Sometimes a little luck goes a long way

Every photographer knows that proper lighting is essential to a good photo, but situations don’t always develop the way you want them to, expecially outdoors. This is where luck enters into the equation. The train shown here is the regular mid-afternoon Thursday edition of Conrail local freight WPSA-31, or SA-31 for short. The train is pretty predictable, entering the Southern Secondary at Red Bank, NJ, between 2:00 and 4:00pm for the run south to Lakewood. The power is also somewhat predictable, as the origination point, Browns Yard in Sayreville, NJ, only hosts 4 locomotives at a time (three 4-axle units, and one 6-axle unit), so you will see one of the three GP units on this train. Of course, what is not predictable is the weather.

SA-31 left Sayreville under dark, cloudy skies, and chances were slim that conditions would improve in the 90 minutes that it would take the crew to reach the location of this photo in Shrewsbury, NJ. Thankfully, as the weather front moved east, a bit of sun broke through every few minutes, followed by a large cloud, followed by some sun, followed by a cloud. Upon arrival trackside in Shrewsbury, I thought I would have a 50-50 chance of grabbing a sunny shot, so I appealed to the ‘weather gods’ for any assistance that could be provided.

At exactly 2:27pm, somehow, someway, the clouds parted and the low, late Autumn sun shone brightly upon Norfolk Southern 5281, still resplendent in her ‘Conrail Quality’ Dress Blue scheme. NS 5281 is one of the elder locomotives on the roster, originally built for the PennCentral railroad back in February of 1973. Was it fate that sent this veteran locomotive to this lightly used secondary today? Was it good planning on my part to be in the right place at the right time? Did the weather gods actually help?

I don’t know, all I have to say is that, sometimes, a little luck goes a long way…….

Image recorded on November 5, 2010.

Conrail Southern Secondary Shrewsbury NJ NS5281 Conrail Quality

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The end of the line, for now

With Conrail severing the former Central Railroad of NJ Southern Division mainline back in the late 1970s, and with rail customers switching to trucks, or not surviving the tough New Jersey marketplace, the present day Conrail Shared Assets Operations railroad decided that, with no future potential for rail-freight services, they would take the Toms River Industrial track, and the Southern Secondary out of service at MP65.9 by removing a section of rail in Lakehurst in June of 2009. The mainline extends south of this point to the sand pits in Woodmansie, NJ, and there was hope that the owner of the line south of Lakehurst would revive sand train service in 2006, and again in 2009, but those plans never materialized, and the line remains dormant. Unfortunately, in December of 2010, the end of the line would be moved further north to South Lakewood, NJ, and trains would be eliminated from Lakehurst altogether.

Here we see weekly local WPSA-31 sitting at the end of track marker, with a new crew onboard and getting ready to utilize the runaround track immediately behind the train. CSX 4423 has seen these rails before, starting life as Conrail 3338, built in June of 1978 by EMD. In a matter of minutes, the crew will position the locomotive on the opposite end of the train, and head north to Lakewood to drill the large lumber yard there; without the 4 to 10 carloads of inbound lumber every week, this line would have little chance of survival, so to the good people of Woodhaven Lumber, we say ‘thank you’.

Image recorded September 18, 2009.

Conrail Southern Secondary CSX 4423 exCNJ Lakehurst NJ

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Midwestern visitors add color to the Chemical Coast

One never knows what power will bring the daily ethanol trains from the midwest to the shores of central New Jersey, and this day was one of those good days to be trackside. Adding a splash of color to the Conrail Shared Assets Chemical Coast Line are representatives from the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern, which is actually now part of the Canadian Pacific Railway as part of CP’s Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern subsidiary. IC&E and DM&E locos were never seen in this region before 2009, but since then, the handsome blue & yellow units make an appearance almost monthly in this area. Since the ethanol process involves corn, it makes sense that units from the railroads that serve the midwest will make their way eastward, assisting NS and CSX in moving the hundreds of trains to this region every year.

With NS C40-9W 9825 leading the train, we see ICE 6407, an SD40-2 originally built for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in April of 1980, and ICE 6411, an SD40-2 built for the Union Pacific Railroad in February of 1979. As with many of the DM&E and IC&E locomotives, the 6407 pays tribute to one of the cities & towns along the regional carriers route in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota, in this case the ‘City of Clinton’, Iowa, seen under the road number on the side of the cab. These two units will not spend much time on the Jersey Shore, as it is normally ‘in one day, and out the next’ for the ethanol trains, but it was good to see a visit from some friendly out-of-town folks. Ya’ll come back, ya’ hear?!

Image recorded September 23, 2010

Conrail Chemical Coast Secondary Port Reading NJ NS train 68Q

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Still together after all these years

It’s hard to find two locomotives built for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad still in daily use, but it is a common occurence in central New Jersey. Although now de-rated to 3000 horsepower after being rebuilt to SD40-2 specs, these November, 1972 products of GM’s Electro Motive Division still retain their as-built carbodies, and will always be an ‘SD45-2’ to me. With newer road units hauling the freight out on the mainline, these older six-axle locomotives are perfect for the lower speed transfer runs for which they are utilized, mainly due to their tremendous tractive effort and power. There are presently 6 ex-El units lurking in central/northern NJ, operating out of the Oak Island terminal, and the daily Oak Island transfer to Port Reading Yard and Browns Yard will almost always have at least one of the SD45-2’s on the head-end, and as many as three! In the scene below, we see the daily OI-16 (frequently classified as JR-2 on Mondays) southbound on the Chemical Coast Secondary after working Pt. Reading Yard, with NS 1702 (ex-CR 6659, nee-EL 3674, blt 11/72) and CSX 8886 (ex-CR 6661,nee-EL 3676, blt 11/72) in the lead. The conductor gives a friendly wave to the flagman at MP18.5, after confirming by radio that it was safe to pass through the area, with local utility work being done trackside. In another 2 miles, the crew will enter the New Jersey Transit North Jersey Coast Line at CP WOOD for the short jump across the Raritan River; they will then access the Amboy Secondary at SA Tower and head 6 miles west to Browns Yard in Sayreville for the last set-off. These old girls are still together after all these years, and hopefully will be around for many years to come.

Image recorded on August 7, 2010.

Conrail train OI16 southbound on the Chemical Coast Secondary at Sewaren

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Welcome to New Jersey, eh?

As you can see, power from almost any North American Continent Class 1 railroad can be seen on the daily unit ethanol trains arriving in New Jersey (yes, there was a Ferromex unit sighted in 2011!). In this scene, we find local Conrail Shared Assets crew PR-19 in charge of two Canadian National units, as they shove south (away from the camera) to begin off-loading; CN units were once very rare here, but they have been making an almost monthly appearance this year and are a welcomed splash of color in this area. With modern horsepower on the head-end,  CN 2561, a GE C44-9W, and CN 5707, an EMD SD75I, supply 8,700 horsepower to move the approximately 2.4 million gallons of product in this train; by far the most efficient manner of transportation for bulk commodities such as this, without spending billions of dollars for pipelines across hundreds or thousands of miles.

Image recorded June 14, 2011.

Canadian National locomotives Port Reading NJ Chemical Coast Secondary

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