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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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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