Sunday, January 29, 2012

Penhorn Creek Railroad


The Penhorn Creek Railroad.

The name conjures up thoughts of a doomed short line railway to nowhere projected during one of the railway booms the country experienced one hundred or more years ago. Or maybe it was a logging company's railroad that brought cut trees from the woods down to the sawmill next to a Class I railroad line.

But in fact it ran from Jersey City to Secaucus, and it was built about 1905 to 1910.

And the Penhorn Creek has a web page created by "NE", that shows you where it was and gives some information from the Valuation Reports done for the ICC ninety years ago:

Why, after dabbling in New York area rail services for these many years, have I just recently discovered the Penhorn Creek Railroad?

It shows how one or two people can make a difference.

For the Morris and Essex lines, which were the local part of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, we benefit from the work of Thomas Taber senior and junior, who produced the The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in the Nineteenth Century and The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in the Twentieth Century in a total of three volumes. Thanks to them we can trace railroad openings, station buildings, the laying of additional tracks, route realignments and grade separations, subsidiary companies, and train services.

For the Pennsylvania Railroad, we have the Triumph series by Charles Roberts and David Messer. Their typically thorough volume on the history of the New York Division— from just outside Philadelphia to New York— tells you almost all you need to know about the Northeast Corridor's development.

But the Erie Railroad in New Jersey, in that kind of detail? No one has done it.

So, I find out only now about the Penhorn Creek Railroad.

What was it? As the Board of Public Utility Commissioners (New Jersey) wrote in their 1913 annual report,

the formation of the Penhorn Creek Railroad Company was an expedient adopted by the Erie Railroad Company to enable it to accomplish certain results, highly desirable in themselves, which by direct action it could not accomplish.  [...]

From the beginning the main line and branches of the Penhorn Creek Railroad Company have been employed by the Erie Railroad Company as a part of its main line, and the only trains which have been operated thereover have been trains of the Erie Railroad Company "which operate over some one or more lines of railroad operated by the Erie Railroad Company or some parts thereof."

They got a little lost in that second sentence where they seem to be quoting something a company official testified.

In short— the Penhorn Creek Railroad was a new passenger main line that bypassed the freight yards in Secaucus and crossed through Bergen Hill in a new four-track open cut, the cut that became known as Bergen Arches. The old main, including the two-track tunnel opened in 1860, became  the freight main. The Arches and the tunnel are parallel, the tunnel along the north side of the Arches and at a lower elevation.

Here's a clip of the 1955 map from my forthcoming New Jersey Terminals project, with a black line added to show the freight main line. The Erie is shown in lime green.

In this area, three Erie lines converged. The Erie-owned New York and Greenwood Lake Railway included trains of its Orange and Caldwell Branches and of the Erie's Newark Branch ; the Erie's Main Line included trains of the Erie-owned New Jersey and New York Railroad (now called the Pascack Valley Line) and the Erie's Bergen County line (mainly for freight) ; and the third line was the combined Northern Branch of the Erie and New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad.

The Penhorn Creek Railroad had a grade-separated junction between the busy Greenwood Lake and Main lines, with the outbound Greenwood Lake crossing under the Main. The Penhorn Creek ran four tracks wide starting at the junction. The less busy Northern-Susquehanna route, however, as far as I can tell, had an at-grade junction with the four-track Penhorn Creek main line. I imagine inbound trains from those lines just had to wait to join the main. There was no way to build a better junction in the very tight space available.

On the left there's a railroad in my base map with no colored line over it, with the lettering N AND NEWARK R R. Believe it or not it's part of what got me started on the project.

That route, from about the W east, was the Morris and Essex main line from 1863 to 1877. See how it lines up with the dark green Morris and Essex to the left. During this period the M&E ran through the Erie tunnel and then, east of the tunnel, curved north and east to Hoboken. And also during this period, in 1872, the Erie opened its Newark and Hudson Railroad, which completed a branch line from Paterson to Newark to Jersey City. The odd result was the Erie running on the M&E for a short distance. Once the M&E opened its own tunnel in 1877, it followed the routing shown above in dark green, and the Erie acquired the segment used for its own trains.

The Erie had significant investment in the New York and Greenwood Lake Railway from the early 1880s but did not actually acquire control until 1898. Some time around 1890, the Erie had a company called the Arlington Railroad construct a connection in the meadows from the Greenwood Lake south to meet the Newark Branch at a point just off the map above. This consolidated traffic over the lower bridge seen in the base map.

