• Buying/leasing railroad ROWs from NJT/DOT

  • 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 CTL10D
 
Hi all-

Hoping for some feedback from knowledgable people (trainlwayer where are you?) This may sound like your typical "pipe dream" post, but if certain things could work the way I`d like them to, it could very much be a reality.
NJT and/or DOT owns several unused/OOS right of ways in NJ, such as the Freehold-Farmingdale portion of the Freehold Secondary, and the Southern from Woodmansie-Winslow. While I doubt they would sell them off and lose control of them, what would the chances be of them leasing these right of ways? Financially and logistically, and with the people I know who would be involved, theres a chance to start some type of operation. Tourist, operating museum, etc.
Part of me thinks it might be an easy endeavour (the actual purchasing or leasing of said track), but I then ask myself why havent any wealthy railroad oriented people already done this?
I completely admit this is a naive question to ask, but I`m just trying to get feedback about it..... and keep in mind this post just covers the leasing/buying end of things that I`m trying to figure out. It doesn`t include the multitudes of other paperwork, FRA regs, etc etc that would go along with it. Thanks! -Chris
  by carajul
 
1. Government people are all idiots who never get anything done.
2. The state of NJ is flat broke (relaying RR tracks figure $1,000,000 per mile minimum).
3. The state will not want the civil liability.
4. Tourist RRs do not make money (overhead, namely insurance and workers comp is way too high).
  by CTL10D
 
Carajul-

1) Agreed
2) If it was leased would that burden even fall on the state? Wouldnt it be mine? I`d be happy with 1 in 4 ties to stay compliant.
3) True, but again, would civil liabilty fall in the hands of the state or person/group/organization leasing?
4) Again, agreed. 501(c)(3) could eliminate taxes at least....theres no getting around insurance unfortunately
  by northjerseybuff
 
The Cape May Seashore Lines lease the CM line from the state!
  by ExCon90
 
Offhand I can't think of a single tourist railroad that doesn't depend on a dedicated, hard-working cadre of volunteers who turn out every operating day and get paid nothing except in job satisfaction. If you can't assemble a group like that, there's not much point in trying to get hold of some track. It's necessary in some cases to have paid employees, especially for specific skilled jobs (maybe requiring licenses), but there won't be enough income to have nothing but paid staff.
  by CTL10D
 
ExCon90-
Volunteers it would be. I`ve volunteered at Pine Creek for 12 years now, the last 3 as being head of the track work. So I have no problem getting dirty and driving spikes working long hours. A few of my other friends that would be in on this are railroaders for a living, who are well versed in FRA regs, and just railroad operations in general. Without going into detail, we could get every aspect in personnel to run an operation that would be needed.
Again, just throwing feelers out there to determine whether people think this is feasible or not....at this point I wouldnt even know who to contact at NJT about something like this, or if they would even want anything to do with leasing or selling track. CMSL is an example though, that a lease might not be that far fetched......Sometimes I think if you throw enough money at something it can happen.
  by R36 Combine Coach
 
There are some exceptions, such as state-owned lines being converted to rail trails. In the past there have been different stories, such as the High Bridge Branch (south of Ferromonte), which was not included in Conrail in 1976, but owned by NJDOT under a subsidy agreement program (CR being an operator). In 1982 Morris County DOT purchased the line for continued freight service under M&E.

The most infamous case is probably the Cutoff. In 1985 Conrail sold the ROW to a local developer (Jerry Truco) who intended the fills and cuts as dumping pits for C&D debris and other waste. Outcry forced NJDOT to "buyback" the whole line in 1989.
  by carajul
 
State law may limit liability of land owners from renters. I don't know. NJ law does immunize rental car and lease car companies from the actions of customers, but I don't know if a law exists that immunizes the state from rented land use. Any type of accident occurs on your RR and the state owns the land you don't think a trial lawyer is gunna name the state in a civil case...come on.

Even if you have volunteers you still need someone to lay the rail. I doubt RJ Cormon will give you free rail.

Then there is liability insurance and workers comp insr. The tourist RR I volunteered with had a $10,000,000 policy that cost them $50,000/yr.

Then of course you need to rent locos and buy pax cars.

Then there is diesel fuel. Used to be $0.50/gal now it's $5.00/gal

While I would love another toursit RR to be built on the E&N or Millstone Branch in NJ unless you win the Powerball jackpot don't count on it.
  by RailsEast
 
A lesson I learned many years ago from an auto racing team owner, that seems to coincide with a fledgling rail excursion operation...
Question: how do you make a small fortune in racing?? Answer: Start with a large one.

