America’s Shortest Passenger Branch.

Not as long as it used to be.

NJ Transit's Dinky approaches Princeton Junction on June 30, 2014.
NJ Transit’s Dinky approaches Princeton Junction on June 30, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

There’s something fascinating about a branch line. A single meandering track, often built for the single purpose of linking an important town or industry with the mainline. Branch lines are simple railroads; light appendages; feeder lines.

Once upon a time branch line passenger trains were part of the fabric of American transportation. A single engine and coach might traverse the line several times daily to meet through trains on the mainline. The conductor on the branch was a friendly chap who may have worked the line for years.

Mainline conductor directs passengers to the Dinky at Princeton Junction on June 29, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200 mm lens.
Mainline conductor directs passengers to the Dinky at Princeton Junction on June 29, 2014. Canon EOS 7D with 200 mm lens.
The Dinky arrives at Princeton Junction on June 29, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
The Dinky arrives at Princeton Junction on June 29, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.
Take spin, it isn't very far. Lumix LX7.
Take spin, it isn’t very far.
Lumix LX7.
View from the Dinky towards a Trenton-bound train on the mainline. Lumix LX7 photo.
View from the Dinky towards a Trenton-bound train on the mainline. Lumix LX7 photo.
Princeton Junction on June 30, 2014.
Princeton Junction on June 30, 2014.

New Jersey Transit’s Princeton Branch is the shortest regular scheduled branch passenger train in the United States. A pair of electric EMU’s scuttle back and forth on the train to connect with the Northeast Corridor at Princeton Junction.

Until a few months ago, the branch served a handsome old station in Princeton. But the ever wise transportation visionaries decided this was too good to continue and forced a trimming of the line, moving its terminus further from downtown. It’s an old story, new again.

End of track near Princeton. The short branch was made even shorter. Exposed with a Lumix LX7 on June 30, 2014.
End of track near Princeton. The short branch was made even shorter. Exposed with a Lumix LX7 on June 30, 2014.
Not everyone is impressed by Princeton's latest improvement. A pen-wielding pundit wrote 'The Princeton Buck Stops Here.'
Not everyone is impressed by Princeton’s latest improvement. A pen-wielding pundit wrote ‘The Princeton Buck Stops Here.’

Someone said something about it being cheaper to run a bus? Better than an electric train?

Might the Princeton Dinky join the hundreds of other branch American services that once dotted the pages of the official guide? There’s always that nefarious illusion of ‘progress’ often offered as the explanation for ill-minded change.

NJT_Ticket_Princeton_P1000192

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Smiles at Princeton Junction on June 29, 2014.
Smiles at Princeton Junction on June 29, 2014.