Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

The Binghamton Ferry

NY harbor is known as the birthplace of steam ferry travel. The first successfully recorded operation of a steamboat ferry was the North River Steamboat, operated by Robert Fulton, which ran from NY to Albany starting in 1807. Four years later, regular ferry service began running to and from Manhattan. Before rail tunnels under the Hudson were established, the railroads terminated in Hoboken, making ferry travel vitally important for anyone attempting to reach NYC. Nearly 400 different double ended ferries operated in the NY harbor during the 19th and 20th centuries, with a peak of 150 ferries actively operating in the early 1900’s. This webpage offers a detailed look at the history of ferry travel across the Hudson and has many pictures of the steam ferries in operation.

The Binghamton was one of 6 steam ships run by the Hoboken Ferry Company, a subsidiary of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. It was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Company at Newport News, Virginia and was launched on February 20, 1905. The ferry operated from 1905-1968, traveling 2 miles from the Hoboken Terminal to Barclay Street, a twelve-minute journey. She was able to carry nearly 1,000 passengers as well as vehicles. The Binghamton is what is known as a double-ender, meaning cars could drive in one side of the boat and exit from the other. This made for increased speed and efficiency of loading and unloading passengers.

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Photo courtesy of “Burger International Photography at http://www.burgerinternationalinc.com via flicker

In 1907, the first of two rail tunnels under the Hudson was completed. By 1937, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, as well as the George Washington Bridge, had opened up making automobile travel into the city much easier. With these developments, the need for steam ferries diminished and by 1967 the ferry run was closed down. However, ferry service would return to the Hudson river in 1986, with the introduction of the NY Waterway. Small diesel powered boats began runs from Edgewater, Hoboken and Weehawken and now are regularly used by commuters trying to take advantage of lower rents in Hudson and Bergen County.

The Binghamton’s second life began when the Erie Lackawanna Railroad sold her to Edward Russo, who planned to convert her into a restaurant. Russo planned to open for business in 1970, but the waters surrounding the pier took a long time to dredge and a tugboat strike caused further delays. Russo would eventually find himself unable to find a suitable person to run his restaurant and he sold the Binghamton to its next owner, Ferry Binghamton Inc. On February 28, 1975 the ship was moved to her current location and opened as a restaurant later that year.

The restaurant featured a popular nightclub and it operated successfully until 2007. Then it was sold to private businessman Donald Kim, who planned to renovate the Binghamton and re-open it. Despite the completion of nearly a million dollars in repairs, damage was spreading faster than the repairs could be made. Kim soon found himself in a lengthy battle with the town of Edgewater over code violations and fines. The expense of the repairs and time spent fighting the town allowed the damage to reach a tipping point and finally, in 2011, Kim filed for a demolition permit.

The impending demolition caused a great deal of consternation due to the Binghamton’s placement on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Register of Historic Places (granted on July 9, 1982). By the summer of 2012 the Binghamton had deteriorated enough that it was actively taking on water. The side that faced the river had nearly been destroyed. Kim decided to sublease the existing pier to another developer who planned to scrap the Binghamton for salvage, including the steel hull, and bring in a new boat to be used as a restaurant.

Then in October 2012 came Superstorm Sandy. The already weakened ship was no match for the intense flooding and winds that Sandy brought. During Sandy, the entire boat was under several feet of water. Pieces of her bow broke off and floated to shore.

Here is a Flickr set of pictures taken after Sandy.

Here is a Video made during Superstorm Sandy.

This news report from CBS news clearly shows the damage done to the river side of the boat.

The following pictures of the Binghamton and immediate surrounding area were taken by Corrine Gehegan, a local podiatrist whose office is next to the Binghamton. They were taken approximately 3 days after the storm had passed and flooding had subsided.

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To add insult to injury, a fire broke out on May 19, 2013. There was no damage to the boat, only the pier and dock that extended from the river walk to the ferry. At that time, Kim restated that he planned to demolish the boat. As of August, 2013 nothing has occurred. The boat still sits there, its bow slightly below the water line. When the demolition finally comes, it will be a sad end to a famous and historic ship.

I visited in spring 2013 and entertained thoughts of entry. Aside from the pier being completely unsafe, you could tell from 100 yards away that the boat itself was completely unsafe. One wonders if it can be safely towed, or would it break into pieces? Below are pictures I took in June, 2013.

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Here is another video about the end of the Binghamton ferry.

More pictures and info are available on the Binghamton Ferry Facebook page.

