In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, stranded undergrads sing in Trenton, the basketball team gets tickets with nobody’s face on them, and more.
November 23, 1939—When a train wreck blocks all traffic on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad near Princeton Junction Station, 300 stranded undergraduates returning from Thanksgiving break hold an impromptu “songfest” in Trenton Station.
November 24, 1781—James Caldwell, College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1759, is killed by an American sentry in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. The sentry will later be hanged for murder.
Clipping from the New Jersey Gazette, December 12, 1781.
Though New Jersey Transit lists the stop as the “Princeton Station,” locals refer to their train as the “Dinky” or “PJ&B” (Princeton Junction & Back). Recently, the station moved several hundred feet from its former site near University Place along Alexander Road, making it the talk of the town. Protests of a planned replacement of the little train with a bus spared this bit of Princeton history, which most of our readers are likely to remember. As it happens, the “Save the Dinky” movement echoes a nineteenth-century protest that both saved the train and created its route. Aside from a short-lived Boston & Albany route that ran 1.2 miles in the early 1950s, Riverside to Newton Lower Falls (Massachusetts), this has always been—and remains—the shortest passenger train route in the United States. Here we take a look at how Princeton got its tiny train and kept it running.
Princeton Station with the College of New Jersey (Princeton) campus visible in the background, 1870. Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 91.