Lackawanna Cut Off – Part 15: Saving the Cut-Off (1985-2001)
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Lackawanna Cut Off – Part 15: Saving the Cut-Off (1985-2001)

August 15, 2019

Hi. Welcome to Part 15 on the Lackawanna
Cut-Off, Saving the Cut-Off. Hi, I’m Chuck Walsh and I’m president of the North
Jersey Rail Commuter Association and I’m here in Andover, New Jersey,
next to the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway. We’re about five miles north of
the Cut-Off here. Now you’re probably wondering, why are we here? What does this
have to do with the Cut-Off? And I’ll explain that as we go along. But actually
this spot really determines the destiny of the Cut-Off once we get to 1985. Now, to
refresh your memory, over the past, well, this would be the third episode where
we’re moving sequentially in time from the time of the end of passenger service
on the Cut-Off in 1970; the end of freight service at the end of 1978; the long and
protracted effort to try to save the Cut-Off–save it in the sense of saving
the tracks–that effort ends in 1984 with the removal of the last track at Port
Morris on October 5th of 1984. But it begs the question: why is this
particular Episode 15 called Saving the Cut-Off when we were trying to save the
Cut-Off during the timeframe of Part 14? Well, that’ll become apparent as we go
through this episode, because as we go into 1985 as bad as we thought as the
circumstances were for the Cut-Off–in other words, the tracks have been removed
how much worse can it get possibly than that?–well it actually will get worse.
Now in the end, there’s no doubt that almost, in a sense, something
resembling a miracle will actually occur. But before we can get to that we will
actually enter a period where it almost looks as if this is really basically a nightmare. And all of that starts here. But I’m
going to keep you in suspense for that. Because before we begin talking about
that we’re going to go to Part 2 of the interview with Larry Malski,
president of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority. And during
the interview we will concentrate on that period of time, 1985 to 2001,
although primarily talking about what’s going on in Pennsylvania. When we
return after that interview, part 2 in a four-part interview, I will go
into not only what happens here but what will happen during that period of
time between 1985 and 2001. So stay tuned for that. First, here’s the interview with
Larry Malski. CHUCK: Here we are back in Bridge 60 Tower in Scranton where we are talking to Larry Malski, who is the president of the
Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority. And in this segment we’re going to
concentrate on the time period between the abandonment of the Cut-Off, which
would be the end of 1984, all the way up to the time that the Cut-Off is acquired
by the State of New Jersey in 2001. That’s a wide swath of time and in my
subsequent segment to our interview here I will go over much of the activities
that took place during that time in New Jersey. But we’re going to talk to Larry
about what was going on here in Pennsylvania during that time because
a lot of key developments took place during that time which led to
further development of the rail line now in the modern time, in the “modern” time
meaning at this time 2017, 2018. But it’s good to look back to where
we came from, not only in New Jersey, but also in Pennsylvania. So, welcome back,
Larry. When we get to the the mid-1980s, we’re looking at a rail line here in
Pennsylvania which either you have or are in the process of acquiring from
Conrail, but which Conrail has basically let wither on the vine. And you are
almost starting from scratch. I don’t know if that’s a adequate or an apt term but
you weren’t handed off a line that Conrail had been doing their best to try
to invigorate. It really was quite the opposite it seems, based on our
discussion. So when you–
you meaning I guess the rail authorities–maybe you can explain how
this works: the rail authorities, the the operators, and so forth, how
during this, what, 16-17 year period, how –how this all works,
basically–how do you grow a railroad that has been handed off and
really hasn’t really been nourished as it could have been? LARRY: Well, again, you’re right.
This was very much a case of a railroad that was so close to annihilation,
basically. Buying it was tough enough; getting all the
things in place to get Conrail to convey it to us was one major step. The bigger
step, quite honestly, was rebuilding it because it was in such dire straits. Like
I said, in many of the sections the one especially it was again legally
abandoned between Mount Pocono and Analmink; it’s a nineteen mile stretch. There were trees growing between the ties. I mean there was no maintenance, there was no nothing. Nature was literally reclaiming it. Again,
thank God, we at least saved the rail in place. So it was a huge effort to bring
it back. All the shippers were gone; there were no industries; there are no customers basically on the
line to run trains on. It was a case, again, where there was no private
interests that wanted it because there was nothing there; it was gone. We
basically were able with the good graces of the state, the governor, PENNDOT, the
PENNDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, which was very helpful in attempting to come up
with some grants to at least bring it back to service, put it in service.
