Metropark (Iselin), NJ (MET)
Located southwest of Newark, Metropark is adjacent to the crossing of the Garden State Parkway and the Lincoln Highway, as well as to numerous office parks.
100 Middlesex-Essex Turnpike
Iselin, NJ 08830
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 366,994
- Facility Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Parking Lot Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Platform Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Track Ownership: Amtrak
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Opened in November 1971, Metropark is one of a handful of stations on the Northeast Corridor that was planned with the automobile commuter in mind. In this regard, it can be grouped with the Westwood-Route 128 station outside of Boston and New Carrollton near Washington, D.C. All were constructed on the outer edges of metropolitan areas in the hope of attracting new riders who had moved out of the city and into the growing suburbs. Key to their success was a railroad’s ability to acquire inexpensive parcels, adjacent to new highways, which were large enough to hold both a station and a spacious parking lot. Located 15 miles southwest of Newark in Woodbridge Township, the Metropark site is adjacent to the crossing of the Garden State Parkway and the Lincoln Highway (State Route 27). Since the site was also in a distant New York City suburb, it could potentially be developed as an office park that would attract major corporate clients.
Metropark gave business persons living in the suburbs access to the Penn Central Railroad’s new high-speed Metroliner Service. In 1968, the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad, once known as great rivals, had merged to form Penn Central. With the assistance of the federal government, the company developed the electric-powered Metroliners for use on its busy main line between Washington, D.C. and New York City. With hourly service and luxurious new cars, it was a viable competitor to regional airlines. Stations such as Metropark and New Carrollton were built to test the potential market for high-speed rail services from stations with good highway access. In 1972, Metropark also became a stop on local commuter services, therefore resulting in the closure of the nearby Islen and Colonia stations.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place on August 20, 1969, and was attended by the Director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of High Speed Ground Transportation, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and other state and local officials. The $2.6 million cost of the station was split between the U.S. Department of Transportation and the state of New Jersey. The former paid for the high-level platforms, shelters, and lighting, as well as the pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath the tracks; the latter financed the construction of the station building. Years later, the surface parking lot was replaced by higher capacity, multi-story parking garages.
Designed by Murray Leibowitz, the brown brick station contains a ticketing desk, waiting room, and small concessions area. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow abundant natural light to enter while the roof’s deep overhang protects passengers from inclement weather as they wait outside. In a nod to late 19th and early 20th century depots found across the country, a clock tower stands just north of the building. The four clock faces are set into an intricate latticework whose lightness strongly contrasts with the tower’s solid brick construction. Passengers can access the platforms on the embankment from numerous staircases and elevators. Covered walkways directly link the platforms with the parking garages.
After only a few years of operation, Penn Central descended into bankruptcy. In 1976, much of the company’s Northeast Corridor between Washington, D.C. and Boston was transferred to Amtrak, which had been established by the federal government six years earlier to run the nation’s passenger rail services.
In summer 2009, New Jersey Transit completed a two-year, $47 million improvement project at the Metropark station. Work included the installation of wider and longer high-level platforms capable of accommodating 12-car trains; canopies, windscreens, and climate-controlled waiting rooms on the platforms; lighting and signage; and new staircases. In addition, the station building was enlarged and renovated, and the pedestrian tunnel beneath the tracks was refurbished. During the construction, a series of murals by local artist Mary Angers was preserved. Lining the stairwells, the paintings depict scenes from the area’s past; subjects include the former Iselin railroad station, the Uniontown Hotel, and a cow pasture and dairy barn that used to be down the road.
Settled in 1665 and granted a charter by King Charles II of England in 1669, Woodbridge is touted as the oldest township in New Jersey. It encompasses numerous communities, including Woodbridge Proper, Colonia, and Sewaren. Iselin, where the Metropark station is located, was named for Adrian George Iselin, a New York-based investment banker who served as a director of the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad and owned part of the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh Railway. He also held a large share in the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal and Iron Company. It controlled thousands of acres in the prime coal lands of Indiana County, Penn., where a small mining town also bears the name “Iselin.” When Iselin died in 1905, his fortune was estimated to be in the range of $20-$30 million.
