Princeton Branch

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, or the Princeton Junction and Back (PJ&B),[3] 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.[4][5] The run takes approximately 5 minutes in each direction.[6]

Commuter rail line in New Jersey

Princeton Branch

The “Dinky” at Princeton Junction
Owner New Jersey Transit (since 1984)
Locale Mercer County, New Jersey
Termini Princeton Junction
Stations 2
Type Commuter rail
System New Jersey Transit Rail Operations
Operator(s) New Jersey Transit
Rolling stock Arrow III
Daily ridership 1,021 (FY 2012)[1]
814 (FY 2017)[2]
Opened 1865
Track length 4.3 km (2.7 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (

4 ft 8+12 in)

Electrification Overhead catenary since 1936
Route map

Northeast Corridor
to Boston

Princeton Junction

Northeast Corridor
to Washington

Faculty Road
This diagram:

At the initiative of Princeton University, the line was shortened by 460 ft (140 m) in order to construct a new University Arts Center. A new station opened on November 17, 2014.[7]

Service on the Princeton Branch was suspended and replaced by shuttle buses from October 14, 2018 through May 11, 2019, as part of NJT’s systemwide service reductions during the installation and testing of positive train control.[8][9]

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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, New York City, and Boston, and southwest to Trenton, Philadelphia, and Washington. As of 2016, the branch schedule includes 41 round trips each weekday.[10] The line is served by a two-car set of GEArrow III self-propelled electric coach cars.

In September 2018, New Jersey Transit announced that it would be suspending all service on the Princeton Branch from mid-October 2018 until mid-January 2019, and providing shuttle bus service instead. Restoration of train service was later postponed until May 12, 2019. Systemwide service reductions were attributed to the installation and testing of positive train control, compounded by a shortage of train engineers.[8][9] The automatic braking system will not be installed on the Princeton Branch itself.[11]

Penn Central “Dinky” at Princeton Junction in 1971
The former Penns Neck station site

When the Camden and Amboy Rail Road and Transportation Company (C&A) opened its original TrentonNew Brunswick line in 1839, completing the first rail connection between Philadelphia and New York Harbor, the line was located along the east bank of the newly completed Delaware and Raritan Canal, about one mile (2 km) from downtown Princeton. A new alignment (now the Northeast Corridor Line) opened on November 23, 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. The branch’s first train used a Grice & Long wood-burning steam dummy for passenger service, and took about 20 minutes each way. The Pennsylvania Railroad leased and began to operate the C&A, including the Princeton Branch, in 1871. The branch was re-aligned and double-tracked in 1905 to handle popular college football weekends, upgraded from coal to a gasoline-electric train in 1933, fully electrified in 1936, and single-tracked again in 1956.[5][12][13][14] The 1956 rail bridge over U.S. Route 1 was replaced in 1994 to allow further widening of the highway.[15]

Penn Central Transportation took over operations in 1968, and discontinued the little-used Penns Neck station in 1971.[12] 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.[16]

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