After finishing the Raritan Valley Line on Friday I decided today was the day to use the second half of my High Bridge to Bay Head ticket (costing $11.50, the same as a ticket from Newark to Bay Head) and finally ride the North Jersey Coast Line. The NJT Line I’ve only ridden as far as Woodbridge (Long Branch is on the web from one of my few driving trips). The main purpose of these trips is scouting so I can figure out what the best time is to visit various stations, such as when does the waiting room close or does one exits? NJT is terrible at posting this on line.
Bay Head is 65 miles from Penn Station and a two hour ride on local trains that are all that operate during weekdays. I leave the house shortly after 8:30 just like on Friday. I’m on the A train to Chambers Street and walk over to the temporary World Trade Center Station that I get to at 9:23.
I just miss a Newark-bound train. As I wait, the next trains to arrive both from Hoboken and Newark are taken out of service to go back to the yards as service is reduced for the middays. A Newark-bound trian finally arrives at 9:30. I don’t know which PATH train I need to make, the current timetable has a typo, the PATH connection claims to take only 4 minutes 9:48 to 9:52. This train finally leaves at 9:33, I should make my train.
The PATH ride is largely uneventful we stop just before JSQ but I think this is only because of a train ahead of us, I’m in the front car and the conductor doesn’t key open a door. Then its an uneventful ride through the CSX yard, passing all of the usual containers. I do notice the Private Varnish ex-NY Central Observation just outside the PATH yard. This car I went inside last year on National Train Day and I’m looking forward to visiting again in Grand Central on the Centennial Parade of Trains, the same weekend as National Train Day.
We arrive Harrison at 9:51 as a just terminated at Newark Raritan Valley Line train comes through the station. We come to brief stop rising up to the Dock Bridge, waiting for the last terminating train to clear the platform. We finally arrive at Newark–(4 Photos) at 9:55 for my 10:02 train. I go down the well designed ramp to Western Connecting Trains. Some people jog down the ramp to make a Trenton-bound NEC train that is just arriving. I follow the signs that say Tickets to a nice large bank of TVMs at the bottom of the ramp and buy my return ticket for $11.50 also back to High Bridge, might as well get a free ride to one of the 5 stations I’m missing on the Raritan Valley Line on my way back. This TVM has the new gives bills back to you reader, I’m low on cash but I will have to try it on my next trip. I’m also nervous that tickets are perhaps date specific and my connecting ticket from Friday won’t be accepted. My North Jersey Coast Line train comes in early at 9:59.
I board and the conductor puts a middle punch on my ticket. I get a seat check with 20 punched in it. That’s the fare zone of Long Branch. We leave on time at 10:02 and slowly take the outside track by the lumber yard outside of the station. I see the Raritan Valley Line diverge at Hunter and we take the local, outside track out of Newark.
10:08 – Pass a long-term parking lot and enter Newark Airport. We leave at 10:09.
We continue running slowly, I assume because were behind the scheduled 9:55 train (it left at 9:56) that makes the same stops as my train in addition to North Elizabeth.
- 10:13 – slowly bypass North Elizabeth
- 10:15 – stop at Elizabeth, a northbound Northeast Regional Passes through. We barely pick up speed but finally increase a little bit, past the FABCO school bus yard and a northbound Acela.
- 10:21 – Linden, pass the industry with a former train yard. One track has a catenary wire with wooden poles. We slowly continue
- 10:24 – Rahway on Track B, the outside of the island platform, quite a few people board, as we make the station stop a southbound Acela and Northeast Regional zoom by.
- 10:26 – Pass the Union Tower and very slowly switch down and off the NEC in a concrete walled underpass tunnel. We pass the Rahway Itlaian American Society, a school bus yard, then huge scrap yards along both sides of the tracks, including one scrapping trucks. The industry continues with a chemical plant
- 10:30 – finally leave industry to still leafless trees and houses as we bypass low-ridership Avenel and over another railroad line.
- 10:31 – a track diverges to a grade as we ascend onto the viaduct/embankment for Woordbridge with its island platform. I notice a uniformed conductor sitting in one of the platform shelters. We leave and I enter new trackage for me.
