This article, by Charles Anderson, was first published in the “Old Station Timetable,” in February 1982.
Richard Snow is on the tax rolls of Woburn, Mass. in 1645. A record of his will is recorded 1676, and he died in 1677. It is believed he arrived in the Colonies in 1935 as a young man on the sailing ship, Enterprise. He is the progenitor of a vast family network that is scattered across the country, as far as Texas and California. A great number of the early family members were born and lived around Colrain, Mass. In 184), Asaph Snow was born, he enlisted at the age of 18 and fought through several campaigns during the Civil War. After the war, he stayed in the south working as a United States claims agent. While stationed at Camp Dennison in Ohio during his training, he married Teresa McKinney and they lived in Tazewell, Tenn. where he was the postmaster. He died on his farm nearby in 1899.
His son, Elmer John Snow, was born in Tazewell in 1869. He came to Hillburn, N.Y. in 1884 to work for the Ramapo Iron Works owned by a relative, William Wait Snow (1828-1910). This firm manufactured car wheels and other railroad devices. Mr. Snow also bound the first Webster Dictionary! Naturally, Elmer John Snow met W.W. Snow’s daughter, Clara Amanda, and married her in 1892. The iron works later became the Ramapo Wheel and Foundry Company.
W.W. Snow had been trained in the foundry business since boyhood, working for various employers in Massachusetts. With financial backing, he started his own business near the Hudson River and later bought land from the Suffern family in Hillburn. This included a mill, 20 houses and a store, and that is how the town of Hillburn started.
The Worthington Pump Company employed Elmer John in 1899 to put up a large pumping station in Hawaii. Returning to the mainland, he again joined his father-in-law serving as superintendent in charge of design and construction for a new brake shoe factory -now known as Abex – and part of Illinois Central. As director and a member of the board, he had a great deal to do with the growth and prosperity of the business. The Snow houses in Hillburn were destroyed when the N.Y. Thruway was built.
Mrs. Peter D. Ash (Oliver Snow) lived in a house off Miller Road, now in the Oak Hill Estates in Mahwah, N.J. Of her sons, Peter is living near Mt. Snow in Vermont and, Charles lives in Litchfield, Conn. A home on Olney Road, once occupied by Elmer Snow, is still in the family. Mr. Howard D. MacPherson, whose late wife was Mildred Snow. lives there now. She was a great-granddaughter of W.W. Snow.
The Snow family recognized the poverty and deprived conditions under which the mountain people lived years ago. They were forefront in starting a school on the mountain, a one room building with a huge fireplace. A nurse, Miss Mack lived in a comfortable house not far from the school. She provided medical help to the neglected families. Her expenses were paid by the family.
Although the Snow family is no longer prominent in local affairs as “Snow”, the line is carried on under other family names. These include MacPherson, Bristow and Vilmar, just to name three of them. Another great-granddaughter, Mrs. Dorothy Snow Vilmar, lives in her uncle’s house (Homer H. Snow) on Mahwah Road. Her sister, Eugenia Snow Averill, lives in Willbraham. Mass. Her brother’s (Douglas Snow 1934-73) children live in the New Paltz, N.Y. area. How many more area residents can trace their heritage back to William Wait Snow?
This article, by Jane Vilmar, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in February 1981.
Ralph Frederick of Mahwah, who was 91 years young on November 15th of last year, started to work for The American Brake Shoe & Foundry Co. back in 1903, a year after the firm began operation in the township.
His job was to tag freight for the railroad on the shipping platform. He was promoted to shipping clerk by the late James A. Davidson, and later became production manager – a job he retained until his retirement December 1, 1954 a total of 50 years with the same company!
When asked what his wages w.re back in those early days, he said, “we got $3.75 a week, worked six days a week, 12 hours a day -and I have some pay envelopes to prove it. In fact, when I received a raise to $6.00 a week, I thought I was richl”
He was born in Suffern, N. Y. in a house along Hemion Road. He attended Airmont School (2 classrooms divided by a partition), and it was after that he went to work at The American Brake Shoe -walking through all kinds of weather, hardly missing a day of work in all those years.
Ralph moved to Mahwah in 1932. He is married to the former Bessie Mabie. Asked what he did now that he is retired, he explained that his lawn and garden keep him active. The couple celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary last November.
Early History of Abex
The foundry built in 1902 was started by William Wait Snow who produced the car wheel, brake shoe and other railroad devices. He was assisted by R.J. Davidson, superintendent; F.W. Sargent, chief engineer; H. Winger, purchasing agent, and G.C. Ames, comptroller. There were about 100 employees in 1903, mostly from Mahwah, Ramsey, Suffern and Tallman. Those living east of the railroad walked dirt roads and crossed the Mahwah River on a wooden plank bridge, under the railroad tracks and through the swamps on a wooden foot bridge. Those who commuted by horse/ and wagon or carriage were fortunate enough to stable their horses for the day in a big stable on the right side of the present gate house at the entrance of the plant on Route 202.
About 1904, there were five double houses located where the research lab is today. Outside the homes were oval shaped brick ovens used by women to bake bread.