The nucleus of the Iselin community was formed at the present day intersection of Green Street and Chain O’Hills Road. First known as Perrytown, most likely for a tavern keeper named Perry, the settlement was later referred to as Uniontown after a religious group known as the Union Society. Towards the end of the 19th century, the crossroads gained a new identity as Iselin. Why it was named after a man who never lived there remains a bit of a mystery, but possible reasons exist. Iselin was known as a philanthropist, having financed hospitals in Pennsylvania and Catholic churches in New York. In his namesake New Jersey community, he helped establish a finishing school for young women, and also paid for the construction of the two-story brick PRR station.
The 1669 Woodbridge charter mandated that the township had to have at least 60 families, and many of the early pioneers were enlisted from Newbury, Massachusetts. In retrospect, when compared to other charters enacted throughout the English colonies, Woodbridge’s was quite liberal in that it guaranteed to the landowners freedom of religion, the ability to choose their own magistrates, and other benefits. Unlike many early American communities, the land was not allotted equally among the Woodbridge settlers; they received deeds ranging from 15 to more than 500 acres a person. The origin of the township’s name remains uncertain after more than three centuries. Some historians claim that it was to honor the Rev. John Woodbridge, who had been the religious leader of the Newbury group back in Massachusetts. Others believe that the name was chosen to commemorate the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk County, England, from where many of the early settlers came.
Ties to the larger world were tenuous, and communities such as Woodbridge Proper were largely self-sufficient. Many people were engaged in agricultural activities, but there were carpenters, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and other craftsmen among the earliest settlers. A small meeting house was erected on the Kirk Green in the mid-1670s as a place for religious worship and civil administration. Papiack Creek was navigable and docks were constructed to foster trade since roads were often in poor shape, especially during the winter snows and spring rains. Area waterways were also a source of abundant seafood, and local Perth Amboy oysters remained sought-after well into the late 19th century.
Agriculture proved the mainstay of the local economy into the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution brought great change to manufacturing processes. Located on the main overland routes between Philadelphia and New York, two of the largest towns in the English colonies, Woodbridge also boasted taverns and inns to serve weary travelers. Due to its position along these transportation routes, Woodbridge witnessed the passing of American and British troops during the Revolutionary War. From December 1776 to June 1777, Woodbridge Proper was occupied by British forces, and it is believed that they were quartered on the grounds of the present Trinity Episcopal Church on Rahway Avenue. President-Elect George Washington spent a night at Woodbridge’s Cross Keys Tavern in April 1789 on his way to New York City to take the oath of office. He was greeted by the governor and groups of military officers and local residents. The building still stands, but has been moved from its original spot and is now a private residence.
New Jersey’s road network was supplemented by canals in the beginning of the 19th century, which allowed for the cheaper and quicker movement of goods and people. Just as some of these early projects were completed, railroads made their first appearance in the important corridor between Philadelphia and New York. The state chartered the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company (NJRR) in 1832. Two years later, it completed a line between Jersey City and Newark. By 1836, the railroad passed through Woodbridge Township to reach the north shore of the Raritan River, which was bridged in 1838 to allow access to New Brunswick.
Meanwhile, the Camden and Amboy Railroad (C&A), founded in 1830, was working to provide service south of the Raritan River between Camden and Amboy. The C&A had gained its state charter by compromising with the rival Delaware and Raritan Canal (D&R), which also wanted the legal right to build along a similar route. Working together as the Joint Companies, it was determined that the canal would take a more westerly course than the rail line. The C&A would focus on the passenger market while the D&R dealt with heavy freight. The first section of the C&A opened between Bordentown and South Amboy in 1832, and the link to Camden was completed two years later.
In 1837, the railroad’s charter was amended to allow for a branch line from Bordentown to New Brunswick via Trenton. The full line, which paralleled the D&R for half of its route, was completed in early 1839. In anticipation, the NJRR extended its line southwest from New Brunswick to Millstone Junction where the two railroads linked. By sharing tracks, they cut down the Philadelphia-New York route time to approximately five-and-a-half hours. To consolidate control over this vital rail corridor, the C&A and the NJRR merged in 1867 to form the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company. Woodbridge Proper gained direct access to the rail network at this time when a branch line was built from Rahway to Perth Amboy; it was later extended south to Long Branch on the Atlantic Coast.
