Walking the Old Boonton Line
Montclair to Jersey City

I love to walk on railroad tracks especially when they are out-of-service or abandoned. When I moved to Montclair in 2008 The Old Boonton Line became one of my frequent haunts. Whenever I needed a long stroll to clear my mind, I would inevitably find myself on the decommissioned tracks, sometimes walking as far as Belleville before turning around to walk the same amount of miles home.

One day in the Fall of 2020, while walking the tracks between Montclair and Bloomfield, I pondered recent news reports claiming the Old Boonton Line was going to be developed into a bike path. Having walked much of this rail line already I was skeptical that the Essex-Hudson Greenway would ever come to fruition. The sheer cost of fixing the bridges makes the bike path a far-fetched idea, but it occurred to me that if I was going to walk the entirety of the Old Boonton Line I had better do it now, just in case. There were still a few sections of tracks I hadn't explored so I mapped out a plan and systematically completed the journey in six easy trips.

The best way to make progress on the abandoned rails is to lose yourself in a pleasant daydream and let your boots fall lightly on the unevenly spaced wooden ties. My expedition from Montclair to Jersey City was accomplished in a very mellow fashion with frequent enjoyable diversions along the way. The crisp weather was perfect for long walks and the autumn leaves were turning beautifully. Although Covid was stalking the land, it was easy to remain socially distant for the entire trip. The following image selection wasn't intended as a photo essay, but like the journey itself, the pictures took on a life of their own. I hope you enjoy!

-wheeler



The journey begins: Montclair to Bloomfield

 



Pine Street in Montclair
Where the live tracks meet the abandoned rails

 



Starting point of the Old Boonton Line on the left
NJ Transit live tracks on the right

 



Anyone on the tracks is automatically an outlaw

 



Coming up to the first overpass
Bay Street on the border of Glen Ridge and Montclair

 



Under Bay Street

 

 

 


 



Outdoor dining under Bay Street
A box from Urban Chicken

 



Trash beneath Bay Street

 




A split in the rails

 




Under the Highland Avenue Bridge

 




Under Highland Ave

 




Coming up on Ridgewood Avenue in Glen Ridge

 




Looking back under the Ridgewood Avenue bridge

 




Easter Island vibes along the tracks

 




Coming up on the Benson Street Station

 




11 miles to Jersey City

 




Sheds behind the Benson Street Station

 




Bloomfield to Belleville

 



Old warning light where the tracks intersect Benson Street

 




Power panel for warning lights and barrier arm gates

 




Approaching the bridge over Broad Street
Bloomfield, New Jersey

 




Looking NE on Broad Street in Bloomfield

 




Looking back on the bridge over Broad Street

 




Looking back on the decaying rail bridge
that spans JFK Drive in Bloomfield

 

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There are 4 similar bridges after the Broad Street overpass:
New St, Belleville Ave, Spruce St, and John F Kennedy Drive
The bridge in the photo is the one over JFK Drive

 




View of the Garden State Parkway from the Old Boonton Line

 




Looking back on the GSP overpass in Bloomfield, New Jersey

 




Approaching the Williamson Avenue Bridge in Bloomfield

 




Under the Williamson Avenue Bridge

 




Ongoing graffiti wars

 




Graffiti under the Williamson Avenue Bridge in Bloomfield

 




Halloween 2020 is in the air
This walk smelled like creosote and wood smoke

 




Graffiti under the Williamson Avenue Bridge

 




Graffiti on the footings of the Williamson Avenue Bridge

 




Wild turkey where the tracks intersect Orchard Street
Bloomfield, New Jersey

 


 



10 miles to Jersey City
I used this marker as a tripod to get the next two turkey shots

 




Urban turkey utilizing the abandoned tracks
This is the turkey's last available habitat in this area

 




This turkey can't vote, but I guarantee
she doesn't want her home turned into a bike path

 




Defaced Norfolk Southern sign at the Rowe Street Station
Bloomfield, New Jersey

 




Looking back on the Old Boonton Line at the Rowe Street Station

 




Railroad artifacts at the Rowe Street Station

 






An old loudspeaker at the Rowe Street Station
Bloomfield, New Jersey

 

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Stepping onto the rail bridge that spans Franklin Avenue
Belleville, New Jersey

 




Late afternoon sunlight on the bridge over Franklin Avenue in Belleville
Wheeler Antabanez silhouette

 




An urban buck has nowhere to run
and no clean water to drink
Belleville, New Jersey
9 Miles to JC

 




Belleville to Newark

 




Train bridge over Second River and Branch Brook Park Drive

 




Crossing Second River and Branch Brook Park Drive

 




Looking back on the bridge before entering Newark

 




5IVER on the tracks marks the path to a Newark chill spot

 





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Back on the Tracks heading deeper into North Newark

 




Dead End
Part way through Newark
the tracks have been taken over by local businesses
Here is where I leave the Old Boonton line
to walk along Second River
until I can rejoin the tracks
at the Passaic River crossing

