After months spent out of commission and multiple different dates announced for its restoration, the Dinky finally resumed service on Sunday, May 12.
When the Dinky pulled into its station on Alexander Street for the first time since October 14, the Princeton University Band and several other spectators were there to receive it.
“It started out as a joke when the Dinky originally closed that we would play for its eventual reopening,” said McGinnis Miller ’20, a member of the Band. “It’s been a while since then, but the idea stuck!”
The Band played several classic songs from its repertoire, and the entire crowd cheered as the Dinky departed from the station again.
“We also played the ‘Free Ride,’ but the conductor of the train ignored our unspoken request to play on the actual train, so we just played it in and out of the station,” Miller said.
The Dinky has been operating since the end of the Civil War. Over time, it has come to be a unique, enduring symbol of the University.
“As a freshman who made use of [the Dinky]…I wanted to raise awareness of the return of such a cultural icon,” said Chris Leahy ’22, who organized the celebration by creating a Facebook event titled “Celebrate the Dinky’s Return.”
On Tuesday, the town of Princeton also hosted a “Grand Reopening Celebration for the Resumption of Dinky Service” at the station. Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, as well as other members of the town leadership, spoke at the event, which was followed by a Q&A session with New Jersey Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Joseph Bertoni. The Wawa at the station provided free coffee and pretzels for all those in attendance.
Throughout the Dinky’s hiatus, University students had expressed discontent about the lack of punctuality and reduced carrying capacity of the buses that were shuttling between campus and Princeton Junction in its stead.
NJ Transit initially suspended the Dinky service in order to install federally mandated Positive Train Control equipment on their rail fleet. This installation was completed in December, and the Dinky was scheduled to return in January, but then it was pushed back to an indefinite date in the second quarter due to a lack of engineers. After being slated to return on May 24, NJ Transit requested an accelerated “restoration of services” that allowed the Dinky to return 12 days early.
The Dinky has resumed full service with a similar schedule to its previous one.