Because, again, you even really couldn’t run on the line, to be honest with you, when we were able to take it over. We then again went through an
RFP process–or a request for proposal process–to try to find a private
operator because that was the intent. The intent was never for the authority
itself, as a local government entity, to run it, although we could because we
are, the local rail authorities are, actually certified common carriers under
federal law under the ICC, the way we purchased it. So we’re considered common
carriers from a federal law perspective. But the
intent was to bring in a private rail operator to our RFP process which
many other communities, counties, and other entities across the United States
have used as a very successful means of returning a rail line to service. So we
did that. We went through RFPs; we put the line out. You know, it was a tough
RFP because you’re basically asking for someone to come in to run a rail line with
no customers, and no traffic on it. But we were successful in doing that. We brought
in a private rail operator. The first years were very, very difficult. That
private operator was able to get state funding to rehab the line and bring it
up at least to FRA Class 1 standards, and then higher standards.
And the good news is that this was during the period of deregulation where that
was the turning point in the rail industry. That was really the start of the rail
renaissance of the rail industry. And without getting into too much
detail, it was basically a change in federal regulation which allowed the railroads
to compete on a more even playing field with the trucking industries, the water
carriers, the large interest people, all the other people who hauled freight.
And it started to really open doors in the rail industry because we were able
to compete and go after some of the traffic that was lost. When we got the
line open we had the ability to start marketing it. Our private operators
basically went out, hired marketing people and groups to go and market the
line saying, hey, there’s a rail line; it’s back to life; it’s running; it’s able to run. We’ve got industrial sites and those
private rail operators were able to work with us, collectively, and the local
economic development groups–the industrial development authorities, all
the other economic development groups, the governor’s action committee, entities
like that–to find leads to bring industries back in. We brought some small
ones back in, which were great, but I have to say the home run was the location and
siting of the Amber Mills flour mill at Mount Pocono. That was probably the
keystone of bringing the Scranton-Water Gap rail line back to life. You
know without rail customers, without rail cars, without car loadings,
you really don’t have a viable railroad. And that was the home run. It took three
years because there was some local property owners who didn’t want an “industry” in that area of the Poconos. They felt that wasn’t a good idea. Again, this was a flour mill; it made
flour; that’s food. But they didn’t think that was a good thing. So, we were held up
for three years. But, you know, luckily the industry, which is a multi-billion dollar
industry out of Minneapolis, did their research, did their homework, and thought
that Mount Pocono was the perfect place to produce flour for the entire Northeast Coast, especially the Northeast Corridor, because it’s so close to the
market. And, again, you know, you’ve got the largest consumer market in the country in that 100 to 150 mile radius of Mount Pocono. So they picked the spot
based on a logistical analysis that they did and they stuck with us. And
after three to four years of struggles and getting the permitting and all the other
things we had to do. So again, I could remember at that time people saying
what’s taking so long? Why is this taking so long? Well, anything you do in this day and age be prepared to have
obstacles or critics or whatever placed in your face. And we had them. So
it took three to four to five years to get that thing finally to the point of
being built. It took a year and a half to get it constructed because it was such a
major, major facility. It was a 40 million dollar investment which still is big, but
back then was a lot of money. And that really was the thing that got us going
on the economic road to the success we’re at, at a level were at now. I
mean that entity basically was designed to bring in unit trains of wheat from
North Dakota, South Dakota, the entire Midwest, bring the wheat
here. They mill the wheat; they turn it into flour, and the flour is distributed
to every bakery and pizza parlor and you name it that you could think of, in the
northeast section of Pennsylvania, in Northern New Jersey, New York City,
Philadelphia, the entire market. So, it was meant to serve one of the
largest markets in the country and that’s what it’s been doing now for–it’s
hard to believe but it’s going on 20 years anniversary–but what that
brought, of course, was unit trains on our lines. CHUCK: You say unit train… LARRY: Unit trains, or trains of 50, 75 up to 100 cars of wheat that would come as a
unit from North Dakota, South Dakota or the Midwest to Mount Pocono. CHUCK: Do they have the storage space for all that? LARRY: Oh yeah, the silos up at the mill that again were all concrete construction. It’s amazing to watch the
construction phase; it’s all concrete. It can hold 260 cars. And, of course, they
grind on a daily basis; it’s a 24/7 operation, 365, so they’re making flour