 




Tiffany and Company's silver plate jewelry factory
Newark, New Jersey

 




The Mount Prospect Avenue Bridge over Second River in Newark

 




Bridge Street over Second River
Newark, New Jersey

 


I had to climb over this fence to get out of Second River

 

 



Crack vial on the wall of Second River
Newark, NJ

 




Pedestrian bridge over Second River

 




View of Second River from the pedestrian bridge

 




The bridge where Washington Ave in Belleville
becomes Broadway in Newark

 




Looking down into Second River from Broadway
Just out of view: a heroin addict nods on the retaining wall

 




Looking down into Second River from the sidewalk on Broadway

 



I hopped on this abandoned line in Belleville
it used to pass underneath the Old Boonton Line
It was a once a good access point to reach the Cut Bridge
It is now blocked off and has been consumed by a truck yard

 




The abandoned Newark Branch over Second River
Standing on the Belleville side looking into Newark

 




I couldn't use the Newark Branch
to hook up with the Old Boonton Line
So I doubled back and wandered
through Newark for a couple blocks

 




Seton Leather Brownfield Site
Verona Avenue Newark, New Jersey

 




This used to be abandoned
Now it's boarded up and in use
The storage tanks in back have been demolished
The mountains of tires have been cleared

 




Jack-o-lantern mask
on the side of McCarter Highway in North Newark

 




Abandoned rail bridge carrying the Old Boonton Line over the
McCarter Highway in North Newark

 




Back up on the rails
Looking down at the Maas & Waldstein Factory
from the bridge over McCarter Highway
Founded in 1876 this chemical factory
was the site of frequent explosions,
fires, and industrial accidents that killed
many of the people who worked here

 




Classic NARK

 




A view of the Maas & Waldstein Factory in Newark as it is demolished

 

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Decaying rail bridge over the McCarter Highway in Newark
One wrong step and you die

 




Partially demolished ruins of the Maas & Waldstein Factory
Route 21 along the Passaic River

 




The scariest part about walking across the Cut Bridge
is going around the security fence
Many will recognize this bridge
from The Sopranos opening sequence

 




Kearny Cut: Passaic River to Kearny Marsh

 




Looking through the security fence
from Newark to Kearny
WR Draw AKA the Cut Bridge

 




Looking back across the WR Draw Bridge
from Kearny into Newark
Maas & Waldstein stack on the right

 




Into the Kearny Cut where the rail bed was excavated from solid rock

 




Trains need gentle grades and level ground
The tracks coming out of the meadowlands were cut into the earth
so trains wouldn't have to climb the Kearny slope

 




Deep in the cut
An alien egg case dangles from the side of the cliff

 




This object was sitting on the rails and I'm still not sure what it is
For a moment I felt like I was in the movie Blue Velvet, but
I'm pretty sure this is not a human ear

 




Coyote print in the mud of the Kearny Cut
This section of track is the last available corridor for wildlife
If this line is developed into a bike path
the local animals will lose their only greenway

 




Propping up Kearny so the street doesn't collapse into the cut
This structure supports the dead end of Hillcrest Road

 




Approaching the Kearny Avenue Bridge

 




Pachysandra Pachysandra Pachysandra
overtaking the abandoned rails

 




Kearny Ave spanning the cut

 




Under the Kearny Avenue Bridge

 

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Very few humans trespass here
There are no trails and the tracks are soggy

 




A menacing layer of green scum thrives in this swampy morass
I did my best to not get any on me

 




Beneath the Chestnut Street Bridge
Kearny, New Jersey
Where the tracks emerge from the cut

 




There was a crew doing street work here
and a cop directing traffic
When I emerged from the cut
they looked at me like I had three heads
I thought they might give me a problem
but nobody said a word

 




What used to be Arlington Station
Kearny, New Jersey

 




Someone went bananas on the tracks

 




Looking back on the entrance of the cut
Arlington section of Kearny, New Jersey

 




Under Schuyler Avenue

 




Last pic of the day under Schuyler Avenue
For the next mission I head into the Kearny Marsh
and walk all the way to the Hackensack River

 




Kearny Marsh:
Schuyler Ave to the DB Draw bridge on the Hackensack River

 




6 miles to Jersey City on the Old Boonton Line

 




First view of the marsh

 




With so many spray paint penises out there
it's good to see some vagina

 




Zoomed out across the marsh
Buildings of downtown Newark
visible over the Keegan Landfill

 




Massive dust cloud blowing off the Keegan Landfill

 




Zoomed out on the buildings of Downtown Newark
Lights from the Gunnell Oval in the mid ground

 




Graffiti under Route 7 on the Old Boonton Line

 




She caught my eye under Route 7 in the Kearny Marsh

 




Adopt 6 is up out here

 




Sprayed on the side of a derelict trailer
Covid is no joke

 




