Canopy Collapses at Historic Princeton Dinky Station

Dinky Canopy

The canopy of the historic Princeton Dinky train station on University Place collapsed just before 4:30 p.m. today. No injuries have been reported so far, and all the workers at the scene have been accounted for, officials said.

Fire and rescue workers from across Central New Jersey rushed to the scene. At one point about a dozen fire trucks were near the station and a portion of University Place was closed off.

firefighters A 200-foot section of the canopy that stretched from the south station building to the north station building collapsed onto the train tracks as about 4:25 p.m. Rescue workers searched the trenches and looked under the canopy to make sure no one was trapped. One worker was initially unaccounted for but was found unharmed.

Construction workers have been digging trenches in the area for the past few weeks to make way for Princeton University’s arts and transit project. The station was shut down for good last month and a new temporary station was opened on Alexander Street about 1,200 feet south of the old station on Aug. 26.

It is still unclear what caused the collapse of the canopy. The canopy was originally scheduled to be removed around Sept. 2 at part of the project. The Mercer County task force that investigates structural collapses was on the scene this afternoon and evening.

As of 7 p.m. University Place was still closed between the station and Alexander Street. A public safety officer for the University told onlookers and the press not to congregate on the public sidewalk across the street next to McCarter Theatre and told people to keep moving.

Dinky Canopy


  1. Might it have collapsed because the supporting foundation was removed as part of a trench? Another example of the excellent community planning of our tax exempt leech. Who’s paying for all the rescue teams?

    1. I think the University should make a generous donation to each and every agency that responded. From the top of my head (judging by all the photos I’ve seen) I can think of Princeton, Lawrenceville, Plainsboro, Ewing, Hopewell, State Police, Cranbury, Flemington, Raritan, Clinton, and I’m sure there are many I’m missing. There were also some volunteer search dogs. The response was overwhelming.

      1. The people of Lawrenceville, Plainsboro, Ewing, Hopewell, State Police, Cranbury, Flemington, Raritan, Clinton, are being taxed, and thier resources are being used by University.. It’s all robbery … Does the University pay more taxes NO. And when the community askes to spare the Dinky the University S*its in the face of the community

    2. Speaking (on my own, without any prompting or authorization from the squad) as a former member and a former President of the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad, and also as an alumnus of the University, I can assure you that during my years of service on the Squad, the University was EXTREMELY generous in its financial and organizational support of the Squad, including completely funding the squad’s acquisition a very expensive, brand-new, top-of-the-line ambulance. If memory serves, this purchase alone was close to $200,000. In addition, a very large percentage of the volunteer members of the squad came from among the ranks of the University student body, and even though I’ve since moved away from Princeton, there are many alumni squad members who do end up living locally and continuing to serve the community through the Squad. The same was also true for the various fire companies in town.

      So the next time you or a loved one is in need of emergent care, just remember that it is entirely possible that not only the emergency personnel who come to your aid, but also the ambulance which takes you to the hospital or the fire apparatus that provides its life- and property-saving services may have been provided either in whole or in substantial part by that “tax exempt leech” you so callously dismiss.

      1. I only used the term “Tax exempt leech” because it was the MOST polite term that properly applies.

        It was indeed quite generous for the University to donate the equivalent of one student’s tuition, how ever many years ago that may have been. The other day there were emergency services from ten other agencies, how much has the university contributed to them? God forbid someone in this part of the state needed emergency services while they were all tied up due to the university’s reckless disregard for public safety.

        I’m sure all those years ago emergency services were provided free, perhaps by volunteers. That is not the case today. I was billed $500 to transport my step son two blocks to Princeton Hospital. Now that the hospital is on the other side of route 1, I’m sure the cost has not gone down. and the need for qualified first responders to keep the patient alive during that journey is more valuable than ever. Nonetheless, several communities went without ambulances the other night due to the negligence of the university.

