Black River and Western Railroad
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The Black River and Western Railroad (reporting mark BRW) is a freight and heritage railroad operating in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, between Flemington, Lambertville and Ringoes. The railroad operates vintage steam and diesel powered locomotives.
|Headquarters||Ringoes, New Jersey|
|Locale||Hunterdon County, New Jersey|
|Dates of operation||Chester: 1961–1964, Ringoes: 1965–|
Central Railroad of New Jersey
|Track gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Length||16 miles (26 kilometres)|
The Black River & Western Railroad (BR&W) 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 (CNJ) with the hope of starting a railroad there.
BR&W was officially incorporated in 1961. The railroad's name is derived from the Black River, a river in Chester, and the direction that the river flows. Following a brief stint of operations on CNJ's Chester Hill Branch, equipment was moved to Flemington, New Jersey in 1963 and the search for a place to start their tourist train was continued. A leasing arrangement was created with 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) in 1964. BR&W paid $5,000 a year and rehabilitated the railroad (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.
BR&W assumed ownership and operations of the Flemington Branch from the CNJ connection in Flemington to Flemington Branch Junction in Lambertville on March 16, 1970, purchasing it from PRR successor Penn Central (PC). With the acquisition of the rail line and its freight operations, on top of the existing tourist passenger service, a true shortline railroad was born. Base operations were established in Ringoes, New Jersey, and remain so today. Freight interchange after the 1970 purchase was made with PC at Lambertville and CNJ in Flemington. PC filed for bankruptcy that June.
PC continued to operate freight under bankruptcy protection until April 1, 1976 when Conrail (CR) assumed operations (the last PC freight train to operate on the Belvidere Division was on March 31, 1976). BR&W then 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 from the bankrupt CNJ. Although coal, iron ore and general freights were rerouted to other lines such as the North Penn Branch, CR continued operating smaller interchange freight trains to Lambertville. In March 1977, a new interchange was built at Three Bridges, New Jersey with the former Lehigh Valley Railroad (LV) mainline.
Freight service to Lambertville ended by 1995 with tourist operations ceasing by 1998, when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) prohibited operations due to poor track conditions. There was talk in 1999 of Trap Rock Industries quarry using the stub-ended section north of Lambertville for unit stone trains, resulting in a frenzy of track repairs taking place on the Ringoes-Lambertville segment to accommodate the anticipated traffic. The quarry ultimately backed out with the final work train operating in June 2002 to retrieve all remaining rolling stock.
Black River Railroad Historic Trust formedEdit
In 2001, a separate non-profit entity known as the Black River Railroad Historic Trust (BRRHT), was formed to take over the tourist trains on the line. BRRHT does not own most of the passenger cars and until 2011, fees had to be paid to the BR&W for their use. BRRHT owns one diesel locomotive switcher, an SW9 numbered 438. It currently leases some coaches from the railroad and has use of several locomotives.
In 2014 the BRRHT started to clear the line between Ringos and Lambertville for passenger trains. In 2016 the first passenger train went down the first mile of the newly restored line in almost 20 years. In 2017 the BRRHT restored the first 2.5 miles of the line which is where Bone Station is and Black River have been doing special events. In 2019 the BRRHT opened a further 1 mile towards Mount Airy Road. The BRRHT is looking to get into Lambertville within the next several years.
In 2014, BRRHT announced that it was looking to reinstate service along the dormant Ringoes-Lambertville section now called the Alexauken Division. In May 2017, the first two and a half miles was re-introduced to passenger service. The in-service track currently reaches Bowne Station, just over 4 miles north of Lambertville. Bowne Station includes a picnic grove co-constructed with Woodsedge Farm and the railroad. Special picnic and farm trains are scheduled year for this new portion of the line, along with an evening departure from Ringoes every Saturday and Sunday that special events do not operate.