Waterloo Village

Waterloo Village is situated alongside the Morris Canal, in Byram Township. It was once a 70-acre rural farm community. More recently it functioned as a historical society, teaching visitors about the history of the area, the early European settlers and Native Americans, and the Morris Canal. Over the winter, 2013 I drove by Waterloo Village, not knowing for sure if it was open or if it was abandoned. I knew that for years it had been closed and had read somewhere that it had reopened, but there were conflicting reports. At the time of my visit, there was no one there except for a few people walking their dogs. We took some pictures and left as it seemed obvious that the Village was not abandoned but was closed for the winter. Upon coming home I researched the Village for this blog entry.

All my pictures from Waterloo Village can be found here.

The retreat of glaciers from northwestern NJ 15,000 years ago left a fertile landscape, which combined with an abundance of wildlife and rich natural resources to make a desirable living area for early humans. The area was first inhabited by Paleo Indians around 8,000 BC, followed by the (Munsee) Lenape and Delaware Indian tribes. European fur traders arrived in the 1600’s with colonization to soon follow. The colonists would start mining iron and soon many forges were creating metal goods which were transported on waterways. One such waterway was the Morris Canal, opened in 1831 and running from Phillipsburg to Jersey City. Barges carrying numerous goods were towed by mules on paths alongside the canal. To accommodate changes in elevation, loches and inclined planes were incorporated into the canal.

After the Civil War, in the late 1860s, a significant amount of transportation business shifted from the waterways to the railroads. Traffic declined noticably along the Morris Canal and so did the population of Waterloo Village. By 1900, sometimes only one boat would use it in an entire year. The canal closed down in 1924, its utility eclipsed by the modern railroad. By the time of the Great Depression the Village was totally abandoned.

Due to its close proximity to local rail stops, hobos found the town a good place to stay and they protected it from vandalism through the 1930’s and 40’s. In the 1960’s, Percival H.E. Leach and Lou Gualandi spearheaded an effort to preserve the village. Slowly the village was restored and it would eventually become incorporated into Allamuchy Mountain State Park.

A non-profit organization, The Waterloo Foundation for the Arts, was established and enabled the two men to raise the funds necessary to not only restore the village, but also to offer classical and pop concerts that brought in additional revenue. By the mid-1980s, Waterloo had become a popular destination for performing artists and there were hopes that an amphitheater would be built and would become the summer home of New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Waterloo Village was at its peak of popularity when Lou Gualandi died in 1988. Following his death came numerous questionable moves by Percy which would eventually lead to his ouster as head of the non-profit. The size of the crowds drawn by the concerts overwhelmed local roads and strained relations with local towns. A land swap deal which allowed the construction of BASF headquarters created a furor among historians and those dedicated to preserving the area. New management brought in during the 1990’s downsized the concerts, and by the 2000’s the state had grown even more leery of how the site was being managed. The non-profit received in excess of a million dollars in funding from the state of NJ from 2000-2005, but by 2007 the state funding was cut entirely and the village remained closed after the 2006 season. Control of the Village was turned over to the NJ DEP Dept of Parks and Forests. The only part to remain open to the public was the 150 year old, independently operated Waterloo United Methodist Church.

Historic Waterloo Village partially reopens after 2006 shutdown, citizens group to fundraise for park’s future nj.com article

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    Waterloo Village today

PROGRAMS AND TOURS:

Winakung at Waterloo Heritage Program is a collection of different educational interpretive tours that incorporates elements of the Lenape Village Program and Waterloo Canal Town Program. The Lenape Village program re-creates an old Native American village named “Winakung”. Visitors learn about Native American life before and after European colonization. The village includes a wigwam and a longhouse as well as activities including crafts, games, interactive activities, and storytelling. Every Thursday, the Village is open to visitors for a tour. The tour visits the blacksmith and gristmill where visitors learn about the importance each played in the history of the Morris Canal. Visitors can shop in the store and learn about items commonly bought by 19th century shoppers. Additional hands-on activities allow both adults and children to learn about rural farm life on the Morris Canal.

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Popular Waterloo Village Events

Waterloo Canal Day – Held annually in late June early July – for information call 973-875-2068. A two-day music festival featuring as many as 15 different bands on two stages, comprising of country, country rock and bluegrass. Proceeds go towards restoration efforts at Waterloo Village.

Canal Heritage Days – Second and fourth Saturdays July-October. Admission free. Guided tours are provided of the village, the canal, the blacksmith shop, gristmill as well as NJ Canal Museum. In addition boat rides on the canal are offered.

Highlands Festival at Waterloo, September. An environmental festival featuring local food and music, with a focus on the arts, history, cultural and natural resources of New Jersey.