I know that the Greenwood Lake originally ran to the Pennsylvania terminal at Exchange Place. I think the re-routing via the Arlington Railroad marks the date that it started running to the Erie terminal instead. The upper bridge seems to have remained in use— at least maps continued to show it— and possibly it was used to bring freight over the old route to the Pennsylvania Railroad at Marion Junction.

Around 1909, another connection was built across the meadows, running from the Newark Branch northeast to the upper bridge. This seems to have been coordinated with the construction of the Penhorn Creek Railroad, and in fact some part of the line, I would say east of the bridge, is credited to the Penhorn Creek. The point was to get both the busy Greenwood Lake route and the lesser Newark Branch over the upper bridge to that grade-separated junction. A freight connection was also supplied curving north to the Croxton Yard around the old Erie main line. Once this was all in place, about 1911, the lower bridge was removed.

Well, that was a long way to go. I just wanted to point out that the Penhorn Creek Railroad used a little bit of the old M&E curve as it came out of the Arches.

And where is the waterway called Penhorn Creek? You can see it on the base map. It forms the boundary between City of Jersey City and Town of Secaucus.

And how has the Penhorn Creek Railroad fared?

The Erie and the Lackawanna (owner of the M&E) began to consolidate operations into the M&E's Hoboken Terminal in 1956. A connection was built where the Penhorn Creek came alongside the Lackawanna's Boonton Line, north of the Greenwood Lake junction, and the Greenwood Lake itself was also connected to the Boonton Line. This part of the Penhorn Creek remained in use until 2003, when New Jersey Transit opened a new connection near the Hackensack River from the former Erie Main Line to the former Lackawanna Boonton Line, as part of the Secaucus Junction station project. Most of this section of the Penhorn Creek Railroad is now part of a New Jersey Turnpike ramp for Exit 15X.

South of the Turnpike ramp, the former Penhorn Creek Railroad is abandoned, including the Bergen Arches. The Arches closed when the Erie's Jersey City terminal closed in 1958. The parallel tunnel, which was about 50 years older than the Arches, continued in use for freight for decades longer. I am not sure whether it is still in use.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mystery Train, Solved


A month ago I wrote about a mysterious train on the New York and New England Railroad in 1893, a daily limited-stop express between Boston and ... Hopewell Junction, Dutchess County, New York. It seemed to make no sense at all. I observed that its arrival and departure at Hopewell Junction appeared to be coordinated with the Boston and Philadelphia express trains at Poughkeepsie Bridge. A connection would merely require running the 13 miles between Hopewell Junction and Poughkeepsie in a half hour&mash; a leisurely 30 miles per hour would do it. The catch is that the little Dutchess County Railroad showed no such trains in its timetable. Additionally the Dutchess County showed an astoundingly slow time of 65 minutes for its fastest train on the 13 mile route.

I speculated that the New York and New England express could be a mail train, and that the Dutchess County Railroad segment could have been only for mail cars and thus not shown in the public timetable.

And now, while researching for the New Jersey Terminals project, I came across the solution. It was not a mail train, but a train for express, which was the term for shipments of packages, the kind of service provided today by companies like United Parcel or Federal Express. The name of the latter still works if you think "express" means "fast".

One of the most unbelievable trains imaginable operated over the Morris and Essex during the period about 1892-1896. This was the "Boston Flyer", which, with the unusual Train Number 7½ left Hoboken about 8:30 p m and via the Boonton Branch arrived at Waterloo at 10:00 p m, where the engine was turned on the turntable, put on the other end of the train, and proceeded up the Sussex Road to Franklin Junction. There the train was turned over to the Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad for the trip to Maybrook, New York. Here the train was delivered to the Philadelphia, Reading and New England for the run over the Poughkeepsie Bridge to Hopewell Junction. At that point the New York and New England operated the train through Danbury, Waterbury, Hartford, and Willimantic, Conn, and on via Blackstone to Boston, where as Train No 32 it was scheduled to arrive at 8:20 a m.

— Thomas Townsend Taber, The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in the Nineteenth Century, Steamtown Volunteer Association, 1977.

Taber includes a sample timetable he dates as 1892, showing the train.

I was going to include here timetable images from Mystery Train and add the Lackawanna table, but I see Blogger has changed the way it shows images in a way that makes them too small to read. Instead of wrestling with that, I'll type it out here. Unknown timings are shown with a question mark.


