The URHS Transportation Heritage festival is back, and this year’s event is sure to be bigger and better than the last! On Sunday September 21, you can visit the United Railroad Historical Society for a fun and educational day with some of New Jersey’s rare and classic trains. For the third consecutive year, the URHS will open the gates of its normally-private Boonton Restoration Facility to showcase some of its historic collection. Visitors will be able to get up close and personal with vintage railroad equipment and well as visiting classic cars, trucks, buses, and military vehicles. Live music, food concessions, historical & educational presentations, and vendors of railroad-related souvenirs will round out a day that the whole family can enjoy!
For Families: The Transportation Heritage Festival features displays that the whole family can enjoy. In addition to dozens of classic vehicles that will be on display, much of the railroad equipment will be open to go inside. This includes a coach, executive private car, baggage car, and our world-famous Hickory Creek & 43 private rail cars. Kids and adults will love the opportunity to walk through the inside of and sit at the controls of a real diesel locomotive. Purchase lunch at the event, enjoy the live music, and make a family afternoon out of your visit to the yard! For Rail Buffs: This year’s event will feature THREE new restored pieces, as well as equipment that was not on display at previous festivals. “New Jersey’s GG1s” will be on display side by side, posed with two pieces of PRR passenger equipment behind, creating an authentic consist. The one-of-a-kind “Century Green” New York Central E8 will also make its first appearance to the public at the festival as well as the Strategic Air Command troop car. New to this year’s festival will be our Amtrak-Certified private cars, the Hickory Creek & 43.” New Jersey rail buffs will also have their first look at the last surviving U34CH 3327 in the shop for its restoration to operation! See the full list of visiting equipment to the right and read about our newly restored pieces below!
HOURS AND PARKING:
The yard will open to the public at 10 am and close at 4 pm. Photographers are recommended to come right at start time for photos before crowds grow.
West Boonton Yard is located at 104 Morris Ave, Boonton, NJ, which is easily accessible from Routes 46, 80, and 287. Visitors can have the option of taking the 0.3 mile walk from the NJ Transit station at 100 Frontage Road, or riding the shuttle bus from the Boonton public parking lot at 1 Plane Street, just off Main Street.
- From northern New Jersey, take I-287 exit 45 and turn left onto Myrtle Avenue. Continue one mile to Main street. To park at the NJ Transit station parking continue straight – the lot will be to the right. For shuttle bus parking, turn right at Main Street. Continue for one mile and take the first left after the Boonton Avenue traffic light.
- From the central and southern NJ via Route I-80, take I-287 north to exit 44. Turn right onto Main Street. Take the first left for train station parking or continue straight for shuttle bus parking. Continue for one mile and take the first left after the Boonton Avenue traffic light.
About Our New Restorations
There are many reasons to be excited for this year’s festival, but the most important reason is the addition of THREE restored pieces to the URHS collection: US Air Force car 89491, Pennsylvania Railroad 4879, and New York Central 4083. Each of these pieces are historically significant in their own right, and will be sure to impress visitors in their brand new paint jobs.
USAX 89491 was built as a hospital sleeper for the US Army just after the end of World War II. In 1961, it was taken out of surplus storage in Ogden, Utah for use on the Strategic Air Command’s “RBS Express.” RBS stood for radar bomb scoring, which was a drill that the SAC used to score the accuracy of their bomber crews. Rather than practice in one location, the SAC put radar equipment on train cars to run drills in areas all over the country, and even once in Canada. The train was stationed for 45 days at a time and was entirely self sufficient, requiring it to have sleeping quarters, a cafeteria, offices, and lounges. 89491 was used as a “recreation car” for men to use in their down time. It had lounge seats, reading material, and a commissary for men to buy items they needed right on the train. The RBS Express was disbanded in 1971 and the cars found new uses in the armed forces. 5 of these cars were later donated to the URHS by Naval Weapons Station Earle in Earle, NJ. The URHS will be restoring this car to its Air Force blue paint scheme, with the Strategic Air Command emblems on either side. The car is currently used for storage, but will be remodeled for use as an office and lounge and office for volunteers at Boonton Yard.
