Facebook Page
The Kenilworth Station Fire

The Kenilworth Station Fire
August 20, 1974

The Kenilworth Station. 12/22/1973.
Photo by Tom Piccirillo.

In 1974 the Kenilworth Station, the classic "small town" station and local landmark for 76-years suffered a major fire. In an attempt to get rid of some insect infestation a fire erupted in the attic of the building. The Kenilworth Station had been modified after the end of regular passenger service in 1919 to accommodate the Rahway Valley's General Office and contained years and years of old documents that were lost in the fire.

Corinne Clark, wife of RVRR President and General Manager at the time, Robert "Bob" Clark, and daughter of long time RVRR employee George Davis, remembers that day...

"I was working for Bob in the office the day of the fire. It is a day that is as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. We had just come back from lunch and went upstairs to continue with the work at hand. It was only a matter of minutes when I saw smoke coming from the attic door. Bob ran down the stairs and outside to see what caused the fire and I called the fire department. It didn't take long to hear fire engines rushing up Kenilworth Boulevard to the Rahway Valley Station."

"The smoke was thick and black. You could taste the dust and dirt that had been on documents that were decades old in the attic. I remember how scared I was as I waited for the fire engines hoping they would get there fast. At that point it didn't enter my mind that the Kenilworth station was on its last legs."

"I've never seen a fire up that close before. It was terrifying. It wasn't just smoke, there were flames coming from the whole top of the building. I was worried that we didn't have the payroll book when we went outside so I ran up the stairs to get it. I didn't get half way up before a fireman said "You can't go up there". I tried to convince him that it would take less then a minute to get one thing but he wouldn't let me up those stairs. It's a good thing he didn't cause by then I was already choking from the smoke. The desks upstairs were old fashioned grey metal where the payroll book was kept. All I could do was keep my fingers crossed that the fire wouldn't melt the desks. The next day we were allowed back into the building but that didn't last long. Since the inside of the building was destroyed Bob told me to get a trailer so that he, Charlie and I would have a place to work out of."

"When the firetrucks left and everyone was gone, Bob and I sat in his car, staring at the station in ruins. We didn't talk much. How can you find the words when you are in shock about what had happened that day. We were in tears as we looked at the building where our fathers had devoted their lives and we also had been giving it our best."

The Kenilworth Station after the fire. August 1978.

"After my father retired from the railroad, he fiddle with this and fiddled with that around the house but his heart was back at the Kenilworth station. Dad loved his job as Master Mechanic and Superintendent so he formed a company so that he could help out when they needed an extra hand. The day of the fire he just happened to be there but he wasn't in the shop . . . he was out on the train. When the train came back into the station he asked me what happened. As I told him about the fire he hung his head down so that I couldn't see his eyes."

After Bernie Cahill became president of the railroad in 1975 he replaced the office trailer with an old Lehigh Valley Railroad club car with an attached box car which provided ample office space.

The station, in its burned state, remained standing for five more years before being torn down in 1979. At the time, the goal of the Kenilworth Historical Society was to repair and move the station for preservation, but funding and land to accomplish this was never found.

Head Back to the Station!