Friday, January 23, 2015

Along the Lehigh Line

Norfolk Southern; Pattenburg Tunnel, Pattenburg, N.J.; October 23, 2014
Over the course of this past autumn I got to explore the most local busy railroad to my home, Norfolk Southern's route across New Jersey on the former Lehigh Valley Railroad. With gas prices falling, local day trips became a bit more economical, so I made the one-hour drive down to NS's Lehigh Line a few times as the leaves turned. We'll take a geographic look at the line, starting just across the Delaware River in Easton, Penn., where we see a westbound train on the former Lehigh Valley passing under an abandoned bridge that once carried the Central Railroad of New Jersey across the Lehigh River.
Norfolk Southern; Easton, Penn.; September 28, 2014
Now we'll get into New Jersey. Coming up from the Delaware River, trains are digging into the grade up to the summit at Pattenburg Tunnel (top photo in this blog) as they pass through Bloomsbury. Two nice overhead bridges provide good views in both directions here.
Norfolk Southern; Bloomsbury, N.J.; September 28, 2014
On a rainy day in October we look the other direction at Bloomsbury as the local train from Allentown, Penn., heads back west.
Norfolk Southern; Bloomsbury, N.J.; October 23, 2014
At Jutland there is a nice overhead bridge, where we see an oil train passing underneath. Oil trains have really added a lot of traffic to the Lehigh Line.
Norfolk Southern; Jutland, N.J.; September 28, 2014
An overlooked location is Hamden, located in the woods west of New Jersey Route 31. The Lehigh Line passes through back-to-back truss bridges here, crossing the Raritan River (westernmost bridge) and Cramer's Creek (near bridge in the photo below). Another oil train heads east through the two bridges.
Norfolk Southern; Hamden, N.J.; October 9, 2014
Downtown Stanton Station (which consists of a general store and not much else) is a good place to photograph eastbound trains in the afternoon, as the tracks curve southward here to provide good lighting. A stack train snakes through the S-curve just north (railroad west) of the town.
Norfolk Southern; Stanton Station, N.J.; October 9, 2014
Just south of the grade crossing in town, we find a stand of late autumn color hanging in there. A stack train rolls through on it way east. Just ahead is a passing siding where meets often take place, so there can be a lot of action in a short time at Stanton Station.
Norfolk Southern; Stanton Station, N.J.; November 6, 2014
We'll head just a few more miles east for our last shot. Here we find an eastbound train crossing the Raritan River at Neshanic Station. The train has some more rural running to do before it starts entering suburbia on its way to the yards and refineries near New York City.
Norfolk Southern; Neshanic Station, N.J.; November 15, 2014
And we'll conclude with a story about the top photo in this blog. On a rainy day word got out that two of Norfolk Southern's heritage units (a total of 20 units painted for the predecessor roads that make up Norfolk Southern) were coming east. One of the two heading this way was painted for the Virginian Railroad, the other for the New York Central. The Virginian was a rugged mountain line and I thought a shot of the Virginian unit coming out of Pattenburg Tunnel would be appropriate. I had a friend who was monitoring the progress of the Virginian unit through the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania and I knew the New York Central unit was on a train about two hours behind. I timed it out carefully and walked in to the shot at Pattenburg Tunnel about ten minutes before the train was due. I waited for the train... And waited... And waited... After about an hour my friend called to say the train (which was carrying oil) went into a siding near Bethlehem, Penn., and would be sitting there indefinitely because the refinery (across New Jersey) already had a train unloading there and there was no room for another train. By this time I was pretty sure the New York Central-led train was only about 30 minutes away, so I waited in the rain for it. Sure enough, it did show up right about when I guessed it would, so the top photo of this post is really just a consolation prize photo.

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