Posts tagged ‘maps’

November 21, 2012

A reexamination of the current transit situation

SEPTA buses to the rescue! Sort of.

Immediately after Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Transit was crippled.

Things have improved overall. On Friday, NJ Transit was proud to announce that “all but one NJ TRANSIT rail lines [would] be running full or modified service effective Monday, November 19. This include[d] the restoration of service along the North Jersey Coast Line, which suffered the brunt of the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy” (NJ Transit News Release).

…Guess which one line STILL doesn’t have service, even after restoration of the line that received “the brunt of the damage?” That’s right, MINE, Gladstone branch.

NJ Transit recovery map, November 19. GUESS WHICH TRAIN ISN'T RUNNING YET

When NJ Transit talked about all the Morris & Essex line damage they had to fix, they named the rail washout at Kearny junction (which has been fixed) and “major damage” between Summit and Millburn (which have been fixed) and Denville and Morristown (also fixed). And there was something about some poles down near Lyons. The Gladstone line certainly didn’t seem any more damaged than any other line.

Why is it taking so long? Theories abound on NJ Transit’s Facebook page: some say the catenary poles were fragile wood instead of customary steel, so they the majority of them broke; some say the line’s single-track nature does not lend itself to repairs; some say that our Gladstone trains are being used elsewhere to compensate for all the trains that were (preventably) destroyed.

Most of us assume the real reason is that Gladstone branch is “the bastard stepchild of NJT line[s],” and fixing our line is simply not a priority. (We don’t have the highest ridership of the system, it’s true.)

But seriously, everyone else (including the most heavily damaged line) has been fixed for nearly a week at least. This is getting ridiculous.


Enough with my indignation. MOVING ON:

To ease the lack of Gladstone trains, NJ Transit has commissioned free emergency shuttle buses to stop at most Gladstone-branch train stations.

There are two sets of buses (route “A” and route “B”), which together hit most of the stations on the line.
Gladstone branch emergency bus route, as of November 20, 2012
[click here to pan around a Google map of the area]

(I have no idea why they left out poor little Stirling. Every other stop on the Gladstone branch is covered.)


Because New Jersey has apparently run out of buses, they’ve brought in SEPTA buses from Philadelphia (see top photo).

Unfortunately, presumably because these bus drivers don’t know their way around these suburban New Jersey roads, I guess they’re getting lost. Half of the buses never show up.

Basically: You dream about sex, but I dream that my train is running again. It will be a sweet, sweet day.

November 9, 2012

A brief review of the New Jersey transit situation

Train tracks in Allenhurst, totally unused for nearly two weeks

Train tracks in Allenhurst, NJ, unused for nearly two weeks


Commuting from New Jersey into New York, which isn’t fun under NORMAL conditions, has become downright awful since the hurricane.

The buses are more-or-less working again, but out of NJ Transit’s 10 rail lines, 4 are running, and only 1 goes into New York. (Ironically, one of the lines that’s running is Atlantic City, which took the most direct hit from Hurricane Sandy.)

And they can only run 13 out of the 63 morning-rush-hour NJ Transit trains that usually come into New York.

NJ Transit rail system map, normal, November 2011 NJ Transit rail system, hurricane recovery map, November 9 2012
NJ Transit rail map, normally (November 2011) NJ Transit rail map, hurricane recovery (November 2012)

This means a LOT of rail commuters suddenly need to find alternative ways to get into New York.
Which basically means we all need to find the nearest bus stop and hop on a bus.

Here are some facts:

Obviously, if you suddenly try to put tens of thousands of displaced rail commuters on buses, and you don’t increase the number of buses, that’s not going to work.

NJ Transit has been good enough to arrange “emergency shuttle bus service” from a few NJ origins into New York. (It’s free, which annoys the hell out of commuters who already paid for their monthly passes.)

This is great, but it hasn’t been working too well. Since buses are the only logical way for suburban New Jerseyans to get into New York, the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) has been mobbed. (I nearly had a panic attack trying to navigate the crowds, and it took me an hour just to find my damn bus gate on Tuesday.)

As of Thursday afternoon, NJ Transit announced that it would be adding six new emergency shuttle buses to its lineup. These new bus solutions all go to a ferry terminal, where commuters transfer to a ferry to take them into New York. This will bypass the PABT and hopefully reduce the ridiculous overcrowding.

NJ Transit Emergency shuttle service, November 6-8, 2012 NJ Transit emergency shuttle service, as of November 9, 2012
NJ Transit Emergency shuttle service, November 6-8, 2012 NJ Transit emergency shuttle service, as of November 9, 2012

We’ll see.

Hopefully this will all be over soon, but I have my doubts.

In the meantime, here are some links I’ve been refreshing obsessively to stay as on-top-of-this as possible:

November 8, 2012

Bleeping blizzards!

NJ nor'easter snow accumulation as of 9PM, Ocean Twp (Monmouth County)

Soooooo there’s a blizzard in New Jersey.

It’s a lot more snow than anyone thought we’d get.

