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New Jersey Herald - July 2, 1967

Gone, But Not Forgotten

In recent days workmen have been busily tearing up railroad track on the Erie Lackawanna right-of-way between Andover Junction and Newton. Somehow we get the idea that the railroad does not plan to use the Sussex County route again within the foreseeable future.

The removal of the rails appears to be conclusive. Passenger and freight service between Andover Junction and Branchville through Newton was discontinued just about a year ago. The action was greeted locally by cries of dismay. County and municipal officials at the time said the action showed a "complete lack of foresight" on the part of the railroad company and the Interstate Commerce Commission, which granted approval. Local officials pointed out the discontinuance of rail service to the heart of the county came at a time when the county is on the brink of a gigantic population, economic and industrial explosion.

But even as the service was discontinued, officials here hoped that something could be done to retain the tracks and roadbed for possible future use. Then there was some talk that an effort was being made quietly to interest entrepreneurs in taking over the rail line for local operation, but still tied in with the main line railroad. Now, with the rails gone, the last hope of saving the line evaporates.

What is to become of the right-of-way and roadbed? Will the county or state become interested in it for highway development? Will it be bought up to be used as a right-of-way for gas or water transmission lines as other abandoned railroad lines in the county have been.

Since the state has plans for dualizing Route 206 and building a bypass around Newton, it is possible that the railroad right-of-way might fit in with the improvement plans. The removal of rails might also open the door for the county freeholders to do something at long last about the elimination of the underpass where the Newton-Sparta road makes a right angle turn at drake's Pond to squeeze under the railroad tracks.

Although the railroad service and tracks are gone, there are still some residuary questions that remain. In other words, gone, but not forgotten.