Morristown & Erie Railway

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Morristown & Erie Railway
ME Diamond.png
Reporting mark ME
Locale northern New Jersey
Dates of operation August 28, 1903 (1903-08-28)–Present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Morristown, New Jersey
Website http://www.merail.com, http://www.mepassenger.com

Chartered in 1895 as the Whippany River Railroad, the modern Morristown & Erie Railway (reporting mark ME) is a short-line railroad based in Morristown, New Jersey. It operates freight rail service in Morris County, New Jersey and surrounding areas. It owns its main line between Morristown and Roseland and maintains and operates three other lines in Morris County (Dover & Rockaway Branch, Chester Branch, and High Bridge Branch) under a $1-a-year contract with the county. The M&E has also operated the successful Maine Eastern Railroad passenger trains since 2003. Between 2001 and 2006, portions of the Rahway Valley Railroad and Staten Island Railroad have been acquired for potential reactivation.

Early History[edit]

Route map
Toys "я" us
Target Industries
NJ Route 10
Wickes Lumber
Kuiken Brothers
NJ Route 10
Holland Manu.
R P Smith Cons.
High Bridge Branch
to Hackettstown
Chester Branch
Dover & Rockaway
Dover
Rockaway River
Rockaway River
Interstate 80
84 Lumber
Action Technology
DaVinci Foods
Endot
Polyfil
Montclair-Boonton
Denville
to Montclair
Mount Tabor
Morris Plains
Morristown
Maint. & Storage
Morristown Lumber
Flintkote
Standard Roofings
I-287
South Jefferson
Whippany Railway Museum
Cambridge
Suburban Propane
M I Group
Five-Stat Group
Tri-Coastal
Foremost Groups
Paper Mart
Whippany River
Hanover
Royal Lubricants
Givaudan Flavors
Anderol Inc.
Passaic River
Beaufort
Eisenhower Parkway
Lumber 1
Roseland
B&G foods
I-280
Essex Fells
Former Erie Caldwell branch

The modern Morristown & Erie can trace its roots to the original Whippany River Railroad, which was chartered in 1895, and hastily constructed to connect Morristown and Whippany. When the railroad defaulted on their bonds, paper mill owner Robert W. McEwan purchased the line from its creditors in 1896. Thanks to the numerous mills and other customers located along the line, the railroad enjoyed great success and was looking to expand. Interchange was established with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad at Morristown.

Seeking a connection with the Erie Railroad, McEwan chartered the Whippany & Passaic River Railroad in 1902 to build a new line from Whippany to Essex Fells. Having access to two railroads meant that McEwan's customers could enjoy competitive shipping rates from both connections. On August 28, 1903, the Whippany River Railroad and the Whippany & Passaic River Railroad were combined into the new Morristown & Erie Railroad.

The M&E operated a modest passenger service, but increased competition due to improved roads and more people owning their own cars lead the railroad to cancel all passenger trains by 1928. The freight business continued to grow, however, as the mills along the line kept switch crews were kept busy around the clock.[1]

Depression and Decline[edit]

The general economic downturn associated with the Great Depression affected the M&E as well. Smart and frugal management kept the railroad viable through the worst of the 1930s. In fact, the M&E would be the only U.S. railroad to rid itself of all debt during the era leading up to World War II. The railroad passed out of the McEwan family by 1943, and continued under new management. In 1952, the line received its first diesel, an S-4 from Alco.

When Andrew J. Cobb assumed the presidency in 1961, many of the mills that had been steady customers for so long began to shut down and consolidate. Two crews were still needed to handle the traffic on the line, though the railroad was facing mounting losses. In 1960, the Lackawanna and the Erie merged to form Erie Lackawanna Railway, which eliminated the competition for shipping rates to the M&E.

By the 1970s, the entire Northeastern railroad industry was in decline, and the M&E looked to alternative revenue streams. The Morristown shop was leased to a locomotive rebuilder for a period of time, but it wasn't enough. The last of the paper mills had closed and carloads were down to about a dozen a week. The railroad tried to invest its meager freight earnings into non-transportation areas, but these experiments failed. By 1978 the railroad had filed for bankruptcy protection and was operating "as needed."[2]

Rebirth of the Modern M&E[edit]

A consortium of businessmen under the leadership of Benjamin J. Friedland purchased the railroad in 1982, and immediately set to work on rebuilding the business as the Morristown & Erie Railway. Investments were made in track and repairing locomotives. Aggressive marketing helped bring freight traffic back to the M&E. Friedland became a spokesperson for short line railroading, and was able to use these connections to help grow his business. He also had a strong sense of history, and is also credited with the opening of the Whippany Railway Museum in 1985.

Morristown & Erie ALCO Century 424 No. 18 sits outside the Morristown shops.

