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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  1. First off, very nice photo. I have been curious about this line for some time. I have a relative who lives in Whiting, so I’ve seen the line many times, but I don’t know much about it. When is is possible to see a train here? I would like to get down there to get some video. Are there any trains other than SA31? Thanks for your help.

    Kevin Phalon

    • Hi, Kevin, thanks for visiting; the Southern Secondary is currently only in service to MP 61 in South Lakewood. The only regular train on the line is the weekly Conrail local from Browns Yard in Sayreville, symbolled SA-31, and they enter the Southern in Red Bank every Thursday afternoon between 3:00 and 4:30pm for the run to Lakewood. Keep in mind that the crew usually stops for an hour in Farmingdale (MP 50.5) for their dinner break. The line has a 10mph speed restriction, so it is a very chaseable train, especially with the longer days of summer. Let me know if you need any additional info…good luck!

  2. I’ve always wanted to railfan the southern secondary, but I am confused about the times. I know that they come on Thursdays, but what time in the afternoon will they come at Tinton Falls? Thanks for the help!

    • Hi Pat & thanks for stopping by. Currently (with the earlier crew call than before), SA-31 ‘usually’ hits the Southern at Red Bank between 3:30 and 4:00pm. This puts it in the Tinton Falls area about 40 minutes later. A scanner tuned to New Jersey Transit (161.235Mhz) will tell you exactly the SA-31 calls “clear on the Southern”, then you can add 30 or 40 minutes. Hope this helps….be safe out there…..

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