URHS & WSRR Save Lackawanna History: MU 3453 Hits the Road

Article & Photographs by Kevin Phalon


On the frigid Friday morning of February 7, 2014, Delaware, Lackawanna & Western MU 3453 spent its last day in New Jersey. After a full day of painstaking work trading its steel wheels for rubber tires, this rare 1912 parlor car was ready to hit the road to be delivered to the Walkersville Southern Railroad in Maryland.

The 3453 is one of the only two Lackawanna MU Parlor Cars left in existence. Built in 1912 as Lackawanna club cars, they were converted to MU trailers in the 1930s for operation on the DL&W’s electrified Morristown Line. After spending almost the entirety of its career in New Jersey, it is natural for one to ask why the car might be leaving.

To many, this car may look like scrap metal. To the URHS, it looked like a restoration project that was completely out of financial reach. To Walkersville Southern, it looked like exactly what they were looking for. Walkersville Southern Railroad is a 7-mile non-profit excursion railroad located in central Maryland. Because that the railroad is not physically connected to the national rail network, the WSRR has become quite adept at delivering rail cars and locomotives by road.

In addition to their weekend excursions and special events, WSRR operates a dinner train, which has become a hit with riders. In order to expand this service their only option was to add more equipment, and that need launched the search that led them to the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ.

Lackawanna-3454-Bay-Street-Montclair-8-19-84-Rich-TaylorAmong the dozens of historic railcars in Boonton Yard were the Lackawanna MUs. Both cars had been subject to years of neglect and deterioration. A tap on the side sill of the cars caused rust to rain down much like the very water that cause the damage in the first place. Stairs, doors, and windows were missing, but what was left allowed the dedicated Walkersville volunteers to view what it had in store. Inside, their car’s high ceilings still echoed sounds of its glory days, while the items strewn about the floor showed evidence of an overwhelming restoration project that had long been forgotten. Broken glass dotted the dusty carpet just below the intricate inlaid wood, which had once made the walls and interior so luxurious in the first half of the century.

photo_4Many years earlier, the URHS was given a quote to restore the car that was far out of financial reach for the organization, and would offer little return on the investment. That unfortunately put the cars at the end of a long list of projects, leaving their future in limbo. For one of those two cars however, luck was about to change. After a tour of the cars, WSRR chose 3453 as the car they would like to acquire. In the interest of historic preservation, the URHS agree to donate the car to Walkersville Southern, with the agreement that it would be restored at their railroad and put in to operation. With the agreement in place, it was Walkersville Southern’s obligation to get the car out of the yard, and down to their railroad in Maryland.


This was no simple task, but it was one for which the WSRR could not be more prepared. The railroad hired Daily Express, a heavy haul trucking company that specializes in many types of over-sized loads. In the past, they had moved six other cars for the railroad, even one move for which a road needed to be built to reach its location. On moving day, they brought two tractor-trailers: one to move everything from the frame up, and the other to haul the wheel sets from underneath. Their slogan is “We have a different notion of OVERSIZED,” and they proved it.

On moving day, step one was to attach one end of the car to the tractor-trailer. Inside the URHS restoration shop, one wheel set was removed, and the front end of the trailer was backed underneath. The car was then secured to a rotating plate and was able to pivot back and forth like a typical tractor-trailer. This portion of the move went smoothly but once the car was moved outside, that good fortune changed.

photo_1The scheduled move date happened to be during a harsh winter snowstorm. During the course of the day, the storm dumped about 8 inches of snow and freezing rain on the cars and on the volunteers. Moving the 18-wheeler on the ice meant hauling it from ahead or behind with a truck, tractor, and even a locomotive! With the car in place, a 150-ton crane from Hegarty Crane service lifted the rear end of the car off of its second wheel set and onto the rear set of tires, or the “bogie.” The first wheel set was then lifted up over the fence and placed onto the second trailer. Trouble reared its ugly head when it came time to move the second wheel set. With the car in the way, the crane could not reach the wheels sitting on the rails. With the help of a tractor and forklift, the wheels were derailed, and rolled to where they could be lifted up 20 feet, over the car, and onto the trailer. The two wheel sets were then secured by the driver from Daily Express and sent off to Maryland. Several hours of towing and shoving well into darkness finally got the now asphalt-bound MU out of the gate and ready for shipment.

