Smoke’em if you’ve got ’em!

The Black River & Western is a 16.2 mile shortline railroad (currently operating over the eastern 9.3 miles of the line) in northwestern New Jersey, and runs regular tourist excursion trains & excursion specials, as well as tending to several regular freight customers. In early 2011, the BR&W ran the first of two special ‘Photo Freights’, special trains that allowed several dozen fans & photographers to ride the entire line, including trackage where only freight is handled. Photo freights are common on shortline railroads across the country; folks pay to ride rail lines where passengers are not normally allowed, and the train will stop at select points along the line for the invited fans to disembark and photograph the train as it runs by, hence the often heard ‘photo run-by’ term on these trains. The BR&W is a small, but very well run organization, and the special train ran perfectly under mostly sunny skies this day, with a consist of restored freight cars, two of their unique restored passenger cars, and one loaded modern lumber car…hey, they have to pay the bills, and this car was a ‘hot’ car for the transload facility in Ringoes! The scene below is of the final run-by of the day, with BRW 1202 (an ex-New Haven SW1200, built in January of 1956) really ‘smoking it up’ for the cameras, and a fitting end to a wonderful day on the rails, thanks to the fine people of the Black River & Western Railroad.

Image recorded on May 28, 2011.

Black River and Western Ringoes NJ BRW1202 exNew Haven SW1200

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Looking darn good for 158 years old

In the year 1854, the Flemington Transportation Company built trackage from Flemington to Lambertville, NJ, where it connected with the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad on its Phillipsburg to Trenton main line to interchange mainly agricultural freight (milk products, fruits, meat products). In 1871, the line became part of the Pennsy system, and in the years before the automobile, some 50 passenger trains traveled to and from Flemington each day, in addition to the freight movements. The Central Railroad of New Jersey also recognized Flemington and the surrounding Hunterdon County area as a potential for expansion, and built its own line west from Somerville in the late 1800s; Flemington was now sitting pretty, with two rail lines into town, and the area prospered. However, with cars & trucks becoming more popular as the 20th century took shape, the general public abandoned the trains for more ‘personal’ methods of transportation, and passenger service was halted on this line in 1953; with trucks becoming an option for shippers, freight service decreased substantially as well. In the late 1950s, a certain Mr. William Whitehead desired to start a tourist line, running excursion trains for the general public, and made an agreement with the Pennsylvania RR to lease the Flemington to Lambertville line to run his trains. In May, 1965, the first tourist train was successfully run, and in March, 1970, the Black River & Western purchased the line from the newly established Penn Central RR, and now handled both passenger excursion and freight duties along the route. On April 1, 1976, the newly formed Conrail closed the ex-PRR Bel-Del line that ran through Lambertville, and at the same time, sold the Flemington to Three Bridges section of the old CNJ to the BR&W, establishing an interchange at Three Bridges, NJ. The rest is history, and today the BR&W continues to hold its own, a true shortline success story with a rich and colorful past, with a handful of full-time employees, and several very dedicated volunteers, ensuring efficient rail operations into the 21st century. Yes, indeed, the old station sure looks good for being 158 years young.

Image recorded on May 28, 2011.

Black River and Western Ringoes NJ ex Pennsylvania RR Flemington Branch

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Welcome to New Jersey, eh?

As you can see, power from almost any North American Continent Class 1 railroad can be seen on the daily unit ethanol trains arriving in New Jersey (yes, there was a Ferromex unit sighted in 2011!). In this scene, we find local Conrail Shared Assets crew PR-19 in charge of two Canadian National units, as they shove south (away from the camera) to begin off-loading; CN units were once very rare here, but they have been making an almost monthly appearance this year and are a welcomed splash of color in this area. With modern horsepower on the head-end,  CN 2561, a GE C44-9W, and CN 5707, an EMD SD75I, supply 8,700 horsepower to move the approximately 2.4 million gallons of product in this train; by far the most efficient manner of transportation for bulk commodities such as this, without spending billions of dollars for pipelines across hundreds or thousands of miles.

Image recorded June 14, 2011.

Canadian National locomotives Port Reading NJ Chemical Coast Secondary

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Two former Conrail units head for the Linden Industrial Track

They didn’t name it the “Chemical Coast Secondary” for no reason at all; this busy line along the North Jersey coast plays host to oil refineries, chemical plants and tank farms along its short route from Woodbridge northward to Newark, NJ. Tank cars are the predominant rail cars in this region, and today we see Conrail Shared Assets local crew PR-8 as they leave busy Port Reading Yard in Port Reading, NJ, shoving north (away from the camera) with a short train destined for the Linden Industrial Track, just a little over a mile away. Norfolk Southern 5292, an EMD GP38-2 built for the Penn Central RR as their number 8096 in February of 1973, still wears her Conrail colors on this bright summer day, while her partner for today, NS GP40-2 3022 (ex-CR 3315, blt 5/78) has been repainted, and sports her ‘basic black’ work attire. The old Conrail Blue has been fading fast in 2011, and only about three dozen units remain as of this day in June; soon they will all be black, and another chapter in railroad history will be closed.

Image recorded on April 14, 2011.

Conrail Blue Norfolk Southern 5292 Chemical Coast Secondary April 2011

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