Around this same time, Friedland helped orchestrate the purchase of the Chester Branch, and began operating the line under contract for the new owners on December 21, 1983. He also worked with Morris County government to help purchase and operate the former Central Railroad of New Jersey Dover & Rockaway and High Bridge branches in 1986. The M&E also briefly operated the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad between 1989 and 1990.

While the M&E enjoyed modest growth throughout the 1980s, the railroad continued to seek out new opportunities for expansion. In 1995, Friedland negotiated a contract with Tosco (now ConocoPhillips) to be the contract operator for switching operations at Bayway Refinery in Linden, New Jersey. Bayway is one of the largest refineries on the East Coast.

The sudden passing of Friedland in 1998 shocked not only the company, but the entire short line industry that had come to respect him as a leader. In his 16 years at the helm of the M&E, he ascended from an obscure railroader to an industry icon. The New Jersey Short Line Railroad Association has an award named in his honor "for meritorious service to the short line industry."[3]

The expansion of the M&E continued after Friedland's death. In 2001 the M&E was selected to repair and operate a rail line consisting of the New Jersey portion of the Staten Island Railway (SIRY) between Linden and Cranford, and the former Rahway Valley Railroad (RVRR) between Cranford and Summit, to be called the Union County Central Railroad. In an official filing on record with the Surface Transportation Board, the M&E entered into a 10-year agreement with Union County starting on May 15, 2002, for the rehabilitation and operation of these dormant freight lines. Conrail objected to the filing, because M&E would have had use trackage rights over NJ Transit's Raritan Valley Line to travel between the ex-SIRY and ex-RVRR. Conrail had previously negotiated exclusive trackage rights with NJT back in 1984, but expressed willingness to work out a special arrangement with M&E should service resume.[4] As of May 2012, the M&E removed their equipment from the RVRR and SIRY, pursuant to the 10-year agreement with Union County.

The M&E would embark on its second foray into Pennsylvania, operating the SEPTA-owned Octoraro Railroad from July 1, 2003, to November 18, 2004. The line is currently operated by the East Penn Railroad.

On November 1, 2003, M&E took over operation of the Rockland Branch, a former Maine Central Railroad line now owned by the state of Maine.[1] M&E created a subsidiary, the Maine Eastern Railroad, for its Maine operations. Passenger trains are operated between Brunswick and Rockland, Maine.

In 2009, the M&E took over contract operations of the Stourbridge Railroad (former Lackawaxen & Stourbridge), based in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Passenger excursions continued to be sponsored by Wayne County. As of 2012, all freight and passenger operations have been suspended.

Current Operations[edit]

To get between its lines, the M&E has trackage rights on New Jersey Transit's Morristown Line and Montclair-Boonton Line west of West End (the junction west of The Palisades with NJT's Main Line); it uses the Main Line and the Bergen County Line to interchange with the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway at Passaic Junction. M&E's locomotives are NJT cab-signal equipped and not considered to be foreign railroad power on NJT lines. Freight is interchanged with Norfolk Southern at Lake Junction (the north end of the Chester Branch).

In addition to freight service, M&E operates charter passenger (excursion) service and rents railcars and conducts contract rebuilds of passenger cars. It also allows film production companies to rent trains for filming. Recent films including Far from Heaven, Mona Lisa Smile and the independent film The Station Agent, as well as the reality television series The Next Food Network Star, have used Morristown & Erie equipment. Scenes for Shontelle's music video for the song "Say Hello to Goodbye" were filmed on Morristown & Erie equipment at the M&E's Whippany passenger car storage facility in the summer of 2011.

The Lehigh Limited[edit]

Dining car
Babbling Brook sleeping compartment
Babbling Brook observation car

On May 8, 2013, the Morristown & Erie announced its first public main line excursion in nearly three decades in the form of the Lehigh Limited operated in cooperation with Norfolk Southern and NJ Transit operating from Hoboken Terminal to Bethlehem, PA. The Lehigh Limited’s two first class observation cars (the Kitchi Gammi Club and the Babbling Brook) and the train’s snack car (the Birken) were on display at Grand Central Terminal in New York City on Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12 during the Parade of Trains exhibit for the Terminal’s Centennial Celebration.[2]

Branches[edit]

M&E Main Line[edit]

Also known as the Whippany Line, this is the Morristown & Erie Railway's original main line, in use since 1903 and with some portions dating back to 1895. The 9 mile (14.48 km) line runs between Baker Interlocking (connection with NJ Transit's Morristown Line in Morristown, where M&E's main office, yard, and shop are located) northeast to Roseland in Essex County. The line is single track and has many grade crossings. It serves Cedar Knolls in Hanover Township, Whippany in Hanover Township and East Hanover and Roseland. The line currently ends just past Interstate 280 in Roseland. The 1/2 mile or so of line remaining had ceased to be used by the last stop in the line at Bobst Group Inc., and has been subject to being removed or overgrown with weeds and trees at a local golf course and at housing projects which have stood in its way.

