on the roads to newark bay

by Frank J. Urquhart

Image: Library of Congress
Image: Library of Congress

Near the old lighthouse pagoda, lookin’ northward from the Kills,
There’s a clumsy bridge a-squattin’ where the Bay wash backs and fills;
And its serried ranks of piling in close order grimly stand
While they buffet back the waters from the swiftly heaping sand.

        On the roads to Newark Bay,
        Where the iron horses neigh,
        Where the meadow grasses murmur o’er the muskrats at their play;
        On the roads to Newark Bay,
        Where the railroads have their way,
        And the locomotives thunder, Eastward, Westward, night and day.

It is thirty years and over since those wooden soldiers filed,
Sent a-scoutin’ by the Central when the people were beguiled
Into thinkin’ ’twas campaignin’ for a year and a day—
But they stuck, those wooden soldiers did, for they’d been sent to stay.

        “Temporary,” Central said;
        “Open bridge, high overhead.
        “We will build a little later”—yes, they will, when we are dead;
        On the roads to Newark Bay,
        Where the railroads hold their sway,
        Where the regiments of piling shoulder closer day by day.

Go ye up beyond the marshes, where the river reaches low,
Where ten thousand steamy bannerets announce the toil below;
Where the forge fires’ labored breathings throb in rhythm with the roar
Of a city hard at making things beside the oozy shore.

        Go ye up from Newark Bay,
        Where they wait a better day,
        When the tides shall team with traffic on a deep, free waterway;
        When our craft shall seaward wing,
        And the coasters commerce bring;
        And the flags of many nations midst our factory smoke shall fling.

We are sick of wastin’ language on the men that rule the rail;
For ’tis wheels, not keels, they’re runnin’, and our pleas do not avail;
Though the West beats at our gateway, cryin’ “More room to the sea!”
And the deep calls to the river, “Come ye closer unto me.”

        Smilin’ face but clawlike hand;
        Law! too well we understand;
        They would rule upon the waters as they dominate the land.
        On the roads to Newark Bay,
        Where the railroads have their way,
        And the locomotives thunder, Eastward, Westward, night and day.

By 1892, three railroad companies—the Central of New Jersey, the Pennsylvania, and the Lehigh Valley—had bridged Newark Bay. This boatmen’s reproach of the rail barons appeared in the Newark Sunday Call of November 24, 1907, four years before the opening of direct passenger service to Newark from Manhattan.

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