View Full Version : PRR E8's on the NY&LB once again..

Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
06-22-2006, 09:17 PM
On Thursday, June 15, 2006, Bennett Levin's restored PRR E8's #5809 and 5711 pulled a a special inspection train for the APTA Scholarship Fund as well as Railway Age's 150th Anniversary. The special ran from Hoboken, NJ to Bay Head, NJ and back on the former New York & Long Branch (a sudsidary of the PRR and CNJ), now NJT's North Jersey Coast Line. All equipment was donated by the Juniata Terminal and the Morristown & Erie, including the two E8's and three private cars from the JT and three cars from the M&E.

Being familar with most of the line south of South Amboy(Raritan River bridge) I had to decide which spots would be ideal meaning scenery as well as lighting. The schedule of the train and the angle of the sun worked beautifully together for the majority of the line. I picked South Amboy, Red Bank, and Point Pleasant Beach as my top 3 priorities for the southbound run and was undecided about the northbound run. I had been to Red Bank numerous times as well as PPB, but I have never explored South Amboy for a shot of the bridge over teh Raritan River. On June 9th I took a ride to the area to look for a parking spot as well as a way to the river's edge without trespassing on private property. The only location that fit both of these required wading through mud and chest high water plants and God only knows what else in that area; I decided that was no good. I drove further along the river and found a gravel road/driveway to a number of businesses along the shore. I asked to speak to the owner of the business closest to the water, but was told to come back next week. I went back the following Monday and told one of the men (not sure if he was the owner) that I would be back Thursday to shot a special train over the bridge. All I got was a look but I took it as a "yes...I could care less" so I left knowing that would be my first spot. Being confident in my chasing abilities (even without prior experience) I decided to get the train crossing the bridge in South Amboy, jump on the Parkway and beat him to Red Bank and again on to Point Pleasant.

The night before my family set up a calling system to warn each other that the train was past each of us. My cousin, Mark Kielczynski, who was shooting the train in Elizabeth would call me after it passed him to warn me in South Amboy. I would then call my dad (Red Bank) and my brother (Point Pleasant Beach). Since I was going to be chasing my dad was to call me after it passed Red Bank so if I wasn't there yet I could keep moving south.

After hours of watching the weather showing partly cloudy skies and studying maps, I left the house and arrived in South Amboy at 2:50PM in a light drizzle. By the time I got out of the car the sun was shining and the sky was blue with grey clouds to the east. I told more guys what was doing there when I walked past, now with tripod in hand, two cameras around my neck and two lenses in my pockets and they just wished my luck. I walked to the old boat launch behind the business closest to the water and set up for the shot. As my cousin called to tell me it had passed him a northbound NJT train was crossing the bridge so I told him I'd call him back. When I called bakc he said that they had to stop at 'DOCK' for some reason giving me another 10-15 minutes before it would show up. NJT train #2303 was the train scheduled ahead of the special came 4 minutes after hanging up with my cousin.
More clouds moved in from the west occasionally casting shadows on the bridge and scaring me that the shot would be ruined. Finally, with the sun lighting up the scene, the two Tuscan beauties popped out from behind the trees across the river going about 25-30mph. The slow speed gave me time to telephoto across the river, switch lenses, and shoot a wide angle of the consist.
Luckily, I had parked on the public part of the gravel drive as the one business had blocked their driveway with a large forklift. After running back to the truck, I threw my cameras in the backseat, took off for the Parkway entrance, threw my 70 cents [towards]in the 'net' and the chase was on. I made good time to the exit(109) for Red Bank but had missed the turn I needed to get to the Navesink River bridge. As I was taking the jug-handle to get back tot he road my dad called giving me the news that I hadn't made it. It was back to the Parkway for me to try to get to Point Pleasant Beach before the special. This time a State Trooper was getting on two cars behind me so I decided to stay back until he was out of site. That was slow down #1. Nearing Exit 98 for PPB, traffic started backing up and I jumped off and took an alternate route to Rte. 35. Slow down #2. Now on Rte. 35 heading south towards my intended location I saw traffic was backed up at the bridge over the river because it was open to let a boat through. Slow down #3. Over the scanner I heard that NJT 8303 (the southbound special) was clear to cross the river and cringed angrily when I heard the horn of them for the crossing just north of the bridge, as we were still stopped on the bridge. I had missed that shot as well so now I just continued the 2.2 miles to Bay Head. The train had already taken the loop by the time I got there so I walked along the sidewalk to shoot them as they paused for a few minutes. My dad and brother arrived about a minute behind me to witness the PRR E8's back on their old stomping ground again.
As they pulled the train forward we each jumped in our cars and went to Brielle to shoot the northbound run. As I looked over the shot that was availble I wasn't sure whether to stay or head further north to Red Bank. Well, the train answered that question for me as it crept into view just as I started walking down the bridge. I ran back to my spot and shot the train as it passed the marina in Brielle.
Before some of the guys on the bridge had even taken their cameras away from their faces, I was clammering down a hill to my truck. The chase was back on to Red Bank. This time I made better time going oppostie the traffic, had no State Troopers in sight, and didn't miss the turn. No more than a second after throwing the car into park, I heard a horn so I grabbed my camera and ran across the road to the Hubbard Ave. bridge(didn't even close the car door completely). Luckily, it was just a southbound NJT train. Now out of pictures on my CF card I ran back to get another out of the car but traffic wouldn't allow me to do that. Knowing a few shots from South Amboy came out underexposed, I quickly deleted them giving me 6 more shots. Just as I got the last one erased I heard the unmistakeable horn of PRR 5809 at the corssings just south of the bridge. Once again my heart skipped a beat as the gorgeous machines crossed the Navesink River Bridge once more until...?
My dad arrived between the two trains and said that would be all for him (my brother headed north to Perth Amboy). I was not done yet and full-out sprinted to the car and had a good laugh when I saw the door open. I went back to the Parkway again until exit 125. I joined my brother at the spot I scouted in Perth Amboy just as the special was half way across the Raritan River Bridge. I still hadn't changed the CF card and now I was completely out of pictures so I quickly went into my camera bag to swap them. I got a little caught up putting the fresh card in and just missed the power on the very north end of the bridge. Slightly rejected, happy and tired I got onto Rte. 9 south to sit in rush hour traffic until home.

A special thanks goes out to Bennett Levin, the Juniata Terminal, the M&E, and of course, NJT for letting this amazing event happen!

I would say my first solo chase didn't turn out so bad. Thanks for reading and/or viewing, hope you enjoyed!

06-23-2006, 12:24 AM
Bennett has a photo contest. Perhaps you should enter.


Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
06-23-2006, 12:41 AM
I've already been working on the CD, thanks!

06-23-2006, 01:10 PM
great report Andrew.when i were reading it i were feeling that im railfanning with you there.i like the pics specially the third B&W shot.
thanks for sharing and keep these great reports coming.

06-27-2006, 02:23 PM
Great shots Andrew. I'm jealous. I wish I could have gotten back up to NJ for that. My grandmother lives right along the line in Sea Girt so I could have covered any of the stations in that area.

06-27-2006, 04:56 PM
Great shots and report, Andrew! I cant wait till I drive (one year to go), that way, I can take myself railfanning!!!! :-D