New Jersey Transit has expressed interest in the line, and in 2000 listed the Morristown/Roseland right of way under "projects to be defined/studied" for the year 2020.[3]

May, 1936 station list[4][edit]

Mile Post Station Notes
00.00 Essex Fells Junction with Erie Railroad;Telegraph Communications; Telephone Communications
00.50 Roseland
01.50 Beaufort
03.50 Hanover
05.50 Whippany Company Headquarters; Telephone Communications
08.50 Monroe-Cedar Knolls
10.50 Morristown Junction Delaware Lackawanna & Western RR; Telephone Communications

Customers

(products/shipments listed in parentheses)

  • Standard Roofings, Cedar Knolls (Building materials)
  • Renewable Energy Group (Formerly Ultra-Green Engergy Services, LLC.), Cedar Knolls (Bio-Diesel transload)
  • Whippany Railway Museum, Whippany
  • Suburban Propane, Whippany (Fuel oil)
  • Royal Lubricants, East Hanover (Oils, Lubricants)
  • Givaudan, East Hanover (Food, products)
  • Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G), Roseland (Fuel)
  • Kuiken Brothers, Roseland (Building materials)
  • B&G Foods, Roseland (Food)

Chester Branch[edit]

The Chester Branch was a former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad branch line that was extended in 1869 to Chester, New Jersey, to serve the local mining industry. In 1983 Conrail planned to abandon the branch line, but Holland Manufacturing and another local business that used the line purchased it to continue rail services to their facilities. In the fall of 2009, Morris County, New Jersey, purchased the line and leased rail operations to the M&E. The part of the branch that is still operated is located entirely within Roxbury Township. Branching off from Lake (Chester) Junction, it ends in Succasunna. High Bridge Branch service uses this line to access the High Bridge Branch at Ferromonte Junction. The line was rehabilitated in 2010 with the use of federal stimulus funds obtained by the line's new owner, Morris County DOT. The M&E offers weekday service on the line to two businesses, and hopes to attract new customers upon completion of the track rehabilitation project.

Customers

(products/shipments listed in parentheses)

  • Holland Manufacturing, Succasunna (Miscellaneous)
  • Kuikens Lumber, Succasunna (Lumber)

High Bridge Branch[edit]

This is one of two branch lines M&E began operating in 1986. The High Bridge Branch is owned by Morris County, New Jersey, and is leased to the M&E. A former Central Railroad of New Jersey line called the High Bridge Branch, it splits from the Chester Branch at Ferromonte Junction and heads southwest through Succasunna and Flanders. The line ends in a rural area west of Route 206 in Flanders. Originally excluded from the Conrail system in 1976, the Branch remained in service under a subsidy agreement by local authorities until 1981. Morris County purchased the line from the state in 1982, with the line south of Flanders removed.

The right-of-way south of where the line ends was changed into a recreational rail trail known as the "Columbia Trail", which runs along the former rail line route to Flanders. The trail ends in High Bridge, NJ, where there is still active passenger rail service by the New Jersey Transit Raritan Valley Line.

Customers

(products/shipments listed in parentheses)

  • Blue Ridge Lumber, Roxbury (Roxbury Team Track) (Lumber, Building Materials)
  • R.P. Smith, Succasunna (Concrete)
  • Target Industries, Flanders (Plastic)

Dover & Rockaway Branch[edit]

Originally the Dover and Rockaway Railroad, the second of two ex-Jersey Central lines taken over by M&E in 1986, the Dover & Rockaway branch operates from D&R Junction (where it meets the NJ Transit Morristown Line) in Wharton through downtown Dover northeast to Rockaway. The line ends along Green Pond Road in Rockaway Township, north of Interstate 80. This line passes through downtown Dover and Rockaway with many street crossings. All the customers on this branch are located in an industrial park along Green Pond Road, at the north end of the branch.

Customers

(products/shipments listed in parentheses)

  • Polyfil, Rockaway (Plastics-Polyethylene)
  • Endot, Rockaway (Plastics-Piping)
  • NexPak, Rockaway (Plastics-Packaging)
  • Action Technologies, Rockaway (Plastics-Extruding)
  • 84 Lumber, Rockaway (Building materials)

Rahway Valley Railroad operations[edit]

In 2001 the M&E was selected to repair and operate a rail line consisting of the New Jersey portion of the Staten Island Railroad between Linden and Cranford, and the former Rahway Valley Railroad between Cranford and Summit. Both sections are now known as the Rahway Valley Railroad. The New Jersey Department of Transportation owns the lines, and the County of Union administers the contract.[5] As of late 2006, only the southern portion of the Rahway Valley Railroad has been restored, as the restoration of the northern portion from Summit to Cranford is being challenged in court and lacks sufficient county funding. The first M&E train ran on the southern portion of the line on July 13, 2005.[6]

As of late 2006, Union County is working to revive freight service on the former Rahway Valley Railroad route from Summit to a connection with the former Staten Island Railway and Conrail at Cranford, New Jersey. The M&E would be the likely operator of any reactivated Rahway Valley line service from Summit to Cranford.