You can learn more about Waterloo Village and the Morris Canal at the Friends of Waterloo Village webpage.

iphone app helps jersey drives avoid traffic jams

There’s now an iPhone app to get traffic updates about various NJ highways. What’s cools about the Trumpit service (aside from the name which is terrible) is that you can set it for alerts and when they come in, you press a button and the audio is played, for hands free use. It’s just one more feature from the 511 website which is really a must visit for anyone who travels the turnpike, GSP, 287 or any other major highway. One feature of both the site and the app is travel time. it’ll tell you the time it will currently take to travel from say exit 82 to exit 38 on the GSP (toms river to AC) and its updated every few mins.

My only question is when is it coming out for Android?

I think there’s a vacation in Cincinatti in my future….

Apparently there’s a really neat abandoned subway system in Cincinatti….

Edison’s Concrete Road



In the late 1800’s the best highways and roads were in Europe. The US State Depts 600 page report confirmed this and determined it was because of government action in European countries that made them of higher quality. In all Europe the best roads were in France, thanks to the planning of Napoleon. Quality roads, they said, helped make their economy strong. “All roads in France receive perpetual attention. Roads in America receive perpetual inattention” it said. Congress, however, disputed the study however, and little was done to implement a federal government role in road construction and maitenance for the next 20 years.  In 1908, France held the first international Road Congress, where methods of road construction and maitenance were  discussed. In 1913 a report was again commisioned and it stated that “the resultant organization would assume very large proportions.” In 1915 the committee recommended a federal aid program, but warned against concentration of control in Washington as well as concerns about pork barrel projects.

When Americans soldiers traveled French roads in WWI they experienced French roads first hand and were envious. Modern society was grappling with the issue of cars using roads designed for horse & carriages. Thomas Edison was a friend of Henry Ford & Harvey Firestone and noted that “I have have traveled over 4,000 miles of French roads built by the central government, and kept in perfect repair. I note with pain and humiliation the horrible mess made by us in our road building, arising from dense ignorance.”

Concrete and asphalt would become the future of the modern road. Concrete is created by combining sand or crushed stone with a binding agent.  There are various types of cement, and one of the earliest was Portland cement. Edison became infatuated with concrete and began exploring it’s uses for homebuilding, as furniture, and for roads.  Not much is known about Edison’s attempts at using concrete. He was responsible for the building of the first concrete road in the US. Located in Franklin Twp, NJ it was built in 1912 happen for another 30 years…

The Germans made great progress in roadbuilding, and after WWII Dwight Eisenhower was inspired to built a large national intrastate highway system which gave us such highways as route 80 and route 95.

trolley graveyard is no more

Some time during the summer most of the trolleys, cars and buses were hauled off by persons unknown. A local neighbor says about 2-3 days were spent with cranes, flatbeds and dumpsters, cutting up the pieces of the old hulks and disposing of them. He’s not sure who it was, why it was done or even who owns the property. These are probably the last pics anyone will see of the Trolley Graveyard… they were taken a few months before the wrecks were hauled away on a return trip I had made to the trolley graveyard.

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The Trolley Graveyard

The Delaware Valley Short Line Museum was dedicated to both trolley cars and railroad cars and from what I’ve read their collection was fairly large. Located in Tansboro, NJ at some point in the late 60’s they decided to move to Jobstown. Unfortunately for the museum owners, they never bothered to consult with the town. When the town found out what the plan was, they established some sort of an ordinance that forbid the museum from operating.

My information is sketchy but apparently the owner split into two groups: the Penn’s Landing Trolley line, and Buckingham Valley Trolley.  Some of the museum pieces were shipped to Philly, but most were left in Jobstown, unprotected. Eventually they went bankrupt, and the pieces at both the Jobstown site & in Philadelphia were eventually destroyed thru a combination of weather,  arson, and vandalism.

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Paulinskill Viaduct photos

Also known as the Hainesburg Viaduct, the Paulinskill Viaduct was built in 1909. It was (at the time of its construction) the largest viaduct of it’s kind in the world. The seven arched span is 1100 feet long and looms 115 feet above the roads, trees and river below. The Lackawanna Railroad was considered an engineering marvel as they built concrete overpasses rather then allowing for crossings, and built giant trestles rather then creating steep inclines to go over mountains. Read more here. It is part of the same line as the Byram Ice Tunnel and was the line that replaced the Manunka Chunk line, because it was shorter then Manunka Chunk and had fewer steep grades..

In the 1960’s the rail line was closed, and the rail beds torn up. It was neglected until the late 80’s when the State acquired it and the nearby land and added it to the state park. Of course going up top isn’t exactly encouraged mind you, safety and that kind of stuff. In May 2004, a man fell to his death and drowned in what is being labeled as an accident and possible suicide. Recently there are reports that there are now no trespassing signs posted around the PV.

