Black River and Western Railroad

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Black River and Western Railroad
Black River & Western 60.JPG
Reporting mark BRW
Locale Hunterdon County, New Jersey
Dates of operation Chester 1961-1964, Ringoes 1965–
Predecessor Pennsylvania Railroad
Central Railroad of New Jersey
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 16 miles (26 kilometres)
Headquarters Ringoes, New Jersey
Passenger train at Flemington.
BR&W caboose, semaphore and station depot at the station in Ringoes, New Jersey.
Flemington BRW terminal

The Black River and Western Railroad (reporting mark BRW) is a short-line railroad operating in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, between Flemington and Ringoes. The railroad operates vintage steam and diesel powered locomotives: it maintains a regular limited freight service,[1] but is operated primarily as a heritage railway.[2]


The Black River & Western Railroad was started by William Whitehead in Oldwick, New Jersey, in the late 1950s. A portion of the defunct Rockaway Valley Railroad went through his back yard. He and his sons started collecting rolling stock and an engine (Lackawanna #565). They started laying tracks but then the expansion of I-78 halted their dream of building a railroad at that location. They moved their equipment to the Chester Hill Branch of the Central Railroad of New Jersey with the hope of starting a railroad there. The section of railroad they were scouting soon became landlocked by the construction of I-80.

The Black River & Western Railroad (BR&W) was incorporated in 1961. The railroad's name is derived from the Black River, a river in Chester, and the direction that the river flows. The cars were moved to Flemington, New Jersey and the search for a place to start their tourist train was continued. A leasing arrangement was created the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) that allowed a tourist train to operate from Flemington to Lambertville on the original Belvidere-Delaware Railroad (PRR Belvidere Division) Flemington Branch (originally the Flemington Railroad & Transportation Company). BR&W paid $5,000 a year and rehabilitated the railroad (the PRR operated freight service on the line during this period). Steam engine #60 pulled the first trip out of Flemington on May 16, 1965. Weekend and holiday schedules were devised. On March 16, 1970, the Black River & Western Railroad took over the ownership and operations of the entire Flemington Branch from the CNJ connection in Flemington to Flemington Branch Junction in Lambertville purchasing it from the Penn Central. With the acquisition of the railroad right of way and its freight operations, on top of the existing tourist passenger service, a true shortline railroad was born. Their base of operations was, and still is, out of Ringoes NJ. Freight interchange after the 1970 purchase was made with Penn Central at Lambertville and the CNJ in Flemington. Not long after the purchase, Penn Central filed for bankruptcy on June 21, 1970. At the time it was the biggest corporation in the United States to file for bankruptcy. Penn Central continued to operate its freight trains under bankruptcy protection until April 1, 1976 when Conrail took over operations (the last PC freight train to operate on the Belvidere Division was on March 28, 1976). The BR&W purchased three miles of trackage in the Lambertville area that was part of the Belvidere Division mainline on March 31, 1976 before Conrail took over. BR&W also purchased the Flemington-Three Bridges portion of the CNJ Flemington Branch from Somerville on this date. Although the major freight trains that hauled coal, iron ore and general freight were rerouted to other lines such as Reading Lines' North Penn Branch, CR continued operating smaller interchange freight trains to Lambertville. Since April 1976, a new interchange was being planned at Three Bridges, NJ with the ex-Lehigh Valley mainline and construction started on this in January 1977, opening in March of 1977. CR and BR&W hosted a train trip on the Flemington Branch, Belvidere Division and former Lehigh Valley Railroad mainline in late March after the interchange in Three Bridges was opened. CR stopped regularly using the Belvidere Division south of Milford after the event since interchange was being handled through Three Bridges instead of Lambertville, although they operated a service maintenance train on November 12, 1978 between Milford and Lambertville to check the line for washouts and fallen trees. That would indeed be the last train to operate on that section of the Belvidere Division and trackage was soon removed north and south of Lambertville to Milford and Trenton between 1979 and 1982. The right of way today is the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park Rail-Trail. BR&W continued serving customers such as Trap Rock Industries Quarry, Nieces Lumber, Finkels Hardware and Belmont Packaging in Lambertville throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

