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New Jersey Herald - July 14, 1966

COMING 'ROUND THE BEND...And into Newton, this was the Saturday afternoon regular run that grew into a special farewell trip for railroad buffs and others concerned about the loss of railroad service.

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"Last Trips" Draw Nostalgic Crowds

No. 1015 pulled into Newton last night (Wednesday) for the last time with what was probably the greatest number of passengers it has carried for lo! these many years.

By the same token, No. 1061 made its last round trip from Hoboken to Branchville on Saturday {July 9} with about 75 railroad buffs aboard to mark the passing of an era, the end of all passenger and freight service on the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad to Sussex Branch points beyond Andover Junction.

No longer will No. 1025 announce its departure from Newton at 6:40 each morning Monday through Friday, its whistle summoning what few straggling commuters are left to the line. And some time this morning, as the last official act of abandonment, the Sussex Branch will be closed off by spiking a cross tie across the tracks just beyond the junction with the Lehigh and Hudson Railroad at Andover.

All Service Stopped

Newton, the county seat, has lost its commuter trains. Branchville, once the terminal for hundreds of vacationers who spread out from the railroad station to the many lakes in the vicinity, has lost its week-end rail service from Hoboken and, of more significance today, the freight service on which many businessmen still rely.

Ernest Roy of The Roy Company in Branchville explained that much of his merchandise comes in carlot bulk. "I have been using the Erie-Lackawanna for the past 10 years for freight service to my feed elevators in Branchville," he said. "I have no idea what I am going to do now that the service has been discontinued."

Roy explained that he buys soy bean meal, linseed meal and gluten feed by the freight car load and stores it in elevators until it goes to bins and is used out. Truck delivery on such large bulk purchases, he says is not practical because it is too long a haul from the source to the market.

Need Still Seen

 "We still have need of a freight line in Sussex County," Roy went on, "We are hoping that something can be developed. We hope that they don't tear up the tracks immediately and that possibly some private operator will take over."

"We have two or three prospects as operators of the line and we'll know by the end of the week if any of them are really interested in keeping this thing going--but I'm doubtful."

As railroad service has dwindled bit by bit in Sussex County, attempts have been made to get groups or individuals to buy the lines and continue operation, but as yet nothing concrete has developed. So, for the first time in over a century, Sussex County, which once welcomed the railroads as a means of developing its potential, is without passenger train service.

It was in 1854 that the first passenger trains began service to Newton. And as recently as 1911, the county--and the nation-- hailed as the "engineering feat of the century" the completion of the Lackawanna Cutoff which cut across the lower end of the county.

Sic transit gloria Mundi!

But the glory of the railroads still lingers in the hearts and minds of some men--and women. About 75 of these dedicated railroad buffs, along with officials who are seriously concerned about the abandonment of railroad lines, got together to make the last Saturday run from Hoboken to Branchville a memorable one.

First And Last

For the first time--and of course the last time to all intents and purposes--a main line engine was utilized to pull the four cars along the Sussex Branch line. A dining car was added to the train for the occasion, perhaps in an attempt to add a festive note to an otherwise nostalgic event.

Instrumental in arranging the trip were Louis Budd, Jr. of Newton, who is planning director for Passaic County, and Thomas Tabor, chairman of the board of public transportation in Morris County, both active workers in the attempt to retain railroad service in their areas.

Sussex County Freeholder Francis Lockburner met the train as it pulled into Newton station and boarded it for the remainder of the trip to Branchville. En route, he discussed the situation with Budd, Tabor and William Whitehead, who at one time was actively interested in buying up another abandoned line in the county.

With week-end passenger trains now only a memory, and the nostalgia of the Saturday trip still fresh in their minds, a group of Newton residents banded together yesterday, the last day of the commuter service between Newton and Netcong, and drove to Netcong to make the final trip back to Newton on No. 1015.

The Railroadians of America, Inc. who sponsored the last trip of No. 1061 on Saturday to "honor the death of a train", issued a statement on the trip that ended on a rueful note:

"It is interesting, if not significant, that the Erie Lackawanna Railroad should wish to get rid of the line to Branchville just in advance of the construction of the mammoth Tocks Island Federal Project, which during the period of construction will require thousands of tons of material, and after completion is expected to have as many as 1,500,000 visitors on summer weekends. (It is possible that, if the matter had been put up to the Federal Government, it might have, as part of the Tocks Island Project, paid for extending the Sussex branch from Branchville to the dam and recreation areas.)"

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