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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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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