A mid-winters day dream

In the Northeast, in January, one never knows what Mother Nature has in store for you. Following the extremely harsh winters of 2010 and 2011, the 2012 season was quite mild with little snow, and few days below the freezing mark. It is perhaps too early to remark upon the winter of 2013, but so far it has been very favorable, with none of the snow and ice concerns that can turn travel into a nightmare. With the temperature hovering at 48 degrees Fahrenheit this day, and with the forecast of 58 degrees two days from now, it is safe to say the local community is enjoying January just fine, thank you very much.

With a very healthy 8-car train, this photo shows Conrail Shared Assets local SA-31 trundling her way through Shrewsbury, NJ, on the Southern Secondary, led by ex-Conrail GP38-2 8278, a June 1979 graduate of the EMD assembly line in LaGrange, Illinois. Now appearing on your local line as CSX 2812, she appears to have been recently ‘shopped’, with upgraded air-conditioning and sporting a new paint job as well. The crew arriving well before sunset this week gives the photographer an opportunity to capture this train in the fantastic ‘low’ winter light, with the sun angle in the sky not as high as it is in the summer months. Of course, timing is everything, and on this day the beautiful mid-winter weather and soft light lends itself to the railfans ‘dream’, where location & conditions come together to create a wonderful scene of rural railroading in the crowded and hectic environs of central New Jersey.

Image recorded on January 10, 2013.


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Dashing through the snow

The railroads have always been a reliable source of transportation in inclement weather, and this day in Sayreville, NJ, is no different. The coastal mid-atlantic region gets a good amount of snowfall every few years; large specialized railroad snowplows are not required, and sometimes the snow level tests the equipment at hand. The original plan on this day was to have the Conrail SnowJet vehicle (a truck with a surplus jet engine mounted) run ahead of Conrail Browns Yard local SA-2 to clear the crossings and switches for the crew. This truck can melt snow away very quickly with the force of the warm air from the very loud jet engine; the only problem being the apparatus & truck do not weigh nearly enough to work well in every situation. Due to the 12-14 inch snowfall the previous day, the CR SnowJet derailed more than once on the Bordentown Ave. grade crossing while attempting to lead the SA-2 westward out of the yard. It was then decided to let the locomotive go it alone, with much more favorable results.


Here, CSX 4431 (ex-Conrail 3356, blt 3/79) leads a short two car train west on the Gillespie Branch, dashing through the snow that conceals the rails on a frigid winter day. Between the weather & the long wait for the mow equipment to clear, it is no doubt that the crew is looking forward to a warm evening at home.

Image recorded on January 28, 2011.

DSC_2906CSX 4431ConrailSA2GillespieBranchSayrevilleNJ1282011

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Sunset on the Southern

It is with great pleasure that I am able to share this photo with you. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the coastline of New Jersey, and severly damaged the NJ Transit system, with some of the worst destruction along the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line, nearly severing the line below Woodbridge, NJ. The Conrail Southern Secondary is the former Central RR of NJ Southern Division mainline, beginning at Red Bank, NJ, and currently terminating in South Lakewood, NJ, with only a few customers along the line. Because the NJT trackage was out of service between Woodbridge and Red Bank, and no way to get freight from Browns Yard in Sayreville to Red Bank, the Southern was effectively disconnected from the outside world after the storm. With a nearly super-human effort from the NJT maintenance-of-way forces, the Coast line was opened for limited service just 10 days later, and operations would slowly regain normalcy over the ensuing weeks. Fortunately, because it is several miles west of the coast, the Southern sustained very little damage, and would survive yet another threat from Mother Nature.

In a view at sunset, we find Conrail Shared Assets Operations weekly local SA-31, with CSX GP40-2 4429 (ex-Conrail 3346, blt 3/79) working her way through the Borough of Shrewsbury, as she does every Thursday afternoon. There is only 1 regular customer on this 23 mile line, along with 2 others that see infrequent service, so to see a train on these rails that date back to the late 1850’s is a nice sight, and to see a train on a line that has experienced greatly diminished business and two Hurricanes in the past 2 years, and is still in service, is a wonderful occasion. Helping to ‘Restore The Shore’, it is good to see the railroads once again playing an important role, this time bringing much needed building materials to central Jersey for the restoration process.

Image recorded on December 13, 2012.



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Welcome back, old friend

The weekend of November 10th, 2012, was a very special one, as the unmistakable sound of a steam whistle officially returned to Hunterdon County, NJ, after a 12 year hiatus. The Black River & Western Railroad threw a big “Welcome Back #60” party, and railfans (and fans in general) came out in the hundreds to celebrate the return of BRW 60 to active duty. Out of service since the year 2000, the hard working men & women of the BR&W completed the overhaul of the Alco 2-8-0 locomotive earlier this year, and several test runs in October proved that the steam program had indeed successfully completed its mission; plans could now be made for the triumphant event.

In this photo, which closely resembles a scene from the 1940’s on what was originally the South Branch of the Central RR of New Jersey, Sundays first excursion run finds the train heading south on the line, crossing the south branch of the Raritan River on the original CNJ truss bridge built over a century ago. During the CNJ days, both freight and passenger trains would interchange with the Pennsylvania RR at Flemington Jct., just 2 miles ahead. Freight does still move on the line, and passengers as well in the form of weekend excursion runs during the May-December operating season; it’s good to see a line first built in the 1860’s still viable these days, and it’s good to see a 1937 product of Schenectady, NY, returning to work, as Alco intended. Welcome back, old friend!


Image recorded on November 11, 2012

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