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Northern New Jersey photos by Jack May

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Northern New Jersey photos by Jack May
Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 6:49 AM

 

04-Breaking COVID's cabin fever North Jersey part 1

 

Jack May
   
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By no means were my visits to Boston and Philadelphia the only rail-oriented activities I undertook during the period from March to May, 2021, as I was beginning to feel safe--and comfortable enough with a mask in the vicinity of railroad station platforms and transit rights-of-way.  The next three segments consist of many of the photos I took in New Jersey during this period.


Part 1 covers a visit to the northern end of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line during April, when the leaves were first coming out, followed by a journey to the marshes of the Meadowlands west of Secaucus, where NJ Transit's former Erie and Lackawanna diesel lines work their way to and through Passaic and Bergen Counties.


With regard to Hudson-Bergen, I have plenty of photos in the area shown during all seasons, including many with snow on the ground around bare trees, and in the fall when the leaves change colors.  So this was an attempt to get the greenery at its earliest in the season.

 

 

Above and below:  The leaves are just coming out in these two views looking northward along the Hudson-Bergen light rail line in Weehawken.  The spot is just south of the Port Imperial station and the former West Shore Railroad tunnel that takes the line to its outer terminal, Tonnelle Avenue.  The northernmost point on the network, that station is located in the town of North Bergen, which despite its name is part of Hudson County.  Many transit advocates urging its extension, and cynics as well, call the existing system the "Hudson-Hudson" light rail line.  The bridge in the background carries Pershing Road over the railway from the Hudson River waterfront.  Port Imperial Boulevard runs parallel to the light rail line, to the right of the photographer.  The ferry terminal at Port Imperial is on land that once was the Weehawken terminal of the New York Central's West Shore line, where connecting ferries ran to West 42nd Street and Cortlandt Street in Manhattan.  The terminal was also served by Public Service streetcars, which followed a steep course on private right-of-way alongside Pershing Road and used their own bridge on its far side, until their abandonment in 1949.  PS's all-service vehicles, which were discontinued in 1947 prior to the abandonment of the streetcars, operated under trolleybus wire on the pavement of Pershing Road.  The wire had been erected only in the uphill direction of the road.

Two services are operated along the Hudson-Bergen tracks to Tonnelle Avenue on weekdays:  one from Hoboken Terminal and the other from West Side Avenue, Jersey City.  The Hoboken service generally runs with just a single car, while the longer route usually operates with two-car trains, most often a 3-section unit (90 feet long) coupled to a 5-section one (127 feet), the latter, constituting about half the fleet, having been extending by adding two sections to the middle of the original rolling stock.  The upper view shows a 5-section unit leading a southbound train, while the lower one displays the rear of a northbound lashup with the 3-section car closest to the photographer.  While there is a loop and small yard at the Tonnelle Avenue terminal, most runs just pull in to the island platform, change ends, and then pull out.  I believe many of the platforms on the system are not long enough to accommodate a pair of 5-section cars.  Originally, most were built to a length of 180 feet.

 

 

 

 

 

This view of a 5-section southbound LRV alongside Port Imperial Boulevard heading to Hoboken Terminal, provides an illustration of the vertical extent of the Bergen Shield, or Palisades, in Weehawken.  The steep cliffs are about 300 feet high at this point, but reach an elevation of over 500 feet at its northern extremity, in the town of Nyack, New York.  Always (and still) a geological barrier to east-west transportation along the lower portion of the Hudson River, a number of tunnels were bored through it throughout the years, starting in the 1860s, including the former West Shore Railroad's (1881), which is now used by the Hudson-Bergen light rail line.  The structure shown atop Bergen Hill is the single-family home at 6 Hamilton Avenue, which sold for some $6 million in 2014, no doubt much because of its view of the Manhattan skyline (although some will say being in sight of the light rail line is the reason).  It is located adjacent to the Weehawken Dueling Grounds, a park commemorating the venue of a great deal of personal combat in the 18th and early 19th century, including the famous duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804* (thus the street name, Hamilton Avenue).

* See https://www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com/new_jersey_revolutionary_war_sites/towns/weehawken_nj_revolutionary_war_sites.htm.  Although Hamilton Avenue and the park are located in the heights, it is highly probable that the duel occurred at a spot between the river and the light rail line, as the participants arrived on separate boats.  Perhaps it was where this photo was taken.