        I understand that having paid a ludicrous amount for an “education” might engender loyalty to the leeches whose engineering designed an “Arts and TRANSIT” center that moved public transportation farther from the center of town, and whose rush to remove a cherished historical landmark failed to consider the concept that foundations have a purpose. Such shortsightedness is emblematic of Princeton University today. I’m certain it was different when you were here, your pride indicates that there was once something to be proud of.

        1. The ‘tax exempt leech’ is actually the #1 property tax payer in Princeton. They pay $9.5 million per year in property taxes alone. That supports a lot of emergency services. On top of that, they give us $2.5 million per year just as a gift. Beyond that, they provide tens of millions of dollars for infrastructure projects that benefit everybody in the town, and also provide millions of dollars for community organizations. They make a world-class campus and classes available to people from the town for free, and support amenities like the Garden Theater that would have closed down otherwise. That’s before we even talk about the intangible benefits of having the University around in terms of supporting businesses and housing prices.

          I agree that they messed up big time by failing to give adequate weight to transit when building their new arts playground, but the University is not a leech and it is the primary thing that makes Princeton special. It is absolutely insane to be denouncing the University. The future of Princeton depends on a good relationship between the University and the town.

          1. You can spin the numbers however you want SFB. I may be the #25,000 property tax payer in Princeton, but then my property is much smaller.

            That $2.5 million gift has a name. “Payment in Lieu of Taxes”, It is negotiated with the Borough, which is represented by the wife of a University employee.

            I haven’t seen any “benefits” to the university’s infrastructure, certainly no more than I did when I lived in a city with only a community college. The construction jobs created are not being filled by Princeton residents, and the spending the construction workers do in town is not at any of the shops in Palmer Square, and will end when the project does. I have seen property taxes skyrocket, forcing many long time residents to leave their homes.

            Yes, they messed up “big time” by destroying the one thing that actually did make Princeton special. One of the reasons I moved to this town was an accessible train station. I’m healthier now, but when I came here I couldn’t drive and could barely walk. I would never be able to make it to the space age new and improved transit center. Admitting they are wrong is awfully convenient now that they’ve ripped the station beyond repair.

            I understand why you would feel denouncing the university is “insane”. Biting the hand that feeds you is never a popular position, But in this country it resulted in the Emancipation Proclamation.

            If the “future of Princeton” depends on a good relationship with the university, you can continue to bow and scrape so Massah don’t be getting the whip.

            1. I’m not going to argue with you, especially after that offensive last paragraph. The University employs about 6,000 people, and is therefore the mainstay of the local economy. But I am not one of them, so you can knock it off with the ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ guff.

              1. SFB, I have read your comments on Planet Princeton for some time. While you may champion concepts that I find offensive, I have never taken them personally.

                Would you prefer an analogy to collaborators in Nazi Germany? Or a fictional reference such as “The Stepford Wives”? There are certainly comparisons to the coal towns of Pennsylvania, where the mining company was the mainstay of the community.

                Princeton University does no more, and in many instances far less than any institution of higher learning does for its surrounding community. Unlike those institutions, Princeton University expects praise for doing what it in some cases is required by law to do.

                You (and I do not refer to anyone personally) may not be directly employed by the university, but you may depend on business from them, which will be denied without your praise. Your company will not receive contracts from the university if prominent members of your staff have spoken out against the university. Even tenured professors walk a line, knowing that although they won’t be fired, their departments will suffer if they speak too loudly.

                The university expects you to bow and kiss their iron fist. They don’t care what damage they do to the community, for the most part their upper management arrives in chauffeured limousines. The hero alumni Einstein and Nash are given lip service, the new idol is Carl Icahn.

                Yes, I find Princeton University’s attitude towards the people of Princeton offensive.

                1. OK, look, it’s not about you or me. It’s about trying to do the best for the town. I’m going to set the ‘nazi collaborator’ thing and the ‘uncle tom’ thing aside. My position is not based on loyalty or dependence to the University. I have none. It is based on my view of the reality of the situation.

