“Most of our people come to the Lake via the DL&W [Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad] and as they stop at Landing, the best possible thing that could be done for the Lake would be to give the visitors a good impression at first sight.”
—Lake Hopatcong Breeze, July 1, 1911
The cover of the first issue of the Lake Hopatcong Breeze for the summer of 1911 featured a photograph of the lake’s new railroad station. In the years preceding its construction Lake Hopatcong had witnessed constant growth in size and stature as a resort. A beautiful new railroad station seemed like a natural step in this progression. The Breeze proudly proclaimed that, “many improvements have been made at the Lake in the last few years, but that which eclipses all is the magnificent new station which the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad has erected at Landing.”
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, this building is still one of the first sights many individuals see upon arriving at Lake Hopatcong. While it has been many years since the structure served it’s original purpose, it serves as a wonderful reminder of the days when Lake Hopatcong was a great resort and visitors poured in by rail all summer long.
The story of the train station at Landing goes back to an amazing project known as the Lackawanna Cutoff, one of the greatest engineering feats of its day, which was constructed between 1908 and 1911. Up to that time, the Lackawanna Railroad had a meandering route across New Jersey due to the hilly topography of the western part of the state. Because of the route’s sharp curves and steep grades, trains had to move slowly and required extra equipment, which put the Lackawanna in a poor competitive position. After considering various new routes, the Lackawanna’s solution was to lay tracks in almost a straight line across New Jersey – not allowing hills or valleys to stand in its way. Taking three years to plan and three more to build, the Cutoff was often compared to the Panama Canal in its complexity. Starting 1,322 feet west of Lake Hopatcong Station, the route traveled a distance of 28 miles to the Delaware River. Utilizing an amazing 73 bridges and viaducts, including the largest concrete bridge in the world at the time (the Paulins Kill viaduct), the Lackawanna Cutoff cost an incredible $11 million (equivalent to more than $250 million today). It was written that over 5 million pounds of dynamite were used in its construction. In fact, during the summer of 1911 petitions were circulated at Lake Hopatcong requesting that the railroad stop blasting operations between midnight and 6:00 in the morning as construction was done around-the-clock.
As the December 16, 1911 New York Times reported, “for almost its entire length the route of the cutoff presented engineering problems to be solved, and few stretches of track were laid without some obstacle being overcome. One mile east of Andover the largest of the hills begins, and it is the largest in the world, extending across the Pequest Valley, a distance of approximately three miles and having an average height of 110 feet.”
While other railroads were utilizing reinforced concrete, the Lackawanna Cutoff used it on a scale never before seen – encompassing everything from rail stations to light posts. The architects made a significant effort to ensure that these reinforced concrete structures were not just strong and long lasting, but attractive as well. This is witnessed by the many fine structures which survive to this day. The bridges over Center Street near the Pathmark in Landing are a testament to the design and strength utilized during the Cutoff’s construction.
The Lackawanna Cutoff opened for passenger service on Christmas Eve 1911. Eleven miles shorter than the old route, the real improvement was in travel time resulting from the elimination of grades, curves and all road crossings. This gave the Lackawanna a distinct advantage on the economically important New York-to-Buffalo route by allowing the Lackawanna to run longer, faster trains. In addition, with its wide vistas, the Lackawanna Cutoff was considered a scenic highlight on the trip.
The train station at Landing was the Cutoff’s gift to Lake Hopatcong. While the actual Cutoff started just west of Hopatcong, a new station for the resort was included in the project’s budget. The station opened on May 28, 1911 – some seven months before the Cutoff was completed and in time for the summer season at the lake. The building itself was reported to have cost $13,000 to construct and was meant to be a show piece for visitors arriving at Lake Hopatcong. Built of native rough stone with cement trimming, it featured a green glazed tile roof. The oak interior included a ticket office, waiting room and baggage room. The station featured elevated walkways with large elevators to transport passengers and baggage to street level. The Lackawanna is said to have spent an additional $75,000 to build all of the accompanying structures.
The station at Landing was the main source of transportation for visitors arriving to the lake for the next several decades. As rail service declined during the middle and later twentieth century in the United States, so it was for service along the Lackawanna Cutoff. Service west of Netcong was completely ended in 1979 and the Cutoff’s tracks were removed in 1984. The station building was sold off by its then owner, Conrail, in the 1970’s and for many years served as a real estate office. In more recent years it has served as a hardware store and interior furnishings shop. While known as the Carriage House, the Sacco family undertook extensive work to uncover many of the stations lovely features, including the beautiful original marble floor. Most recently, the station has become the new home for Mighty Titans Hobby and Games.
The Lackawanna Railroad and Morris Canal were side-by-side at Landing
until abandonment of the canal in 1924. The bridge, which is still in use
today, can be seen in the background just after it was opened.