New Brunswick, NJ (NBK)
Built in 1903, the multimodal station is within easy walking distance of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Johnson & Johnson world headquarters and Rutgers University.
French and Albany Streets
New Jersey Transit Station
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 7,857
- Facility Ownership: New Jersey Transit Corporation
- Parking Lot Ownership: N/A
- 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).
Located in the heart of downtown, the New Brunswick station is within easy walking distance of major institutions and employers such as the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the world headquarters of Johnson & Johnson, and the historic main campus of Rutgers University. Erected in 1903 by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), the station sits adjacent to a viaduct that traverses the central business district and gracefully crosses the Raritan River over a multi-arched bridge. A true intermodal center, the station accommodates Amtrak intercity passenger and New Jersey Transit commuter rail; local and regional busses; and Rutgers University shuttles. There are also more than a dozen bike racks in front of the building for cyclists.
The late 19th century was a diverse period in American design, with architects feeling free to draw on numerous historical styles for their buildings. European precedents offered much of the inspiration, but some architects rejected these foreign influences and instead looked back to early colonial history for intellectual stimulation. As a result, the Colonial Revival came into vogue in the 1890s, and was one component of a larger drive to explore the origins of the country through an increased interest in local history, genealogy and early attempts at historic preservation.
New Brunswick’s Colonial Revival station appears to have been born out of this search for a truly American identity. Accordingly, it has elements that recall the Georgian architecture associated with many of the great colonial houses and institutional structures of the 18th century. Constructed of light brown brick, the two-story building is capped with a hipped roof. Three of the slopes hold gabled dormers that have pediments with dentil molding. The deep cornice that marks the transition between the walls and the roof also has dentil molding at its base, as well as modillions.
Brick quoins draw the eye to the corners of the building and give an impression of strength and solidity. These were qualities especially befitting the PRR, which at the turn of the 20th century was considered one of the most powerful corporations in the world. Windows display a popular Georgian Revival pattern of 9-over-1, in which the upper sash is divided into a grid of nine lights while the lower sash is one large pane of glass. Sills are incorporated into a stone belt course that wraps around the building, while the lintels are embellished with prominent keystones. In the center of the upper street and track facades are trios of windows in which the middle one is flanked by slender columns. Below the second floor windows and the belt course, the brick is laid to create recessed panels.
To protect passengers from inclement weather, a wide porch supported by white Doric columns wraps around the front and sides of the station. Passengers enter the first floor, which contains a few retail spaces, and then ascend a staircase or escalator to reach the waiting room on the second floor, which is at the same height as the viaduct. The large rectangular room also recalls colonial Georgian precedents, especially in the use of vertical paneled wainscoting on the lower portion of the walls and in the window surrounds. Above, the walls are plastered and culminate in an entablature with a pronounced cornice. The ceiling follows the hipped roofline, creating a sense of airiness that is enhanced by the abundant natural light that enters through the dormers and the other windows. On the south side of the room, a screen of Doric columns separates the ticket office and restrooms from the main seating area with its wooden benches. Outside, north and southbound platforms are sheltered by extensive canopies.
Under English rule, New Jersey was divided into two parts. Control over the eastern section was given to Lord George Carteret, who sent his relative Philip Carteret to America to govern the use of his lands. Philip Carteret arrived in 1665 and settled in Elizabeth; he quickly sent out representatives to recruit settlers from established regions of New England. Central New Jersey was largely inhabited by the Lenape American Indians. The earliest European recorded as living in what became New Brunswick was Daniel Cooper, who established a ferry across the Raritan River in the vicinity of Albany Street. Most of the surrounding waterfront was marsh, and cedar forests were found further inland; accordingly, the area was known as Prigmore’s Swamp.
In 1681, John Inian and ten English investors from Long Island purchased approximately 10,000 acres that encompassed most of the present day city. Inian provided river crossings, and by the early 18th century, the small settlement was known as Inian’s Ferry. He later expanded his transportation business by financing a road from his ferry landing southwest to Trenton. The community continued to grow as settlers moved into central New Jersey. The town was wisely located at the furthest point of navigation on the Raritan, which empties into Lower New York Bay at the southern tip of Staten Island; it therefore became a natural transfer point for people and goods. As the settlement expanded, it was renamed New Brunswick in 1724 to honor King George I, who was also the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in northern Germany.