As time carried on the freight customers slowly dwindled. By 1995 there was almost no freight service left in Lambertville. Scheduled Sunday passenger train service from Ringoes south to Lambertville ceased in 1997 because of an inability to keep the schedule, which was due to many speed restrictions on that segment. The last special passenger trains to Lambertville ran in 1998, when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) demoted the poor trackage south of Ringoes to "excepted", prohibiting the operation of passenger trains over this segment. During the second half of the 1990s, there was talk that the Trap Rock Industries Quarry, which stopped getting rail service years prior, would win a contract to supply ballast to Conrail. A frenzy of track repairs occurred on the Ringoes-Lambertville segment to accommodate the anticipated traffic. However, the quarry did not renew its contract, putting an end to the track repairs. The line was put out of service shortly after the announcement of the quarry's decision not to renew its contract, and the last train operated in June 2003 to pick up some remaining rolling stock in Lambertville (a few hopper cars from the quarry operation, two NYC baggage cars, a flanger, a CNJ coach and an EMD F7, all were taken back to Ringoes). Currently, Freight and Passenger service continues on the line from Ringoes north to Flemington. In 2014, small portions of the line from Flemington to Three Bridges was demoted to "excepted", thus temporarily halting passenger service on that part of the Black River & Western. However, freight still runs 1-2 times a week on that line.

In 2001, a separate non-profit entity known as the Black River Railroad Historic Trust, was formed to take over the tourist trains on the line. The BRRHT does not own most of the passenger cars and until 2011, fees had to be paid to the BR&W for their use. The BRRHT owns one diesel locomotive switcher, an SW9 numbered 438. The Trust currently leases some coaches from the railroad and has use of some of its locomotives.

At the end of 2014, the Black River Railroad Historical Trust announced that it is working on reactivating excursion service along what is now called the Alexauken Division of the BR&W (Ringoes to Lambertville), along the Alexauken Creek. The first two and a half miles, from Ringoes to a point south at what is called Bowne Station (at Bowne Station Road), is slated to start sometime in 2017. Track work is still in progress. Track crews have already brought track up to Class I standards to MP6 (just south of Boss Rd.) and use it on select departures of BR&W's summer excursion trains in 2016.[3]


The Black River Rail System has approximately 19 locomotives, most of which are leased to other companies that require in-house rail switching services. As of 2012 three locomotives are on BR&W property. In fall 2012, BR&W's steam locomotive, former Great Western 60 returned to service after a 12-year overhaul. Several pieces of equipment are owned by the Trust. The Black River Railroad Historical Trust owns and operates ex-Erie Railroad / NJDOT / NJT / URHS SW9 #438, leases BR&W 2-8-0 # 60, and leases PRR LLC's exLV SW1 #112, restored as BRW 400 for the 50th anniversary, and exPRR 9206. 9206 is currently under restoration to be used on BR&W passenger trains. Freight trains on the line are currently handled by BDRV SW1500 1596 and SW1200RS 1259.

Locomotives carry BDRV (Belvidere & Delaware River) reporting marks except #60 and #752.

Equipment owned by the Black River Railroad Historical Trust shown in Italics.

Locomotive Roster[edit]

Number Heritage Model Location
M-55 Arizona Eastern Railway Doodlebug Out of service - BR&W
1 ? Mack 15ton Static Display in Ringoes, NJ parking lot.
60 Great Western Railway 2-8-0 BR&W Flemington Branch
438 Erie SW9 Owned by BRRHT, acquired from the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ in 2015. On the BR&W Flemington Branch.
752 Northern Pacific Railway GP9 Leased to Mid-States Packaging, Hillsborough, New Jersey
780 Amtrak GP7u Leased to Kinder-Morgan Charleston, South Carolina
908 LV SW900 Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia
915 Wilmington and Western SW900 Leased to Port of Richmond, Richmond, VA
1202 New York, New Haven & Hartford SW1200 BR&W Belvidere-Delaware Division
1206 Canadian National Railway SW1200RS Leased in West Virginia
1259 Canadian Pacific SW1200RS BR&W Ringoes,NJ
1539 P&LE SW1500 Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia
1567 PC SW1500 BR&W Belvidere-Delaware Division
1596 PC SW1500 BR&W Flemington Branch
1849 Northern Pacific Railway GP9 Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
1850 C&O GP9 Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
1853 TM GP9 Shopped in Tennessee (Out of Service)
1854 PRR GP8 Leased to Kinder-Morgan Fairless Hills,PA
1856 New York Central GP10 Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Charleston, South Carolina
1858 GTW GP9u Recently acquired, to be leased upon repaint.
1889 Canadian Pacific GP9u Leased to Kinder-Morgan Newport News,VA
8142 Canadian Pacific SW1200RS Leased in Pennsylvania
9581 Norfolk Sountern SD9m Leased to Kinder-Morgan Newport News,VA

