bunn Jr., who was armed with a pistol loaded with blanks, boarded the train and persuaded four female passengers to leave with them. The Dinky later resumed its trip and arrived at Princeton Station. Although the University administrators were aware of the event and may have known who was involved, they took no official action.
Princeton Station relocation and controversy
In 2006, Princeton University announced its intention to construct a new arts center, calling for the replacement of the 1918 Princeton station house, the shortening of the trackage right-of-way, and the creation of a new terminus 460 ft (140 m) to the south. Rail advocates opposed the relocation, fearing that access to the new station would be less convenient, resulting in decreased ridership that could "threaten the train's existence." The proposal prompted protest from residents, students, faculty and alumni, and led to the creation of the organization Save the Dinky and a lengthy series of legal challenges. In October 2010, the Princeton Regional Planning Board passed a resolution supporting the continuation of train service. The new Princeton station opened on November 17, 2014, with construction continuing on a complex of arts and dining buildings in the surrounding area.
The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and New Jersey Transit have conducted studies to develop the Central New Jersey Route 1 Bus Rapid Transit Project. Parts of the proposals call for the construction of a "Dinky Transitway" along the Princeton Branch right-of-way, which would incorporate the rail service and add exclusive bus lanes and a greenway for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. In 2011, NJT indicated that moving the Princeton station would not be detrimental to its planning.
In April 2012, the university submitted a revised plan for the arts and transit center, calling for the extension of the station's freight house onto the right-of-way for possible use as a restaurant. The Regional Planning Board introduced an ordinance requiring the land be preserved for a transportation right-of-way that could eventually extend farther into Princeton's central business district at Nassau Street. According to the university, ownership of the trackage would have to change hands in order for the transitway to be implemented. Approvals were subsequently issued for converting the station house and the extended freight house into a pair of restaurants.
|Connections / notes|
|19||Princeton Junction||48.4 (77.9)||1864|| Amtrak: Northeast Regional, Keystone Service
NJ Transit: Northeast Corridor Line
NJT Bus: 600, 612
MCAT shuttle: M6
|Penns Neck||49.7 (80.0)||1865–1875||1971||demolished, just southeast of U.S. Route 1|
|Princeton||51.1 (82.2)||1865, 1918, 2014|| NJT Bus: 605
Princeton Tiger Transit: Free-B Commuter, West Line, Stanworth Line
- "Quarterly Ridership Trends Analysis" (PDF). NJ Transit. November 2012.
- Rosenbaum, Joel; Gallo, Tom (1997). NJ Transit Rail Operations. Railpace Newsmagazine.
- "Picks and Pans Review: Princeton Junction & Back". People. 11 (13). April 2, 1979. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
- Schultz, Bonnie (June 2011). "Arts and Transit: NJ Transit Weighs In". AllPrinceton.com. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
- Frassinelli, Mike (June 25, 2013). "Historic Princeton 'Dinky' line train station to move for arts center". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-06-26.
- Knapp, Krystal. "Princeton Dinky Train Ridership: A Double-Digit Decline". Planet Princeton. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- "Train Schedules: Princeton to Princeton Junction". New Jersey Transit. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Baer, Christopher T. "PRR Chronology". Pennsylvania Railroad Technical & Historical Society. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Lipp, Delmar (March 20, 1939). A Short History of the Princeton Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Historical Society of Princeton. pp. 32–33. Retrieved January 29, 2017.
- Armstrong, April C. (September 2, 2015). "Princeton Junction & Back: Our Dinky Archives". Princeton University. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Messer, David W.; Roberts, Charles S. (2002). Triumph V: Philadelphia to New York 1830–2002 (PDF). pp. 84–93.
- 1975 Conrail Final System Plan
- "Princeton University: Train Travel". Princeton University. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
- Reed, J. D. (March 31, 2002). "The Little Engine That Can". The New York Times. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
- McIlroy, David (April 29, 2004). "The Dinky: Decades of history and lore". Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on February 27, 2007.
- O'Bleary, Hugh (December 20, 2000). "The Great Dinky Robbery". Princeton Alumni Weekly. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Edwards, Selden (April 7, 2004). "The Great Train Robbery". Princeton Alumni Weekly. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- "FAQ:The Dinky". Arts and Transit Neighborhood. Princeton University. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
- "Renzo Piano selected to design University Place/Alexander Street neighborhood" (Press release). Princeton University. April 13, 2006. Retrieved April 2, 2012.
- Hersh, Matthew (November 29, 2006). "It's All Conceptual, but Talk of BRT Has Princeton Buzzing". Town Topics. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Hersh, Matthew (May 23, 2007). "PU Plans Still Relocate Dinky Station". Town Topics. Princeton NJ. Retrieved December 12, 2007.
- "More on the Dinky". National Association of Railroad Passengers. June 21, 2007. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "Save the Princeton Dinky". Save the Dinky, Inc. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- "After meeting, no change to Dinky". The Daily Princetonian. October 1, 2010. Retrieved December 7, 2013.
- Davis, Mike (November 17, 2014). "New Dinky station opens to public, part of Princeton U.'s arts and transit project". The Times of Trenton. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
- Patel, Ushma (November 3, 2014). "New Dinky station to open Nov. 17, marking Arts and Transit Project milestone" (Press release). Princeton University. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
- "New Princeton Station Opens Monday, November 17, 2014". New Jersey Transit. November 5, 2014. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
- Knapp, Krystal (November 17, 2014). "New Dinky Station Opens in Princeton". Planet Princeton. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
- "US 1 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)". Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. 2012. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- "Fact Sheet 2008". Central New Jersey Route 1 Bus Rapid Transit Project. New Jersey Transit. 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
- "Central NJ Route 1 BRT" (PDF). NJ Transit Bus Service: The Next Generation. New Jersey Transit. July 26, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
- Cherkin, Bridget (April 25, 2012). "Princeton University submits revised plan for $300M arts and transit center". The Times of Trenton. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
- Tanner, Pat (September 2016). "Jim Nawn has big plans for Dinky Bar & Kitchen". Princeton Echo. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
- "Northeast Corridor Line" (PDF). New Jersey Transit Rail Operations. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- "Middlesex County Area Transit (MCAT) M6 Shuttle" (PDF). Middlesex County. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
- Official website
- Burset, Christian (April 30, 2004). "N.J. Transit tests luxury locomotive on Dinky line". Daily Princetonian. Retrieved October 4, 2016.