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If you go up this makeshift ladder you’d encounter some metal rungs which would lead you to a shaft which would lead thru a poop encrusted tunnel which would exit to the top of the structure. We didn’t use them because they looked rickety, and because getting severely injured 3 weeks before your wedding was not acceptable.

A turn by turn driving guide that lets you see all the various overpasses.

There are plans to resurrect the old rail line to carry commuters into NYC according to this article.

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Group pushing to restore train service to Flemington

It may happen with help from the federal stimulus package

It’s been nearly 50 years since there was daily train service from Flemington to New York. Many of the tracks in this onetime rail hub, which saw 55 trains come and go in a day, were ripped up to make way for condominiums. Faced with congestion on Routes 78 and 202, Hunterdon has become the latest northwest New Jersey county to turn to history to solve a present-day dilemma. A task force of influential local community leaders, who nicknamed their group the “traveling circus,” are touting the idea of restoring passenger rail service from Flemington to New York City. “We don’t think we’re dreamers,” said Bob Benjamin, a lifelong resident of the Flemington area who included the town’s name in the title of his business, Flemington Furs. “We’ve got something very special here, something very real, and we will continue to work hard at it.”

The group met this month in Somerville with the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition and is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority in Newark. They envision commuters taking a train from Flemington to Three Bridges to Bound Brook, then to New York. The group acknowledges that their plan is at least 10 to 12 years away and their proposal is in the caboose, well behind other northwest Jersey plans to restore commuter rail service to Andover in Sussex County and Blairstown and Phillipsburg in Warren County. The Andover and Blairstown train would eventually head west to Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, while the Phillipsburg train would end up in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

Under the Flemington proposal, a commuter would board a train at a station to be determined, perhaps at Liberty Village, Turntable Junction, Hunterdon Cut Glass or Hunterdon Village. The train would travel four miles along the Black River and Western line to Three Bridges, then travel 18 miles along new commuter rail tracks next to the Norfolk Southern line, where it would connect to the Raritan Valley Line in Bound Brook. Benjamin estimates a trip to Manhattan would take about 90 minutes in a bright train, a much easier commute than riding in a crowded bus.

He said the cost estimate is $1 million a mile for the new track along the Norfolk Southern line, for a total of $18 million; $550,000 per mile to upgrade the four miles of Black River and Western track, for a total of $2.2 million; and $20 million for a train station. The group hopes to secure federal and state money and contributions from the rail lines. Benjamin said the plan makes sense for Flemington because the rail lines and rights-of-way are already in place. “We envision a county seat with a rail system equal to its great history; a thriving Main Street with a great deal of foot traffic and excitement,” Benjamin said. “We see property owners investing in their homes and buildings because of the return in doing so. We see buildings that are in desperate need of repairs being replaced with beautiful new ones. We see increased real estate values and real estate values holding steady during difficult times, because the commuters will want to live and work in a town that has a commuter rail system.

“And we see citizens taking these trains, our trains, to Yankee Stadium, museums, theaters … concerts and parades. And, of course, we see fewer cars, less pollution and waste of fuel. This is what believe is the future.” He said using commuter trains would make better economic sense than expanding Route 202 and maintaining 15 more miles of cars. But he acknowledged it would take a great deal of effort and political will for the project to progress. Benjamin said that even though New Jersey has no funds available until after 2011, “What we have to do is position ourselves so that we are there when funds do become available.”

“The President Obama plan for creating jobs is all about rebuilding infrastructures,” Benjamin said. “In a populous state like New Jersey, that means investing in rail.” The Flemington group has the support of Hunterdon County Freeholder Matthew Holt. We in the state of New Jersey have got to recognize that transportation infrastructure is not solely about roads and bridges,” Holt said. He said 10 or 20 years ago, there was a mass population of drivers from Pennsylvania traveling to New York City. Today, he said, only about 6 percent that cross the border end up in New York City and close to 50 percent go to Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris or Mercer counties.

“Right now, what does not exist is the ability for anybody on the western side of the state to do anything but get in their cars,” Holt said. “And long range, that costs us money in roads and bridges and maintenance.” Somerset County Freeholder Peter S. Palmer, who chairs the Raritan Valley Rail Coalition’s board of trustees, said that without the ability to build new highways or railroads, the way to go is to better utilize existing rights-of-way. “So almost any of these (passenger rail) ideas will make more and more sense as time goes by,” Palmer said. New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner Stephen Dilts said the department would be open to hearing more about the Flemington passenger service proposal. But he cautioned, “It’s early. There are a lot of coordination issues that need to be worked out before it becomes anything more than a concept.”