Belvidere Delaware Railroad

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This article is about the former company. For the current company, see Belvidere and Delaware River Railway.
Belvidere Delaware Railroad
Locale New Jersey
Dates of operation 1851–1978
Successor United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Company
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 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.

History[edit]

Lambertville Station

Early history[edit]

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, Pennsylvania 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 & Hudson River Railway (L&HR) and DL&W. The following year, the PRR shifted its railyard from Lambertville to Trenton. By the 1950s steam locomotives had been replaced with diesel operated self-propelled Doodlebugs as a cost-saving measure resulting from dwindling patronage,

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 & Western Railroad (BR&W) began leasing the Flemington Branch from PRR on weekends to operate steam excursions. As part of the leasing agreement, BR&W was required to pay PRR for all track expenses, totalling $5,000. Trains began operating between Flemington and Lambertville by May 16, 1965.[1]

Decline[edit]

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 iron ore between the LV connection at Phillipsburg with 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.[1] 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 PC in March 1970 for $153,000.)[1]

Conrail ceased interchanging with BR&W in early 1977, eventually abandoning the line south of Milford by November 1978. Track removal began in summer 1979 between Trenton and Lambertville. Additional trackage north of Lambertville to Stockton was removed by January 1980. Track removal was completed on the Stockton-Milford section by Conrail by summer1981. The former roadbed was converted for use as part of the Delaware & Raritan Canal Trail.

Current[edit]

Conrail later sold the remaining Phillipsburg-Milford section to the newly formed Belvidere & Delaware River Railway (BDRV) in 1995. In 1998, the BR&W ceased regular operations into Lambertville due to a lack of freight customers and poor track conditions. The line south of Carpentersville was closed in 2003 due to poor track conditions. The New York Susquehanna & Western Historical & Technical Society (NYS&WH&TS) started running passenger trains in 2004 between Phillipsburg and Carpentersville and has since become a successful operation. In recent years both the NYSWHTS and the Black River Railroad Historical Trust (the entity that now runs passenger trains on BR&W) have been gradually restoring the dormant Milford and Lambertville lines

Former stations[edit]

Pennsylvania[edit]

  • East Stroudsburg (via trackage rights over DL&W)

New Jersey[edit]

  • Manunka Chunk
  • Belvidere
  • Foul Rift
  • Roxburg
  • Hutchinson
  • Brainards
  • Harmony
  • Phillipsburg
  • Lehigh Junction
  • Carpentersville
  • Riegelsville
  • Holland
  • Milford
  • Frenchtown
  • Kingwood
  • Tumble Falls
  • Byram
  • Raven Rock
  • Stockton
  • Lambertville
  • Goat Hill
  • Moore
  • Titusville
  • Washington's Crossing
  • Somerset
  • Scudder Falls
  • Wilburtha
  • Dix Haven
  • Cadwalader Park
  • Trenton (on PRR New York Division, today's Amtrak Northeast Corridor)

Flemington Branch (current BR&W)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Pawson, John R. (1979). Delaware Valley Rails: The Railroads and Rail Transit Lines of the Philadelphia Area. Willow Grove, Pennsylvania: John R. Pawson. ISBN 0-9602080-0-3. 

Further reading[edit]