A New Jersey Superior Court judge has ordered that a collection of historic railroad cars in Pemberton, New Jersey, must be removed.
The historical society that assembled them says, “No way.”
Twelve rail cars — at least one is 100 years old — have been assembled around the historic Pemberton rail station. In 1999, the restored station building opened as a museum of South Jersey railroad transportation and the ancillary industries it served.
The mayor of Pemberton, David Patriarca, has called the cars an “eyesore” and has been at odds with the efforts of the Historic Trust. After they were warned by the mayor not to bring in any more cars, the trust members defiantly rolled a 1942, 45-ton Roebling engine onto the site. The mayor urged the township council to revoke the lease agreement with the Historic Trust. Since then, the museum has been closed.
Now, the Superior Court ruling gives the trust 60 days to remove the cars. Trust president Michael Tamn says it’s impossible to raise the funds and coordinate the logistics of removing 12 historic railcars in two months.
“Quite of few of them, you can’t replace them, no matter what you pay,” said Tamn. “And also, transportation is very expensive to move heavy cars around. Very, very expensive. It’s something that cannot be replaced. It’s a unique collection of the history of Burlington County Railroad.”
Patriarca could not be immediately reached for comment.
For years, the township of Pemberton has been working on a land-swap deal with Burlington County, which would trade land surrounding the train station in exchange for 11 acres of county land near Pemberton’s municipal building.
Citizens in Pemberton have rallied to reopen the rail station. At least one council member wants to reinstate the township’s lease agreement with the Historic Trust and reopen the museum. Also currently closed is a 1.5-mile rail-bed that had been converted into a hiking and biking trail. It now has a fence around it.
Burlington County officials want to acquire land to expand the countywide rail-trail network.