|Three Bridges||Freight only station||Three Bridges was a former station on the Central Railroad of New Jersey's South Branch. The South Branch ran from a wye at Somerville, NJ station to Flemington. While there is no actual station and passenger service does not go this far, Three Bridges is where the BR&W interchanges with Norfolk Southern. Today a small shed stands where the station did. Last BRW passenger train to Three Bridges ran in 2014.|
|Flemington (Main Street)||Station building utilized by local bank||Flemington was the former terminus station of the Central Railroad of New Jersey's South Branch in Flemington, New Jersey. Service at the station began on July 1, 1864 and passenger service was discontinued on April 25, 1953.|
|Flemington (PRR)||Station building currently used for retail space||Originally used by the Pennsylvania Railroad, then when the BR&W came, they put a small shack not too far from the PRR Station. Then in the 1970s, the shack was removed and replaced by wooden car #101; and was used until it was burned in 1991. The station on the line marked the terminus to the Flemington Branch.|
|Flemington (Liberty Village)||Served by BRW||When nearby Liberty Village was being remodeled, Black River & Western sold off the original PRR station and per agreement, Liberty Village built them a new station closer to Route 12. Historically, the Pennsylvania Railroad interchanged with the Central Railroad of New Jersey just north of this station.|
|Copper Hill||Originally small station. Only siding remains.||Copper Hill was a small combination freight and passenger station, with a siding for loading produce from local farms. The area was named Copper Hill due to copper ore deposits found nearby, although the name is also thought to come from copperhead snakes that were found in the area. Siding holds heritage freight equipment.|
|Hog Town||Abandoned||Hog Town is a small shack and was built around 1970 by the BR&W as part of their Great Train Robberies. In the off-season, the station was occupied by "The Mayor of Hogtown", who used to persuade passengers to vote for him as mayor (as part of a gag). The area got its name due to the nearby, and now demolished, home that raised hogs. The station is located next to the former Hunterdon Concrete facility.|
|Farmstead (formerly Muirhead)||Originally flagstop||Once part of the village of Muirhead (now gone), Muirhead was an early station for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The station closed in the 1920s. The station was moved a few hundred yards east and has been converted to a shed, it is now owned by the Farmstead at Ringoes. The original site is used as a stop for the farm which works with the railroad to host weddings and other private events, and has been renamed "Farmstead".|
|Pumpkin Junction||Served by BRW||Pumpkin Junction is a farm station along the line constructed in 2008. The stop is used in October as part of the railroad's Pumpkin Trains.|
|Ringoes||Served by BRW||Ringoes was a former Pennsylvania Railroad station on their Flemington branch. Ringoes is the main yard and headquarters of the Black River and Western Railroad.|
|Boss Rd.||Originally flagstop||A flagstop during the PRR era of the branch line. Closed 1931, gone.|
|Bowne||Served by BRW||The original Bowne station was located south of the Bowne Station Rd. bridge. It was moved in the early 1930s north of the bridge near a home and has been converted into a shed. Today, the Black River Railroad Historical Trust has created a picnic grove where the station originally sat south of the bridge. This station can only be accessed by rail.|
|Mount Airy||Originally flagstop||A flagstop during the PRR era of the branch line. Closed 1931, gone. In the area where current active track ends.|
|Alexauken||Originally flagstop||A flagstop during the PRR era of the branch line. Closed 1931, gone.|
|Lambertville||Out-Of-Service. Building currently Lambertville Station Inn & Restaurant.||Just south of the junction between the Bel-Del mainline and the Flemington Branch, Lambertville serves as the southernmost station along the BR&W. The last train to depart the station was in December 1998. Black River & Western plans to be back in Lambertville sometime in the early 2020s, as part of their Alexauken Division project.|
The Black River & Western's fleet of locomotives are divided up into two categories: Locomotives used on the Flemington Branch, and locomotives used by the Black River Railroad System (a primarily freight but also leasing company). Equipment in italics is owned by the BRRHT.
