You may have heard about plans for the future New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center in Phillipsburg, but even without an official building or staff the NJHTC does exist and one can arrange tours. Last August the West Jersey Chapter of the NRHS organized an informal trip to Phillipsburg visit the NJHTC and ride the adjacent Black River and Westers steam tourist train along the Delaware River.
The NJHTC is currently split between several sites. These consist of the downtown Phillipsburg Union Station, which is probably the only part that can really be opened to the public, the adjacent CNJ PU interlocking tower, undergoing restoration, the nearby Phillipsburg Railroad Historians Museum, which if the NJHTC is ever built will contain most of the full size outdoor exhibits and/or trolley line and finally a storage facility north of town a the former Phillipsburg water pumping station where all of the miscalculation transportation related artifacts are stored.
The Black River and Western line runs a steam excursion service on the former PRR Bel Del Line between Phillipsburg and about halfway to Millford. The train uses former LIRR 1950's Ping Pong rolling stock with a 2-8-2 steam locomotive purchased from China in the late 1980's. This is the only operating steam locomotive in New Jersey and everything is branded with New York Susquehanna and Western markings.
We will begin with the Phillipsburg Union Station and PU tower, then move onto the steam excursion, the storage facility, the Railroading museum and finally cross the river to check out the former LVRR Easton, PA Station.
You can find all of the photos at: http://acm.jhu.edu/~sthurmovik/Railpics/09-08-14_PHILLIPSBURG_HISTORICAL/-Thumbnails.html
We're start out with the public face of the NJHTC which is the old Phillipsburg Union Station which served both the CNJ main line to Scranton and the DL&W Washington Branch. This last saw passenger service under NJDoT in the early 1980's and has been temporarily suspended ever since. Te building is owned by the city and has several tenants, including the NJHTC and a local railfan club's archive. The building had been drastically rehabilitated in recent years with the top level completely fixed up along with the roof.
From the other side we can see the platform level and the various doors and stairways providing access. Back in the day the station here was as sophisticated as any currently serving Amtrak with checked baggage and different gates to different platforms. Still there are still occasional issues with vandalism included someone breaking in and setting a fire which fortunately did not spread to the whole structure.
The station is adjacent to CP-PHILLIPSBURG, a simple interlocking between the NS/Conrail Lehigh Line and the Washington Secondary. I was lucky because not long after I took these pictures NS re-signaled the interlocking when the signals had to be relocated to accommodate a track realignment on the adjacent Delaware river bridge. It's sort of bizarre that it's preferable to replace perfectly serviceable signaling equipment than just move it :-(
Here we see a clear signal pulled up on the main track signal for an approaching NS intermodal train. The lack of a top head yellow aspect is due to the short 2500 foot signal distance between here and CP-EASTON so trains in either direction approaching a stop signal will get a Restricting instead. The re-alignment has since moved the single track on the bridge from the south to the north trackway and you can see the fresh ties already installed.
The Washington secondary gets a three head slow speed signal for movements out onto the main line. Here you can see the deteriorating Lehigh Valley RR bridge in the background, parallel to the CNJ bridge. While the Lehigh Line makes use of the former LVRR alignment, when Conrail took over both lines the former LVRR bridge was abandoned due to it being significantly older than the parallel CNJ span. The Lehigh Line flips to the CNJ alignment about 1 mile to the east and then switches back at the western end of the bridge.
The surviving CNJ PU tower was built in the 1930's to replace a number of other towers in the area. PU had one of the longest territories of any single interlocking under direct wire control with a total length of around 3 miles. Currently undergoing restoration many of the windows have been replaced as has the slate roof.
The red and white ID plate is original to CNJ days as we look past the bay window towards CP-PHILLIPSBURG and the union station. The door to the relay/compressor room is clearly new with work on the second floor currently under way.
The first floor of the tower would have held relay equipment as well as the air compressor plat to power switches around the sprawling interlocking plant. Some of this equipment is in the basement to the right, while the air dryer and air reservoir are outside.
The skeletal remains of the US&S Model 14 interlocking machine still remain within the tower and it is reported that a local made away with the model board. The NJHTC is attempting to re-acquire the board, but apparently the local railfan is demanding something like $5000 for it.
To satisfy the minimum requirement for photos with trains in them here is NS #9196 at the head of that COFC train I mentioned earlier as it passes PU tower.
Here we see the bridge complex at Phillipsburg with the in-use CNJ bridge upstream of the abandoned LVRR bridge. Both are inverse truss bridges with the CNJ bridge constructed sometime in the 1920;s or 30's to replace an older model that used to sit on the empty piers in the middle.
Being on the doorstep of the Bethlehem Steel Company means you don't have to skimp on structure.