- We crossover the NJ Turnpike, I notice the Outerbridge crossing off in the distance. Then an abandoned truck yard. We nearly stop, between the drums of a large chemical plant with plenty of bare earth mounds and the factory for Luxury Tile and Stone.
- 10:37 – We very see the tracks of the former CNJ’s Perth Amboy and Elizabethport Branch, the ROW clearly once had two tracks.
- 10:39 – come to a stop under NJ-440, the approach road for the Outerbridge Crossing. They announce were waiting for a train to pass because of single tracking south of us do to construction. I open DepartureVision and find the 10:36 train to Perth Amboy is still 4 minutes away. The lateness is even major enough to be a North Jersey Coast Line service advisory. It also has a planned boarding trains for the outbound track at Perth Amboy only.
- 10:47 – another announcement to please be patient
- 10:49 – The northbound train finally passes us. Then the ex-CNJ track finally switches onto the remaining two tracks (there were once four into Perth Amboy). It’s current name is the Chemical Coast Line.
- Were moving again at 10:51 down the wide ROW that once was four tracks. We reach another interlocking with a freight track that comes down from the surface. I believe this is an industrial lead.
- 10:53 – Perth Amboy. The station is in an open cut with low-level platforms built over the former outside tracks. There is a nice historic station house with a Spanish Style roof and connected overpass. It’s a stop I can’t wait to explore
We pass a few tail tracks used by the rush hour more industry, some with industrial lead tracks. This is followed by a cement plant. Then across the two track wooden decking River Draw bridge over the mouth of the Raritan River at its estuary into Raritan Bay.
We then arrive in South Amboy with a modern high-level platform, at a grade, accessed via an elevators overpass. I notice a few on platform waiting rooms with signs saying their open until 6:30pm, a ticket office is open mornings.
We leave South Amboy and pass a historic station house and cross our first grade crossing of the day at John Street, slowly passing the construction equipment that is causing the single tracking to occur. The tracks used to relay a few trains here from New York during rush hour I notice. We pass a baseball field and new houses. This is followed by Marshland and then a hug of the ocean with views of the waves breaking on the sand.
- 11:03 – Roads cross and we go over Mogan Creek
- 11:04 – Back in civilization passing houses and then more trees and mashland. We finally regain full speed, over grade crossings, pass more houses.
- 11:06 – Go over the Garden State Parkway, more marshland and into Aberdeen-Matawan that the Interior displays on the MLV abbreviate. It has high-level side platforms connected by a grade crossing at their northern ends. There is a small stub track and yard south of the station.
- We leave cross the Garden State Parkway again along with more houses.
- 11:10 – Hazlet, two high-level side platforms with a fence between them and only shelters along the platform. There are grade crossings at each end of the station. We leave passing simple houses and a trailer park.
- 11:14 – Pass the Holmdel Fire Department Fire House and a northbound train passes again. The scenery is trees with modest houses between them.
- 11:15 – houses and a parking garage for a large building, its AT&T Labs.
- 11:16 – notice a gimmicky wooden covered bridge across the tracks we have descended into an open cut
- 11:17 – return to grade level into Middletown with a nice stone station house just before the two high-level platforms. The southern end of the platforms have their own underpass to provide access to the station’s large parking lot. We leave Middletown passing trees and more houses.
- 11:20 – regain speed, go over a roadway with railroad tracks parallel to it The NWS Earle Track. Pass a cemetery, anther grade crossing before we return to houses. Over more water.
- 11:21 – Finally cross the Navesink River and into Red Bank at 11:22. It has a wonderful, old victorian station house set back from two high-level platforms. Its in the center of town. There is some commotion from a passenger getting off with a cane. The conductors end up grabbing a bridgeplate. We finally get the bridge plate away and leave at 11:27, 22 minuets late. The seat checks are collected, we pass a yard with some concrete ties and an old stainless steel baggage car inside. We return to a grade, passing houses.
- 11:30 – Little Silver with two low-level side plaforms and grade crossings at each end of the station. There is a nice stone station house. It looks like its a restaurant now. The conductors having a slight issue they talk over the PA “Door Lights Third or Second?” We soon leave, a line of cars waiting to cross Oceanport Avenue. We continue over grade crossings and the small Parkers Creek.