Black River & Western Locomotives — engines that are on the Flemington branch almost all the timeEdit
|60||Great Western Railway of Colorado||2-8-0||In service on the Flemington Branch. Only steam locomotive on the Flemington Branch. Returned to service after an FRA 5 year inspection on July 3rd, 2021.|
|112||Lehigh Valley Railroad||SW1||Owned by LVRX, restored 2010, painted as BR&W #400 in 2015 for 50th anniversary. In service on the Flemington Branch. Unclear if it will be repainted back into #112 or keep it as #400.|
|438||Erie Railroad||EMD SW9||Owned by BRRHT, acquired from the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey in 2015, in service on the Flemington Branch.|
|2005||DRRV||GP38-2||Assigned to BR&W Flemington Branch. Used for freight service.|
|9206||Pennsylvania Railroad||SW1||Owned by LVRX, in service on Flemington Branch.|
Black River Railroad Locomotives — engines that come and go on the Flemington BranchEdit
|752||Northern Pacific Railway||EMD GP9||Leased to Mid-States Packaging, Hillsborough, New Jersey.|
|811||Nickel Plate Road||EMD GP9||BR&W Belvidere-Delaware division. Lettered for Black River & Western, however used for Delaware River Railroad excursions.|
|908||LV||SW900||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia, out of service.|
|909||Portland Power Plant||SW9||Formerly numbered 9009|
|915||Winchester and Western Railroad (WW)||SW900||BR&W Dover & Rockaway River Railroad (D&RR) operation, out of service.|
|1202||New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad||SW1200||In Service on Flemmington Branch.|
|1206||Canadian National Railway||SW1200RS||Leased in West Virginia.|
|1259||Canadian Pacific Railway (CP)||SW1200RS||Leased in Pennsylvania.|
|1539||Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad||SW1500||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia.|
|1567||Penn Central (PC)||SW1500||Leased to WW, Bridgeton, New Jersey.|
|1823||New York Central Railroad (NYC)||GP10||Assigned to D&RR operations, leased from WW in the late 1990s. Formerly numbered 732.|
|1849||Northern Pacific Railway||GP9||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.|
|1850||Chesapeake & Ohio Railway||GP9||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.|
|1853||Texas Mexican Railway||GP9||Shopped in Tennessee, out of service.|
|1854||Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR)||GP8||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania.|
|1856||NYC||GP10||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Charleston, South Carolina.|
|1858||Grand Trunk Western Railroad||GP9u||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia.|
|1888||CP||GP9u||BR&W D&RR operation|
|1889||CP||GP9u||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia.|
|8142||CP||SW1200RS||Leased in Pennsylvania.|
|9581||Norfolk Southern Railway||SD9m||Leased to Kinder-Morgan, Newport News, Virginia.|
In Service Passenger EquipmentEdit
|297||CNJ||In Service||Combine. Acquired in 1967 from CNJ. First in service 1968 (just restored).|
|322||CNJ||In Service||Bar car built from coach. Used for First Class Service. Acquired in 1967 from CNJ, originally CNJ 1186. First in service 1968. Named John L. Bishop (just restored).|
|605||DL&W||In Service||Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 605, renumbered to 305 in 1972. First in service 1972. Out of service in 1999. Restored by the BRRHT and returned to service for North Pole Express service in 2018, renumbering back to 605. This car was damaged in the 1917 Kingsland explosion.|
|1009||CNJ||In Service||Owned by BRRHT, acquired in 2005 from Steamtown. Restoration completed in May 2015.|
Out of Service Passenger EquipmentEdit
|5||GM&O||Out Of Service||Business Car, Privately owned.|
|585||DL&W||Out Of Service, Under Restoration||Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 585. First in service 1972. Open-Air Car built from Coach. Out of service in 1997–98. Undergoing restoration by the BRRHT.|