This was snowfall prediction for Athena-the-nor’easter as of yesterday morning (around 9am):
National Weather Service snow totals prediction, around 9AM EST


And this was the snowfall prediction for Athena-the-nor’easter as of yesterday evening (around 9pm):
National Weather Service snow totals prediction, around 9PM EST

(Images composited from data available at NOAA Philly/Mt. Holly and NOAA New York.)


All I know is: I’m writing this on Wednesday night (November 7), and there’s a lot of snow on the ground, and it hasn’t stopped snowing yet.

What is that, three inches? At least?

And it’s really heavy, wet, slushy snow! It sticks to EVERYTHING!

You know what’s really fun? Just like last year’s Snowtober blizzard, this is way too early in the season for a blizzard of this magnitude; there are still too many leaves on the trees, and the weight of snow + leaves is too much for the trees, so tree limbs are falling off and knocking down power lines that were JUST FIXED from Hurricane Sandy. Half of these people who JUST got power back after ten days without? Gone again, just like THAT.

Snowy branches already on the sidewalk in New Jersey, Nov 07 2012, 9:09PM

Stupid weather.

…Y’know, I’m emotionally drained from all this, and I got out of this mess relatively unscathed (so far). This is nuts.

October 14, 2012

Millburn Fire Department Open House 2012 – An Interesting Map

The pushpin marks the location of the firehouse.

At the Millburn Fire Dept. open house, a five-foot-wide map of Millburn attracted some attention.

(As ever, conversations are paraphrased from memory as faithfully as possible, but they are not actual quotes.)

“Oh that’s interesting,” said one mom. “What do all the colored dots mean?”

“Well,” answered one of the captains, “each dot represents a fire hydrant; they’re mostly on street intersections. The different colors tell us how many GPM, or Gallons Per Minute, the hydrant can produce.”

Firehouse colored dot map key!

“So what if one hydrant runs out of water?” asked the woman, skillfully corralling her rowdy son while maintaining eye contact with the fire captain. “Could you tap into another hydrant?”

“That… yes, we could,” said the captain, “but the problem is more about running out of water pressure, not running out of water. And because of these things up here,” he gestured to two large reservoirs just north of Millburn on the map, “we don’t have to worry about running out of pressure here!”

“But what if you’re in an area with crummy hydrants?” I piped in, and waved my hand over a group of streets dotted with orange. “Do you need to tap into other hydrants when there’s a fire over there?”

“Well. Even the weak ones— 500 gallons per minute isn’t bad,” the captain corrected me. “but yes, if there was a really big fire, we’d probably need to connect to a stronger hydrant.”

“How do you do that?”

The captain guided me to a nearby firetruck. “See this hose? It’s 1000 meters long.”

“A full kilometer!” I marveled.

“And when it’s full of water, it gets to about 5 inches in diameter.” He indicated a softball-sized circle with his hands. “That’s practically another water main for us to use. And if it’s a really big fire, we’d be calling in trucks from other towns anyway. They call us, we call them.”

I nodded knowledgeably. I’d seen that happen with the big Westfield fire back in January.

“Thank you. This has been informative,” I said.

“Yeah, sure, that’s why we do this open house thing,” he smiled.

May 9, 2012

New Jersey West Line

Stone abutment on Brookside Avenue, one of the last remnants of the NJWL in Millburn

This wall of rocks, near the first sharp curve of Brookside Drive in Millburn’s South Mountain Reservation, is a stone abutment. It’s one of the last remnants of the New Jersey West Line Railroad east of Summit.

(Below is what this stone wall looks like from the road, if you’re NOT the type to go climbing up steep poison-ivy filled hills to get better photos of historical ruins [cough]. See it peeking through, there on the left?)

See the stones on the left?

This stone abutment originally supported a wooden trestle locally known as the Ghost Bridge, so-called because there was never actually a railroad built on top of it.

Ghost Bridge railroad trestle for the New Jersey West Line, sometime after 1870

There was never a railroad on it because east of Summit, the New Jersey West Line was never fully constructed.

Construction started in 1870. They bought the land for the right-of-way, and they graded the land, and they even laid tracks in some places… but construction was stopped by 1873, in part due to corporate politics, in part due to lack of finances (Panic of 1873, anyone?).

Before 1873, everyone was so certain it would be built that the railroad started appearing on several maps. Here’s an 1872 map with the Morris & Essex line highlighted in blue, and the proposed New Jersey West Line highlighted in red (hint: not the county boundaries). (Click to see it larger.)

Railroads, 1872


If part of the NJWL on that map looks familiar… that’s because WEST of Summit, the New Jersey West Line became the modern-day Gladstone branch of the Morris & Essex line!

Railroads, 2012


(As a New Providence resident, I use the Gladstone branch every day! Hooray for partial construction of the NJ West Line!)

