August 2014: The official homecoming move for 3372 is under contract with the Morristown & Erie. Upon successful brake inspection, the railroad will establish a date on which one of their two Alco C-424 will make the trek from Morristown to Passaic. The engine will be taken down the Dundee Spur to the Bergen County Line to make the trip to Boonton Yard. We will bring you more details on the move when they become available!
March 2014: We have reached our $2,500 goal for phase 1 of Project U-Boat! We received many generous donations ranging from a few dollars to a few hundred… and even one that was $1,000! The URHS’s U34CH will be moved to Boonton NJ as soon as we conduct the proper tests and explore our pricing options. Phase 2 means it is time to raise funds to make the locomotive operational! That also means incentives and rewards for those who have donated, and those who plan to. Stay tuned, and as always, we sincerely thank you for your support!
What is Project U-Boat?
Project U-Boat is the URHS’s mission to restore Erie Lackawanna 3372 to operation. 3372 that the last servicable U34CH left in existence, and it is owned by the URHS of NJ. A recent review of the organization’s motive power revealed that 3372 is the locomotive closest to potential operation. However, that disposition could change quickly. The 3372 is stored on a former lessor’s property, prone to vandalism and damage. Although it has been untouched for several years, vandals recently broke into the yard and stripped the locomotive of many of the copper cables from the electric motors. That damage may cost a significant amount of money, and more damage may render 3372 inoperable forever. The URHS needs your help to save the last U-boat, before restoring it to operation becomes out of the question.
OUR GOAL: is to bring our U34CH back to a safe location to restore it to operating condition.
Everyone wins by supporting the URHS. Here is what you can receive for supporting Project U-Boat!
Free Project U-Boat T-shirt
All of the above plus
your choice of one of the URHS’s several NJ Railroad prints
See the URHS store for choices
All of the above plus
a personal tour of Boonton yard
This includes an experience which will not be open to the general public: a tour of the inside and outside of 3372.
T-shirt, print, yard tour, and…
a free ticket aboard the NYC 43 on the next URHS excursion
T-shirt, print, yard tour, and…
a free ticket aboard the Hickory Creek on the next URHS excursion
About the U34CH:
The U34CH represented a landmark in passenger train operation. It is truly the “last of the first of its kind.” During the late 60’s and early 70’s, passenger trains were nearing the end of an era. Aging equipment, heated by steam, could not stand up to the demands of changing technology. Across the country, these older cars were being replaced with newer, electrically lit and heated cars, powered by car-mounted generators or individual power cars. At that same time, the Erie Lackwanna was dealing with an ever aging fleet of coaches and MU’s that dated back to the late teens and twenties. When the NJ Department of Transportation took over passenger service, they used an ingenious new idea to modernize the fleet.
The result was an order of new “Comet I” coaches from Pullman-Standard, and 32 U34CH locomotives from General Electric Co. This was the first time in the evolution of modern passenger equipment that locomotives and cars were ordered together to work in tandem. The new coaches would be powered by electricity delivered from a new type of generator in the U34CH. The drive shaft from the locomotive’s 16 cylinder motor would go entirely through its main generator, which powered its 6 traction motors, and go into a generator used exclusively for powering the train. This meant that, to power the cars, the engine always ran at a full 960 rpm, the equivalent of full power. This made for a locomotive that was not only powerful and efficient, but exceptionally distinctive, characterized by its consistent roar both stopped at stations and at speed.
The U34CH, and its corresponding passenger car fleet, pioneered “push-pull” operation of trains in New Jersey. Today, all commuter trains in NJ run in this manner. The U-boats represented the turning point in New Jersey railroad history, as they bridged the gap between the first generation diesels from the pre-Conrail era and the modern head end powered passenger equipment of today. The story of New Jersey railroading would not be complete without including the U34CH, which is why the URHS finds it imperative to save the last one in existence.
About the restoration:
The URHS knows the U34CH has a dedicated following of railroad enthusiasts who remember seeing these locomotives first-hand. This is why we have called upon you to help us. Many have asked the URHS why this locomotive has not been restored and this is your chance to help make that happen! Please donate whatever you can to help 3372. It has been said that “many hands make light work” and if many contribute what they can, the U-Boat fan-base can make quick work of seeing 3372 in action!
The URHS sincerely thanks you for your support.
Click the Pay Pal link above to donate!
If you prefer donations by mail, they can be sent to our Boonton Yard office at:
United Railroad Historical Society of NJ Inc.
104 Morris Avenue, Boonton, NJ 07005-1314
C/O Project U-Boat
You can also reach our office phone at (862) 345-6642
The URHS is a 501(c)(3) not for profit educational organization
The URHS has decided to take on a number of projects that will certainly make a big splash in the railfan world. The first is the moving of the last remaining U34CH from where it has been stored in Passaic NJ to the restoration yard at Boonton. The engine began life at Erie Lackawanna 3372 and ended its day to day service life at NJT 4172. The engine will be evaluated for possible return to service although this time in excursion service. If you would like to donate to help restore the engine you can visit www.urhs.org and click on the donate button.
The other big project for the spring is to get Reading F-7, #284 ready to be moved to Spencer NC and the Streamliners at Spencer event being planned for May 29 th through June 1 st by the NC Transportation Museum. For more information you can visit: http://www.nctrans.org/Events/Streamliners-at-Spencer-%281%29.aspx
The URHS will also begin selling T-shirts depicting EL 3372 and Reading 284, plus we will be reissuing their very popular PRR 4877 GG-1 shirt that sold out in one day at last year NJ Transportation Heritage Festival. In the future they will be releasing a brand new shirt featuring the NYC Hickory Creek. Watch the URHS web site or www.vratrips.org for links to order any of these shirts.
Future plans for this summer call for the repainting of NYC 4083 back into its unique NYC Century Green colors. This is one of only 3 engines ever to wear that color scheme and is the only remaining one of those 3 to exist. Once this engine is completed it will certainly be one of the most talked about engines in the rail preservation world and will be sure to draw lots of people to see it at the next Heritage Festival.
Speaking of that, the next NJ Transportation Heritage Festival is scheduled to be held on September 21 st and will feature not only the 4083, but also the other restored equipment in Boonton and maybe a surprise visitor. Add to that the antique trucks, buses, military equipment, fire trucks and numerous historic presentations by area rd historians and the 3 annual Heritage Festival is sure to be a hit.
Plans are in the works to run the Hickory Creek and NYC 43 on more public excursions with the feature trip being planned to go to the Train Expo 2014 in Owosso Michigan in late June. For more info about the event visit: http://michigansteamtrain.com/expo-2014/ Other trips will likely be day trips to Albany and maybe even Washington DC. Please watch the regular web and social media site for more details as they become available.
The last bit of big news is the donation of DLW 3453 to the Walkersville Southern in Maryland. The 3453 is a 1912 club car that the URHS got from NJT with intentions to at least cosmetically restore it. Years of sitting out and the lack on restoration funds had taken its toll on the car and so when the WS asked if they could acquire the car and restore it to operating service the decision was made to donate the car to them. It was loaded on a trailer and bogey and left Boonton Yard on Friday February 7 th .It was quite a sight watching the car roll on rubber tires up Morris Ave on its way to its new home and will be an even better site when we see it operating once again, this time in Maryland and in a dinner train consist.
I cannot wait to buy my ticket. Visit www.wsrr.org for more on the WSRR and its operations.
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.
Among 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.
Many 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.
The 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.
Several 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!