constantly, and you have to keep that supply chain open,
and you got to make sure they have the wheat there on time…the right type of
wheat, because there’s different varieties of wheat. So it’s a fairly complex
logistical process but it brings a lot of car loads and that’s really what kind of
put us on the map. That came along. Then we were able to locate a propane terminal in Mount Pocono. We were able to locate a very much lumber treating industry in
Cresco. One just followed the other. Each one was a calling card for the next one
because when we had the main card at the flour mill and somebody came along and
said, well, what is this line? You know we understand you just brought this back to
life. Is that really gonna be here? We usually would just take them to the
flour mill and they would say, I guess it’s gonna be here for a while. Because they saw
that investment. So it was just, it kind of fed on itself
and really brought it back. And our private rail operators were
instrumental in doing marketing and bringing a lot of this in and we obviously worked
with them on that. And again all these other entities that are out there–economic development entities, the governor’s resources team, people
of that ilk. So it was a collective effort and worked out to the point
that we have now. So it was what we needed to prove to the critics
when we bought–and again there were critics when we bought–the line, saying, you know, this is a white elephant; why are you buying this
thing? The private industry, the private sector, abandoned it.
What are you doing this for? Again, the flour mill, I think, and the other
shippers–all the other shippers and the over 8,000 cars now that’ve run over
this line–are a testament to taking the risk, taking the gamble, but for the
good of future generations and economic development. If we hadn’t done this, none of these new industries in the Poconos in Monroe County would be
there; so that’s why you take the risk. Fortunately, like I said, it usually takes
much longer than anyone hopes for. But you have to persevere. I guess the key
word is perseverance. Not to beat to death, but we had critics
with the flour mill saying: you’ll never build that thing; don’t ever locate there;
that’s not going to happen; it’s a short line; they’re not going to do that; it’s
just not going to happen. And that went on for years to be honest
with you. Again the proof is in the pudding. But you just have to persevere
with these things and, you know, you’re not going to win everyone, but
perseverance is going to get you in the game to win most of them. CHUCK: Now in terms of
bringing customers to the line, I’m thinking the flour mill, was that what was the
Chrysler facility? LARRY: Right, it was the Chrysler facility which Conrail
basically encouraged Chrysler to leave that facility and move to northern New
Jersey when they were getting ready to abandon the line.
And that was the facility that was put back to use. Quite honestly, a flour mill
in railroad parlance is probably one of the best industries you could locate.
Because, like I said, when a private milling company invests forty million
dollars, it’s not the type of thing you could pick up and leave. We’ve had some
people saying you should have gotten another auto industry in there. Well, we
tried, to be honest with you. We had auto interests look at it. But you got to
remember back then, as is the case even now, auto contracts and auto distribution
contracts usually are three-year, four-year, five- year contracts. And they can pick up and
leave very easily. The key with the flour mill is it’s about the most substantial
type of industry, manufacturing industry, which is really needed in
Northeast Pennsylvania. It’s the most substantial type of manufacturing
facility you could imagine, because of the large investment.
Once you build a flour mill it’s not the type of thing you can say, well, we’re
gonna move it– well, first you can’t move it–but even
you’re gonna leave. But it’s been highly successful. And like I said they’d
the work that they did– Amber Milling did to locate it there–has
paid off tremendously because they could reach all these markets in the largest
market in the United States. CHUCK: Now do you have–
that would be jumping ahead–but I’m just curious as we speak about locating
customers on the line, we talked about like the Cut-Off, one of the problems with
the Cut-Off, if you were going to look at it from a perspective of
operating it as a freight line, would be that because the way the line was constructed
there really are no places, with the exception of maybe the station at
Blairstown, where you could put the siding back… at the three stations, Greendell and
Johnsonburg. But the rest of the line just isn’t conducive to having a
place where you could build an industry and have a siding or some kind of
connection to the mainline. I’m wondering, are there still places where you can
foresee and here in Pennsylvania where there’s still availability? In other
words, not every spot is going to be conducive if the rail line is
well below where your site is it may be almost logistically impossible to make a
connection. But you would think that if you have a flat area–Chrysler would have
been, of course, an ideal almost spot– do you have others that are
identified? LARRY: Sure, and our private rail operator, the Delaware-Lackawanna, right
now is working as we speak with entities, marketing entities and
other organizations, to locate new industries. This past year the Delaware-Lackawanna located two new industries on our system.