|302||DL&W||Out Of Service||Acquired from EL in 1972. Converted to open air car, out of service by 1999.|
|303||DL&W||Out Of Service||Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 608. First in service 1972. Out of service by 1999.|
|304||DL&W||Out Of Service||Acquired from EL in 1972, originally DL&W 606. First in service 1972. Out of service by 1999.|
|319||New Jersey Transit, ex GN||MOW||From NJT. Originally assigned to the Empire Builder as Great Northern 1223.|
|320||New Jersey Transit, ex GN||MOW||From NJT. Originally assigned to the Empire Builder as Great Northern 1229.|
|491||Canadian National||Out Of Service||Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1993. Used as aux coach. Originally numbered 4991. Retains black window stripe hinting at its CN heritage, CN Number (4991) showing through on east side. Last Passenger Run 2018, Out of Service 2019.|
|1318||CNJ||Out Of Service||Remains in Lambertville, NJ. Round Roof CNJ Coach. Acquired from NJ Transit in 1984.|
|1362||USAT||Out Of Service||Used as storage|
|1369||USAT||Out Of Service||Used as storage|
Engines on DisplayEdit
|′′1′′||Crucible Steel 15 ton Mack||On display in Ringoes Parking lot|||
Passenger Equipment on DisplayEdit
|420||CNJ||Out Of Service||Used as museum car at Ringoes station, owned by the BRRHT.|
|494||Canadian National||Out Of Service||Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1993. Originally numbered 4988. Last train was the Easter bunny express of 2015. Out of service 2015. Was lettered for BDRV until 2016. On display in Ringoes station and used for Christmas events in the station.|
|17112||USAT||Out Of Service||Privately owned, display|
|8424||New York Central||Out Of Service||Owned by BRRHT, Used as a workshop for restoration projects.|
|"Chenango"||PRR||Out Of Service||Privately owned, Residential, Originally named "Herald Square," painted in NYO&W livery.|
|103||Southern||Box Car||Stored, Ringoes Yard|
|111||CR||Box Car||Stored, Three Bridges Yard|
|304||CR||Ballast Hopper||Stored, Three Bridges Yard|
|308||CR||Ballast Hopper||Flemington Branch|
|309||CR||Ballast Hopper||Flemington Branch|
|310||CR||Ballast Hopper||Flemington Branch|
|601||LV||Box Car||Stored, Ringoes Yard|
|15555||CR||Ore Car||Owned by LVRX, Painted in PRR, Stored, Ringoes Yard|
|16002||LIRR||Crane Car||Stored, Ringoes Yard|
|16003||Amtrak||Flat Car||Used with 16002, Stored, Ringoes Yard|
|475532||?||Flat Car||Owned by LVRX, Painted PRR, Once used as an open air car, MOW, Flemington Branch. Stored at Copper Hill.|
|487052||CR||Hopper||Sitting at the end of the line in Lambertville|
|497310||PRR||Box Car||Rounded Roof, Stored, Ringoes Yard|
|770506||CR||Flat Car||Stored, Ringoes Yard|
In Service CaboosesEdit
|133||C&O||Assigned to the Bel Del|
|385||SOU||Assigned to Dover & Rockaway River Railroad|
|645||MEC||Privately owned, in service|
|2727||ATSF||Privately owned, painted in Wabash livery, in service|
|477375||PRR||Privately owned, in MOW service|
|C-140||ERIE||Owned by BRRHT, in service|
Out of Service CaboosesEdit
|200||RDG||Out of service|
|595||N&W||Out of service|
|1417||DRGW||Privately owned, out of service|
Cabooses on DisplayEdit
|24531||NYC||Privately owned, display|
|95106||LV||Owned by BRRHT, named the "Who Hack," on display.|
|M-55||Arizona Eastern Railroad||Doodlebug||Colebrookdale Railroad. Operating.|
|14||Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal||0-6-0T||Ulster & Delaware Historical Society|
|42||AT&SF||CF7||Maryland & Delaware 2632 Scrapped|
|50||Trap Rock||Davenport||Was MOW|
|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||United States Sugar Corporation; currently under restored for excursion service in Clewiston, FL|
|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 National Historic Site|
|780||EMD||GP-10||Scrapped 2019 due to many issues.|
|782||C&EI||GP7||Vintage Locomotives Inc.; still on BR&W property|
|820||ERIE||NW-2||Miller Mining Co.|
|1540||P&LE||SW1500||JLCX; traded for JLCX 1256 (BDRV 1206)|
