The Raritan River Railroad
By Gerald Oliveto
The Raritan River Railroad (RRRR) began operating in 1888 and grew to the final size of 12.6 miles in 1917. The 12.6 mile mainline ran from South Amboy to New Brunswick. During World War I, the railroad carried approximately 9000 troops to munitions plants in Parlin and Gillepsie. Passenger service was terminated in 1938, having dwindled from a twenty car train to a two car train. The RRRR once owned 14 Baldwin steam locomotives, which were replaced by six government Lima engines during WWII. These were finally replaced in 1954 by six EMD SW900's. The line's rolling stock consisted of (in 1974) five cabooses (ex New Haven), one crane, one gondola, and one box car, all of which were rehabilitated in 1969. In the summer of 1969, the famed Metroliner was pulled over RRRR tracks to a railroad exhibition in Milltown. There were two interchanges, one in Sayreville with the Camden and Amboy (later PRR, PC, and CR), and the other with the New York and Long Branch (NY&LB) at South Amboy. The RRRR did 60% of it's freight interchange with the CNJ, and most of the drilling and classification at Sayreville Jct. The RRRR handled a freight volume of five to six thousand cars a year. The total trackage owned and operated by the RRRR was 18 miles, serving many industries along the Raritan River. There was even a movable bridge across the South River at East Brunswick. The color scheme of the line was a red locomotive with a gray stripe bearing the RRRR logo, as seen at the top of this page. Ownership was shared by nearby class one railroads but operations were conducted by local management in a store front type building in South Amboy at 170 John Street, just around the corner from the NY&LB passenger station. Since it's owner railroads went into Conrail on April 1, 1976, the RRRR stayed around a while, but was pulled into the Big Blue Giant in 1981 with the little office on John Street boarded over.
The old RRRR mainline has since been cut back from New Brunswick to East Brunswick/ New Brunswick border with the current terminus being at the banks of Farrington Lake. The old bridge over the lake has since been removed by the NJDOT. The RRRR mainline sometimes sees more service than the Amboy Secondary, with assembly of SASE-1 and SASE-2 and the breakdown of SESA, as more industries are located along the Raritan River, than the Amboy Secondary.
As the chapter closes on Conrail, the old Raritan River Railroad will soon become part of Norfolk Southern's and CSX's massive freight operations. Headquarters for NS is in Virginia and CSX in Florida. Never again will we see this wonderful road be run from South Amboy. Nor will we see the beautiful red and gray of the RRRR roll across Farrington Lake en route to New Brunswick. Even though we lost the RRRR railroad almost 20 years ago, as Conrail departs, we just realize what big time railroading is like.
(c)Gerald Oliveto - May 1999
Please visit Gerald's website at www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Forest/3191/
This page last updated Monday, December 26, 2011.
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