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Railfanning the North Jersey Coast Line

NJ Transit GP40PH-2B 4204 leads train 4351 across Shark River between Avon-by-the Sea and Belmar, N.J., as seen from the Route 35 bridge on July 8, 2018. The early afternoon view looks northeast toward Avon. Russell Sullivan photo

Railfanning the North Jersey Coast Line

June 2020By Jason Bialecki/photos as noted

Trains have been calling on the North Jersey coast since the New York & Long Branch Railroad bridged the Raritan River in 1875. Rails reached Bay Head Junction by 1881.

The NY&LB was renowned for being one of the last bastions of Pennsylvania Railroad steam, with the final trip of a K4 made November 4, 1957. Photographers remained attracted to the line as Central Railroad of New Jersey operated its rare Baldwin Double-enders for a few more years, and Pennsy deployed its Sharknose A- and B-units on the line until the mid-1960s. Afterwards, fleets of E7 and E8s graced the rails under PRR, Penn Central, NJDOT and NJ Transit ownership.

There have been several fine books and numerous magazine articles on the history of the NY&LB, and its present day incarnation as NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line. This feature will primarily explore the many photographic opportunities along the scenic line from Long Branch to Bay Head, including its stations, causeways and bridges. Rather than turn-by-turn driving direc-tions as furnished in some Railpace Train Chase Guides, we present detailed, street-level topographic maps to assist you in finding the best photo locations. Due to congested roads, even in the wintertime off-season, chasing is out of the question, but with frequent service, particularly on weekdays and during summer weekends, there is plenty of action to record after you “set up” at a desired location.

PRR Point Pleasant

Little remains of this September 1957 scene at Point Pleasant, N.J., on the New York & Long Branch, which was located on the west side of the tracks. The Pennsylvania Railroad Baldwin “Sharks” are gone, as is Railway Express Agency, the original Point Pleasant station, and the vintage ‘57 Oldsmobile and ‘49 Cadillac (with fish tails). Pin-striped Shark 5772 leads the 1:15 p.m. Sunday train to New York Penn Station as passengers wait to board. The GP7 is not m.u.’ed with the Sharks due to control system differences. Jack Raymus photo

For the purpose of this feature, we refer to the line as “north-south” as did the New York & Long Branch, to accurately describe its geographic orientation (see NY&LB schedule at right). NJ Transit today designates the Coast Line as east-west (with east toward New York Penn, and west toward Bay Head), belied by the fact that north of Long Branch, eastbound trains head primarily west-northwest most of the distance to Rahway, where they join the Northeast Corridor to turn east towards Newark and New Yrok.

Because schedules change to accommodate ridership growth during the summer, it’s best to print out the current NJ Transit schedule for the North Jersey Coast Line, which can be found at njtransit.com

June 2020Read the rest of this feature in the June 2020 issue of Railpace Newsmagazine!

This article was posted on: May 22, 2020