Biking the Traction Line
As we all know, the summer is almost upon us! Over the years, I’ve tried to compile a list of cool things to do with the kids over the summer. Every year, I add “Bike the Traction Line” to my list. We’ve never actually biked the Traction Line over the summer, but we have biked it as a family a few times in the cooler months, and once with a whole gaggle of my daughter’s friends and their moms on a beautiful autumn half-day a few years ago
“What is the Traction Line?” you might be asking. Well, it is the original trolley line used by Morris County Traction Company. This Madison-Morristown trolley was used from 1914 to 1928. It was the last section of the trolley line from Maplewood to Morristown to be completed because of opposition from wealthy estate owners. (A great history with old photos can be found here.) In 1986, it was opened as a recreation trail.
The Traction Line is a 2.7 mile long paved trail that runs alongside the train tracks. Most of the trail is very flat, with just a few little hills. You can pick it up in multiple locations (Convent Rd, Morris Twp; Kahn Rd., Morris Twp; Morris Ave at Rt 287, Morristown), but we like to start at the beginning, on Danforth Rd., right here in Madison. If you can’t bike to Danforth, you can park your car on Beech Ave. and cross Danforth to the trail head. You follow the path down the hill by the bridge, and you get started! (For a map, click here.)
As you go along the trail, you pass the back of Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the crumbling wall that Florence Vanderbilt Twombly had built so she wouldn’t have to see the trolley. Then you go along Convent Station and College of St. Elizabeth. In most spots, there is a fence on both sides of you, separating you from the train tracks on one side and neighborhoods or woods on the other, so it can feel pretty secluded. (Though we have never had a problem, I don’t think I would ride it alone, just for the seclusion factor.) Along the trail, there are also exercise stations where you can stretch or work your muscles.
Just before one of the overpasses further along, there is a staircase leading up to the street, which is just around the corner from…Friendly’s Restaurant! We usually don’t need convincing to take a stop for ice cream! We bring our bikes up the steps and then sit in the outside seating area to take a break with our cones.
The Traction line trail ends at Washington’s Headquarters on Morristown. If you don’t want to lock your bike up and stop in there, you can always just bike up to see the statue of George before you turn around for your 2.7 mile ride home.