About 50 Dutch families arrived from Albany, N.Y., in 1730. They established a community along French Street, which was later renamed in honor of their hometown. Lands in the center of the colony were found to be quite rich and productive, and mills were constructed to process grains. The expansion of agriculture greatly benefitted New Brunswick and solidified its position as the principal port of the Raritan River Valley. A Swedish traveler noted in 1748 that trade with New York was quite strong. Wharves lined the riverfront and boats laden with items such as flour, corn, bread, timber, and wood boards regularly made the 40 mile trip northward. The resulting prosperity lasted well into the 19th century, and was supplemented by traffic coming over the road between Philadelphia and New York.
New Brunswick entered the preserve of a select few towns when Queens College was founded in 1766 as the ninth institution of higher learning in the English Colonies. The first decades were not easy. During the Revolutionary War, students and faculty scattered, and from 1795 to 1825, the school was closed twice due to low attendance and money problems. Upon reopening, it was renamed in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers who consequently made a generous financial donation to the college. Expansion came after the Civil War when Rutgers was selected as the state’s land grant college. In addition to training students in mechanical and agricultural arts, it sponsored an extension program to provide state farmers with information and advice on growing methods. Elevation to university status in 1924 was later followed by state acts that designated Rutgers as the official state university. Fans of college sports know that Rutgers is considered the site of the first intercollegiate football game, played against Princeton in 1869.
Disruptions in trade occurred during the Revolutionary War, as American and British armies traversed the corridor between New York and Philadelphia. In 1774, the colony’s Provincial Congress met in town to choose delegates for the Continental Congress. George Washington and his troops passed through in November 1776 after suffering defeat in New York. The British soon followed and occupied New Brunswick from December 1776 until late summer the following year. Evidence of the occupation can be found in the Buccleuch Mansion along the Raritan River. British soldiers scarred the wood floors and banisters with their sabers and muskets. In an act of resistance, local patriot fisherman and shippers banded together to harass British ships in New York Bay; they were effective to the point that a British expedition was ordered to destroy a New Brunswick-based fleet.
Shipping recovered after the war, and vessels were outfitted to trade along the East Coast and even as far south as British possessions in the Caribbean — including the Bahamas and Jamaica. Merchants on business trips to New York often made combined overland and water trips that took up to three days. Forward thinking inventors began to consider improvements to overland transportation methods, and one of the best known personalities was John Stevens of Hoboken. Originally trained in the law, he always tinkered to the side and took great interest in steam-powered machines. By 1798 he completed his first steamboat and operated it on the Hudson River. A decade later he was running a steam ferry between Hoboken and the island of Manhattan, and soon branched out to provide service on the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Trenton. Stevens then began to advocate for a steam powered railroad to connect his shipping services on the two rivers. Although many considered his railroad ideas to be the imaginings of a dreamer, in 1815 the state of New Jersey granted him a charter for a railroad to run between Trenton and New Brunswick.
Nothing came of the idea under John Stevens, but his sons Edwin Augustus and Robert Livingston took up his mantle and were instrumental in founding the Camden and Amboy Railroad (C&A) in 1830. The entire family did much to advance the cause of railroading in the United States. Stevens and his sons built the first American locomotive in 1826 and ran it on a demonstration track in Hoboken so that naysayers could see it in action. Robert L. Stevens is acknowledged as the creator of the all iron “T” rail that became a standard across the industry. The C&A is also credited with developing ties, spikes, and rail connectors that were later adopted by other railroads. It had first used granite blocks as footings for the iron rails, but when the stone was found to be in short supply, Stevens substituted wood ties. After some test runs, the more flexible wood was found to be a better material.
Although New Brunswick had been part of John Stevens’ original vision, the city’s first rail link was northward to Jersey City, not south to Trenton. The New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company (NJRR) was chartered by the state in 1832. By fall 1834 it had completed a line between Jersey City and Newark, and two years later it reached the north shore of the Raritan River. New Brunswick residents had to cross the waterway to start their New York-bound trips, and a ferry ride from Jersey City was necessary to reach Manhattan. A direct path into New Brunswick was completed in 1838 when the NJRR opened its bridge across the Raritan. A small depot was erected on the northeast corner of George and Somerset Streets, about a block from the present station, and was later joined by a freight house.
