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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North Dakota Connection

Since new rock-fracturing techniques were introduced in 2008, there has been a boom of crude oil production from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, and, in fact, they are now the Number 2 oil producing state in the US, behind Texas and in front of, yes, Alaska. Unit oil trains run almost daily to facilities across North America, now to include New Jersey. Here, one of the first crude oil trains destined for NJ has arrived in Westville on April 3, 2012, keeping it’s Canadian Pacific run-through power all the way from the upper-midwest, over Norfolk Southern’s Harrisburg Line (original CP symbol 614, to NS 64Z once in Harrisburg), and eventually into Camden, NJ, where Conrail Shared Assets crew YPCA-05 relieved the NS road crew. Due to capacity limitations, the crew left the rear half of the train in Camden’s Pavonia Yard and proceeded south 6.1 miles to Sunoco’s Eagle Point storage facility in Westville. The following day would see the remainder of the train delivered, and the empties then collected for forwarding back west. Domestic oil production/transportation/storage/usage is a very welcome sight, and will hopefully lessen, at least to a small degree, our dependence on foreign produced oil. It is good to see two North American railroads working together to bolster our economy, and we wish them the best to keep the New Jersey-North Dakota connection viable for years to come.

Image recorded on April 3, 2012 by John Danielson.

Canadian Pacific crude oil train 64Z in Westville NJ

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Over the river and through the woods

It’s not easy getting to Lakewood, NJ, by rail these days, but it can still be done;  in fact, it’s done 52 times a year (barring a major weather event) by a Conrail Shared Assets Operations local based out of Sayreville, NJ. With line abandonments prevalent in the past 40 years due to the dwindling freight traffic in central New Jersey, the crew of train SA-31 must travel 6 miles east from Sayreville to South Amboy, where they will then enter the New Jersey Transit North Jersey Coast Line, when time and the numerous commuter trains occupying this important corridor will allow. Upon receiving permission from the NJT dispatcher, SA-31 will then travel south (timetable west) to Red Bank in about 35 minutes time (on a good day), and take the switch at the location of old BANK tower to enter the ex-Central Railroad of New Jersey Southern Division, now known as the Southern Secondary. Although the runaround track in south Lakewood is only 22 miles away, it will take the crew some 2 hours to get there, due to the 10mph speed limit they must endure as a result of track conditions on this little used line.

Here we see the train crossing the Navesink River under the catenary on the NJT ‘Coast Line’, as they enter Red Bank and prepare for the final leg of their journey to Lakewood. Even though Monmouth County is mostly residential in the 21st century, a good amont of the Southern Secondary runs ‘through the woods’ as it heads in a southwesterly direction towards Lakewood. An ex-Penn Central unit (GP38-2, ex-CR 8058, nee-PC 8058, blt 2/73) leads todays edition on yet another beautiful spring day in the northeast. No, 10 miles per hour is probably not fun for the crew, but superb weather should make it a bit more tolerable, as the conductor & engineer head for Ocean County’s largest lumber yard to deliver their train, and then prepare to head back to the friendly confines of Browns Yard.

Image recorded April 5, 2012.

Conrail Shared Assets Operations train SA31 crosses Navesink River Red Bank NJ

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