If I were you, I would find Mr. Tony Macrie, and sit down & talk. He runs on NJT owned trackage, and has seen the highs & lows of shortline operation for many years.
The rails are there, new ties cost $65-$85 each, plus installation, so you can do the math. Grade crossing reconstruction, county/state approval and time involved, attorneys fees, insurance costs, FRA compliance paperwork, loco maintenance & fuel, et al. This is not an endeavor for the timid, or financially constrained. Without at least some freight business to offset costs, it will be a tough go...but, on the other hand, this is Monmouth County, and thousands of folks are hungry for new things to do with the family. (Have you ever seen the massive crowd for apple picking in Colts Neck in October?!)

Volunteer? Hell, yeah, I'm there; I can't write a check for $25,000.00, but I'll donate a narrowband NXDN capable radio for the SW/GP of your choice, do the FCC legwork and program it for free. It'll cost you a cab ride, though.... :-)
Chris
  by CTL10D
 
All the points everyone have made have been right on point. I do know the cost of ties/rail/OTM. Ive ordered plenty since Ive been the track guy at Pine Creek. Specifically regarding the Freehold-Farmingdale section, my POV is the track is all there (minus a few crossings). The $1,000,000 a mile isnt quite as accurate in that sense. To get that to be exempted or class 1 track would require tie work and some line/level/tamping. As far as locomotives and cars, and the moving expenses tacked to that, I`ll just say I know people who know people who can help there. These are people that are railroaders who have many connections, some which we`ve used already. And they happen to be my good friends.
Regarding financials, I honestly truly dont mean to sound like I`m gloating, but financially I believe it could be pulled off. I wouldn`t even have bothered starting this thread if I had $200 bucks in the bank. 8 years of working ridiculous amounts of overtime, coupled with how frugal I am, is making this dream even possible financially.
Like railseast said, i was kind of thinking along the same lines that it`d be something new for people to do, and may succeed if advertised well. As far as freight. maybe theres some hope there. I havent been down the line to see how many unused sidings there are, or if any of these places are even still in business. Conrail doesnt seem to be proactive with gaining branchline customers, so maybe reaching out to some businesses would turn their head and get them thinking.
While its easy to simply dismiss it as a pipe dream, I`m more interested in thoroughly reviewing every aspect of a potential operation and the logistics of it, and making a decision from there. The guys who started Pine Creek railroad were 3 buddies, who bought a steam engine in 1952, and started playing choochoo. Besides Pine Creek blossoming into a bigger organization, these same guys also founded the M&NJ railroad up in NY.
It sounds cliche, but the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. -Chris
  by GSC
 
Chris, the Middletown & NJ was purchased by Wulfson and Rasmussen, after Jay worked a year there as GM. It was already in operation and Jay saw possibilities in the place. (The Pine Creek spinoff company that bought M&NJ, the Cranberry Creek RR Inc., was the corporation that ran the Cowboy City train in 1957-58-59)

You could talk to the guys at Wanamaker Kempton & Southern. They acquired a piece of the Reading that, in this case, was to be abandoned. They should have some experiences to share with you.
  by pdtrains
 
If want to start a small rail operation in NJ, the 1st thing I would do is get an introduction to the owners of the BR&W, and see if they would be interested
in having a group rehab the track down to lambertville. The row and all that legal stuff is already done....from where I'm sitting, it looks like track rehab,
probably a bridge repair, and an understanding and friendship with the owners is what's needed. Even RR equipment is already there. If you wanted to do something on your own, you might be able to lease or sub-lease the line to lambertville from them.
And you couldn't ask for a more touristy area. There are tourist traps at both ends of the line (Lambertville/New Hope, and Flemington)
The BR&W used to run the PRR 4666 doodlebug on that line, IIRC

Now, I don't know the owners of the BR&W. They might be unapproachable. But at least that's where I would start. Why re-invent the wheel.
  by wolfboy8171981
 
pdtrains wrote:If want to start a small rail operation in NJ, the 1st thing I would do is get an introduction to the owners of the BR&W, and see if they would be interested
in having a group rehab the track down to lambertville. The row and all that legal stuff is already done....from where I'm sitting, it looks like track rehab,
probably a bridge repair, and an understanding and friendship with the owners is what's needed. Even RR equipment is already there. If you wanted to do something on your own, you might be able to lease or sub-lease the line to lambertville from them.
And you couldn't ask for a more touristy area. There are tourist traps at both ends of the line (Lambertville/New Hope, and Flemington)
The BR&W used to run the PRR 4666 doodlebug on that line, IIRC

Now, I don't know the owners of the BR&W. They might be unapproachable. But at least that's where I would start. Why re-invent the wheel.
We know what it will take to get back to Lambertville. Time and Money, and we're short on both. But if the right offer came up we could try it......
  by Jtgshu
 
Chris, don't be stealing my idea!!!! :)
  by GSC
 
I remember riding the Lambertville section some years back (like 40 years?) in an open gondola behind a BR&W diesel. I'm not sure if it was on a regular schedule, or a special occasion. I enjoyed the trip, would like to see it return.

Chris, my specialty is public relations. I'll do the PR for you.