Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Jersey Terminals


I've started a new project I'm calling New Jersey Terminals.

I was inspired by getting the latest volume of Richard Carpenter's A Railroad Atlas of the United States in 1946, which is volume 4 covering Illinois, Wisconsin, and upper Michigan. If you are interested in American railroad history you should definitely get these books.

I stumbled across volume 1 in a large bookstore in Toronto a few years ago. I had not heard about it before. I later ordered volumes 2 and 3 from Johns Hopkins University Press, and now I just got volume 4 for Christmas courtesy of my brother in law Rick, who has met the author because of his work with HART in Danbury.

Volume 4 includes the trackage outside both Chicago and St Louis. Both are more fiendishly complicated than the tangle on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, but still, I thought I might be able to provide some clarifications for railfans if I mapped out the passenger services here over time.

This is different from the Atlas. I'm showing only the passenger network, and showing it over time instead of in one year.

I researched the subject some years ago, but I never put it out on the web (or anywhere else), so this is all new stuff. It's mostly just a matter of drawing the maps from the material I have, so I think I can knock it out over some number of weeks starting now.

First I tiled together a base map from four 15-minute series topographics like I did for the Danbury map a few weeks ago. They are from 1898 and 1900. Maybe I should have used the more recently updated 7.5-minute series like I did for the South Orange boundary maps in October, but I didn't. The old maps show some small rail lines that are gone now, and I thought using them would help me draw those lines in the right positions when I did the older years. But it's six of one ; using the old maps I ended up having to work out the location of the high line to Penn Station, which was not there yet in 1900.

Then I drew the present day: the Hoboken lines, the Penn Station lines, the light rail, and PATH. As I worked I decided to vary line width and station circle size, and to show tunnels with dashed lines.

Next I jumped back to 1975. At first I was thinking of just mapping each 25 years, but then I decided it would be more fun to be more granular than that, so the next one I did was 1965. My plan now is to go each ten years on the fives, 1955, 1945, and so on. Maybe I will go back and do 2005, 1995, 1985, but the fact is they didn't change as much as the older dates.

Here is today. I used the New Jersey Transit orange and purple colors for the main lines and the light rail. I'm not sure I like those colors, but they are what they are.

Now, back to 1975. No light rail, and for the Hoboken main lines I'm using the dark green color the Erie Lackawanna used on coaches. We didn't know it then, but this year was pretty much the low point in the modern passenger railroad network. The for-profit railroad companies had abandoned all but the busiest routes, and the state had just started developing rail transportation.

And now, 1965. The Central of New Jersey terminal appears. Its color is royal blue, because the CNJ used a dark blue and yellow scheme, and because the Baltimore and Ohio used the the CNJ as part of its alternative "northeast corridor" between New York and Washington, known as the Royal Blue Line.

I think the map just above poses the question, "why did the PATH tubes run to Hoboken but not CNJ Jersey City?", and the next one, which will show two more terminals at Pavonia and Exchange Place, will ask more loudly, "why just three out of four?". Railroad politics, I think, together with the tubes not generating the income that would attract more capital investment. Not everything can be mapped.

These are just very small sections of the maps in preparation. The full coverage goes out about 15 miles, to show how the various main lines and branches approached the city.

For colors I wanted to follow Richard Carpenter's concept, as he wrote,
Every effort has been made to choose a color for each railroad company that has a historic association with that railroad. ... However, in order to preserve a graphic color contrast between adjacent railroads, the choice of an unrelated color has sometimes been necessary.
I have not used all the same colors he did. But I like the idea. Pennsylvania is dark red, Lehigh Valley is orange, Susquehanna is yellow, New York Central (West Shore) is grey, Erie is light green.

More next week.



  1. And thus is revealed the Danbury connection ...

    Looking forward to this new series.


  2. The wye on the former Erie lines in the 1965 map looks strange. Did trains from the Northern Branch reverse direction twice (through what is now NS Croxton Yard, I think) to reach Hoboken?

  3. Yes, the Northern Branch trains had to reverse twice. The backup move went through the Croxton freight yard. The Erie Main and Greenwood Lake connected straight into the ex-DLW Boonton Line but the Northern could not do that.

  4. I made a map showing all rail lines in the Northeast with at least three daily passenger trains in 1910, to compare with 2010 (coloured by operator as you did). While nowhere near as detailed as your work for this project it does answer some of the same questions. I may do 1860 and 1960 as well if I can find pdfs of the Official Rail Guide for those dates.