Tom’s Raritan River Railroad Page
November 15, 2003
Path of RRRR Field Trip #2
The day started out
with cool temps and sunny skies. Our team of five started at Country Lane
Park in East Brunswick (just west of
Here are some pictures to document the journey.
Harts Lane Crossing
in East Brunswick (facing toward Milltown and
Beginning of run
around track for the East Brunswick Branch, looking East.
Looking West towards
Facing East, end of run around track on right, meets East Brunswick Branch on left.
RT 18 Bridge in background.
(Serviss Branch part I)
Team heads north up the East Brunswick Branch.
Team explores the last connected, but in-active customer on the East Brunswick Branch.
In-active customer on the East Brunswick Branch
In-active customer on the East Brunswick Branch
was the second old wreck we found along the EB Branch) Joe contemplates
restoring the old 56 Chevy found just off the
Nick and I discover another disconnected spur off of the East Brunswick Branch.
This is the absolute end of the East Brunswick Branch. About 100 yards to the north is Tices lane.
At one time, cars of
flour went just past this point to Wonder Bread? which
was just off to the right (1980s). All tracks have been removed at this
point, but seem fairly intact. Even the track over the few wash outs we
came across were intact (albeit hanging in mid-air).
Looks like drainage and sewer systems have been installed. Walking
As we walked back down the East Brunswick Branch back toward the mainline we heard a deep, rumbling noise ahead of us. Truck engine? No, it was much much bigger! A bulldozer was on the right-of-way clearing some land (and some old track and ties with it). Well…for the some of you out there who have been surprised by a train as you walk a set of active tracks, the site of this bulldozer caused some of our hearts to skip a beat (even though we knew it had been ages since a train passed on these tracks).
Back on the RRRR main line just east of the East Brunswick Branch switch. Lou explains that many years ago a lumber company was on fire here somewhere and he saw it from IHOP on RT 18 a few miles away.
Lou found it! There appeared another disconnected spur that ran beyond a fence, parallel to the main line. The spur ran up to a wall, which looked like it was a loading dock of some type. Just beyond the wall was a self storage facility.
Site of the old lumber yard spur. No one on the team knew this was here!
Snapshot of wheel stopper at the end of the spur, beyond the fence, where the lumber company used to be.
RRRR mainline goes
under RT18 Bridge, facing east towards
Serviss Branch – Part II
Growing up in
Old Road Map showing long abandoned Serviss Branch going from EB to SR.
Current Air-Photo Map
showing Serviss Branch ROW in
This map details where I found bricks and rails some 15 years earlier, long before I even knew what the RRRR was! This whole area was redeveloped in the early 90’s, possibly losing all traces of the Clay and Sand pits, and the RRRR Serviss Branch.
Hard to believe, but
this shot is of the Serviss Branch just past
But wait! Don
was standing on an original railroad tie! Laid at least some 80 to 100
years ago, this original
The ROW is getting more visible the deeper we get.
Here we are deeper in the woods. Look at the size of that tree between the two ties!
More ties, more trees. This is really the oldest part of the line that hasn’t been touched in over a half century. The ties continue into the swamp in front of us. Could this be all that’s left of the long abandoned Serviss Branch?
The Serviss Branch ROW on the other side of the swamp. Don is in the blue coat. Surprisingly, for a line that was clearly abandoned 50 years earlier, the ROW was clearly visable.
Jack Pot! AT this point I almost had a heart attack! About a dozen or more ties lay in front of us at this point. This was the biggest group of ties clearly showing the original path of the Serviss Branch. This was quite a find for me, I had no idea that anything of this magnitude would still be here. I was quite surprised and pleased. Remember, all revenue traffic probably ceased 80 years ago in the 1930’s.
This is all that’s left of the clay and sand companies that used to be here. AMCLAY is noted as being here in Rails Up The Raritan. Big mounds of clay and sand are all that’s left of The American Clay Company.
Many years ago, in the mid 1980’s, I found actual twisted rails in these parts. I couldn’t find ANY metal or rails this time around, except the burnt out car.
Who knows what’s been buried under these piles all these years? I’m sure many artifacts of the clay and sand operations lay buried under all these mounds.
Ultimately, Don was able to follow the old Serviss branch right-of-way from our starting point on Brickplant Road to within 100 feet or so of where it crossed William Street in South River (just shy of where Varga Park / Pacer’s Field is today).
old Handkerchief factory in
Detailed map of
South River facing
west, showing Whitehead crossing and flashers in distance, old passenger
station platform on right side, area on left used to be
Another shot of
what’s left of the loading platform in
Close up of the old
manual crank swing bridge. The RRRR logo is still visible, although
rusting away, on the
(Question for all: How many RRRR logos/markers can you still find on the line today?) (Tom: Other than the sign on the old freight station in Milltown, this is the only one know about.)
Close up of the guts
WOW!!!!! Old coal trestle buried in the woods heading south following the South River Branch. The coal cars used to ride over the trestle and dump their load on trucks below. Another truly amazing find! Thank goodness Joe was with us to give us insight into what this was. His local knowledge of this part of the line was of great help. He also helped identify the remains of the South River Brick Company, plus led us to a few building remains where Lou lugged away a few prized enameled bricks.
Following the South
River Branch south, rails and ties are visible at the end of
rails and ties at the end of
Rails and trees gives
a good indication the last time a train came by on the South River Branch,
Further south along
I suspect the RRRR never wanted to give up the valuable river front real estate, so they never abandoned the line. Why didn’t Conrail rip up the tracks then?
Continuing South, the line at this point seemed most impassable. We picked up and went to Bissetts Pond; a lake that has been remodeled with a playground. Just to the back of the Pond, and past the Play ground, the South River Branch was once again visible. At this point the line was severed to make way for the play ground, but rails and ties were intact on either side.
Just to the back of the Pond, and past the Play ground, the South River Branch was once again visible. At this point the line was severed to make way for the play ground, but rails and ties were intact on either side.
heading back towards
Throughout the woods, between the tracks and the river, old relics and buildings remain. The old and crumbling foundations of the once mighty brick companies litter the area.
It was next to impossible to try to follow the line any further south. It was also about 8 hours after we started and the team was tired. We called it a day. This was the end of the
Raritan River Rail Road Field Trip #2 of November 15, 2003. We had a very successful and adventurous day seeing many sites of the Old Ricky (including some we didn’t even know about).
We look forward to
RRRR Field Trip #3 which we anticipate will start on the Sayreville side of the
Tom Everett Reynolds Sr.
with edits by Don Zrebiec
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