The automated voice announces ‘The next station is Monmouth Park’ this train only stops there on Fridays during racing season. We cross Oceanport Creek and another grade crossing.
11:34 – bypass tiny Monmouth Park, just a gravel platform that has a shelter, pass some more houses. The whistle is blaring.
We go over grade crossings and into Long Branch with its high-level island platform. The last car needs to walk forward. We arrive at 11:38, the diesel shuttle down to Bay Head is waiting across the platform. Lateness
I board the diesel shuttle and just two cars are open. We leave at 11:41, I sit in the last car a Comet VI. The few open cars of this train make it quite loud, unlike the MLV ride that my trip has been on so far. The windows are also quite dirty (there isn’t a car wash at Long Branch or Bay Head) unlike my previous train that I have a feeling might have just gone through the car wash at Sunnyside before my trip. We leave the Long Beach platform, pass the Long Beach yard and go over a grade crossing. The catenary ends a few blocks south of here. The conductor comes through, my ticket is collected, no seat checks. A northbound shuttle train soon passes us. We pass houses and subdivisions.
- 11:44 – Elberon, two high-level side platforms with a modern station house on the platform. No posted station hours. The line is two tracks and continues at a grade, passing a sewage treatment plant and more small houses. I can’t believe how filthy the windows are. No photos on this trip.
- 11:48 – Allenhurst, tow low-level platforms. There is a two story modern, brick building. I notice a small plexiglass walled, station house/waiting area outside the building. We go over Deal Lake and back to a grade. The towns on the Bay Head Shuttle are more numerous then the northern halve of the branch and basically flow together. There no sections of rural trees or marshland.
- 11:52 – Asbury Park, two high-level staggered platforms, were in the center of a city. The station house is a modern 1970s brick building combined with the bus station for the Asbury Transportation Center.
- 11:54 – Bradley Beach, two low-level side platforms with a nice brick station house, now a restaurant.
- We pass a lot full of ice cream trucks and continue through the towns of the North Jersey Shore
- The train starts wrong-railing and we follow NJ-35 over the Shark River. We pass the back of the Belmar Mall with a sign for railroad passengers.
- Noon – Belmar, on track 2, the normal northbound track. There are two low-level side platforms. There is another station house turned restaurant with a waiting room open 5:00am to 9:00am Monday to Friday.
- 12:02 – Wire making industry along the side of the railroad line. Then the workers an equipment preforming the track work, requiring single-tracking through here.
- 12:04 – pass a school and more houses. We wrong-rail into Spring Lake with two low-level side platforms. There is a nice, large station house. The waiting room is open Monday to Sunday until 2:00pm. We then pass lakes and continue through the towns of mostly modest, many old homes.
- 12:07 – across some more water Look Up and a park with what looks like the former station house of the now discontinued Sea Grit Station. Then a parking lot covered with solar panels.
- 12:09 – Manasquan. The station that lacks a real platforms. Passengers must walk across the ballast (piled higher on the track they must cross since we arrive on the outside track) to a modern station house that’s mainly a large retail building with a canopy covering benches (on a sidewalk outside of it). There is a small waiting room inside but its now only open 4:30 to 8:30am. We continue passing by more houses.
- 12:12 – The line becomes single tracked as we cross over the Manssaquan River, the only stretch of the North Jersey Coast Line that is single-tracked. After the swing bridge portion of the bridge the line becomes two tracks again as we continue across the large estuary.
- 12:14 – we take the correct, right hand track into Point Pleasant Beach with two, modern side platforms with a small brick station house that had its ticket office closed last October.
They announce the vestibule of only the front open car will open for the terminus of Bay Head, I walk up there as we arrive at 12:17 (the schedule says 12:25, Point Pleasant Beach 11:59, there is an extreme amount of padding). I step off the train that has stopped with the one open door leading down to a grade crossing.
There is a small low-level platform and waiting shed for inbound passengers. The train lets everyone off and leaves to run around a loop track into the train yard. I walk into the passenger parking lot and get quite a few photos of the train yard. There is a clear separation (with giant no trespassing signs) between the employee parking lot at the entrance to the train yard (with quite a few buildings) and public parking lot with more signs saying the passenger station is one block north. I walk back up to the passenger station and notice bare wooden blocks were TVMs once were. Bay Head as had its TVMs removed for some reason.