BOSTON                    1800   0820
Franklin                  1842   0733
Putnam                    1940   0639
Willimantic               2025   0555
Hartford                  2120   0500

Hartford                  2130   0450
New Britain               2145   0435
Plainville                2155   0422
Bristol                   2207   0415
Waterbury                 2245   0345
Danbury                   2340   0235
Hopewell Junction         0030   0130


Hopewell Junction         ?      ?   
Poughkeepsie              ?      ?   


Poughkeepsie              0101   0054
Maybrook                  0150   0003


Maybrook                  0200   2353
Greycourt                 0218   2337
Warwick                   0240   2315
Franklin Junction         0310   2240


Franklin Junction         0445   ?   
Newton                    ?      ?   
Waterloo                  0515   ?   

Waterloo                  ?      2200
Dover                     ?      2136
Boonton                   ?      2120
Paterson                  ?      2055
Lyndhurst                 ?      2044
HOBOKEN                   0656   2030


The above is from the June 1893 Official Guide and from the 1892 eastbound Lackawanna table in Taber's book. There are small differences, but the 0820 arrival in Boston matches Taber's text, and the Poughkeepsie to Franklin times match a February 1893 table in Carlton Mabee's Bridging the Hudson (Purple Mountain Press, 2001). The greatest difference is the southbound timing at Franklin Junction, but Taber has the whole southbound run about an hour later, as follows.

The return trip left Boston at 7:00 p m as Train No 91, reaching Franklin, New Jersey at 4:45 a m, and Waterloo 5:15. After turning the engine, and putting it on the other end, the train proceeded to Hoboken as No 8½, due there at 6:56 a m.

In June 1893, the Lackawanna segment was probably as much as 90 minutes earlier than shown above, but I have entered the times from Taber anyway.

Railfan Dave Rutan, who has researched the Sussex Branch for years, has confirmed that the train ran until 1896, and he explained why the train did not exchange between the Lackawanna and the Lehigh and Hudson River at Andover.

The Boston Flyer was discontinued in 1896. The connection at Andover Junction was not created until 1905. The Boston Flyer ran up the Sussex Branch through Newton to Franklin where it got on the L&HR. The train even made station stops in Newton.

Based on this I added Newton as a stop in the table above. See Rutan's page Remember the Sussex Branch for more, including maps that may clarify point about Andover and Franklin Junction. He also has a plan showing that a cutoff was finally opened in 1901 allowing direct running into the Sussex Branch without the reverse at Waterloo, where the junction faced west. The reason for both the Waterloo and Andover improvements was to facilitate freight trains running to the Poughkeepsie Bridge route. So the "unbelievable" passenger trains were just a short-term addition to a more permanent freight routing connecting the Lackawanna and New Haven systems without carfloat at New York.

Neither of the half-number trains is shown in the June 1893 Official Guide. However, for many years the Lackawanna was cheap about buying pages in the Guide. In the condensed schedules they could cram into two pages, smaller stations are omitted, and some trains shown only as 'additional trains' in footnotes squeezed into margins. Other railroads would have taken at least four pages for the number of trains the Lackawanna operated. It's not clear that all trains were shown even as notes, and perhaps especially not two trains run mainly for express packages.

The peculiar train numbers seem to have been unique on the Lackawanna judging by Taber's comment in his thorough three-volume company history, namely "Why this train was numbered with a ½ has never been explained". Trains 7 and 8 without the ½ were "solid vestibule trains", overnight services with good accommodations between Hoboken and Buffalo. 7½ left 45 minutes after train 7, and 8½ arrived 90 minutes before train 8 (or 3 hours before— see above).

The elder Thomas Taber actually spoke with a Lackawanna engineer who ran the train.

This rather implausible operation was not intended for through passenger service, but was primarily to transport shipments of the United States Express Company (which operated on the D L & W) between New York and Boston, as a rival express company had the franchise on the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. For several years, Morris and Essex locomotive No 87, named "John J Phelps", was assigned to handle the trains between Hoboken and Franklin. The redoubtable John Draney, later to achieve great renown as a teller of tall tales, and star of a radio show "Life Begins at 80", was the engineer, and he told the author that when running at night through the dairy farming area of Sussex County, the greatest hazard was cows on the track. Said John, "I killed eight one night in Drake's Cut, and when I told Superintendent Reasoner about it when I got to Hoboken, he asked if there were any more cows around. I said there was one more, and he said 'Well why didn't you get that one too?'"

