You are right, it is an obscure one. I always wondered about it myself (and another abandoned ROW across the meadowlands which turns out to be closely related), until about a year ago I stumbled on this link about the Pennhorn Creek RR (once part of the Erie mainline coming out the now abandoned Bergen Arches in Jersey City.)
http://warofyesterday.blogspot.com/2012 ... lroad.html
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From this link and poking elsewhere and looking at old tax maps, etc, I learned the following approximate summary which helps understand what your ROW is and why it came and went. As it says on the above link, most of the Erie-related details are not "in the books" as far as I can find. See number 7 about your ROW. I'm sorry to be so long-winded. Corrections welcome.
In short, it all has to do with various railroads (which were becoming acquired by the Erie and the Lackawanna) in the late 1800s, long before the E-L merger ) which were trying to cross the Hackensack River, and then get through Bergen Hill to the waterfront.
Going back to the 1830s, at first the only way through the Bergen Hill was the "Bergen Hill cut" (through Journal square, etc) from what I think was called the United Transportation companies (which later became the PRR). When other RR's like the Erie, Lackawanna, etc came along , they all had to tie into this line (at Marion Junction in western Jersey city) and pay for its use.
1. In 1861(?) the Erie built its own "Long Dock" tunnel through Bergen Hill, which is still in use for freight. The main purpose was to connect the Erie main line (formerly Paterson and Hudson RR) to the waterfront (Pavonia area) in Jersey City .
2. The Morris and Essex division of the Lackawanna used to end in Newark (you had to transfer to what became the PRR), but then in 1863 they built across the meadowlands (in the current alignment they still use), and built a bridge just north of modern M&E bridge used by NJ transit,to connect to the Erie Long Dock tunnel to get to the waterfront. They then turned north to get to Hoboken.
3. 1873, the Erie built the Newark and Hudson RR to connect to the Paterson and Newark RR - to give what became the Newark Branch. After coming across the meadowlands from Harrison going slightly south of due east, to cross the Hackensack and get to the waterfront, they tied into the M&E just short of the M&E bridge. See the topo link at the end to see some remnants. So this Erie branch ran on the M&E for a mile to so to get to the Erie Long Dock tunnel.
4. The Erie and Lackawanna didn't get along, so by 1877(?) the M&E built their own tunnel through Bergen Hill (north of the Erie tunnel), and their own bridge over the Hackensack river (at the current location) just the south of the existing bridge. THey tied their line across the meadowlands into the new bridge. (Once across the Hackensack, the line crossed over the Erie to get to their tunnel - the current tunnel which takes you straight to Hoboken. (well, the Lackawanna added a 2nd tunnel next to it later, both still in use)
5. So once the M&E tied into their new bridge just to the south of the old one, the Erie Newark branch took over ownership of the old M&E bridge and route to the Erie Long Dock tunnel. The Erie Newark Branch and Morris & Essex no longer connected, with the Newark Branch crossing the Hackensack just north of the (current) M&E location.
6. Going back to the 1860's(?), there was the Greenwood Lake(??) RR and Montclair RR's (Montclair to Jersey city), which after a few false starts combined to give the eventual NY & Greenwood lake. Eventually taken over by the Erie. THey (or maybe originally the Montclair) had their own bridge over the Hackensack River well to the north, near or at the location of the now abandoned Lower Boonton Bridge you refer to. (What came to be known as the lower Boonton Branch originally was the Erie NY&GL). Once in Jersey City, they at first tied into the Bergen cut at Marion, via the original Paterson and Hudson River RR.
7. In the late 1800's, once the Erie Newark and Hudson (modern Newark Branch) had taken over the old M&E bridge and route to the Erie Long Dock tunnel, the Erie formed the "Arlington RR" to connect the NY&GL to the Newark and Hudson, west of the old M&E Bridge (now part of the Erie) to cross the Hackensack and get to the Long Dock tunnel. **** I think this is the ROW you are talking about ****
8. The PRR line to the North River (what they called the Hudson River) tunnels to NY Penn Station came later, in the very early 1900's with the advent of electrification (the tunnels were too long for steam). The Arlington RR alignment was not dead yet so hence the overpass over the Arlington RR (and another overpass over the Newark and Hudson to the south).
9. Around 1910, when the Erie built their Bergen Arches, more or less right next to the Long Dock Tunnel, and the Penhorn Creek RR alignment (going past the current Secaucus station) to handle all the extra passenger traffic from the arches. There was a lot of reconfiguration to create overpasses, etc. I haven't figured out the details, but the Erie built the "modern" "lower Boonton Bridge" (NYGL) , at or near where the original NYGL bridge was, and sent the NYGL traffic back that way, no longer using the Arlington RR, part of Newark and Hudson, and the (ex M&E) bridge. The Newark Branch was also tied into this new bridge with an alignment (their "modern one") crossing the meadowlands going slightly north of east instead of slightly south of east. This connection may also have been built by the "Arlington RR", not sure.
The old M&E (now Erie) bridge over the Hackensack was then abandoned (1911 according to the Penhorn Creek site). A power plant (now itself now being shut down by PSE&G) was built over the ROW just east of the Hackensack in Jersey City. You can easily see it on Google maps.
10. The Erie kept tracks to serve industry just west of the old bridge (I think Koppers was one) until perhaps even the Conrail days - not sure if they came down from the NY&GL over the ROW you mention, or over from the old Newark Branch alignment. Anyone know? The topo map below would suggest coming down from the NY&GL. And after the EL merger, perhaps the area was served from a connection to the M&E (also shown on the topo).
Here is a topo map (hope the link works) which still shows track on the NYGL connection to original Newark Branch (Arlington RR) and some of the original Newark Branch. Where the stub end tracks are on the west side of the Hackensack, just north of the M&E (Lackawanna) line, with the powerplant marked across the river, was the old Newark Branch alignment & bridge over the Hackensack.
http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=40.75027,-74 ... 5C%2C%20nj
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Whew. Jim S