I start walking north and up to Point Pleasant Peach, I photograph the northbound and next southbound Shuttle trains from local grade crossings in view of the Point Pleasant Beach Water Tower.
I then walk up to the Point Pleasant Beach Station and to my dismay have just missed the photo opportunity for the modern waiting room (it closes at 1:00 thought it was 1:30).
I get a photo essay of the modern station anyhow and decided to speed walk up to Manassaquan, wanting to make the 2:19 train, since the next train isn’t until 4 after that. I have a nice walk over the bridge of the Manassaquan River.
I get a quick photo essay of that odd station with the ballast before my 2:19 train arrives. I board the train with only the front two cars open to passengers. They already feel crowded. I notice the smaller windows of the Comet IVs immediately.
- 2:23 – Spring Lake with the nice historic station house.
- 2:26 – pass a baseball field and vacant lot to interrupt the flow of small houses.
- 2:27 – Pass the Belmar Water Tower and some NJT MOW equipment still working on the tracks and enter the station. This direction I notice a boarded up with murals on the panels shelter on the southbound platform. Single tracking is still occurring here.
- 2:29 – Cross the Shark River on a low bridge.
- 2:31 – Park Steel, then old warehouses between regular houses before we come into the Bradley Beach Station. The station house is now occupied by ‘Back in Time’ cafe. Leaving we pass some NJT owned ballast cars on two siding.
- 2:34 – Asbury Park, quite a few people get off, more though get on, the bus station is still open although I know the NJT Ticket office has closed. I also notice going this direction for the first time an enclosed staircase that leads down to a pedestrian tunnel in the middle of the southbound platform that I assume leads to an underpass up to the main station building. There is a wheelchair getting on and we leave at 2:36 with the bridgeplate. A southbound train passes as we go over some more standing water.
- 2:39 – Allenhurst, our seat checks get collected and someone boarding at Asbury Park has forgotten to buy a ticket and is charged the $5 fee. We pass a preforming arts center and more houses, the grade crossings continue
- 2:44 – Elberon with new looking high-level platforms, I don’t notice any hours for the empty waiting room.
- 2:45 – Enter a bit of an open cut passing a construction project (not railroad related), over some more water.
- 2:47 – Long Branch School and the beginning of the catenary system. A MLV trainset is heading up to the opposite side of the island platform alongside us, our connecting electric train.
We arrive into Long Branch–(4 Photos) 2:49 and see both conductors finding bridgeplates although only one is needed so the wheelchair passenger can transfer. I know I have a few minutes and get a few pictures of the high-level island platform with the grade crossing over the eastern track before the western track ends at the end of the platform. Everyone transfers and my next train feels more quiet with many more cars open to passengers. Clounds are now moving in, it starts to drizzle as I relax in my MLV. At least I had good sunshine this morning.
I hear a bike boarding and beeps of the doors at 2:55 as we leave. We go over the grade crossing north of the station. The conductor comes, punches my ticket and I get a ripped seat check since I’m getting off at NWK.
- 2:57 – switch over to the correct track and gain speed passing houses. The electrified portion of the line feels much more high-speed with the stations spaced farther apart and fewer towns
- 2:59 – The automated voice says This Station Stop is Monmouth Park as we zoom through the little station.
- 3:00 – cross Parkers Creek and Oceanport Creek
- 3:01 – Little Silver, don’t get a better view of the hours for the station house, half of it is a restaurant at the two low-level side platforms.
- 3:03 – Leaving we pass a siding to a lumber yard and I see a women leaning on the crossing/signal box, smoking a cigarette. We keep passing houses and it starts really drizzling, I’m happy I didn’t wait for the 4:00ish train.
- 3:06 – Pass a transfer and a small yard before we enter Red Bank with two side platforms. My second view of the station house reaffirms that I need to make sure I visit when the building is open.
- 3:08 – Leaving Red Bank we cross over the wooden bridge of the Navesink River. The area becomes more wooded passing Poricy Park.