The M&E is working with Union County to revive freight service along the northern portion of the former Rahway Valley Railroad trackage between Summit and Cranford. Operation of the Rahway Valley line from Summit to Cranford would allow the M&E to access their operations at the Bayway Refinery in Linden via a more direct connection using trackage rights over the Morris and Essex lines and would provide freight service to customers along the Rahway Valle, which was abandoned in 1992. It would also allow interchange with the recently reactivated Staten Island Railway freight connection to New Jersey.

Morristown & Erie Locomotive Roster[edit]

# Type Built Builder Acquired Disposition Notes
1 4-4-0 8/1884 Altoona 6/1895 1908, Scrapped Ex-PRR #137. Named "Whippany."
1 2-8-0 2/1908 Rogers #45087 New 1917, Sold Sold to Toledo, St. Louis, & Western on 12/16/1917 for $5000
2 2-4-4T 10/1894 Rhode Island #3006 2/1908 1/1/1922, Sold ex-Chicago South Side Elevated RR #226. Sold to Hanover Brick Co. Scrapped 1936.
3 2-6-0 1870 Dickson #62 3/1908 11/1/1927, Scrapped ex-Rahway Valley #4, exx-DL&W #121
4 0-4-6T 1885 Rhode Island #1557 6/1911 12/2/1915 ex- New Haven 2114, Sold to the General Equipment Corporation.
5 0-6-0 1880s Altoona 11/1913 1914, Scrapped ex PRR Class B-3
6 2-8-0 5/1898 Pittsburgh #1814 12/1915 10/1948, Scrapped ex-Pittsburgh and Lake Erie #9314. Last day of operation 12/21/1945.
7 2-4-0 4/1905 Schenectady #30749 1/1917 4/9/1952, Scrapped ex-Lake Champlain and Moriah #14. Last operated 1938.
8 2-8-0 1902 Baldwin #21178 5/1920 1936, Scrapped ex-Hocking Valley #244
9 2-8-0 10/1904 Brooks #30134 10/1927 1/1947, Scrapped ex-Rochester and Pittsburgh #328.
10 2-8-0 11/1909 Pittsburgh #46770 8/1944 10/1955, Scrapped ex-Monongahela #116
11 2-8-0 7/1912 Pittsburgh #51593 8/1944 1954-1955, Scrapped ex-Monongahela #131
12 2-8-0 7/1912 Pittsburgh #51592 6/1946 10/1955 ex-Monongahela #130
14 S-4 4/1952 ALCO-GE #79786 New 3/1986, Sold Named "Mauritus Jensen." Sold to Linden Chlorine.
15 RS-1 9/1944 ALCO-GE 1963 9/1986, Sold Named "R.W. McEwan," sold to Valley Railroad, then to Central New England and scrapped.
16 C-430 12/1967 ALCO 9/1982 5/2001, Sold ex-Conrail #2054, exx-Penn Central #2054, exxx-New York Central #2054. Sold to Livonia, Avon and Lakeville and now in service on the LAL-owned Western New York & Pennsylvania as #432.
17 C-430 12/1967 ALCO 1983 5/2001, Sold ex-Conrail #2053, exx-Penn Central #2053, exxx-New York Central #2053. Sold Livonia, Avon, and Lakeville and now in service on the LAL-owned Western New York & Pennsylvania as #431.
18 C-424 9/1964 ALCO #33821 12/1983 In Service - Morristown ex-Toledo, Peoria, and Western #800
19 C-424 9/1964 ALCO #33822 12/1983 In Service - Morristown ex-Toledo, Peoria and Western #801
20 SW-1500 10/1966 EMD #32156 In Service - Bayway Refinery ex-CSXT 1315, exx-RF&P 91
21 RS-1 12/1954 ALCO #80853 1/2001 2004, Transferred to the Whippany Railway Museum ex-Pook Valley 21, exx-Ware River 21, exxx-Mass. Central 21, exxxx-MDDE 21, exxxxx-Soo 350
22 TE50-4S 9/1954 EMD/M-K #19875 3/18/2006 OOS awaiting engine replacement ex-Morrison-Knudsen 5001, exx-UP 278

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Employer Status Determination". Rrb.gov. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ press release
  3. ^ New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers, The 2020 Transit Map (New Jersey Transit, October 2000)
  4. ^ Official Guide of the Railways; August, 1936: National Railway Publication Company.
  5. ^ Rahway Valley Railroad[dead link]
  6. ^ "Morristown & Erie Railway Inc". Merail.com. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 

External links[edit]