Between 1905 and 1910,-there were two additions on the south end of the foundry. Everything came in by rail and out” the same way. John Rafferty was. the engineer of locomotive #242 that handled the yard freight. Old #242 was retired to the plant in Canada.
In ‘1908 when Ho-Ho-Kus Township (now Mahwah) was formed, A.L. Clark (his family ran a grocery store in Tallman, N.Y.) was the first township clerk. It was also the year the Mahwah Building & Loan Association was formed at the urging of Clark and officers of The American Brake Shoe Company.
(Formerly The American Brake Shoe and Foundry Co.)
The Abex iron foundry began operations in 1902 in the township casting brake shoes for railroad cars. The group of far-sighted men who built the foundry and started what was to become a successful business venture was headed by William Wait Snow, R.J. Davidson and Otis H. Cutler. In that same year, the Mahwah plant was joined with four other brake shoe foundries to form The American Brake Shoe & Foundry Co.
During the past 79 years, the Company has expanded its operations and diversified its products until today Abex operates 62 plants around the world. Today the Mahwah complex employs between 600 and 700 people of which 350 work in the iron foundry.
On its 33.5 acre tract bounded by N. Railroad Avenue, Rt. 202 and Conrail tracks, are located in addition to the iron foundry, the Corporation’s Research Center, the Railroad products headquarters and Engineering Depts., and the Corporate facilities Engineering Dept. Abex became a subsidiary of the parent company, Illinois Central Industries, in 1968.
The local foundry is the oldest operating plant in the Abex Corp. It is a member of the Abex cast Products Group producing castings of gray iron and ductile iron for most branches of industry, including G. E., Caterpillar Tractor Co., and US Steel co. Railroad and railroad car builders buy roller bearing adapters also produced in the foundry.
Many of the Abex manufacturing processes and new products were developed in Mahwah’s Research center. Several manufacturing processes developed by the center are licensed to companies throughout the world.
The most recent addition to the Abex Research center is the Engineering Test center which houses several large computerized dynamometer testing machines used in research and development of improved railroad car wheels, brake shoes and auto brake linings
The Railroad Products Group with headquarters and engineering offices in the local complex operates 15 plants. They manufacture railroad equipment for industry.
The newest and largest steel wheel plant in the-world opened last year near Johnstown, Pa. Designed and built under directions of Abex Facilities Group in Mahwah, it produces car wheels of a new and improved design using manufacturing techniques developed in a joint effort by-research, engineering and facilities personnel right here in Mahwah.
This article, by John Y. Dater, was first published in “The Old Station Timetable” in June 1979.
The Paterson and Ramapo Railroad ran its first train through Ramsey from Paterson to Suffern in 1848. Then you could get a horse and wagon to take you to the Suffern Erie station where the Branch Line runs over to Piermont. The Paterson and Hudson R.R. would take you from Paterson to Jersey City where you could take a ferry to New York. All this took about a quarter of the time it took to run from Piermont on the Hudson down to New York by boat.
In those days there was a Ho-Ho-Kus station where the road runs west from the Turnpike to the old factories along the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook. Here is where Ridgewood people had to come if they wanted to take the train to Paterson or New York. Where the present Ho-Ho-Kus station is was called Undercliff when it was built some 10 years later. About 1852 the Erie R.R. leased both of the short roads and thus came to New York. The only problem was the Erie tracks were 5′ 2” gauge, and the other roads were standard or 4′ 8 1/2″. There is a picture of this in the Old Mahwah station.
In the beginning, Ramsey had only a shed by the tracks just north of Main St. which was then called Dater Ave. The present station was built in 1862, and the room in Its south end was used for express and freight. Also, by the crossing and the open passenger shed was a small building called the “flag shanty”. Here there was a railroad man who came out and waved a white flag on the crossing when a train was coming.
This lasted until about 1900 when a “gate tower” was built there and pneumatic gates were installed either side of the track. The operator had to push one arm to work one gate and another to work the other. Then in 1903 the four tracks were put through from Suffern to south of Glen Rock where the main line went to Paterson and the Bergen Co. Short Cut ran through Warren Point and Fairlawn to Rutherford with 4 tracks to Jersey City. Old timers said that in the early days trains crossing the meadows often derailed or the tracks sunk. Then there was the trip through the old tunnel In Bergen Hill when a trainman came through to light the gas lights in each car.
There was not much electricity around in the early 1900’s. Rockland Electric had just secured their franchise through Mr. Elmer Snow of Mahwah. About 1908 the crossing gates were made electrical, and they were operated from the old gate tower. There was also a tower east of the tracks down where the parking lot is. Here there were big levers to operate the switches from one track to another and also levers to operate the block signals. This was before they had electric block signals or switch motors. Lon Hagerman of Mahwah ran this tower for years, and we kids used to go visit him and help pull the levers.
In the old days when it was a pleasure to travel across country there were express trains through Ramsey. There was the Chicago Express, the Erie Limited, the Southern Tier and the Tuxedo Express for the big shots in Tuxedo Park. There was also a Wells Fargo train which carried money, and guards would get out, armed with rifles, and patrol the train. Another feature was the figure 4 devices near the east and west bound tracks on which mail bags were hung. The mall cars had arms which picked up these bags, thus insuring fast service.