With an equipment move funded entirely by donations from rail enthusiasts, the world’s last surviving U34CH, owned by the United Railroad Historical Society, has been delivered to Boonton, NJ for restoration.
This move completed Stage One of “Project U-Boat,” the URHS’s fundraising campaign to restore Erie Lackawanna 3372 to operation.
On October 29, the Morristown & Erie Railway, under contract by the URHS, moved Erie Lackawanna 3372 from the New York & Greenwood Lake’s yard in Passaic, NJ to West Boonton Yard, the URHS’s restoration facility.
“We owe a big thank you to everyone who has donated to make this move possible. Now that 3372 is home in Boonton, we can give it a full mechanical evaluation, continue fundraising, and schedule a plan for operational and cosmetic restoration,” said Steve Gerritsen, Vice President of Operations for the URHS.
3372 had been stored in Passaic since 2000, when the Morristown & Erie delivered it to NY&GL. While the locomotive has remained in good shape structurally, vandals have cut out and stolen several of its traction motor cables. This expensive damage prompted the URHS to remove the locomotive from NY&GL property, and a fundraising campaign was implemented in October of 2013.
By March of 2014, the URHS had reached its $2500 goal to rescue engine and bring it to the URHS facility at Boonton Yard. In August, the Morristown & Erie Railway was contracted to carry out the equipment move.
The rescue required operating over the former Erie Dundee spur, which is the NY&GL’s mile-long branch through Garfield and Passaic. This branch is most notable for its right-of-way which runs down the center of Monroe Street in Garfield. The line has not seen any traffic in more than five years and has been minimally maintained. URHS volunteers spent several days clearing the overgrown portions of the line in addition to making the necessary mechanical repairs to move 3372.
On the day of the move, Morristown & Erie dispatched both of their Alco C-424s, 18 and 19, to bookend the U34CH for the return trip to Boonton. The M&E has trackage rights on NJ Transit’s Morris & Essex Line, Main & Bergen County Lines and Montclair-Boonton Line. With pilots from NJT and NY&GL, the locomotives were able to successfully perform the operation which utilized over 60 miles of track.
The route was made up almost entirely of territory which was originally served by the U34CH on Erie Lackawanna with the exception of the “Montclair Connection.” This was a seldom seen freight move for this portion of the line, and a first for the U34CH.
The locomotive was pushed into the yard by the M&E and was positioned behind the shop where volunteers can evaluate it mechanically. The goal of the URHS is to restore 3372 to operation and return it to its original NJDOT/EL blue, red, and silver paint scheme so that it can be used for excursion service in New Jersey.
URHS President Larry Gross said, “This move would not have been possible without the cooperation of all four participating railroads: Morristown & Erie, NJ Transit, New York & Greenwood Lake, and Norfolk Southern. We also have to thank the many supporters who have donated to fund what we have done so far. This restoration project would not be possible without the continuing financial support of the countless U-Boat fans from New Jersey and beyond.”
The URHS intends for this project to be funded primarily by the support of local rail enthusiasts with an interest in the U34CH. Donations can be made to this restoration effort at URHS.org. The URHS intends to host an open house fundraiser during which Boonton Yard and 3372 will be open to the public for tours.
The United Railroad Historical Society of NJ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization governed by 15 New Jersey-based railroad preservation groups. The mission of the URHS is to build a railroad museum in the state of New Jersey to house its over 60-piece collection and to raise funds to restore and protect the collection until a permanent site can be acquired.