Passenger Equipment[edit]

Number Heritage Notes
5 GM&O Business Car, Privately owned, out of service.
297 CNJ Combine. Acquired in 1967 from CNJ. First in service 1968.[4] Currently in service
302 DL&W Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 585. First in service 1972.[4] Open-Air Car built from Coach. Out of service in 1997-98.
303 DL&W Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 608. First in service 1972.[4] Out of service in 1997.
304 DL&W Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 606. First in service 1972.[4] Out of service in 1998-99.
305 DL&W Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 605. First in service 1972.[4] Out of service in 1999. Undergoing restoration by the BRRHT. May be renumbered back to 605 in the future. This car was damaged in the 1916 Black Tom explosion.[5]
319 New Jersey Transit, ex Great Northern From NJT, out of service.
320 New Jersey Transit, ex Great Northern From NJT, out of service.
322 CNJ Bar Car built from coach, used for charters. Acquired in 1967 from CNJ, originally CNJ 1186. First in service 1968. Named John L. Bishop.[4] Currently in service.
420 CNJ Used as museum car at Ringoes station, owned by the BRRHT. Currently under exterior restoration.
491 Canadian National Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1993.[6] Originally numbered 4991. Retains black window stripe hinting at its CN heritage, CN Number (4991) showing through on east side. Currently in service.
494 Canadian National Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1993.[6] Originally numbered 4988. Out of service 2015. Was lettered for BDRV until 2016. On display in Ringoes station and used for Christmas events in the station.
1009 CNJ Owned by BRRHT, acquired in 2005 from Steamtown. Completed in May 2015. Currently in service.[7]
1362 USAT Used as storage
1369 USAT Used as storage
8424 New York Central Owned by BRRHT, Used as a workshop for restoration projects.
17112 USAT Privately owned, display
"Chenango" PRR Privately owned, Residential, Originally named "Herald Square," Painted in NYO&W livery


Number Heritage Notes
133 C&O Assigned to the Bel Del
200 RDG Out of service
385 SOU Out of service
595 N&W Out of service
596 MMA In service
645 MEC Privately owned, in service
1417 DRGW Privately owned, out of service
1422 DRGW Privately owned, out of service
2727 ATSF Privately owned, painted in Wabash livery, in service
24531 CR Privately owned, display
477375 PRR Privately owned, in service
95106 LV Owned by BRRHT, named the "Who Hack," Out of service.
C-140 ERIE Owned by BRRHT, in service.
C-2440 B&O Privately owned, in service

Former Locomotives[edit]

Number Heritage Model Current owner
1 Crucible Steel Mack Black River Railroad Historic Trust; still on BR&W Property
14 Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal 0-6-0T Ulster & Delaware Historical Society
41 AT&SF CF7 Scrapped
42 AT&SF CF7 Maryland & Delaware 2632
56 PRR T6 Georges Creek Railway 101
57 Washington Terminal Company RS-1 Privately owned; stored on East Penn Railroad, Quakertown, PA
58 Minneapolis & St Louis RS-1 Also wore #211, Scrapped 1992/1993
148 Florida East Coast 4-6-2 Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Colorado
204 Minneapolis & St Louis RS-1 was #59 on paper, Scrapped
400 Broward County Port Authority SW-1 scrapped in 2009
400 LIRR 44-Ton Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
565 DL&W 2-6-0 Steamtown N.H.S
820 ERIE NW-2 Miller Mining Co.
782 C&EI GP7 Vintage Locomotives Inc.; still on BR&W property
1540 P&LE SW1500 JLCX; traded for JLCX 1256 (BDRV 1206)
1554 CNJ RS-3 ARHS; Leased to the Delaware-Lackawanna
1848 Bangor & Aroostook GP9 Winchester & Western #576
4666 PRR Doodlebug Privately owned; brought to Allentown & Auburn Railroad on 4/17/16. Currently in operation as of late summer 2016.
7079 U.S. Army 65-Ton privately owned, New Castle, DE

