Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmastime In South Jersey

Cape May Seashore Lines; Tuckahoe, N.J.; December 4, 2016
Christmastime brings festivities of all sorts, including some train-themed ones. In recent years there has been a huge growth in the number of trains run by tourist railroads around the holidays, much of it riding the coattails of the movie The Polar Express. There was a time when tourist railroads pretty much shut down after Labor Day in September. Some railroads were blessed to have colorful fall foliage along their lines, expanding the tourist season into October. But now many, many tourist railroads have expanded the season right up to Christmas Day (and sometimes even a few days beyond) to capitalize on Polar Expresses (both licensed from the movie and knockoffs), Santa Trains, and the like.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Dorothy, N.J.; December 4, 2016
Cape May Seashore Lines in southern New Jersey is one of the railroads that has joined the holiday train rush. Starting just after Thanksgiving, the railroad offered daytime trips with Santa on weekends, as well as night trains during many evenings. The railroad runs over former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines trackage between Tuckahoe and Richland; most of their holiday trains can be boarded at either location.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Richland, N.J.; December 4, 2016
The Richland end of the line has seen numerous improvements, including the addition of WI Tower. This tower, built in 1906, once protected a busy junction in Newfield, N.J. After it was decommissioned as a working tower, it was purchased by a private individual in Newfield and moved to his property for use as a storage shed (albeit a big one). Eventually, the tower was donated to Buena Vista Township and it was moved to Richland.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Richland, N.J.; December 4, 2016
The trackage used by Cape May Seashore Lines is former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines track owned by the state. Conrail Shared Assets runs freight over the line, although that has been much diminished in recent times. The largest customer on the line was the electric generating station at Beesley's Point, which brought in coal and oil. The plant has been converted to burn natural gas, which comes in via a pipeline. The PRSL line ran from Camden to Cape May, with branches extending to Atlantic City and Ocean City. Other branches served other Jersey shore towns in earlier times.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Milmay, N.J.; December 4, 2016
CMSL; Dorothy, N.J.; December 4, 2016

Just prior to this year's holiday season, Cape May Seashore Lines added two new locomotives from the leased locomotive market and used them on its Santa Trains. On the south end was GMTX No. 2015, built as a GP38 for Penn Central as its No. 7684 in 1969. It went to Conrail (along with the rest of Penn Central) in 1976. Eventually it found its way to a lessor and was rebuilt to GP38-2 standards. It sports an attractive red, white & blue scheme, and Cape May Seashore Lines added CMSL heralds to the nose and sides.

At Tuckahoe the tower still stands that controlled the junction between the mainline to Cape May and the Ocean City Branch. The freight trains heading to the Beesley's Point Generating Station diverged here onto the Ocean City Branch (they would diverge one more time outside Ocean City to reach the generating station). No freight customers are currently located south of Tuckahoe. CMSL has leased the line for passenger service all the way to Cape May; it has run an occasional train south as far as Woodbine Junction. From there the track is in place but not up to passenger train standards down to Cape May Court House. In the past, CMSL has run regular passenger trains between Cape May Court House and Cape May, but currently does not.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Tuckahoe, N.J.; December 4, 2016
The station still stands in Tuckahoe, located between the mainline and the Ocean City Branch. A local historical society now uses the station.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Tuckahoe, N.J.; December 4, 2016
The second locomotive recently acquired by CMSL has a much more interesting history. GMTX 2661 was built in 1970 as Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines GP38 No. 2011. It came out of the Electro-Motive Division shop in PRSL paint, but before it could find its way to South Jersey it was diverted to Penn Central. Like GMTX 2015, it went to Conrail in 1976, where it was renumbered to 7671. After Conrail was split up by Norfolk Southern and CSX, No. 7671 went to CSX as No. 1945. It ultimately moved on to Marquette Rail in Michigan as No. 2676. Finally, it found its way into the lease fleet, was upgraded to GP38-2 standards, and renumbered 2661. It wasn't until it was leased to CMSL this year that it finally found its way to the service it was originally intended -- working the PRSL in South Jersey. CMSL has affixed PRSL heralds to the nose and sides of the unit.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Tuckahoe, N.J.; December 4, 2016
So it's Christmastime and we have a nice blue locomotive on one end of our train and a red, white & blue locomotive on the other, both sporting festive wreaths. In between are six passenger cars full of kids (and adults) all waiting to greet Santa Claus. We'll close our visit to South Jersey with a couple of night shots, starting first at Tuckahoe.
Cape May Seashore Lines; Tuckahoe, N.J.; December 20, 2016
And we'll finish our visit at WI Tower up in Richland. Here's hoping you Christmas was merry and bright!
Cape May Seashore Lines; Richland, N.J.; December 20, 2016

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