An elderly Miss Emma Warbasse told a writer for the Susquehanna Reflector in April 1956 (also from Dave Rutan's site):

Back in the early nineties, the Lackawanna's famous Boston Flyer would roll through Sussex County each evening, its beautiful chime whistle reverberating through the pastoral valleys and wooded hills, its many brightly-lit windows giving forth an enticing glow and the lure of distant horizons.

The word "famous" certainly overstates the case— or maybe not, for longterm Sussex County residents.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Jersey Terminals 3

Nobody noticed that I had the north-south PATH line in Jersey City out of place. I include myself in that statement. Before and after:

I had to fix it in all the maps I've started so far.

I decided also to make the widest line 6 points, not 8, which you can see at Hoboken Terminal. At 8 it was getting in the way of clarity.

The idea of showing light rail lines has snowballed into a Thing, because there are so many of them once I go back past 1945, and I have not already researched them at ten-year increments as I have done the mainline railroads. But I still like the idea and I am plodding along with it. It's taking a lot of time.

This is what part of 1935 looks like with all the street railways in:

Removing the background has its advantages:

That's also 1935. I think I'll leave the background, because it lets you match the lines to streets and landmarks, but the map without it has its minimalist beauty, doesn't it?

I already realize that I will not get the street railways exactly right, because of incomplete source material, but I'm going to get as close as I can.

I had a dream. I went down to the basement for something. Maybe I was doing the wash. When I got there, I found a bear in the basement. It wasn't a full grown bear, but it was pretty big. It didn't look exactly right and I realized it was a CGI bear. I still didn't like being down there with it, so I went back upstairs. I wasn't sure what to do. How did it get down there? I remembered there was a small window with a bad latch. That must be it. He pushed it and got in. I went outside and I found two men in uniform, who were looking around as if they'd lost something. One had a gun with a large barrel. I knew it was a dart gun. "Are you looking for a bear?" I asked them. Yes, they were. I told them it was in my basement. We started up the driveway so I could show them the window, but the bear was already coming out. It was squeezing itself through the little window, and when it got the last of its body out, it made a pop sound like a cartoon bear would do. It saw us and ran up the hill in the back yard, and the two men chased after it.

That was it. I woke up. What does it mean, doctor?


Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Jersey Terminals 2


I've spent a lot of time on the maps. The only ones I'd call done at this point are 2012, 1975, and 1965. They are now up at a work in progress site, The page needs some written commentary that I will do later.

Here's a preview of 1955:

For the first time (going back) we have the terminals of the Erie Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad.

It's hard to see here, but for the Erie I show the 4-track Bergen Archways open cut line and the older 2-track tunnel just to the north. I think passenger trains used the archways, but if they used the tunnel at all, I wanted to show it.

The Pennsylvania and the Hudson and Manhattan presented an interesting graphic problem. From the portal to west of Journal Square, the H&M used the center pair of tracks and the Pennsylvania passenger trains used the outer tracks. They merged west of Journal Square and used the same Pennsylvania Railroad tracks almost to Harrison station. To show this I have used two thin red lines around the H&M blue line. You could argue that it's all Pennsylvania trackage, but I used blue where the H&M had exclusive use. Journal Square station was H&M only.

Last minute change: I now use the same graphic in 1965, 1975, 2012 to show the stretch near Harrison where PATH is the outer track around the mainlines.

East of the portal the Pennsylvania ran directly over the H&M. I decided to offset the two just enough for you to see the H&M continuing east in tunnel. As the Pennsylvania grows wider nearer the terminal, it covers the H&M. It works for me.

And here is 1945:

Since I showed light rail on the 2012 map, I felt I should be consistent and show it on the older maps too. So there is the Hoboken Elevated. And in very thin purple lines, there are the street railways that ran through from the elevated. There wasn't enough room to name all the elevated stations, but the stops shown are at the correct positions (the pair of one-side stations in Hoboken at Washington St and Bloomfield St are shown as one circle).

The other addition (that you can see here) is the short-lived Lehigh Valley commuter service to the LV's own Jersey City terminal. The terminal, as far as I can tell, consisted of one track alongside Johnston Avenue across the street from the CNJ terminal. Passengers used the CNJ ferry. The 1945 timetable shows one train each way via this route, so I used a thin line.


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.