Former Passenger Equipment[edit]

Number Heritage Disposition Notes
100 Belfast & Moosehead Lake Sold to the New Hope & Ivyland railroad, scrapped in 2015 after vandlization of the car and structure collapse. Wooden Car. Baggage R.P.O. Car
101 Bangor & Aroostook Wooden Car. Combine
102 Bangor & Aroostook Wooden Car. Combine
103 DL&W Disintegrated along the New Hope & Ivyland at Wycombe, PA, scrapped mid 1990s.[8] Wooden Car. Coach
104 Philadelphia & Reading Out of Service at the Connecticut Eastern Railway Museum.[8] Wooden Car. Coach
105 Canadian Northern Wooden Car. Business Car
106 DL&W Wooden Car. Office Car
301 DL&W Out of Service in the early 1990s, Scrapped 2006.[9] Steel "Boonton" Car, In service by 1972. Originally DL&W 600. Open-Air Car built from Coach.[4]
311 Erie Out of service mid 1970s, scrapped. Steel "Stillwell" Car, In service by 1966.[10] Open-Air Car built from Coach.[4]
312 Erie Out of Service in the mid 1970s, on display in Whitehouse, NJ. Steel "Stillwell" Car, In service by 1968.
313 Erie Out of Service in the mid 1970s, on display in Whitehouse, NJ. Steel "Stillwell" Car, In service by 1968.
321 CNJ Out of Service 1990s, Scrapped 2006.[9] Steel CNJ Coach. Acquired from CNJ in 1967, in service 1968.[4] Original number 1135. Converted to a control car for the 4666 (Doodlebug) by early 1980s.
492 Canadian National Out of Service by 2000s, Scrapped 2006.[9] Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1995. Originally numbered 4996. Was supposed to be BR&W 492, unknown if ever renumbered.
493 Canadian National To New Hope & Ivyland by 2001.[11] Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1993.[6] Originally numbered 4907. Was supposed to be BR&W 493, unknown if ever renumbered.
700 Pennsylvania Railroad To New York State in 1976, now part of a diner in Somerset, MA.[12] Pullman Parlor Car No. 7002 built for the PRR in 1912, was used on the Broadway Limited.[12]
1318 CNJ Sold to Green Mountain Railroad, remains in Lambertville, NJ. Round Roof CNJ Coach. Acquired from NJ Transit in 1984.
1324 CNJ Sold to Green Mountain Railroad, remains on the Bel-Del near Holland, NJ. Round Roof CNJ Coach. Acquired from NJ Transit in 1984.


  1. ^ "Belvidere & Delaware River". Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "Black River and Western Railroad". New Jersey's Great Northwestern Skylands. 
  3. ^ "Alexauken Division". Black River & Western Railroad. Retrieved 2016-06-20. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Story Behind The John L Bishop". Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c crazyhippiejoe (2008-12-31), Black River and Western Railroad Steam Locomotive #60 Part 9, retrieved 2016-11-30 
  7. ^ "Coach 1009". Black River & Western Railroad. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  8. ^ a b "Railway Preservation News • View topic - Ex Black River & Western Wood & Diner Cars". Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  9. ^ a b c BRRHT Meeting Minutes 09-03-05
  10. ^ "Springer-East3-06-15". Flickr - Photo Sharing!. Retrieved 2016-06-06. 
  11. ^ "The Official Black River & Western RR Pages". 1999-11-09. Archived from the original on November 9, 1999. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  12. ^ a b "Railway Preservation News • View topic - Ex Black River & Western Wood & Diner Cars". Retrieved 2016-11-30.