North of the CNJ/LVRR bridges is the former Lehigh and Hudson River bridge using a more traditional truss. The dam where the Lehigh River flows into the Delaware River is directly behind it.
So, the BR&W tourist train is hauled by NYS&W #142, which of course was placed in the proper number sequence for historic NYS&W 2-8-2 locomotives. This engine was procured from China in 1989 during a flurry of such purchases in the late 1980's as the last steam engine manufacturing facility was shutting down there.
Apparently the Chinese locomotives were basically American designs with just a few asian touches.
Here is a video of #142 as it huffed and chugged.
The rolling stock are former LIRR coaches built in the 1950's by American Car and Foundry that may or may not be Ping-Pongs. Here we see the Refreshment car looking back towards the Wine Train extra fare section that was put on the rear.
The former LIRR cars retained some of their mechanical air conditioning equipment.
The coach interiors had blue reversible 2-3 bench seating and horizontally sliding windows.
The Refreshment car double as a gift shop. Unlike certain tourist railroads that "operate" in the Cape May area, this one was well run with lots of extra fare tie-ins such as a corn maze, mining camp, wine tasting/vinyard your and a dinner/mystery train.
The trip was fun, but didn't lend itself well to static photography. The one exception was this curve north of the I-78 bridge where the locomotive was pushing us back to Phillipsburg leaving a long trail of black coal smoke.
I did get a number of out the window videos which are fun to watch as my camera has to dodge oncoming foliage. Here we are heading southbound.
Southbound through a grade crossing.
Northbound past I-78.
And pulling into Phillipsburg.
So if you were wondering what happened to all of the hardware for the Newark City Subway when it was rebuilt or any other piece of transit kit removed from New Jersey's highways and biways, well it probably ended up at the NJHTC storage center in Phillipsburg. The center consists of the old Phillipsburg water pump-house and the large property it sits on with artifacts that can't get wet stored in shipping containers or ones that can simply littered around in the open.
For example here we have some NCS block signals next to an Erie RR lmile marker and some old highway signs.
Here's a cargo container full of trolley wire hardware.
They also have NJT's entire supply of PCC wheels and trolley wire.
If anyone has watched videos of the last GG-1 runs on the NY&LB you will recognize these hand cranked crossing gates that protected the crossings in the South Amboy terminal area up through 1983.
This site has no rail storage tracks so the few vehicles that are here are strictly in the ground transport role like a pair of ancient buses.
Moving inside the darkened pumphouse we can see that the NJTHC is fulfilling its mission from this collection of signs from rail, bus and automotive transport.
The crowning jewel of the site is not really transportation related at all but a massive stationary triple expansion steam engine that was used to pump water from the Delaware River to the Phillipsburg municipal reservoir.
It was built by Allis-Chalmers in 1913. I wonder how many times its rev counter has rolled over.
Here we are looking down into the water sump. You can see more transportation artifacts littered about in the hallway.
If the triple-expansion engine went down the system was backed up by a steam turbine.
And if that failed there was an electric motor.
In this view of the cylinder head is not without the obligatory random PRR logo.
Skipping across to the Phillipsburg Railroad Historians Museum we see a few isolated pieces of equipment that are awaiting more extensive infrastructure to be built. Here is Public Service trolley #2651 inside the barn under restoration.
A GE 25-to critter.
And a 44-ton that used to work the old Ingersoll Rand plant.
Skipping across the River into Pennsylvania we find the remains of the former LVRR station in Easton. The lettering is actually remarkably crisp for something that's been abandoned for 40 years.
Up top the gantrylever at the west end of the station is still in service as part of CP-EASTON.
Only two tracks still run through the station and one is for the former LHR connection now dubbed the Portland Secondary.
As recently as the 1990's it still made sense to re-use existing signal structures when re-configuring interlockings. When CP-EASTON was re-done only the main-line signals were replaced with new target type modulars. The branch signal, signal structure and even signal masts are all original to the LVRR. Hopefully increasing commodities prices will end this form of wasteful behavior.
The former location of the tower now houses a radio base station. The tower, while closed, survived almost until the end of Conrail in the late 1990s.
The eastbound mast signals show the same lack of an Approach indication that we saw at CP-PHILLIPSBURG. Also note the lack of a Medium/Limited speed green on the lower head which indicates that this turnout is treated like an equilateral with timetable speed obtaining the necessary turnout speed restriction on both tracks.
If you wondered what happened to the CNJ line it crosses to the other side of the Lehigh River en-route to Bethlehem and the big yard at Allentown.
And that's the end of this little trip. Hope you enjoyed it and next time stay tuned for a ride on the LIRR out to Babylon.