photo_2Several days later, the MU was readied during for its final day in New Jersey. Daily Express, along with two escort cars, arrived at Boonton Yard in the early morning to prepare the car to leave. Through the generosity of the URHS and the determination of Walkersville Southern Railroad, hours of gruelling work and skilled labor had led to this day, which could only be considered a win for rail preservation. Together, the URHS and WSRR ensured that this car not only survived over 100 years, but that it was also given another 100 years. While the car might only hold dust and broken glass now, it will someday hold dozens of passengers enjoying a four-course dinner, riding through the Maryland countryside. That is an achievement that all parties involved can be proud of, and the URHS is honored to have been a part of it.

This story is far from over. Find the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey and the Walkersville Southern Railroad and Museum on facebook to keep track of the progress!

Help Restore U34CH 3372 update


updated-icon   January 26, 2014 – Just a small quick update on whats going on with Project U-Boat. We will be back working on 3372's air work as soon as we can. The URHS is currently in the middle of a very large project in our yard. (More info on this in about 2 weeks or so). The weather has delayed things a few weeks, but we look forward to getting back to work!

Larry Gross – VP of Operations URHS

Pennsylvania Railroad GG1 4877

            GG1 4877 is one of the highlights on the URHS collection. 4877 began its career on the Pennsylvania Railroad in December of 1939. Over the next several decades is served the Pennsylvania, Penn Central, and New Jersey Transit. When it came time for New Jersey Transit to retire the last of the GG1s, 4877 had the honor of serving as the last GG1 to pull a passenger train in New Jersey. In 1981, Jersey Central RailroadHistorical Society, a member of the URHS, partnered with New Jersey Transit to paint 4877 into PRR's Tuscan red paint scheme, giving it the nickname "Big Red". In October of 1983, it pulled the train dubbed "The Last Run of the GG1." This became the last run of 4877's careen when a breakdown required sister locomotive 4879 to save the train, earning it the title that 4877 would have had. Regardless, 4877 still hold a special place in the hearts of those who saw it traverse the North Jersey Coastline and across the northeast decades beforehand.

            4877 was stored in Hoboken for almost a decade before being donated to the United Railroad Historical Society in 1991. Over the course of the next decade, it was stored under the protection of the URHS until grant money was found to restore it. In 2005, Star Trak Inc. began work on the rust-damaged body. It was not until 2011 that the final coat of paint was applied. The URHS elected to paint "Big Red" into it's as-built Brunswick Green paint scheme to remain true to the locomotive's history. The finishing touches were put on by volunteers in Boonton yard and in 2013, the URHS can call the 4877 project "finshed" in time for the 30th anniversary of the locomotive's retirement.

           While the pantographs may lift, and the headlights illuminate the track, we may never again see 4877 operate in regular service for a miriad of reaons. All GG1s were gutted of key components before being donated due to safety concerns. Even with those parts, GG1s cannot run as-built on modern electrical systems or without modern cab signal equipment. GG1s were also imfamous for experiencing damage to their 35-foot cast-steel frames and have been repaired with more welds than would make them safe by today's standards. Even not in operation, 4877 still makes a beautiful display piece and will be a highlight of the future New Jersey Railroad Museum. 4877 can be see by the public at the yearly URHS Transporation Heritage Festival (September 21, 2014).

Photos of 4877

Hover over to view description.

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Fall Foliage Excursion Saturday October 19th

Fall Foliage Excursion

Come ride in classic style aboard these historic cars from NYC to Albany & back on Saturday October 19th

Tickets — $175 each to ride one car on the trip to Albany and the other on the return trip. $150 each for the New York Central Tavern-Lounge #43

Click for larger view.

Hickory Creek

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NYC Tavern Lounge #43

NY Central Hickory Creek NYC to Albany from Mark Forman on Vimeo.

NY Central Hickory Creek NYC to Albany. from Mark Forman

All pictures of the Hickory Creek and the NYC Tavern Lounge #43 on this page will enlarge when clicked. Go for it!

