The collection of railroad rolling stock destined for the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center is owned by the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey (URHS). Since the URHS is made up of representatives from most of the New Jersey railroad interest groups, it is logical to state that these groups commonly own the rolling stock in the collection. The common ownership requires that decisions made as to what or how items in the collection will be restored and how much can be spent on these various items must be made by majority approval according to the URHS by-laws.
The 71 pieces of rolling stock vary in type and condition. They span the years 1899 through 1972 and currently exist in all conditions; completely restored, externally restored, partially restored for operation, restored but vandalized, not-restored.
The first items that were restored for the operation were the “Erie” E8 locomotives, lounge car 5450 (Ex-NYC 37) and the “Lehigh Valley” F-7 locomotives. These items and the eight ex-CNJ (formerly BN) coaches provided us with a viable excursion consist for running excursions. After our successful “Sea Train” excursion in 2000, the insurance requirements for a one-day excursion became unaffordable and we were forced to store most of the excursion equipment.
All maintenance, cosmetic and mechanical is the responsibility of URHS. Since the two operating E-8 locomotives require new wheels, an expensive replacement, and the fact that the McGreevey administration all but “killed” the Transportation Heritage Center, there is no monetary support large enough to sustain the operation of these items.
Ex-NYC 37 lounge car and three coaches have been leased to Cape May Seashore Lines with the agreement that they will be maintained in good condition. The two LV F7 locomotives and the CNJ GP-7 and PRR GP-9 are also leased to CMSL under the same conditions but also require an annual payment to URHS. The two Ex-Erie SW-9’s were both under lease until recently when NY&GL ceased their operations thereby releasing Erie 436 and NJDOT 3372 back to us. SMS Rail Services has leased SW-9 Ex-Erie 438 which is used by them. They also have “B&O 412”, the ex-USN VO-1000 and NYC 9121, the FM H-12-44 on their property. The M&E bobber and two Rahway Valley 70-Ton diesels are leased to the Whippany Railway Museum which is successfully restoring and maintaining them. This type of arrangement is being sought by URHS on an ongoing basis to ensure additional restorations by others.
Most of the above are roller bearing equipped rolling stock and suitable for interchange with NJ Transit or other railroads. These carriers do not accept friction-bearing rolling stock.
Many rail buffs have questioned this organization as to why we haven’t restored some of the older equipment, such as the DL&W or PRR MU cars or the CNJ Blue Comet coaches. The CNJ 1172 and 1173 coaches were leased to Southern Railroad of New Jersey, a shortline in south Jersey many years ago in return for their restoration. Unfortunately, the railroad has not had the where-with-all to proceed with the restoration. These cars have Sharon couplers and movement of them over Conrail requires the special blessing of management. Unfortunately, these friction-bearing cars now reside in south Jersey and moving them to a northern location by rail would be cost prohibitive at this time, especially since we have no final home for them.
The friction bearing equipped DL&W MU cars have weathered so poorly that it would take more than our financial resources just to completely restore one car, which if operational, could only be operated on a shortline. This would not provide enough seating for Santa trips or other seasonal rides without pairing them with modern cars. URHS has received a quote from a professional restoration firm of $50,000 per vestibule to restore just the vestibules to acceptable standards. The whole car would cost about $285,000. These cars require so much metal work that it is prohibitive for our organization at this time. The PRR MU cars have dated aspects now outlawed by the FRA and therefore their movement requires a special dispensation. We are searching for “homes” for some of the items in the collection that are duplicative.
There just isn’t enough “bang for the buck” to spend the hard earned monies all at once on one piece without the existence of a museum (Heritage Center).
When a permanent Heritage Center location exists with tracks for storage and a small building with water and electricity, then it would be worthwhile to restore an older piece or more. It then could be displayed and protected from the elements. Because we have no alternatives (no buildings to house equipment), URHS stores the equipment out in the open, exposed to the weather.
In 1991, the URHS became aware that one of the two Twentieth Century Limited observation cars, the Hickory Creek was available. We realized the historical value of this car and the importance of its preservation, even though it never ran in New Jersey. Since there was a scarcity of round-end observation cars in the northeast and the potential of fundraising that could be accomplished through the use and rental of it, URHS traded another unimportant car for it. Due to the Hickory Creek’s historical value, a TEA-21 grant was awarded in 1997. Work on this car began in December 1998 and its cosmetic restoration was completed in 2002. The Hickory Creek was completed and Amtrak certified in 2005 and is currently being maintained and operated by Star Trak Inc.
Through government grants, we are currently restoring E-8, F-7 and GG-1 locomotives, plus PRR baggage and coach cars and a NYC tavern/lounge car.
The URHS empathizes with some of the opinions of others who do not participate in these efforts. Therefore, we urge you to make personal sacrifices, as we do, to devote your energy to helping us make the decisions on the items in the collection. You can become involved by contacting or joining one of the URHS member groups and by making it known that you are volunteering for equipment preservation. Your voice in the member group will be transferred to the delegate to URHS who will voice your group’s opinion at a monthly URHS board of directors meeting. Many of the groups support the rehabilitation of specific items in the collection. If your “favorite” item is not being addressed, create some interest in it and form a volunteer party to work on it. A work session once or twice a year is better than nothing, but much more can be accomplished by a group of volunteers working more frequently. A diligent team of regulars is necessary to restore or maintain any of the rolling stock items in the collection. If monetary donations are more in line with your preferences, make a donation to URHS to be used for a specific equipment item and that amount will be reserved for future application to that item.
In order to support our administrative costs, we sponsor or participate in other ventures, such as EastRAIL and train shows and whatever else we can do to bring the message to the public and gain a “few bucks”. Without large monetary donations or an endowment, we must continue to “do what we can” with minimum funding.
So, please work with us and reflect on the positive aspects of what has been accomplished. URHS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Donations can be sent to URHS, 104 Morris Avenue, Boonton, NJ 07005-1314.
Last updated October 5, 2013