So, yes, that’s a constant thing.That’s what you hope your private rail designated operator will do and that they are doing
that and that they are very successful at that. The Cut-Off, you really go to the
heart of it, just because of its physical characteristics is not a rail line–it’s
28 miles of unbelievably built railroad; it’s an engineering marvel as far
as railroad construction, but because of that is not conducive to industrial
economic development as far as bringing new industries and locating them along it
just because of its physical characteristics. It’s basically either
cuts and fills, some extremely long fills. So, that 28 miles, quite honestly, is
you have to be honest and you have to be upfront, is not a
piece of railroad that’s going to be conducive to bringing freight rail to.
CHUCK: Certainly local freight. I mean I know that once you open a rail line you can
never say that there will never be any kind of freight on it, but certainly anything
from what you’re doing over here would basically be impossible. LARRY: It would be. Again, you just have to be upfront and state it as it is: it doesn’t have the physical
characteristics that are conducive to locating industries, and if you don’t
have that you’re not going to get them. You know even on sites that we
have, if one little thing is wrong they’re not interested,
You’ve got to have everything pretty much in place. The physical
characteristics of the Cut-Off are not going to lead to industries
locating on it. Just, bluntly, there’s no land next to it that
you can use basically for rail service, freight rail service.
CHUCK: I have one final question for this segment, and we’ve touched on it in our
previous segment, and that has to do with the rail authorities. At some point the two rail authorities–the Lackawanna County Railroad Authority and the
Monroe County Railroad Authority–become joined as one. Presumably that was to
consolidate, in a sense, to give you a bigger critical mass. Or how would you characterize that? LARRY: Well, the genesis of that…all along both rail authorities worked very closely together because, hey, we own the same
rail line. It was that vital and if we didn’t work together… CHUCK: And not just the main line; there’s actually more railroad than just the section between Slateford and
Scranton here. There’s actually, what, the Carbondale… LARRY: Carbondale Line, and other branches here in Scranton. But the genesis of it was
regionalism. But much more importantly it was quite honestly put to us that to pursue the passenger project you need to get organized in Pennsylvania
from the passenger project perspective. And what I mean by that is in New
Jersey you have one entity; it’s New Jersey Transit. They are the passenger
service provider in New Jersey, period. You know it was looked upon in
Pennsylvania that, well, you have this authority, that, you have this–you need to
get some unity here. So we were highly encouraged from a federal perspective and a state perspective to regionalize so
there’s one voice speaking for the passenger project, not two or three or
whatever, and to bring it to the point where you’d have two partners in this
project, the passenger project: you’d have New Jersey Transit and you’d have this
entity in Pennsylvania, one entity in Pennsylvania, talking and working
together like you do in other services. The example that has been given–and
we’ve given and we followed–is the Port Jervis service. If you look at the
passenger service between Hoboken and New York City and Port Jervis, it’s
in two states; it involves two states; it involves entities involved in two states.
So it is a pretty good model to follow for the service to Scranton. CHUCK: And it’s roughly about the same distance. LARRY: That’s, I think 93 miles and
we’re about 133 miles, so we’re a little longer. But the concepts, the organization,
the working components, are so similar we don’t want to reinvent the
wheel here, we want to use and work off the successes of other services.
So this service is going to be very, very similar to that. To get back, though, to
the authorities, that was the reason, that was the genesis, of putting the
authorities together. And actually just to explain what happened, because we do get
asked how exactly did that work here. Well, what happened was the Lackawanna
County Railroad Authority, its assets were joined into the Monroe County Rail
Authority. So it went away and its assets went into the Monroe County Railroad
Authority. So what actually exists right now is the Monroe County Railroad
Authority. The reason it’s called Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad
Authority is by means of just a minor name change the name of the Monroe
County Railroad Authority was changed to Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad
Authority. So you actually have the Monroe County Railroad Authority as the
entity, with a name change to Pennsylvania Northeast Regional
Railroad Authority, and that’s how basically it was put
together. CHUCK: OK. LARRY: And again, the Monroe County Railroad Authority was organized and came into being in 1982. CHUCK: So with the creation of a larger, I’ll say, a larger entity or maybe one which
consolidates what was previously there– two rail authorities–is sort of like
the end point of this particular section that we’re talking about in time.