In the decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed its main line from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and soon turned its acquisitive gaze towards New York City. The PRR achieved its goal in 1871 when it took out a 999 year lease on the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company, including the NJRR’s ferry franchise and water rights on the Hudson River. At Jersey City’s Exchange Place, PRR passengers transferred to ferries to reach Manhattan until the railroad completed its tunnels underneath the river in 1910 and opened the magnificent Pennsylvania Station in Midtown.
The introduction of the railroad into Woodbridge Township allowed one of its main industries to flourish: brick making. In the early 19th century, extensive beds of clay were discovered, but for the most part the raw material was shipped out. In 1845, William Berry moved to Woodbridge from Maine and began manufacturing bricks for the regional market, including fast growing New York City. Thirty years later, his factory could annually produce approximately 1 million bricks. One of his business partners was James Valentine, who in 1866 joined with his brother to establish a factory for the manufacture of lath fire brick. This specialized product could withstand extremely high temperatures, and as its name indicates, was used in the construction of furnaces, firebacks, and chimney linings.
Local clay was also mined for ceramics, hollow tile, fire proof shingles, pipe components, and terracotta. This last item was extremely popular as a decorative veneer for buildings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because it was lightweight, fireproof, and economical. Clay was pressed into molds to create blocks with ornamental raised designs, and before firing, glazes could be added to produce an array of colored finishes. Excellent rail connections ensured that manufacturers could ship their products to markets across the country. In the 1840s and 1850s, Irish and German immigrants provided needed labor, and they were later joined by new arrivals from Hungary.
The wealth that resulted from brick making is evident in the mansion that Hampton Cutter erected on Strawberry Hill. Cutter owned a farm on which clay was discovered in 1845, and he succeeded in establishing a successful clay works. Italianate in style, the three-story brick house is topped off by a wood cupola. In 1929, cretaceous dinosaur tracks were discovered in a pit at the Hampton Cutter & Sons clay works. Unfortunately, the first set was destroyed, but the next year a second set was uncovered. Scientists from Rutgers University were able to remove one of the footprints, and it remains on display at the Rutgers Geological Museum in New Brunswick.
Agricultural and clay products may have provided a sound economic foundation for Woodbridge Township, but the inventions of Thomas Edison drew worldwide attention to this corner of New Jersey. Strongly associated with the Garden State, Edison was actually born in Ohio in 1847. As a child, his family moved to Michigan where he worked on the Grand Trunk Railway selling newspapers and candy. Always curious, the young boy used his money to buy materials for his experiments. After a few years with Western Union, the company offered to buy out the rights to Edison’s new machines and the improvements he had made to the others, thus providing him with seed money to start a research lab.
In 1875, Edison moved his facility from Newark to Menlo Park in Raritan Township, just over the border from Iselin. At the new lab, Edison developed the phonograph, whose fame bestowed upon him the title of “Wizard of Menlo Park.” Experiments with a long burning incandescent light bulb and an underground electrical system followed. In time, his lab became a tourist attraction, made accessible by its proximity to the PRR line. In the mid-1880s, Edison moved to New York City to be closer to potential investors, but while at Menlo Park, he had applied for more than 400 patents.
The lab buildings eventually fell apart, but Edison State Park marks the site. In 1938, the Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower was dedicated as a tribute to the scientist. Made of concrete, the Art Deco structure rises 117 feet to terminate in a large light bulb that shines as a beacon in the night, a symbol of the power of knowledge to drive away darkness and ignorance. A small museum near the tower contains early phonographs and light bulbs, as well as original notebooks from the Menlo Park lab.
Amtrak provides ticketing services but does not provide baggage services at this station. Metropark is served by 48 daily trains.
- 685 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 350 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Payphones
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Parking Attendant
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Ticket Office