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.

And the seas parted…

Running through a sea of green on a brutally hot July day in New Jersey (air temp of 92, heat index of 99), Conrail Shared Assets Operations weekly Sayreville, NJ based local WPSA-31 makes its way to Lakewood, NJ on her regular Thursday afternoon schedule. Just 45 minutes later, a strong thunderstorm with torrential rain would engulf the area, rendering this photo impossible. Many thanks to the crew for getting out of Browns Yard just a little early for this run!

Image recorded July 13, 2017

 

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A stroll through Red Bank

Red Bank, NJ, is a cool little town, and has had rail service since 1855 or so, when the Raritan & Delaware Bay (the second railroad in the state, after the Camden & Amboy) began surveying  here. The Central Railroad of New Jersey eventually assumed control of the line, and Red Bank would become the northern point on the CNJ Southern Division mainline, which extended to the Bridgton area in extreme southern NJ. After Conrail reorganized the railroads of the northeast in 1976, this route was cut in half, with the northern portion running from Red Bank to Lakehurst, and the railroad abandoned from Lakehurst to Winslow Junction (except for a 13 mile stretch under private ownership from Lakehurst to Woodmansie). The northern portion of line is still active today as the Conrail Southern Secondary, although trains presently only go as far as South Lakewood, served by the once-weekly Conrail Shared Assets Operations local SA-31. The crew is seen here strolling through the south end of Red Bank, crossing Newman Springs Road & approaching MP 39; business has been good lately, with trains of 10-15 cars on many trips, but the train today consists of only 3 cars for two customers on the line. Hopefully this is just a brief winter slowdown, and traffic levels will return to normal soon.

Image recorded January 22, 2015.

Conrail SA31 Red Bank NJ Southern Secondary

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Once dormant, now active again

On the now 150 year old ex-CNJ Southern Division mainline, business had dwindled to a customer or two in the late 20th century. Things did not look good for this once proud high iron to southern New Jersey as recently as 2009, but, as everyone knows, there is nothing constant but change. Conrail Shared Assets Operations local SA-31 has operated on this line since Conrail proper assumed rights from the CNJ in 1976, and the line has seen hard times in the last decade & a half. With change rearing its ‘positive’ head, for a change, the current Southern Secondary has seen a significant increase in traffic in 2014, much to the delight of the local economy, and to local railfans as well. The weekly Thursday afternoon runs have seen trains of 12+ cars for the past year, compared to runs of 1 to 5 or 6 cars previously. This days consist had 17 cars, with 14 lumber loads destined for the lines largest customer, Woodhaven Lumber in Lakewood, as well as 2 empty gondolas for loading at Brick Recycling, another ‘once dormant, now active again’ business in Howell, NJ, and one boxcar full of brick products for Extech Building Materials. The Extech  (formerly Atlantic Building Supply) siding, pictured here, had lain dormant for several years, but started receiving inbound loads again back in 2011, and has been a regular drill since then. Conrail Shared Assets crew SA-31 is seen here spotting the loaded car on the Extech siding, after having pulled the empty boxcar just moments ago. With the continued business from Extech, and the new business from Brick Recycling, just a half-mile north of here, the future looks bright for the Southern Secondary, almost forgotten about just a few years ago.

Image recorded October 30, 2014.

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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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