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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Storming westward

Intermodal is big business for todays railroads, especially in the northeast, with the major seaports of Newark and Elizabeth, NJ shipping & receiving thousands of containers and trailers every month. Several trains leave the north Jersey area daily, and one of the larger ones is Norfolk Southern symbol 21M, running from Secaucus, NJ to Chicago, Illinois, generally leaving somewhere around sunrise on a normal day.

On a beautiful September morning, we see westbound NS 21M storming the curve at the western end of Allentown Yard, coming off of the bypass around the yard, and transitioning from the NS Lehigh Line to the NS Reading Line. For the next 35 miles, the crew will travel the Reading Line, and then enter the Harrisburg Line for points west. NS 2764, an EMD SD70M-2, leads a couple of GE sisters on this ‘hot’ train, and will see few delays along their route; competition with the trucking industry mandates a tight schedule for the railroads, to ensure that the mile-long trains continue to be ‘a mile long’.

Image recorded September 14, 2013.

Norfolk Southern Train 21M Lehigh Line Allentown Pa

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An enterprising solution

In a joint venture with Pan Am Railways, Norfolk Southern has provided capital and track maintenance equipment to rehabilitate Pan Am’s western main line from Mohawk Yard east to Ayer, MA, north of Boston.  The joint venture, dubbed Pan Am Southern, allows Norfolk Southern to compete with CSX’s Boston Line for freight tonnage into post-Conrail New England. With the recent track upgrades, Pan Am’s mainline (the former western end of the Boston & Maine Railroad) now sees 8-10 freight trains per day on average, in addition to multiple “extra” oil, coal, and grain run-through unit trains from the west. The extra traffic has made Pan Am power-short, and they are filling in with leasers and run-through power.  The lead unit on this train, NS 3491 is one of ten six-axle NS locomotives currently on long-term lease to Pan Am – the three trailing units all carry MEC (Maine Central) reporting marks as well as three different paint liveries.  Units 2 and 4 will eventually receive the Pan Am blue and white paint scheme that can be seen on the third unit in this lashup.

The Pan Am globe logo on the third unit is the exact same one that was once used by Pan Am World Airways.  The Pan Am Airways logo was purchased by the railroad’s chief owner/partner Timothy Mellon as part of the airline’s bankruptcy/liquidation proceedings.  (Mr. Mellon is also an airplane enthusiast.) The railroad’s former name, Guilford Rail System was dropped in favor of the current Pan Am moniker, and the former airlines’ corporate logo now lives on, gracing the locomotives of a regional railroad.

In this classic, rural New England photo we see Pan Am eastbound daily manifest freight MOED (MOhawk yard to East Deerfield yard) passing the Church Street grade crossing in Pownal, Vermont.  The train originated in Mohawk Yard (property of CP/ Delaware & Hudson) where Pan Am interchanges with both CP and Norfolk Southern.  (Norfolk Southern uses trackage rights over the D&H from NS’ Southern Tier mainline in Binghampton, NY to get up to Mohawk yard, near Schenectady). In these times of fierce competition, it seems that these two railroads have found an enterprising solution to benefit them both, and their customers, to ensure success in the 21st century.

Image recorded on September 7, 2013 by Bob Krug.

PanAm Railways train MOED Norfolk Southern lease unit in Pownal Vermont

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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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Winter along the Stony Brook

Railroads have played a considerable role in the history of this country, especially in the Northeast and New England regions of the US, where the railroads initially flourished with over 6,300 miles of rail laid by 1850. One of the early roads was the Stony Brook Railroad, a shortline in Massachusetts, originally built from North Chelmsford to Ayer, which began operations in 1848. This line, which eventually became part of an efficient route designed to bypass the congestion of the Boston area, was absorbed into the Boston & Maine system, and in June of 1983 the B&M was one of the properties incorporated into the new Guilford Rail System. In 2006, Guilford became Pan Am Railways, and the new paint scheme reflects a renaissance of sorts for a once-beleaguered rail system.

In a classic New England winter scene along the ‘Stony Brook Line’ in Westford, we find Pan Am Railways train EDPO (East Deerfield, MA – South Portland, ME), a daily road freight running between the two largest yards on the Pan Am system. Much to the delight of railfans, this road rosters many older, yet very dependable EMD locomotives; todays train features MEC 378, a high-hood GP40 built in April of 1966 for the Norfolk & Western Railway (and repainted into the beautiful dark blue scheme in late 2010), and two former Penn Central RR units; MEC 350, ex-CR 3266, nee PC 3266 built in 5/69, and MEC 352, ex-CR 3268, nee PC 3268, built in 5/69, both now sporting the new colors as well. History has been kind to this rail line, and it is good to see freight still rolling along the Stony Brook, 165 years removed from her humble origins in northeastern Massachusetts.

Image recorded on February 16, 2013 by Ted Krug.

PanAm Railways train EDPO Westford Massachussets Stony Brook Line

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