Belvidere Delaware Railroad
|Belvidere Delaware Railroad|
|Dates of operation||1851–1978|
|Successor||United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Headquarters||Trenton New Jersey|
The Belvidere Delaware Railroad (Bel Del) was a railroad running along the eastern shore of the Delaware River from Trenton, New Jersey north via Phillipsburg, New Jersey to Belvidere, New Jersey. It served as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) system, carrying mainly anthracite coal from northeastern Pennsylvania to population centers along the coast.
The Belvidere-Delaware Railroad was chartered on March 2, 1836 and was constructed from Trenton along the Delaware River north to Belvidere, New Jersey. Beyond Belvidere, the line would connect to a proposed line that headed west to the Susquehanna River through Pennsylvania. The Trenton-Lambertville section opened on February 6, 1851, eventually reaching Belvidere on November 5, 1855.
On June 7, 1854, the Bel Del agreed to operate the Flemington Railroad and Transportation Company, where a connection was made with the Lehigh Valley Railroad (LV) at Three Bridges, New Jersey. LV coal trains began using the Bel Del in January 1856, joining the Bel Del by the LV's bridge over the Delaware River where it connection in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. An extension was then completed in 1864 that gave the Bel Del access to the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad (DL&W) at Manunka Chunk, and permitted trains to operate via trackage rights to East Stroudsburg, PA through the Delaware Water Gap. The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) began operating the Bel Del as the Belvidere Division of the United Railroads of New Jersey Grand Division by 1872 and purchased the line soon afterwards. The Belvidere Delaware Railroad and the Flemington Railroad & Transportation Company then merged on February 16, 1885 to form the Belvidere Delaware Railroad.
In 1908 the PRR acquired trackage rights on the nearby Lehigh and Hudson River Railway (L&HR) and DL&W. The following year, the PRR shifted its railyard from Lambertville to Trenton. By the 1950s, due to dwindling patronage, steam locomotives had been replaced with diesel operated self-propelled Doodlebugs.
In August 1955, flood waters from the Delaware River caused by Hurricane Diane washed out portions of the line north of Belvidere near where the right-of-way crosses modern-day US Route 46, although the line still remains active south of this point to serve a chemical manufacturing plant. North of where the plant is now to the junction at Manunka Chunk was subsequently removed. On December 31, 1957, the Bel Del was merged into the United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company, with passenger services ending by October 25, 1960.
Heritage operator Black River and Western Railroad (BR&W) began leasing the Flemington Branch from the PRR on weekends to operate steam excursion trains. As part of the leasing agreement, the BR&W was required to pay the PRR for all track expenses, totalling $5,000. Trains began operating between Flemington and Lambertville by May 16, 1965.
The PRR merged with the New York Central Railroad in 1968 to form the Penn Central (PC), which fell apart faster than it came together. PC remnants were absored by Conrail in April 1976, which treated the Bel Del as a dispensable secondary line. The chief function of the Bel Del – bringing coal and other traffic from the LV connection at Phillipsburg to the PRR system – had long since ceased. With little industry remaining between Trenton and Milford, Conrail had little use for the line. Though the south end of line passed within a few hundred yards from the central business district and state capitol complex in Trenton, no official interest in taking advantage of the line's passenger potential was raised. When it became known that Conrail was planning to abandon the Bel Del, the BR&W purchased approximately one mile of track into Lambertville to serve several freight customers located north of town. (The BR&W had already purchased the 11-mile line between Flemington and Lambertville from the PC in March 1970 for $153,000.)
The final Conrail train ran on November 12, 1978 from Trenton to Phillipsburg. On that date, trackage south of Milford to Trenton. The removal of trackage began in mid-1979 when the line between Trenton to Lambertville was destroyed by Conrail. The Black River & Western had ownership of trackage in Lambertville. Conrail continued above Lambertville and reached Stockton by January 9, 1980. The last portion to Frenchtown was dismantled in mid-1981. The former right-of-way soon became what is today's Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail.
Conrail later sold the remaining Phillipsburg-Milford section to the newly formed Belvidere and Delaware River Railway (BRRY) in 1995. The following year, the BR&W ceased operations into Lambertville due to a lack of freight customers and poor track conditions. Tracks south of Carpentersville were abandoned in 1999 due to poor track conditions. The BRRY also continued passenger service between Phillipsburg and Carpentersville.
- East Stroudsburg, P.A. (via trackage rights over DL&W)
- Manunka Chunk
- Foul Rift
- Lehigh Junction
- Tumble Falls
- Raven Rock
- Goat Hill
- Washington's Crossing
- Scudder Falls
- Dix Haven
- Cadwalader Park
- Trenton (on PRR New York Division, today's Amtrak's North East Corridor)
- Lambertville (on Bel-Del mainline)
- Mount Airy
- Boss Road
- Copper Hill
- Strunk, Keith (2008), Prallsville Mills and Stockton (Aracadia Publishing)
- Mastrich, James Warren, Yvonne Kline, George (1996), Lambertville & New Hope (Aracadia Publishing)
- J. Barth, Linda (2002), The Delaware and Raritan Canal (Aracadia Publishing)
- History of the Black River & Western Railroad article with special thanks to Reimer, Peter (Baron of the Bel-Del), Varcarella, Dan and experts taken from The Black River Story by Virginia Smith, http://www.brwrr.com/Trains/History%20of%20the%20Black%20River.htm
- Station and Stop names on the Bel-Del provided by http://mapmaker.rutgers.edu/HISTORICALMAPS/RAILROADS/Railroads.html
- Nelligan, Tom Hartley, Scott (1982) Trains of the Northeast Corridor
- PRR CT 1000 Stations & Sidings 5-1-1945.pdf, located in http://www.multimodalways.org/archives/rrs/PRR/PRR.html
- F. Lee, Warren A Chronology of the Belvidere Delaware Railroad
- 1903: Downpour of destruction by Jon Blackwell/The Trentonian http://www.capitalcentury.com/1903.html
- Lynch, Peter E. (2004). Penn Central Railroad. Saint Paul, MN: MBI. ISBN 0760317631. OCLC 53356627.