                  A lot of people believe that the University is not ‘paying its fair share’. They argue that the University uses more services than it pays for and that other colleges pay more to their host towns. Let’s be clear about what the University’s ‘fair share’ is. We can argue about it all day long, but US law is clear: Princeton University does not have to pay a dime in taxes. It is a non-profit educational institute, and that entitles it to tax exemption. To that extent, every dime that it does throw in is pure charity.

                  We may not like that law, but it is the law, and it is not going to change.

                  Not only does the University pay millions even though it is tax exempt, it chooses to pay taxes on activities that are not explicitly linked to its educational mission. That’s why it pays property taxes on faculty housing. They could go to court and argue that this is a tax-free activity that supports its educational mission- but they do not. They choose to be a good neighbor.

                  Local politicians love to say ‘I will extract a better deal from the University’, setting it up as an ‘us vs them’ battle. It’s crazy. First of all, the University is already paying in more than its fair share (as defined by law). Other municipalities must be looking on with bemusement. They would LOVE to have a Princeton University in their town, driving up property values, and attracting business investment.

                  Finally, most people at the State level agree that Princeton University is a force for good. The University brings a huge amount of investment and prestige to the State. They will look extremely unfavorably on a town that antagonizes and feels unduly entitled to the assets of the Institution that employs 6,000 people in knowledge-based activities.

                  The University is absolutely exasperated at people in Princeton whining about them. If we in the town are not prepared to work with them on a basis of partnership, there is another way they can go: use their influence at the State level to exempt themselves from local zoning and planning controls. Last year, the NJ Senate already passed a bill to this effect. If we carry on attacking the University, you can bet that this bill is going to come back. Don’t go in a cage with a Tiger.

                  1. Whats best for the Town?? The f***ing University it trearing the town apart, tearing it down. The university needs to pay taxes – Several of the Non Profits (such as eating clubs) have lost thier Non Profit status. ANd still they no Pay

                  2. The university used the Fire Companys to respond to a Several Alarm incident. The Universey needs to pay for that .

                    1. 1. They don’t need to pay for it. Emergency responses are not paid for on a ‘per-fee’ basis.
                      2. Notwithstanding (1) they already did pay for it, through extensive contributions to local municipalities.

                    2. If they keep making emergancies and the authories have to respond the event needs to be paid for. I pay property taxes so the fire company comes to my house. But guess what. The Univerty acconts to a very high number of documented and undocumented emergancies. If they use the resource they need to pay. Becuase my D*am taxes are TOO D*AM high. The University has been pissing about tons of money lately – and flaunting it the our faces.
                      The University needs to come to pay it;s fair share or there will be a tax revolt in princeton. The time is comming

                    3. Does it hurt to twist the truth that much? Individuals are routinely charged for emergency responses.

                      You really are bending over backwards to defend the university, yet you claim no loyalty. I’m sure you’ve never complained about the unfairness of the tax code in this country, because by your definition, if it’s the law, it’s fair. I’ll remember that if I ever see you refer to fairness in the future.

                      They can play “big numbers” with the politicians, the fact is they pay less in every measure than similar universities. In an operating budget of 1.4 Billion dollars, the transactions with the boro are pittance, and I have seen absolutely no evidence of donations to “local communities”.

                      The only point you’ve made is that no facts will dissuade you from your opinion.

                    4. I don’t think the University needs me to defend it. As for fairness, there are many things that are unfair about our tax code, but the concept of educational institutes being tax-free isn’t one of them. Education is the most valuable commodity we give our children, and deservedly sits outside the tax code.

                    5. I see. So it’s NOT fair because it’s the law, it’s fair because you say it is. You’re making as much sense as Faagstrum, changing your logic to fit the moment.

                      You just must be a politician, you would do best debating people who aren’t paying attention to you. From this point forward I will be among that group.

                      Shine on, you crazy diamond.

                    6. If you make a contrubution, then cause a liablity, the contrubution is not an offset. It is a retroactively not a contubution.

                  3. The university blew a ton of political capital in order to grab property that was deed protected for public use and by privatizing a public train station. Now they must pay for this–there’s a lot of civic ill will, townspeople are suing, and council is under pressure to do something. Logically, the University is in a position where they could get out in front of this and offer their own remedy– an alternative easement for a rapid transit system to be built in the future would be a great start. Taking something without paying for it always looks like stealing.

