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New Jersey Herald - July 14, 1966 issue
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Freeholders Join Move to 'Freeze' Rail Lines Along Abandoned Route

Newton--Even before the final train was scheduled to pull out of Newton last night (Wednesday) the hue and cry to save the railroad for the future industrial, recreational and agricultural growth of Sussex County was heard in Trenton and Washington.

The announcement by the Erie Lackawanna Railroad that it was taking immediate advantage of a recent Interstate Commerce Commission ruling permitting it to abandon all freight and passenger service north from Andover Junction to Branchville, the Sussex County Board of Freeholders, the Town of Newton and Mayor H. Grant Leonard of Andover Township planned action aimed at "freezing" removal of the tracks in new efforts to retain service.

"No Foresight"

Officials and individuals, both commuters and users of freight facilities of the railroad, charged that the action of the ICC and the Erie Lackawanna Railroad in abandoning service at a time when Sussex County was on the brink of a gigantic population, economic and industrial explosion showed a "complete lack of foresight" on the part of the federal agency and the railroad.

The action by the Sussex County Board of Freeholders was spearheaded by freeholder Francis Lockburner who brought the matter top the attention of the freeholders at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Lockburner, who had ridden a special excursion on the last regularly scheduled run from Hoboken to Branchville on Saturday, called on the freeholders to "find a way to keep the line going."

"Must Keep Service"

"We must take whatever action we can to help continue this vital service. We must get on the record to keep the tracks down so that the service, if necessary, can be utilized by others," Lockburner said.

Lockburner charged both the railroad and the ICC with 'lack of foresight" in allowing the lines to be abandoned "at a time when a spur line to the site of the proposed Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Tocks Island Dam would provide a boom both for the railroad and the county."

Lockburner said that Stroudsburg Pa., "could well become the rail center to a vacationland expected to be visited by 10,000,000 persons a year by this action."

Freeholder-Director Denton J. Quick agreed with Lockburner's statements. Quick reviewed the actions of Sussex County and the Town of Newton in attempts to prevent the ICC from allowing the Erie Lackawanna application for abandonment.

"I think we should reiterate our stand to 'freeze' the rail lines as they are and follow up on this with appeals to Gov. Richard J. Hughes, our federal representatives, U.S. Senators Harrison Williams and Clifford Case, to Congressmen Frank E. Thompson and William B. Widnall, to State Sen. Milton Woolfenden and Assemblyman Douglas Rutherfurd and and to officials of the state highway department.

"We feel that the pride of New Jersey should be maintained. There should be available rail transportation to the Tocks Island Area where 10,000,000 persons will flock ever year. The retention of rail service is also vital to the agricultural and industrial interests of Sussex County."

Freight Use Increasing

Quick mentioned specifically the freight use of the railroad by the American Urethane Company. Lockburner also added that many large cattlemen and grain dealers rely on bulk freight deliveries for their stock.

Mayor Leonard, appraised of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad intention to abandon all service, issued a statement in which he labeled the action "deplorable."

"We are endeavoring to get good, clean industry into Sussex County to offset high property and school taxes. We can't do this if the state and federal agencies permit abandonment of our freight and commuter lifeline.

"One of the greatest selling points to the investors who purchased the Andover Industrial Tract on the Stickle Pond Road was the railroad siding lines available for future industrial sites.

"In the past two years several large companies have been interested in the area for erection of huge warehouses which would provide good sound ratables. They wanted this area because it was near their big city markets. But without a railroad, I doubt if they will continue to be interested," Leonard said.

On Monday night, the Newton Town Council released the text of a letter it had sent to Gov. Richard J. Hughes urging the governor to "consider the rail needs of Sussex County, presently, and in the future, in conjunction with your plan to rehabilitate commuter lines with state and federal monies."

Seeks Funds

The letter, signed by Mayor Edward L. Hicok, added that "we hope some of these funds may be allocated to the rehabilitation and maintenance of all rail service into Newton."

Hicok's letter said that the Town of Newton "is vitally interested your plan to use federal and state monies to rehabilitate commuter rail lines in New Jersey." The letter continued:

"Recently, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved the abandonment of all rail service, north of Andover Junction. Previously, the Public Utilities Commission approved the abandonment of passenger service into Newton.

"As the county seat of Sussex County and the gateway to the proposed Delaware water Gap National recreation Area we believe rail service (both passenger and freight) should be maintained into Newton. Freight service has been increasing on this section of the Erie Lackawanna as industrial and commercial growth has taken place here. WE believe the railroad has completely overlooked the present and future freight demand into Newton.

"Since our highways are now heavily burdened and will be overloaded as more automobiles are produced and purchased, we believe rail service in this area is a necessity. Over 10 million visitors annually are expected to visit the new National Recreation Area. Many of these visitors, coming from New York City and environs, will not have automobiles.

"If nothing more constructive can be accomplished, we believe the tracks and right-of-way should be retained for use in the future. Highways are not being improved rapidly enough in this area to meet future needs. mass transportation, by rail, if not needed now, will be a necessity in a few years."

Farewell...Last wave from the last car on the last Saturday afternoon run through Newton to Branchville, and August Van Vooren of Lincoln Park, rear collector does the honors as the train leaves Branchville station on its way back to Hoboken]

[WITH REGRETS...Ernest Roy of the Roy Company, who has depended on the railroad for 40 years, shares a good-bye handclasp with the engineer, John O'Malley of Budd Lake, as the Saturday afternoon train makes its last stop in Branchville. Sussex County Freeholder Francis Lockburner, who represented the county on the last leg of the trip, looks on.]