Meanwhile, the C&A worked to provide service southward to Trenton and Camden. The railroad gained its state charter by compromising with the rival Delaware and Raritan Canal (D&R), which also wanted the legal right to build a transportation line across central New Jersey. Working together as the Joint Companies, it was determined that the canal would take a more westerly route 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. In the late 1850s and 1860s, the C&A realigned the branch line between Trenton and New Brunswick due to poor soil conditions along the canal. The new right-of-way largely conforms to that used as part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. To consolidate control over this vital rail line, the C&A and the NJRR merged in 1867 to form the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company.
In the decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, the 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 Delaware and Raritan Canal’s eastern endpoint was on the New Brunswick waterfront, and historic maps show the location of the waterway and its locks. Newly arrived Irish immigrants provided much of the hand labor needed to dig the 44 mile, 7 foot deep trench, which was completed in 1834. While transportation connections usually benefit cities by increasing access to new markets, the immediate impact of the canal and the railroads on New Brunswick was negative. The city lost control of the agricultural trade in the Raritan River Valley as farmers gained local access to the transportation network and were able to ship out their products without having to go through New Brunswick-based merchants. In the 1860s and 1870s, approximately eighty percent of the canal’s freight was coal from northeastern Pennsylvania headed to New York City.
During urban renewal projects in the 1960s and 1970s, much of the canal infrastructure on the city waterfront was paved over for the construction of State Route 18. Entire blocks between the present train station and the river were bulldozed to encourage redevelopment projects such as the Johnson & Johnson campus designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. Most of the canal system remains intact west of New Brunswick and is now a state park
Luckily, new manufacturing concerns were established and bolstered the economy. In the second half of the 19th century, many New Jersey cities industrialized, in part because of strong regional markets for goods. New York was growing into the nation’s preeminent financial center and a major international port, and the state’s excellent and expanding rail network allowed manufacturers to ship their products across the country. In the decade prior to the Civil War, factories producing leather shoes and wallpaper opened along the canal to take advantage of water power. They were later joined by specialized rubber producers and chemical companies.
The firm of Johnson & Johnson was founded in 1886 by three brothers, and it quickly became a leading producer of antiseptics and bandages. Commercial first-aid kits, originally produced for use on the railroads, found wide acceptance in factories and offices across the country. Success continued into the next century with the production of Band-Aids and No More Tears baby shampoo. In 1905, E.R. Squibb and Sons, a major pharmaceutical company, opened an ether factory in town. The Squibb Institute for Medical Research was established in 1938 and gained acclaim for its work on antibiotics. In 1892, Rutgers added a pharmaceutical program to take advantage of proximity to the industry. Even to the present day, New Brunswick retains a reputation as the “Healthcare City” due to the prevalence of medical companies, hospitals and scientific laboratories.
New Brunswick’s industrial boom attracted immigrants who were arriving daily through the port of New York. In addition to the Irish population that had settled in the town upon completion of the canal, large German and Hungarian communities formed. The latter’s influence is commemorated in Kossuth Park, named after Hungarian freedom fighter Lajos Kossuth. He was one of the leaders of the 1848-49 revolt for Hungarian independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. An annual Hungarian festival takes place in June and includes traditional dancing and music, Hungarian culinary specialties, and children’s activities. At the turn of the 21st century, new arrivals from Latin America have continued, and enriched, the city’s immigration story.
New Brunswick’s long and exciting history is celebrated in September during the Raritan River Festival, initiated in 1980 to commemorate the city’s 300th Anniversary. One of the festival’s aims is to reconnect residents with the waterway that put the city on the map, and thus it is held in Boyd Park along the shore of the canal and river. Popular attractions include craft vendors, a beer garden, live music, and environmental activities. The most highly anticipated events are races involving cardboard canoes and rubber ducks. In the latter, anyone may sponsor a chipper yellow bird, with the money going to charity. Tossed into the river, the most spirited duck breaks free of the flock to dash across the finish line, thereby winning a prize for its lucky owner.
Amtrak provides ticketing services but does not provide baggage services at this station, which is served by three daily trains.
- 590 Short Term Parking Spaces
- 590 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Dedicated Parking
- Elevator Accessible
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- High Platform
- Parking Attendant
- Ticket Office