|1554||CNJ||RS-3||Anthracite Railroads Historical Society; Leased to the Delaware-Lackawanna.|
|1848||Bangor & Aroostook||GP9||Winchester & Western #576|
|4666||PRR||Doodlebug||Privately owned; brought to Allentown & Auburn Railroad on 4/17/2016. Currently in operation as of late summer 2016.|
|7079||U.S. Army||65-Ton||Privately owned, New Castle, DE|
Former Leased and Other LocomotivesEdit
|Number||Heritage||Model||Leased or on BR&W tracks||Owner||Notes|
|412||B&O||VO-1000||Late 1990s to the early 2000s||SMS Lines||Stored on Flemington Branch|
|418||NJT||F3||Late 1990s to 2015||URHS||left in 2015|
|436||Erie||SW9||2012-2015||URHS||left in 2015|
|475||Nickel Plate Road||GP9||Late 1990s||Winchester and Western||Worked Bel-Del Freight|
|732||NYC||GP9||Late 1990s||Winchester and Western||Worked Bel-Del Freight, Bought in 2018|
|1523||CNJ||GP9||Mid 1990s to early 2000s||URHS||Restored at Ringoes and operated on the Flemington Branch|
|1524||CNJ||GP9||Late 90'||URHS||Restored at Ringoes|
|1712||Clinchfield||GP16||2012||Everett Railroad||Leased for Bel-Del Santa Train|
|7000||PRR||GP9||Late 1990s||URHS||Restored in Ringoes|
Former Passenger EquipmentEdit
|99||LIRR||Sold in 1983, Stored in Minerva, OH||Jamaica|
|100||Belfast & Moosehead Lake||Sold to the New Hope & Ivyland railroad, scrapped in 2015 after vandalization 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.||Wooden Car. Coach|
|104||Philadelphia & Reading||Out of Service at the Connecticut Eastern Railway Museum.||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.||Steel "Boonton" Car, In service by 1972. Originally DL&W 600. Open-Air Car built from Coach.|
|311||Erie||Out of service mid 1970s, scrapped.||Steel "Stillwell" Car, In service by 1966. Open-Air Car built from Coach.|
|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.||Steel CNJ Coach. Acquired from CNJ in 1967, in service 1968. 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.||Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1995. Originally numbered 4996. Was supposed to be BR&W 492, unknown if ever renumbered.|
|4907||Canadian National||To New Hope & Ivyland by 2001.||Acquired early 1990s, in service by 1993. Originally numbered 4907. Was BR&W 493 on paper, never renumbered on car.|
|700||Pennsylvania Railroad||To New York State in 1976, now part of a diner in Somerset, MA.||Pullman Parlor Car No. 7002 built for the PRR in 1912, was used on the Broadway Limited.|
|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.|
|2004||LIRR||New Hope, PA||Syosset|
Former Rolling StockEdit
|11||?||Crane Car||Scrapped by 2017||Original BR&W piece|
|193||LIRR||Rotary Snow Plow||Steamtown N.H.S|
|1||DL&W||Went to Morristown and Erie||Currently at Whippany Railroad Museum|
|34||RDG||On Display in Stroudsburg, PA|
|474||NYC||Sold around 2014|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Black River and Western Railroad.|
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- "Black River and Western Railroad". New Jersey's Great Northwestern Skylands.
- "BLACK RIVER RAILROAD HISTORICAL TRUST INC | Open990". www.open990.org. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
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- "Lambertville Service". BR&W Railroad. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
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- American Experience | The Great War: Part 1 | Season 29 | Episode 8, retrieved 2020-12-06
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- "148 History". Sugar Express. US Sugar. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
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- BRRHT Meeting Minutes 09-03-05
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- "The Official Black River & Western RR Pages". 1999-11-09. Archived from the original on November 9, 1999. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
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