- 3:11 – See the parking lot before the platforms as we enter the modern high-level platforms of Middletown. It’s pedestrian underpass looks neat. A single level southbound train enters.
- 3:13 – under the covered railroad bridge
- 3:17 – Hazlet wit the conductor interrupting the automated announcement. There are two high level side platforms but no station house noticed.
- 3:20 – see the packed parking lot first before we come to a stop at Aberdeen-Matawan. 6:00am to 2:00pm I notice are the hours of the ticket office on the modern high-level platforms. I find the abbreviation on the in car signs amusing.
- 3:22 – Leaving Aberdeen-Matawan pass a green victorian building across from the tracks I wonder if its a historic station house? We cross over Matawan Creek. Then make good speed past an abandoned factory and the Aberdeen Township Water Tower.
- 3:24 – Trees, a modern subdivision then older houses.
- 3:25 – Slow down over marshland and another Movable Bridge at Morgan. We get the nice ocean view with houses across the tracks from us designed to look down and over the ocean.
- 3:27 – The siding used by the South Amboy Short-turns and some MOW equipment. It looks like a concrete tie installation is going on. We slow down significantly.
- 3:29 – come into South Amoby, passing the historic station house before coming to a stop at the new modern island platform. I notice ‘modern amenities’ like the bathroom doors directly leading outside the station and the different waiting areas. We leave and I hear the doors recycle twice. They then announce Perth Amboy and to use only the doors where you see the steps.
- 3:32 – slowly leave South Amboy and go under a railroad track.
- 3:33 – The scenic crossing of the mouth of the Raritan River into Raritan Bay. Then pass the Gerdau Ameristeel factory with its railroad sidings.
- 3:35 – Perth Amboy, a train passes us also in pull mode like my train, its all single-level cars. The loops on this branch and at Sunnyside Yard mean there is no consistency to the direction the push-pull trains face, unlike the trains to Hoboken which always have the locomotive on the outbound end.
- We go down the originally four track ROW. A freight spur joins us, we go under the highway that leads to the Bayonne Bridge and I have the ex-CNJ main line diverge, a Norfolk Southern mixed-goods freight train is currently running along it, mainly of graffiti covered box cars. We then pass the refinery and the junk yards.
- 3:40 – over the NJ Turnpike and into Woodbridge at 3:41. We leave at 3:42 and I notice a parking lot sign has fallen down. We keep passing the suburban houses.
- 3:43 – over the single freight track of the Port Reading Line and bypassing Avenel
- 3:44 – pass another huge scrapyard and metal recycler
- 3:46 – pas Gore and see the NEC that we slowly rise up to enter. No tunnels through the flying junction since we want the easternmost track.
- 3:57 – At Linden the Silver Meteor heading southbound comes through with three sleepers and I think 5 Amfleet-II coaches. Just one HHP-8 for power. My train is much slower on the outside track of the NEC.
- I briefly doze off (its that time of my train riding afternoon) as seat checks are collected before Newark Airport.
- 4:02 – Its slow oving on the NEC and I notice a train of Arrows also stopped. We pull into EWR at 4:03, there is a crowd of like 20 people boarding. I notice the station lights are now on.
- It’s another slow trip into Newark-Penn Station through Hunter where the Raritan Valley Line joins us. Southbound trains keep passing us. We stop above the streets of Newark. An Amtrak AEM7 comes up alongside us, we start moving again first.
- 4:11 – the end of PATH, I get ready to get off.
We arrive into Newark-Penn Station at 4:13, 7 minutes late. The AEM7 that came up behind us is Amtrak train #186, it soon arrives on track 2.
The PATH ride is another fun cat and mouse train arrangement, going through Harrison we pass an Amtrak Keystone stopped and my very North Jersey Coast Line train, followed by another inbound to Penn Station train all waiting to continue into Penn Station. I need to take the 1 train to run an errand and decide I might as well transfer at Grove Street. I do and the ride through the northern tubes, through the tunnel to Christopher Street is uneventful although I notice a Port Authority cop not in the Christopher Street station but on the street standing outside the entrance. Aren’t New York City Streets the realm of the NYPD, not PAPD?