Once the crew has confirmed the crossing protection has been activated, the Susquehanna train crosses the Boulevard in Elmwood Park. Inspired by memories of growing up along the line, author Brian Cronk has taken the essential elements of this branch line and recreated them in HO scale.
Modeling Susquehanna's Passaic Branch
by Brian Cronk /photos by the author
The Passaic Industrial Branch operated by the New York Susquehanna & Western Railroad, originates west of the Passaic Junction yard in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. This branch line was built over a hundred years ago to serve the many textile, wool mills and coal dealers within the large cities of Passaic and Garfield. The line was later extended and industries like a lumber yard, scrap metal junkyard and a large paper and newsprint factory popped up. With the decline of domestic textiles and a fire in the 1960's that took out the Passaic River bridge only a small amount of industry was left. Unexpectedly in 2002 the large paper plant shut down. This marked the end to everyday freight operations.
Presently the line is used for long term car storage and not much else. However all the signaling and cross bucks are maintained which may give the impression of an active rail line. Also, many of the old brick woolen mills are also still standing, just not producing the textiles they once were. It is amazing at how the Passaic Industrial runs litterally runs through everyone's back yards. With the demise of freight traffic, I'm sure the local residents won't mind the loss of a heavy freight train rumbling by during dinner time!
Growing up within a block from the Passaic Branch I remember hearing the horn and feeling the rumble of loaded freight cars slowly making there way back to the main line. Looking out the window and seeing a massive yellow and black GP-18 locomotive towing these giant cars would spawn my interest in railroading to what it is today. As a modeler it is often desired to model every foot of the actual railroad. Of course this is impractical given space limitations. So my desire to model this entire line would be limited. After several field trips to the tracks I decided to only model the current track arrangement. Using actual photographs taken while the Susquehanna trains operated provided me with important details. The use of internet satelite maps and current photographs also aide in the construction of the branch within my limited basement space. It is such a great feeling seeing the railroad back in service. A small piece of my childhood can be re-lived within the confines of my own house.
The Passaic Banch runs through the backyards of Garfield, New Jersey.
A Susquehanna crew momentarily halts traffic on Ray Street in Garfield while making set-outs on the Passaic Branch.
Ray Street in Garfield, with the neighbor's backyards butting right up to the railroad.
The Susquehanna crew shoves their short train across Ray Street.
This spur leads to the lumber yard off Lanza Avenue in Garfield.
As the light fades and turns to dusk, a Susquehanna crew is picking up a car at Garfield Lumber.
One of Susquehanna's newer GP38's treads carefully through Cherry Hill.
The sun broke through the clouds at just the right time to catch this Susquehanna train running through the woody Cherry Hill section of Elmwood Park on Brian's HO scale recreation of the Passaic Branch.
The view at Garwood Court shows how close the homes come to the railroad's right of way.
The local freight crew aboard GP18 #1804 has to stop and flag the busy Garwood Court crossing before proceeding across. Traffic is light on this branch, and the local residents are not used to stopping for trains.
This old factory complex in Garfield, New Jersey, would make an excellent backdrop for a switching railroad. The NYSW Passaic Branch once had two major customers here, including Garden State Paper and Finkle Furniture.
NYSW 2012 enters the factory complex in Garfield which is home to Garden State Paper and Finkle Furniture. Just clearing the security gates, the track runs over the Fleischer's Brook.
The Susquehanna crew is drilling boxcars deep inside the Garfield factory complex. The Garden State Paper palnt would produce outbound loads of newsprint rolls and cardboard stock from inbound loads of recycled papers.
An NYSW GP18 switches out Garden State Paper in Garfield, New Jersey.
This view looks through the security gates at the entrance to the factory complex.