Now to the Meadowlands.  The remaining 8 photos in this segment were taken from the surroundings of DeKorte Park in the swampland at the eastern edge of the town of Lyndhurst.  I have to thank a good friend, who took an excellent photo that was featured in a recent issue of Railpace magazine, for letting me in on the locale.  It is on the original Boonton line, constructed by the Morris & Essex Railroad in 1869, just after it came under the control of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.  It served as a low-grade freight bypass for the company's busy Morristown line (which was electrified in 1930), providing a quick route for anthracite coal traffic to reach the Hudson River waterfront at Hoboken.  It had only a modicum of passenger service until the New Jersey State Highway Department rationalized* commuter service on a number of lines in 1963, when the former Erie Railroad Main Line in Passaic was torn up and its trains were moved onto the former Lackawanna, specifically this section of line.

* A better phrase for rationalized would be "virtually destroyed."  Like the similar Aldene Plan in 1967, forced  into use by the renamed but still auto-oriented  New Jersey Department of Transportation, it  resulted in the loss of a huge amount of passengers and the abandonment of a great deal of railroad track.

The location of these photos now sees a large number of NJ Transit passenger trains, with some running as far as Port Jervis, N. Y. (87 miles) from Hoboken via the Secaucus Jct. transfer station (with the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor leading from Penn Station, N. Y.)  All trains have their power on their western ends, with outbound runs coming through about 2 minutes after their scheduled departure times from Secaucus, which makes afternoon the optimum time of day to take photos.  Here is a mix of some of the different kinds of locomotives used by NJ Transit in diesel territory

 

 

 

A PL42AC built by Alstom in 2004 pushing traditional Comet coaches toward Hoboken.

 

ALP-45DP Bombardier-built Dual Powered (electric and diesel) No. 4524 pushing a train of Comet cars toward Hoboken.  These locomotives were purchased starting in 2010 and more will be delivered despite the fact that currently there are more than enough on the roster to propel all scheduled trains to run over a mix of electrified and non-electrified trackage.  No. 4524 is pushing traditional Comet coaches toward Hoboken.



New York MTA-owned GP40FH-2M No. 4904 pulls a train of Comets westward from Hoboken.  The 1966-built ex-Rock Island, ex-Mopac locomotive is not necessarily assigned to trains that enter New York State, as equipment is mixed between the two agencies.

 

 

The photographer was lucky to get eastbound and westbound trains pass each other.  Both of these EMD-built locomotives were inherited from Penn Central via Conrail.  At left GP40PH-2B No. 4218, which came off the assembly line between 1965 and 1969, sports NJ Transit's color scheme, while GP40PH-2M from 1968 is in owner MTA's livery

 

 

 

 

The telephoto lens tries to close in on the New York City skyline, dominated by the new World Trade Center (or Liberty Tower) behind the New Jersey Turnpike in this view of Alstom-built PL42AC No. 4028 pulling a train of Comet cars.  The scuttlebut is that these 2004-built locomotives will be the next to be replaced by the new dual-powered ALP-45DPs that are currently being delivered, rather than the much older EMD units built in the 1960s.  NJ Transit has no plans to further electrify the state's railroad system.
 

 

A placid scene featuring a lone egret seen from the wooden planked Marsh Discovery Trail through DeKorte wildlife preserve.  The boardwalk starts a few yards to the south of the location of the previous photos.

 

 

The 640-acre DeKorte Park was built on landfill that contains trails that take visitors out to wildlife observation areas and bird blinds.  I first saw the Meadowlands from the Pennsylvania Railroad high line in the mid-1950s when it was almost solid wetlands with bullrushes seeming to be everywhere--a magical carpet the bloomed magnificently in the spring.  But in the last half century much of the Meadowlands has been "urbanized" from the construction of commercial property on landfills created from garbage dumping (much of it illegal).  The thoroughfare that brings visitors to DeKorte Park wasn't named Disposal Road for no reason.  The complex of trails is focused on the Meadowlands Environment Center, which contains informative exhibits on the Meadowlands and its ecology.  Controlled by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority,* which seems to have successfully converted a small part of an island of garbage into a something useful and attractive (https://meadowblog.net/tag/dekorte-park/).

* You may recognize some of the NJSEA's other properties, including Met-Life Stadium (home of the New York Giants and New York Jets) and the land under the huge American Dream mall (formerly Xanadu).  Its main success has been political patronage.

