Conrail

Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail for short) was created by the US government, as a result of several major eastern railroad bankruptcies in the 1970’s. The end result was a well-run, profitable railroad; a true ‘rags to riches’ story, which the government then sold to the other two major eastern roads, Norfolk Southern Corporation and CSX Transportation, in a 58-42 split. Conrail does still survive, as Conrail Shared Assets Operations, serving as a terminal switching entity only, owning no locomotives or railcars.

The usual Thursday stroll

On a surprisingly sunny Thursday afternoon (most Thursdays in NJ are cloudy), Conrail Shared Assets local train SA-31 heads down the CR Southern Secondary (the old CNJ Southern Division) in Eatontown with a short consist for Lakewood, NJ. This was a main freight route for the Central RR of NJ, running from Jersey City to extreme southern NJ, from the late 19th to mid 20th century, hosting at least two trains a day. Many years ago, there was a passing siding at this point on the line, with the north switch located just about where NS 5283 (GP38-2, ex-CR 8081, nee-PC 8081, blt 2/73) is positioned in this photo. In November of 1953, CNJ train SJ-2 derailed 21 cars at this spot, with a few even climbing the embankment to the left, and it is thought that the switch contributed to the accident.

There will be no problems for the crew today, as they take their very regular Thursday stroll down the Southern; in fact, if you wake up & don’t remember what day it is in this area, you will know it’s Thursday if you see the local going by. The train is never big, and never fast (10 mph restriction on this line), but there is much rr history in this area dating back to the 1850s, and it’s good to see the line still in operation into the 21st century.

Image recorded on August 15, 2013

Conrail Train SA-31 Southern Secondary Eatontown NJ

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A very special guest

Well, where to begin? The train is not unusual, as there are daily ethanol trains arriving in the central New Jersey area; in fact, sometimes two per day for the refineries.  What ‘is’ special about this photo is the lead unit, Canadian National C40-8M 2444, one of only 55 built for CN, and one of only 84 ever constructed.  In 1990, General Electric was commissioned to build a ‘cold weather’ version of its popular C40-8 locomotive by 3 Canadian roads, and the ‘cowl body’ Dash 8 was born. Due to the extreme winter weather in the Canadian provinces, the full body locos were designed for performance and crew issues in the cold climates north of the border.  The other owners include BC Rail (26 units), and Quebec, North Shore & Labrador (3 units).  Canadian National units are not completely foreign to NJ, but they are few and far between, and to see one on the east coast is enough to bring one trackside.

In this scene, we find Port Reading Yard-based Conrail Shared Assets Operations crew PR-8, pulling the empties from the storage facility and travelling just a mile ahead for staging, to await a CSX road crew to board. Shortly, this train will become CSX symbol K635-28, and head up the CSX River Line towards Selkirk, NY, for points west.  CN 2444 (blt 12/92) and CSX 163 (AC44CW, blt 5/96)  will easily handle the 80 or so tank cars up alongside the Hudson River, and 2444 will have hopefully enjoyed her stay as a very special guest in the Garden State.

Image recorded March 28, 2013

Canadian National CSX on Conrail Chemical Coast Secondary in Port Reading NJ

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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.

DSC_4048CSX2812ConrailSA31SouthernSecondaryShrewsburyNJ

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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.

 

DSC3955CSX4429ConrailSharedAssetsSA31ShrewsburyNJ12132012

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