The Star Ledger - August 5, 2004 issue
('In the Towns' Section)
He Hikes Rail Bed, in a Quest for
by Jim Lockwood
Dave Rutan of Franklin likes to hike
a trail in Sussex County in search of old "bones." Not
real ones, but rather remnants of the Sussex Branch of the former
Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.
The railroad, which began in 1854,
had its last train run in 1966, and the last of the rails were removed
by 1977. The rail bed that remains is known as the Sussex Branch
Trail, which today is part of Kittatinny Valley State Park in Andover
Township. The "rail bones" are things like mile posts,
surveyor markers, telegraph poles, footings for signals, foundations
of related structures and remains of train turntables. Often hidden
or obscured by overgrown brush or trees, they can be easily missed
by unknowing or less observant eyes. But they are there -- tangible
links to a railroad that once provided passenger service on a 20-mile
stretch between Netcong and Branchville.
Rutan has created and maintains a Web
as a memorial to the Sussex Branch railroad. He periodically conducts
short hikes, about 2 miles one way, along sections of the trail.
On these walks, he points out the bones to his fellow hikers and
takes time to stop and talk about history.
"I do it basically to share what I research," Rutan said.
"I call it my concrete and weeds tour."
He has no special connection to the
railroad--and "no real great
explanation" for his interest in it. Rutan got hooked several
years ago after noticing various dirt trails intersecting roads,
and found out they were the old road bed.
Married with one daughter, Rutan, 40,
works as a draftsman. A native son of Sussex County," he is
now also a local railroad historian specializing in the Sussex Branch,
and also has authored several articles for Railroad Model Craftsman
magazine. "It's a hobby that has become an obsession,"
he said with a laugh.