An alternative to the Dinky? Princeton alumnus unveils battery-powered train

A battery-powered train is set up for demonstrations in Rockhill Furnace, Pa.

A bright orange and black train, powered by a battery, has been traveling a 1.8 mile stretch of railroad tracks in Rockhill Furnace, Pa. in recent weeks. The environmentally friendly train, the first battery-powered train in the U.S., is the latest project of Princeton University alumnus Henry Posner III, whose company operates regional rail systems in the U.S. and abroad.

Posner, who graduated from Princeton in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering and earned an MBA from the Wharton School, is the chairman of the Railroad Development Corp. (RDC),  a Pittsburgh-based, privately held company that focuses on emerging railway networks.

His orange, two-car train is the pilot project for his latest venture, Pop-Up Metro. Posner imported remanufactured passenger railcars from Britain to Rockhill Furnace for the project and had the cars retrofitted with battery technology by RDC affiliate Vivarail. The modular trains can be inserted onto existing rail infrastructure quickly and cheaply, making it easy to demonstrate and test proposals for new train systems or new train equipment. The battery-powered train plugs into the wall and can be charged using a fast-charging system. Posner estimated the range of the train on one charge to be about 80 miles.

“With Pop-Up Metro, you can do a project quickly on a demonstration basis. You don’t have to spend $100 million,” Posner said.

Trains can be leased from his company, Posner said, and the pricing is very competitive with other options. He also said a public-private partnership is possible for the operation of the system.

The train being demonstrated in Rockhill Furnace just so happens to be able to operate on NJ Transit rail lines, and is the proper height for the agency’s platforms at train stations like the ones in Princeton and Princeton Junction. In other words, the train could be an alternative to replace the Dinky train, the shuttle that runs between Princeton and Princeton Junction that NJ Transit has said will soon become obsolete. A transit study is currently underway about the future of the Dinky train, which could be replaced by other train equipment or a bus.

Posner said citizen groups, politicians, NJ Transit officials, and anyone else who is interested in the future of rail can come to Rockhill Furnace to watch a train demonstration. Rockhill Furnace is about a three-hour drive from Princeton. “Anyone who wants to see the train is welcome to come and do so,” Posner said.

The demonstration track is 1.8 miles.
Inside the remanufactured train.
The train is the first battery-powered train in the U.S.
Getting set up for demonstrations in Rockhill Furnace, Pa.
The train is a modern version of the Dinky.


  1. This is just awesome and so timely!
    What do we need to do to convince Dinky management to switch gears and replace it with battery-powered train?

  2. The Dinky is powered by electricity through those overhead wires and the pantograph. I guess there could be money saving with the new electric train via dedicated solar panels to re-charge the batteries.

  3. I don’t get it. Mr Posner wants to replace an entirely electric train with another electric train, this time one with batteries that need to be charged. What’s the advantage?

    Kelvin Werth
    Princeton, BSE ’79

  4. Now there’s an idea. Instead of running your household microwave on electricity, connect the microwave to a battery, charge the battery and then run your microwave off of the battery. Why didn’t someone think of a battery powered train on a fixed track running from point A to point B before?

  5. Since NJT has no electric train to replace it, Posner has one with batteries. The were former London Underground “D” type subway cars.

  6. I agree. I love the Dinky and want to see service continue. But I don’t understand how replacing an electric train with a battery powered one helps the climate or solves any other problem.

  7. Because NJ Transit wants to get rid of the Dinky cars (says they can no longer maintain or stock those) and the overhead wires for the Princeton line.

  8. Concerned Citizen says:
    My understanding is that Henry Posner’s Popup Metro (which could replace the Dinky) has been structured to deal with federal safety regulations on NJT or other lines. His firm, the Railroad Redevelopment Corporation (RDC), has experience around the world in owning and operating railroads. And as an alum of Princeton University, he knows the Dinky well. The idea behind the demonstration of what he calls the Popup Metro, is intended to show how well the equipment would operate on the Dinky or other similar trackage. The batteries would allow for removal of the catenary. More importantly, the batteries open up sustainability opportunities, possibly through a partnership with an existing or new community solar installation. The interior car layout, with its subway-type exit and entrance, allows for one new stop along the existing route without adding significant travel time. Such a stop could be located to maximize Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), and could be a hub for employer vans picking up and returning employees from existing businesses and new warehouses being constructed in the area. This 21st century Dinky could also carry freight such as waste, recyclables or oversized cargo, and could become a factor in locating certain businesses in the area. Let’s hope that our public officials make sure this opportunity to save a precious rail link to the Junction is not squandered.

  9. Henry, why would you do this on a line that is already electrified? Charging a battery and discharging a battery both waste energy.

    1. Because NJ Transit and the university want to get rid of the Dinky overhead line and NJ Transit also says the current train cars will soon be obsolete.

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