<– Train Number –>
11:20 am
6:50 pm
11:44 am
Yonkers, NY
12:04 pm
Croton Harmon, NY
5:58 pm
12:43 pm
Poughkeepsie, NY
5:20 pm
12:57 pm
Rhinecliff, NY
5:06 pm
1:20 pm
Hudson, NY
4:45 pm
1:50 pm
Albany-Rensselaer, NY
4:20 pm

PLEASE NOTE: Dress code for these trips will be Business Casual, with a sport jacket preferred for gentlemen. All fares include lunch & afternoon Hors D’oeuvres. A limited number of tickets will be sold!

We will be selling two ride types for this trip:

  • Ride in BOTH the Hickory Creek and NYC #43 combo tickets for $175 each (ride one way in each car)
  • Ride in NYC #43 ONLY tickets for $150.

ALSO NOTE: if you buy a ticket for the NYC #43 you will be able to visit the Hickory Creek, you will not have a chance to stay and sit in the Hickory Creek but you are welcome to come back and visit. You will have your seat reserved in the 43.

New York Central # 43

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Builder: Budd Company, Type: Lounge, Built: 1947, Original Owner: New York Central Railroad, No. 43, Storage Location: Boonton, NJ. History: One of 13 Tavern Lounge cars (Numbers 35 to 47) utilized over the New York Central fleet of long dis­tance trains. After the Penn Central merger in 1965, the 43 was renum­bered (#4443) and served on many trains between New York and Washington DC. Upon the form­ation of Conrail in April 1976 the car was assigned to the North Jersey Coast Line service operated by Conrail and later, NJ Transit. It was retired in 1987 and New Jersey Transit donated it to the URHS of NJ museum collection in 1991. It suffered extreme vandalism while in storage, but has now been comp­letely restored to it’s “as-built” configuration and ran its first trip as an Amtrak cer­tified car from New York to Washington and back on January 9, 2010 and again on January 13, 2010. It is currently available for charter by Luxury Rail Vacations Inc

Tavern area


 NYC – Hickory Creek

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Builder: Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company, Type: 5 Bedroom, Lookout Observation Lounge, Built: August 1948, Original Owner: Pullman Company, Storage Location: Boonton, NJ. History: This car and was christened on September 15, 1948 in Grand Central Terminal, New York City. General Dwight David Eisenhower officiated the celebration of the New York Central Railroad’s rebuilt ’20th Century Limited’ train entering service between New York City and Chicago, Illinois. During it’s 20 years of service, the Hickory Creek graced the rear end of the “most famous train in the world” and was used in advertisements, pro­motions, and Hollywood’s finest movies to reflect a standard of excellence in premier rail travel. In 1968, it was retired and sold to Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey obtained the car in 1991 and contracted Star Trak to rebuild the car to Amtrak standards. Its inaugural trip was run on June 26, 2005 between New York City and Niagara Falls, NY. It is currently available for charter through Luxury Rail Vacations, Inc.






A Night with New Jersey’s Railroads

A Night with New Jersey’s Railroads

The very first URHS Night Photo Shoot


On the evening of September 21 2013, the United Railroad Historical Society will see its long-term goal of a night photo shoot come true, and we would like you to be a part of it! We have a limited number of tickets available for photographers interested in photographing four of our beautifully restored and lit locomotives, plus our special guest: Norfolk Southern’s Lackawanna Heritage Unit!


This photo shoot will be set up and run by Ruotolo Photography and the URHS volunteer staff. All 5 locomotives will have operating lights, and will be lit for both time exposures and flash photography (provided by Ruotolo Photography). Actors and props will be added in throughout the shoot to add character to photographs, and there will be opportunities for unique images in and around the shop. The small group of photographers who purchase tickets will have a casual intimate experience with the URHS collection, and will leave with images they can enjoy for a lifetime!


Tickets are only $20, and will sell fast, so buy yours today! You can purchase your tickets via Pay Pal with the link below. If you have any problem with your purchase, or have any questions, contact Kevin Phalon at KJPhalon@gmail.com. See you at the yard!


Page updated September 17, 2013. ©1987-2014. All rights reserved.