But I’m thinking that in at least in parallel during this time–we’re talking
about in 1985 to 2001–while New Jersey is in the long drawn-out process of
trying to acquire the Cut-Off through the use of eminent domain, and so
forth, clearly what is happening over here is far from static. So it gives,
in a sense, you folks time to start putting your ducks in a row, building up
your railroad into something that I think is not necessarily appreciated
because you’re not during this time trying to build a passenger
railroad; I mean, clearly you aren’t. We have Steamtown, which we
haven’t really talked about which does occasionally run an excursion service
nowadays. Formerly they were a little bit more regular, but they
have they have been here for quite sometime as well right and they have…so
there is a certain visibility from the passenger perspective… LARRY: Right. CHUCK: …that you may just want to comment on. LARRY: Yeah, well, and that’s a very good point you put
it in perspective, Chuck. It is a case where, you know again, the constant
question of why is it taking so much time. All these
little steps were pieces of the puzzle to put together to get to the point of
getting the first money spent on the Cut-Off. You know the feds, the states, everyone wanted to see all these little things
put in place, you know, things like the condemnation, things like putting the
two authorities together, things like all of these components that people wanted
to see in place before they started spending money on this project;
they took time. The National Park Service, of course, Steamtown owns the core
complex and the parts of the yard down here in Scranton. We own trackage easements through the park, so we own certain tracks in the
park for freight service. Because, ironically,
just to digress back a little bit as a little point of history, one last,
another last piece that took years to accomplish on our end was to buy
Bridge 60, which we’re sitting right outside of, which is the largest bridge
structure in Pennsylvania from Scranton toward the Water Gap in Pennsylvania. And Conrail was still
providing service over it right up to the end to Chamberlain, General
Dynamics, and a plastics plant here in Scranton. They wanted to get out. The bridge, Bridge 60, was in major need
of repairs; they knew that; we knew that. It was it was evident to all of us. It could
have been a major factor in Conrail wanting to get out because they knew
they were looking at one to three million dollars in repairs just to make
Bridge 60 refurbished. So, that negotiation took some time with Conrail too. But we
negotiated a deal where we would have to pay Conrail for it. We purchased Bridge
60 and these tracks in the Steamtown yard that we own. And the bigger tab was
not to purchase, the bigger tab was coming up with two and a half million dollars
in grants that were necessary to rehab and refurbish Bridge 60. And it
wasn’t just track rehab, it was major structural, substantive work to the
structure of the bridge. And we were fortunate, again, working with our partners to get the funding to do that and to bring it up to standards. And we
completely changed the trackage on it. We did a lot of structural steel work on it. It was a major undertaking, but it made it safe
and efficient for the future. So that was another area, just that transaction alone, the purchase of this trackage, and the
rehabilitation of Bridge 60 took about four to five years on our part–all pieces of
the puzzle that have to be done before you can even get into thinking about passenger service. And again, as you mention, the entire line to the
Delaware Water Gap, between Scranton and Delaware Water Gap, you couldn’t run on it. You literally couldn’t run on it. It was out of service and it had to be
rehabbed; that took years to bring back to that case. It finally got to the point
where actually two of our private rail operators,
our designated operators, they were able to get the funding to bring it up to FRA
Class 2 and Class 3, in some cases, speed. So there there are portions that
are FRA Class 3, which allows freight operations at 40 miles an hour and
passenger operations at 60. We don’t usually run at those speeds. The
freight can operate at 40 in sections and that just shows, though,
that to the level that the line has been brought up in terms of standards. As far
as Steamtown, the major focus that Steamtown wanted
was the ability at some point in the future to run excursions on our tracks. A long-standing dream going back many
years, when the Park Service first came on the scene, was to have the ability to
run excursions from the Steamtown National Historic Site to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area historic site. As the line was brought up for freight,
basically, it was freight that paid the way, to be quite honest about it, and the
flour mill was by far the biggest component of bringing it back up to good
standards, it came to be that we were able to
enter into an operating contract that allowed Steamtown to run on our tracks, and to run their excursions between Scranton and the Water Gap. And those are
very popular excursions. They happen certain times sporadically throughout
the year, but Steamtown has also run excursions to many of the other