Pennsylvania Railroad 4879 holds the distinction of being the last GG1 to pull a revenue train in the country. Earlier this year 4879, and its URHS counterpart 4877, celebrated their 75th birthday. Both locomotives entered service with the PRR in 1939, and survived through Penn Central, Conrail, and New Jersey Transit. Come September, “New Jersey’s GG1s” will be reunited in Pennsylvania colors. While 4877 is painted in its as-built 5 stripe scheme, 4879 will be painted in the PRR’s 1950’s “single stripe” scheme. Back in 1955, as it came time for PRR to repaint its GG1s, the railroad opted to simplify Raymond Loewy’s “cat whisker” scheme, which graced the GG1s since 1935. While many railroads at that time were toning down their paint schemes, the PRR chose to simplify their paint jobs in a bolder way, making the “Pennsylvania” text twice its originally size, and adding their updated keystone logo to the side, standing over four feet in height. At September’s open house, Boonton will be the only place in the world where two GG1’s can be seen side by side in their historic appearances.
New York Central 4083 has been called many things… but subtle was never one of them. When the NYC chose to simplify its paint scheme in 1960, the railroad adopted a color which they named “Century Green,” also known by the layman’s term Jade Green. The name came from the railroad’s premier train the 20th Century Limited, who’s famed Hickory Creek is also preserved by the URHS. In 1961, the NYC painted three A-B-A sets of E8s at Croton-Harmon shops, giving birth to the “cigar band scheme.” Three were black, three were dark gray, and three were Century Green. The Central chose the dark gray scheme for its passenger engines, and several freight engines took the black paint scheme, but it is often forgotten that NYC even had a third option. 4083 and its green sister units lasted no more than three years in that paint scheme, as the color was met with “mixed” reactions. Its been described as everything from “loud” and “hard to look at” to “absolutely gorgeous.” Any paint scheme that can gain that sort of attention is certainly worth preservation, and at the Transportation Heritage Festival, we will let you make your own judgement. We’re sure you won’t be able to miss it!
From the point of view of one of the many dedicated URHS volunteers, I can say that the 2013 URHS Transportation Heritage Festival was just as successful as we had all hoped it would be. The event brought just shy of 2000 people to see our collection at Boonton yard and helped the URHS to raise over $5000. From much of the testimony I received, we had exceeded expectations of the quality and improvement of our exhibits. We had 5 of our best pieces of cosmetic restoration on display: NJDOT E8 4253, CNJ GP7 1524, “Reading” F7 284, and PRR GG1 4877. In addition to those, we had Bill McKelvey’s newly restored GE 45 tonner on display, as well as GG1 4879, which is currently being worked on by Star Trak in the shop. The hit of the day however, was the visiting Norfolk Southern heritage locomotive 1074. The replica Lackawanna paint scheme contrasted beautifully next to the GG1’s Brunswick Green, and the two made for a great photo opportunity. It also provided visitors an exceptionally rare opportunity to see a heritage locomotive up close and personal.
In addition to our visiting locomotive, we were lucky enough to have a visit from Tri State Chapter’s Lackwanna caboose. It was delivered behind 1074 and was left open for tours throughout the day. Also open for tours were our CNJ GP7 and our “display train,” an idea that was brought to the open house by the VRA’s own Frank Ball. This was a hit among guests as they had the opportunity to see inside the PRR coach and baggage car, the NJT 1 (Blue Comet’s “DeVico”) and the cab and engine room of Reading 284—a rare opportunity for most guests.
On the night before the open house, we held a night photo session in Boonton yard with the five displayed locomotives.This was well attended, and we sold out the 30 tickets well before the event. This shoot gave us the opportunity replicate a scene the DL&W’s Phoebe Snow (played by the VRA’s Carolyn Hoffman), which made a headline in Railfan & Railroad magazine. The photo shoot, and the open house to follow also provided for a two-page spread in Railpace as well as many submissions to Railpictues.net.
After countless hours of hard work, I was relieved to stop and relax on the day of the event to enjoy our hard work and listen to what visitors had to say. The most common comment I received was praise to the hard work of our volunteers. This trend also continued in comments online after the event. Many were wowed, not by just the appearance of our exhibits, but the improvement over years past. The fact that we, as an organization, received such high praise from such a typically critical audience is something that we can all be proud of. Our hard work, and our correspondence online before the even helped to grow our reach far beyond where it had been months earlier. The event, the buildup beforehand, and the sharing of guests’ experiences afterwards helped to garner support that will be very valuable to the URHS. We hope to continue the Transportation Heritage Festival as an annual event and we hope to continue to continue the trend of improvement and growing support well in to the future.