Route 7 through the Kearny Marsh
Power towers and the Old Boonton Line

 




Train signals and the Empire State Building
As seen from Kearny Marsh

 




I 95 bridge over the Old Boonton Line

 




Under the New Jersey Turnpike Bridge
spanning the Old Boonton Line

 


 

 


 




Snake Hill looms over the New Jersey Meadowlands

 




Midtown has a new look these days

 




Kearny Marsh
I 95
Portal Bridge
World Trade Center
As seen from the Old Boonton Line

 




Dirty Jersey

 




Snake Hill from the Old Boonton Line

 




Harmon Cove Towers as seen from the tracks

 




The American Dream mega mall as seen from the tracks

 

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Manhattan skyline
Weehawken
Laurel Hill Park
Kearny Marsh
Old Boonton Line

 




The garbage incinerator in Newark's Ironbound
I 95 over the Passaic River
As seen from the Kearny Marsh

 




Oil boom washed up against the railroad fence

 




The bridge tenders shack at the Hackensack River
One time I found a homeless man living here
He begged me for a drink of water
Unfortunately I wasn't carrying any
We were surrounded by water
but there was not a drop to drink

 




The DB Draw
AKA the Hack Swing Bridge
decommissioned and kept in the open position
so as not to impede navigation on the Hackensack River

 




Final leg of the journey:
Snake Hill to Jersey City

 




Looking back on the Old Boonton Line's DB Draw
The bridge is fixed in the open position
so I am starting today's mission
on the East Side of the Hackensack River

 




My goal for the day is to climb Snake Hill
and then walk the Old Boonton Line into Jersey City

 




The Old Boonton Line under the New Jersey Turnpike
Secaucus, New Jersey

 




Looking down the tracks into Jersey City

 




At the base of Snake Hill under I 95

 




The ridge of Snake Hill with Laurel Hill park
and the new High Tech High School in the distance

 




View from the top of Snake Hill:
I 95 over the Hackensack River
DB Draw
Kearny Marsh
Old Boonton Line

 




The summit of Snake Hill

 




High atop Snake Hill

 

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View from the top of Snake Hill:
Downtown Manhattan
Jersey City
Demolished remains of the Hudson Generating Station

 




View from the top of Snake Hill:
The bridge deck on the new Wittpenn is finally in position

 




View from the top of Snake Hill:
The Empire State Building
Jersey City Heights in the foreground

 




View from the top of Snake Hill:
Kearny Point in the foreground
the Pulaski Skyway ramping up across the lower Passaic River
what's left of the old Western Electric Building
and in the background Port Newark with shipping container cranes

 




View from the top of Snake Hill:
A NJ Transit train crosses the Portal Bridge from Secaucus into Kearny
This is the bridge that snarls the commute
every time the swing portion gets stuck

 




Where I've been:
The Old Boonton Line through Kearny Marsh

 




Where I'm going:
The Old Boonton Line into Jersey City

 




Where the Salt Marsh meets the Jersey jungles
Border of Secaucus and Jersey City
As seen from the summit of Snake Hill

 




Back down on the tracks to complete my journey into Jersey City
Sucky Bat under the rail bridge leading up to the Portal

 




The Old Boonton Line under the live tracks
leading up to the Portal Bridge
Secaucus, New Jersey

 




The rails on this side of the Hackensack River
are far less abandoned than the rest of the Old Boonton Line
These tracks are actively used for storage of train equipment

 




There used to be a power plant here
This is all that remains of the Hudson Generating Station

 


 




Demolition continues on the Hudson Generating Station

 




Just over the border into Jersey City
the tracks are better maintained than the rest of the line
and are still very much in service
if only for storage

 




Live rails over the Old Boonton Line in Jersey City

 




A NJ Transit engine
originating from Hoboken Terminal
crosses the Old Boonton Line
after traveling through the Bergen Tunnels

 




arriba arriba
andale andale

 




Footings for a rail bridge that no longer exists

 




With the World Trade Center in view
the Old Boonton Line splits off in two different directions

 




Polished rails confirm this track is used fairly often

 




First I went left to see how far the tracks continued

 




The tracks kept going through this busy truck yard
but for me it was a dead end

 




I turned around and walked back to the split

 




It was getting late in the day, but I decided to take the right fork

 




The Old Boonton Line is already a greenway
Best to leave it alone
Let the animals have one last corridor

 




I never found mile marker zero
but around this point in Jersey City
the Old Boonton Line merges with the live tracks

 




I would say this is probably the terminus
where the Old Boonton Line
branches off into Jersey City proper

 




A zoomed out view of the live tracks heading into Jersey City

 




A NJ Transit train goes roaring past on the live tracks
letting me know that my journey is over
and that it's time to turn around
for the long walk back to my truck
at the base of Snake Hill.

# # #

Thank you for coming on this journey with me
send questions and comments to:
WAntabanez at gmail dot com