 

 


Above and below
:  Two photos from the Marsh Discovery Trail in DeKorte Park.  An Alstom PL42AC pushes a train of Multi-Level cars toward Hoboken in the upper view, while below, it's an EMD GP40-PH No. 4217's turn to push a train eastward.  The best time to photograph from the trail is in the early spring, before the saltgrass grows too high

 

 

 

In part 2 we will switch our focus to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 7:43 AM

Corrections made

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 9:13 AM

Nice shots from Mr. May David, thanks for posting them!  

By the way, I wouldn't call those GP40's with the old Jersey Transit "Disco Stripes" an endangered species, but it's problematic as to just how long they'll be around, or keep the old paint scheme.  It's remarkable they've lasted so long and a tribute to the NJT maintenance crews who've kept them alive.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 11:24 AM

The ex-Erie commuter lines have had their share of rare and magical power.  In the days before I graduated from high school there was nearly as much variety as at Reading Terminal:  RS units in various schemes, passenger Geeps, back-to-back E8s pulling unbroken sets of 1937 ATSF stainless equipment, and the joy that was the U34CH, engine running at a constant 725rpm with the most delightful soundtrack during acceleration.  All the different flavors of EMD rebuild (including a couple of F units!) came a little later.  The PL42ACs in particular are delightful to listen to even as I see they may be getting a bit smoky in old age.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, September 15, 2021 11:50 AM

Overmod
The ex-Erie commuter lines have had their share of rare and magical power.

Gee, what would we give for a chance, just one chance, to see Erie K1's in action on those commuter lines?  Or the Erie Berkshires on the Bergen County Line for that matter?

Speaking of Erie commuter lines, I'm sure you know this one:

https://poets.org/poem/twelve-forty-five

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Posted by daveklepper on Friday, September 17, 2021 9:35 AM

A wonderful reminder.   Thanks!

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 19, 2021 7:44 AM

 

05-Breaking COVID's cabin fever North Jersey part 2

 

Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, which is shared with New Jersey Transit, was also the focus of some of my excursions.  I visited the platforms of the North Elizabeth station a number of times, because generally there is an unobstructed view of the four-track mainline.

One specific reason for going to the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline on a particular date was that I received a tip about  the operation of Amtrak's new Acela 21 (called Avelia Liberty by carbuilder Alstom) on a test run.  I drove down to Linden for a photo on this occasion; I had a similar experience in the fall of 2020 and then obtained a photo at North Elizabeth. A number of other railfans were present both times, of course.
 

 

 

 

Above and below Two photos of Avelia Liberty trains being tested on the Northeast Corridor.  Apparently two of the 28 units on order have been delivered by Alstom and are getting workouts on the former Pennsy and New Haven.  The upper view shows the train heading northward (or eastbound) at Linden, on the southbound express track on Monday, April 5, 2021.  The lower view was taken at North Elizabeth on Friday, October 2, 2020.  The new Acelas should be able to go as fast as 186 mph, but will be limited to 160 mph on the Northeast Corridor, as the infrastructure and signal system will not permit any greater speeds. 

 

 

 

The next two pictures serve as an introduction to this segment, which features some of the photos I took along the corridor during March and April.  In a sense this series is the electric version of the photos of diesel trains shown in the preceding part 1.

 

 

With two photos of the future Acelas above, I couldn't resist adding this view of the current equipment, which constitute the fleet of Amtrak's fastest trains.  Sad that I couldn't get a photo of one these speedsters in the same frame as an Avelia test car--like one I've seen on the internet.

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

Above and below:  Two views from the Hand Place overpass at the south end of the North Elizabeth station.  The upper image is of a New Jersey Transit train of multi-level cars being pulled by a Bombardier-built ALP-46.  In an almost identical spot, the lower photo shows an Amtrak ACS-64 Sprinter pulling a Northeast Regional train.  These were taken in early April, when the leaves had not come out yet.  When I returned to the same spot a few weeks later, the view was obstructed by the greenery.
 
 
 

 


 

Above and below:  Two additional photos from the end of the northbound platform at Linden on April 5.  The New Jersey Transit train of Arrow III MUs shown in the the upper view preceded the Avelia Liberty train on the same track toward the end of the morning rush hour.  There are 6 usable electrified mainline tracks at this point.  The lower view shows a northbound NJ Transit ALP-45DP dual-powered behemoth, with its pantograph properly up, pulling an express train of Comet cars past the station while an ALP-46 engine with a local train of MLVs has stopped at the southbound platform to receive and discharge passengers.