                    1. ‘Taking something without paying for it’??? Even the Save The Dinky group acknowledge that Princeton University owned the station and the railroad right-of-way. You want to talk about privatizing the station? The University bought it in 1984 and if they hadn’t done so the line would probably have closed. The only reason there is still a Dinky there is because the University has supported it all this time. More than half the passengers are university-related after all.

                      They are building something on their own land, under authority from the Princeton Planning Board that approved it by 9 votes to 1. I don’t like the outcome, but it was done using due process, not stealing.

                      Going forwards, there will be a presentation of the ASUP transit task force at the public library some Saturday soon to discuss their current findings about enhancing transit service on Alexander Street. I’ve heard october 26 mentioned as a potential date. I suggest everyone who has strong opinions show up then and make their voices heard.

                    2. Save the Dinky has pointed out in court that when PU purchased the property in the 1980s the deed was incumbered with an easement that guaranteed that the train would run over it, and the station would be open for the public. Back in 1984, it seemed to everyone that PU was acting in good faith to save the train line, while obtaining the ability to run power lines, pipelines walkways, etc around it. My, things have changed.

                2. FYI–Einstein never worked for Princeton University. He was brought to town by Louis Bamberger back in the 1930s to be a charter faculty member of the Institute for Advanced Study (which often misconflated with PU, but has no formal affiliation).

              2. It is sick how the community people who have University jobs can turn thier backs to fairness and logic when it comes to the blind support of the University.

        2. The universtiy ponies up less than 10% of taxes and donations to the Princetons. While occuping more than 50% of the land, plus various additional buildings in the community. The school population is more than double of the community.

    3. It’s when people think that the University is “Completely tax exempt”, that it is foolish. The University is a City all by it’s self. It uses the local resources and the students and faculity use the community resources. If the University was releaved of paying taxes it would drain the community completly. With property taxes at over $15,000.00 for a MODEST house on Pine Street it is quite clear that the University is bleeding the community. And with the distruction of the Dinky and now the Historic Train Depot is is also abundantly clear that the University Could NOT care less about the people in the community. The University takes care of the Police and Fire and First Aid to support thier own intrest. But they can not teach the student to not, jay walk, walk in to traffic while texting, or perform basic hygen. These are the people who would rule the country in the future. We are in trouble.

    1. They were in the process of doing the demo on it yesterday but didnt finish. So the dinky finished the job for them.

  2. Sad premature destruction of the one of area’s greatest public transit assets. Had only Princeton University slowed its desire to reduce public rail service into town, perhaps this ‘accident’ could have been avoided. But displacing the Dinky train and building upon its right-of-way seems to be what the institution has wanted to do for decades and now wants to ensure is done as quickly and irreversibly as possible.
    Are the canopy pieces being safely preserved in case legal challenges result in directives to restore the recently removed track, catenary, and now canopy?

    1. The canopy pieces were broken/cut in pieces small enough to haul out in about 2 truck loads. No preserving done.

  3. “new temporary station was opened on Alexander Street about 1,2000 feet south”
    They moved the station over two miles away ???? wow

      1. I see in reality the move was minimial, but the article had an error in it. Thanks for the shout. I think they moved the dinky station to get people to buy more soda at the Wawa

  4. This is as stupid as trying to help student not drink from each other cups, to prevent meningitis by giving away 5000 identical cups.
    And then a student says she’ll forget to NOT use other peoples cups because she’ll not likely take the red cup every where she goes. Totally ignoring that the cup is meanly a fancy reminder (note, letter, memo) in a clever format to reminder her always to not use dirty cups,
    Perhaps the University needs to print “Front to Back to prevent Bacterial infections” on the ladies toilet papers?
    Do the students wash their hands after toileting even though there mother are not present? How do they remember ?? Such smart peoples.

  5. this would not have happened if they just left it alone. like everyone in the town wanted.

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