• Demise of the Perth Amboy branch

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey

Moderator: David

  by carajul
Spent the last few days doing research on the LVRR's branch that went from S Plainfield to Perth Amboy. I recall seeing the equipment in Metuchen in the late 1990s tearing out the tracks. How sad. Looking at old arials even in 1979 every factory had a siding and they were packed with cars. By the late 1980s it was all defunct.

For those with good knowledge would you say this branch met its demise to due:
1. Decline in manufacturing/industry in the Metuchen area
2. CR's lack of interest in providing local service

What is odd is that past the end of active track just into Metuchen there are still quite a few potential customers. I can't understand why CR's mentality is 'rip the whole thing up' they could have kept a few more miles in to serve those customers.
  by Darryl Stephenson
Twenty plus years of declining demand for raw materials, semi finished products, and bulk commodities for may be one reason. Maintaining old rail lines in compliance with federal regulations can be costly, especially when business is dwindling. Most freight railroads are only interested in moving large quantities of bulk materials on a regular basis, without having to install new track capacity at their cost. Even though the rail companies hardly ever sell or donate their easement rights and usage agreements, they seem more concerned with existing feasibility before hearing the benefits of creating new business on an old line. With regard to Perth Amboy, the last large scale customer serviced daily by CR was the towns steel mill, now closed with no plans to reopen. To the best of my knowledge, only Kinder Morgan and Basic Line Plastic ( located next to each another) still receive minimal tank and hopper car service on a intermediate schedule, any company seeking to establish unit train service into Perth Amboy would most likely have to look somewhere else based on my knowledge of Conrail's operations within the area. Metuchen is within close proximity to Raritan Center, which may by why rail service has not been affected as much.
The LVR once provided an important economic lifeline to the area, but was based on servicing manufacturing customers. Unfortunately the factories are gone.
  by Sirsonic
Potential customer ≠ revenue generating customer. Keeping a rail line in place for potential customers that may or may not someday want a car or two is uneconomical.
  by E-44
The history is that the Perth Amboy branch was the original mainline (Easton & Amboy) for the LVRR. Perth Amboy was its tidewater point for offloading coal for the New York market. Industry left Perth Amboy first, then Keasbey and then Metuchen and then there was not enough business to support three railroads (CNJ, PRR and LV). WWII kept LV business alive temporarily, but once the war was over and Camp Kilmer scaled down, it was only a matter of time.

Evidence of the Perth Amboy coal operation is gradually being covered up by the Harbortown development between State and High streets in Perth Amboy, but an aerial view will still clearly show the coal yard leads and where the piers were and you can still find rails in the undergrowth - but visit soon before they're all gone.

The connector from the LV to the CNJ and the Perth Amboy & Woodbridge (PRR) is now a rail trail (runs parallel to and between State St. and Elizabeth St.) walkable from Hall Ave. north to Pulaski Ave. near the Outerbridge Crossing. North of there, it's hard to follow past there and the switches and the diamond are long gone.
  by David Hutchinson
Metuchen had a great customer in Celotex. They had two tracks and would receive a few cars every weekday. It then changed to Oakite and was still pretty busy. Down the tracks towards South Plainfield in the 1970's was Premium Plastics. They had a siding off the west leg of the Camp Kilmer Wye track, some of which is still there. They received many Hercules Plastics covered hoppers. After these two major customers closed, things pretty much went under. The last customer just before the Port Reading Branch bridge, was a window company right against the main line. In the early 1900's, there were five or six tracks under the Port Reading bridge that went into South Plainfield. I have an old Metuchen map showing this. And, the branch was double tracked for it's entire length.
  by pdtrains
In addition to all the things mentioned above....conrail was on this big austerity kick in the 1980's to try to show
a better balance sheet. Included in this program was
1.Actively trying to farm out as much local freight traffic as it could.
2.Abandoning as much "unnecessary" track as possible. This amounted to just about everything that wasn't active, at least in the NJ-NY-PA-DE area where I was. The rational was pay less taxes, LESS LIABILITY, (CR was run by lawyers), re-use rail, and show a better balance sheet quickly.
If you think losing the LV Perth Amboy br was done a little hastily, look at these abandonments (with rail taken up)...
1. The Post Road Branch, which Amtrak had to put back in.
2. The Lackawanna cutoff, which is slowly getting re-established
3. A large amount of Port Morris Yard, which NJ has rebuilt.
4. Just about every Team Track which didn't have an active customer (CR lawyers considered these large liabilities)
Among other tracks.....
  by ExCon90
Some comments on the above points:
1) The Post Road line was not needed for freight. As I recall, Conrail told Amtrak it was available for sale if they wanted to buy it, otherwise it would be abandoned. Amtrak was formed to relieve the freight railroads of intercity passenger service until it should die a natural death, and did not foresee any resumption of passenger service over the B&A -- nor did many other people at the time (I think it's correct that Albany-Boston service ended after April 30, 1971).
2) The Lackawanna Cutoff wasn't needed for freight, and isn't now.
3) What freight traffic is expected to use Port Morris?
4) See Sirsonic's post above, and also for points 1 and 2.
  by econandon
Does anyone know how and where the South Plainfield / Metuchen / Perth Amboy freight was blocked, either in the "good old days" or even into the 1980s?

In a related thread is the following comment:
David Hutchinson wrote:Perth Amboy serviced all the industries on the Amboy Branch from Metuchen east. There would be a Monday through Friday switcher that would go as far as Metuchen and then run around his cars on the wye track at Metuchen and then return to Perth Amboy. It arrived Metuchen around 5 PM. A Perth Amboy to South Plainfield turn ran each night and went through Metuchen at around 9 PM. Sometimes, it would make the round trip twice. Power for both of these jobs was a switcher, usually an EMD but sometimes a Baldwin or Alco. This information covers the early 1960's.
It is not clear whether freight came straight from Easton or Allentown into Perth Amboy (bypassing South Plainfield along the way). It is possible that freight flowed through (ex-LVRR) Oak Island before coming to Perth Amboy (maybe with a stop at Pt Reading after 1976?). In either case, I wonder how practical it was for the LVRR to properly block the freight, until they got access to the (ex-RDG) Manville yard under Conrail.

Once such an arrangement was possible, I can understand why CR would want to split the Perth Amboy Branch in two. They would save maintenance on 7-8 miles of track (which they also could have used to patch holes elsewhere).
  by Conrail Blue
I know it's an old thread but I figured I'd bump an old one rather than make a new one. Last weekend I decided to check out the branch near where it goes over the Parkway. To my amazement I saw the tracks had been recently used, either by a highrailer or some kind of track equipment. Also some of the ties had the dirt and ballast moved around them. My guess is that it's just an inspection of the line but could it be possible that a train will run here again?
  by ccutler
That track is an alternate and windy route to Metuchen Yard from the Chemical Coast. Freight trains can bypass the NE Corridor passenger train congestion by taking that route. But freight trains also benefit by running on Class 5 or better track on the NE Corridor.
But I have absolutely no information on whether that stretch of track is being reactivated.
  by bigblue5277
I couldn't find what industry this is off High St. in Perth Amboy which receives tank cars.

I marked where it is on the map. The industry in the photo looks recently refurbished or rebuilt as it does not match what is on the satelite map.

Is this part of Kinder Morgan???

However, Kinder Morgan is just south of 440 overpass, but this industry is just north of the 440 overpass.