 

 

 

A third view from the same outing to Linden shows a Siemens-built ACS-64 at the point of an Amtrak regional train.  There is lots of action on the corridor all day long, but it even gets better in the rush hours.

 

 

 

Above and below:  A meeting near Princeton this spring gave me the opportunity to make a short photographic detour off the Corridor.  Two cars of Arrow III MUs ply the short 4.3-mile Princeton Branch to connect the town and its namesake university with the corridor on a frequent schedule throughout each day.  The upper photo shows one of these trains on the trestle crossing the Delaware and Raritan Canal.  Access is by way of a State maintained trail that runs along the waterway.  A little further up toward Princeton the rail line crosses Stony Brook in a similar manner, but access to that point for photos is mostly limited to boats.  The lower view is at the line's only grade crossing, Faculty Road, close to its current outer terminal, now a good walk from the center of town

 

 



I hope these photos represent a good survey of the motive power that currently plies the rails of the Northeast Corridor, providing both short- and long-distance passenger service.  Part 3 will feature some interesting color schemes and other New Jersey locations.

 

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, September 19, 2021 12:05 PM

Holy Cow! all this time spent near the PJ&B, all my interest in it, and only at this moment do I realize that the bridge over the ex-canal IS a swing bridge.  Note the bearing at left.

The Avelias look better in these shots than they did in the publicity shots so far, some of which made the cabs look like Katy Perry having her mouth washed out with a bar of Fels Naptha.  I had thought they were full 220mph capable, which was the point of Joe's letter (and several subsequent discussions) about Amtrak purchasing trains of that speed capability without being able to utilize it for the prospective service life of the trainsets.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:42 PM

 

06-Breaking COVID's cabin fever North Jersey part 3

 

 

 

This is the final segment devoted to my local photography and mainly covers excursions to get photos of the three locomotives that NJ Transit has painted in heritage liveries to honor predecessor railroads.  They certainly made a venture to a nearby railroad station or crossing more interesting.  And, as you will see, some of the locations were literally in walking distance from my abode.

Each of the three is a different model.  First, Bombardier-built ALP-46 No. 4636, painted in an attractive Tuscan Red with gold stripes in honor of the "Standard Railroad of the World."  The electric unit, capable of running on any of NJ Transit's catenary-equipped lines because it can handle both the ex-PRR 12,000-volt AC, 25-cycle used on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and a part of the North Jersey Coast line, and the NJT-installed 25,000-volt AC, 60-hertz commercial current mainly employed on the ex-Lackawanna Railroad Morris & Essex lines.
  

 

Above and below:  The North Fullerton Avenue grade crossing between the Walnut Street and Watchung Avenue stations of the Montclair-Boonton line, about a half mile (6 blocks) from where I live.  The locomotives, which generally operate to Penn Station no matter which line they serve, can be on either the east or west end of a train as they may deadhead between runs over the loop in Sunnyside Yard in Queens.  And they can also be either pulling or pushing their consists of Multilevel or Comet coaches.  On not totally rare occasions they run to and from Hoboken.  The camera is facing northward in both photos and shows the 4636 on the east end of Penn Station-bound trains at the crossing, with the upper one featuring Multilevel cars in a morning view and the lower one Comets in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 Above and below:  From the westbound (southbound) platform of the North Elizabeth station on the Northeast Corridor.  Locomotive 4636 pulls an express train of Multilevel cars in the upper view, while a long train of Arrow III MU cars operates toward New York City below.

 

 

Now on to ALP-45DP No. 4519, which honors the Erie Lackawanna Railroad.  These behemoths, which started coming off a Bombardier assembly line in Germany in 2010, are now the official standard locomotive of NJ Transit, capable of being used anywhere on the system--on lines that are either electrified or not.  More and more are being ordered (60 so far), and upon delivery will replace older straight diesel power units.  They are supposed to run with their pantographs up under the wire, but that is not always the case.  Among the dual-powered one-seat services on which they operate, are off-peak Raritan Valley trains to New York City, North Jersey Coast line trains from Bay Head Jct. to Penn Station, and Montclair-Boonton/Morristown trains connecting points west of either Dover or Montclair State University with Hoboken or Penn Station, New York.  Since they also run on totally non-electrified lines to and from Hoboken, they are almost always found on the west end of trains, but occasionally, when operating to Penn Station and being turned at Sunnyside, end up on the east end.