This isn’t to say that NOTHING east of Summit was ever built on the NJWL. There was a quarry in the South Mountain Reservation that needed to export its rocks to the rest of the world. The solution? Reclaim an unused bit of the NJWL that conveniently connected to the Morris & Essex Millburn station! Here’s a map from 1906, showing the railroad spur in use long after construction had otherwise ceased on the line:

Millburn railroad spur, 1906


And that’s all I know. Abandoned railroads are fun!


Beers, F.W. (1872). “Topographical map of Hudson, Union, and Essex Cos, New Jersey.” State atlas of New Jersey based on State Geological Survey and from additional surveys by and under the direction of F.W. Beers. Beers, Comstock & Cline: New York, NY. From the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

Lampe, O.W. (1999, 2000). Images of America: Millburn. Arcadia Publishing: Charleston, SC. ISBN 0738504130.

The Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society. (n.d.). The Map Room. “1906 Atlas Map of Millburn, Plate 32.”

Wikipedia. (2010, last edit). “New Jersey West Line Railroad.”



(P.S. Hey, speaking of railroads and history, Amtrak is sponsoring National Train Day this weekend, in honor of the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869. If you live near a city, and you’re into trains, why not check it out?)

March 8, 2012

The abandoned Rahway Valley Railroad: Part 2

At the top of the embankment... a service road. Not a rail in sight!

As I mentioned yesterday, the Rahway Valley Railroad operated only between Summit and Roselle Park, connecting the Morris & Essex Line to the Raritan Valley Line. It was formed in 1904 and finally closed in 1992 after a long decline.

Rahway Valley Railroad, shown in context of modern NJTransit lines

Morris & Essex in green; Raritan Valley in orange; Rahway Valley (defunct) in pink

But there are still remnants of it lying about.

Although the majority of those remnants (in Summit, anyway) are secured behind fences with daunting “NO TRESPASSING” signs, I did find an unofficial entrance near the Summit chapter of the Knights of Columbus. But after climbing to the top of the embankment (which I was SO SURE must have been for the railroad), all I found was a maintenance road, as seen in the top photo. No rail tracks, and it’s probably too curvy to be repaved tracks.

According to an old map, that area apparently used to be a quarry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After I got home and compared aerial photos to an old map of the region, I discovered that apparently I’d been walking all over the former railroad at the base of the embankment. If there are any tracks still there, they’re apparently either buried or so far off the beaten path as to be invisible.



For more information (and for where I got my sources), here are some links:

Cunningham, J.T.* (October 1950). “New Jersey’s Streak o’ Rust.” Trains Magazine.

King, R.J. (2009). “Rahway Valley Railroad History.” Trains are Fun {personal website}. and (to a lesser extent)

Wikipedia. (2012, last edit). “Rahway Valley Railroad.”



(This is part 2 in a series of posts on the Rahway Valley Railroad. Click here for Part 1, or click here for Part 3.)

March 7, 2012

The abandoned Rahway Valley Railroad: Part 1

Rahway Valley Railroad: Ashwood Avenue overpass, b.1915

The Rahway Valley Railroad was a little railroad that only operated between Summit and Roselle Park, connecting the Morris & Essex Line to the Raritan Valley Line. It was formed in 1904 and, after years of declining traffic, finally closed in 1992.

Rahway Valley Railroad, shown in context of modern NJTransit lines

Morris & Essex in green; Raritan Valley in orange; Rahway Valley (defunct) in pink


There was talk of revitalizing it in the early 2000s for freight, but funding ran short. At the moment, the line has been more or less rebuilt from Roselle Park to Union… which means this area, in Summit and Springfield, hasn’t been touched.



I’ve been meaning to explore this for a while, but it’s really tricky. Aerial photographs don’t show that most of the Summit part of the line is behind a tall chain-link fence with prolific “NO TRESPASSING” signs. It looks like it might be part of Celgene Corporation.

Near this particular bridge (dated 1915), there is a steep embankment from road level to bridge top that I could probably climb, but it’s in a very visible area (everybody driving or walking up the moderately-trafficked road would see me), and there are lots of dead leaves (so my exploration would be very noisy). I’ve scouted the area twice so far but have not found a discreet way to get to the top. If I ever climbed it, it’d have to be at 5:00 AM or something, and I’d have to pray that no police would be patrolling around while I was doing it.

Bottom line, I’d love to get some photos of the top, but I’d also love to not get arrested.

I did find a way in near the Summit chapter of the Knights of Columbus; you’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow to see what I found. 🙂



For more information (and for where I got my sources), here are some links. Google is helpful, too, as are the rest of the citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia article:

Cunningham, J.T.* (October 1950). “New Jersey’s Streak o’ Rust.” Trains Magazine.

King, R.J. (2009). “Rahway Valley Railroad History.” Trains are Fun {personal website}. and (to a lesser extent)

Wikipedia. (2012, last edit). “Rahway Valley Railroad.”


* John T. Cunningham is one of the foremost authorities on local history around here. I didn’t know he’d been writing this sort of stuff since 1950!



(This is part 1 in a series of posts on the Rahway Valley Railroad. Click here for Part 2, or click here for Part 3.)

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