Cranford, NJ is a town of 22,625 people about twenty-two miles outside of Manhattan. There is no reason why you would want to come here. It is a boring place with boring people, pretty much like any suburb of New York City, except maybe a bit more boring. I live in Roselle, the next town over. It’s just as boring, only a lot more run-down, and without a NJ Transit station.
Out of curiosity, and boredom, I occasionally Google the history of my local area. Cranford, Garwood, Scotch Plains, Plainfield, Roselle, and Westfield, all on the “Old York Road” between Philadelphia and Elizabeth, have been around for a long, long time. Small farming communities until the United States Civil War, they expanded along with the New Jersey Central Railroad in the Late Nineteenth Century until they reached their present dimensions at around 1900. In other words the center of Cranford, NJ in 2016 looks pretty much the way the center of Cranford, NJ did in 1900. Just about the only changes to the town itself came after World War II, when real estate developers bought up all the local farms, built houses, and sold them to returning veterans under the GI Bill.
Being more bored then usual, I decided to compare the time it would have taken to get from Cranford, NJ to downtown Manhattan in 2016 to the time it would have taken in 1900. I found an old brochure from a real estate company advertising houses near downtown Cranford in 1894 (warning: this is a huge .pdf file) in a development then called “Roosevelt Manor.” Aside from being curious about why it was called “Roosevelt Manor” — Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t become president until 1901 — I was pleased to discover a New Jersey Central Railway schedule from the early 1890s. In 1894, if you left downtown Cranford at 8:17 AM you would be at Liberty Street (near the World Trade Center and the current day Zuccotti Park) at 9:02 AM. That’s precisely forty five minutes (including the ferry across the Hudson River).
Central Railroad of New Jersey train schedule from the early 1890s
Google Maps (above) tells me you can drive from downtown Cranford to downtown Manhattan in about 40 minutes. I suppose that’s theoretically possible if Chris Christie (or Trump) hasn’t shut down the Holland Tunnel so he can get his fat ass into the city and kiss up to his owners on Wall Street, but I wouldn’t count on it. I’d give it about an hour. It’s a lot easier to take New Jersey Transit.
New Jersey Transit schedule from 2016.
It seems very little has changed. In 2016, if you leave downtown Cranford, NJ at 8:17 AM on a typical weekday morning, you will arrive at Penn Station at 9:06 AM or the World Trade Center at 9:08 AM (if you switch to the PATH at Newark). As a matter of fact, it takes slightly longer than it did in 1894, fifty minutes as opposed to forty five minutes.
So where are my flying cars?