 

 

 

 

 

Above and below:  Two photos of the 4519 in Montclair.  With pantograph up the unit pushes a train of Comets from Montclair State University (the end of electrification) to Hoboken in the upper view.  The morning rush hour train is shown at the North Fullerton Avenue grade crossing after stopping at the Watchung Avenue station.  On weekends NJ Transit's service to Montclair is limited to bi-hourly shuttle trains between Bay Street to Hoboken, where at Newark they stop to exchange passengers with Midtown Direct service between Dover and Penn Station, New York.  The same set is used all day long, and in the photo below the 4519 is running on diesel power.  The pans were up on its trip two hours earlier.  Since NJ Transit is famous for its lack of supervision, the decision about using the pantograph is left up to the engineer by default.  The lower photo depicts a train that has just departed Bay Street on the "Montclair Connection" (2002), which was built to allow passenger service from the former Erie Greenwood Lake line to run over the former DL&W's Montclair branch and the "Kearny Connection" (1996) onto the former Pennsylvania Railroad high line to New York City.  When I bought my house, in walking distance from the Watchung Avenue station, in 1970, the only rail service operating on the line consisted of a few morning trains to Hoboken and a few afternoon/evening ones back.  Never did I dream that I'd have a one-seat ride to New York City every hour (but only on weekdays).  Yes, that resulted in a rise in property values along the line.

 

 

For comparison's sake here is ALP-45DP in NJ Transit colors pulling a rush hour train of MLVs approaching Secaucus.  The express started in Hoboken and will continue up the former Erie Bergen County branch through Fairlawn-Radburn and Ridgewood to Suffern.  There is a constant stream of diesel-powered trains operating through the lower level of the Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus station (sometimes called Secaucus Transfer and Secaucus Jct.--true for the first, but false for the second, as there is no track connection between the rails coming from Hoboken on the lower level and those coming from Penn Station, New York through the upper level).

The third "heritage" locomotive is EMD-built GP40PH-2 No. 4109.  Manufactured in 1968 for the Central Railroad of New Jersey as No. 3677, it has been rebuilt twice, and has now been redecorated into its original CNJ livery.  Unfortunately, I have yet to photograph it operating on former Jersey Central rails, but I did find it on a trip from Hoboken to Bergen County at Secaucus.

 

 

 

The 4109 was at the point of the next train (after the one in the previous photo), approaching Secaucus.  It was running only as far as Waldwick via the Bergen County line, making all local stops. 

Since I've taken these views, I have been to photograph these locomotives at other locations on the NJ Transit rail system, including on the former Jersey Central;  I received the scans and slides only yesterday, and have yet to load them.

 

We go much further afield in the next few segments in this series, specifically to Denver and Salt Lake City at the beginning of May--the real end to months of cabin fever.

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:47 PM

Overmod:  The bridge on thr Princeton Jc. and Back was built as a swing bridge, but lost that ability some time ago.  The catenary runs straight through, without a break.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, September 20, 2021 4:18 PM

There hasn't been a break in that catenary since my father's time there, when the line was double-tracked and used for fleets during football season (and to supply coal for the University's power plant).

I well remember seeing the red MP54s waiting idle and being impressed at the position-light cab signals -- probably in 1967.  The student parking lots were as I recall later built on the site of the yards below Palmer Stadium, the tracks gone by the time I was old enough to know to look for them (although I think Karl Zimmermann, who was class of '65, remembered trains there).

The point was that I'd thought any movable bridge over the canal would have been removed completely long ago, maybe around the time Carnegie arranged for the lake rather than donating to the University (the joke being 'we asked for bread and he gave us water')

Or replaced when the bridge under Rt. 1 was redone.  Or when the line was rebuilt extensively by NJT about... sheesh, it's been decades now.  There is now a grand complex at the town end, even further away from mile 0 in the shadow of Blair Arch, and the Junction end of the line... indeed the whole structure of Princeton Junction station in either direction... has been altered at great expense beyond recognition (with one extremely good consequence: the 85mph crossover in the middle of the station was removed and test speeds of over 170mph can be seen there now...)

But that swing bridge remains.

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