station sites: East Stroudsburg, Cresco, Tobyhanna, Gouldsboro, etc., Moscow. And we talked about historic preservation. Again, another area where,
you know, we’re in it to save the rail line but we were very attuned to the
historic preservation aspects of everything along the rail line. The Rail
Authority entered into agreements with local historical societies along the way
to preserve the remaining stations, which are amazingly still there when we
bought the line. They were decrepit; literally, there were birds living inside
them; the roof was caved in; it was amazing they were still standing,
but they were. They’re all old historic Lackawanna stations. We
were very fortunate to be able to work with local historical societies along
the way in which we still own them but we lease them to them. And they’ve
done their own grassroots efforts in each community to get local funding, and if you’ve ever ridden the line recently or have seen these stations, they did a
magnificent job in restoring them, in most cases to original Lackawanna standards in terms of design, paint, etc. So it’s another aspect that we do take to heart
and that is the tourism industry, that is the recreation industry. We’re thrilled to work with groups like Steamtown. Another group has just come
into fruition here in the last five years or so it’s been the area
Lackawanna Dining Car Society, a group of individuals who have been very
successful in going out and saving the last Phoebe Snow
cars that ran on these tracks for all those years–particularly, the diners. The
last two Phoebe Snow diners now are here in Scranton, and one it’s fully, pretty
much fully operational. I mean it’s out being used for dinner trains and dining
car service. And their hope is to really recreate a train of the 60s and
70s, and 50s actually, of Lackawanna using these actual authentic cars that
ran on this railroad during the Lackawanna years and the Erie Lackawanna years. That’s a major tourism recreational aspect and it’s working out
very well. Of course, we’re working with them and we have an agreement with them
to allow them to run for recreation and tourism reasons. CHUCK: One final thought would be that even though freight in a sense pays the
way–and that’s actually been the story for a number of years in the industry
that freight has been profitable whereas passenger service–which basically
led to the creation of Amtrak–for a very long time has been viewed as something
that loses money. But even in the days where–let’s go back even to almost
the beginning of the 20th Century–that railroads even then viewed passenger
service as a means, almost like a public relations type of tool, that even it was profitable, maybe certainly never as profitable
as freight was, and is, but it played a different role. And maybe to
some extent that’s what the role it is still playing on this railroad in that
freight can be quite almost invisible. Whereas if you have a passenger train it
actually brings families, kids, you know, people of all ages, in direct contact
with the railroad that they wouldn’t typically have and it maybe gives them a
stronger, more personal, feel to the railroad that they wouldn’t necessarily
have any other way. LARRY: Sure. I mean if you look at the
history of the railroad industry, again, it’s one of the most amazing industries
in the country because of its longevity. And it’s still basically the same
technology that started it: a flanged wheel on a steel rail is basically
still the technology that’s allowed the movement of mass amount of quantities
and commodities at the most efficient prices basically. But going back over all
the years, there were years that passenger service was probably was
profitable, but it was still freight that was paying the way. That’s what kept the
tracks in place; that’s what kept them in the shape there were in and everything
else. Passenger service you know before the interstate highway system and
everything else was able to break even or make money. You had the mail
contracts. You had all kind of parcel services that were
carried by passenger trains, so it was a whole different world.
With the institution of the interstate highway system, with the institution, which most people kind of gloss over, with the institution of the massive
amounts of federal, state, and local tax money that’s been put into our air
system, our airports. I mean I’ve nothing against that, those are
good uses of funding; all of our transportation assets should be funded.
Well, when people say, well, why do we have a passenger train? None of them make
money. Well without local taxpayer money funding our airports, without local
state and federal taxpayer money funding our interstate highway system, you
wouldn’t have airlines and you wouldn’t have our interstate highway system. The
point being, our transportation assets are our arteries and veins of our entire
economy, without all of them–not just one or two–you wouldn’t have the economy we have in this country. So, unfortunately, this
concept that passenger trains lose money and why should we fund them is the same
argument that exists with our airports and with our interstate highway
system: they don’t make money. If the airlines didn’t
have publicly-funded airports and air control systems and everything else that
is paid for by federal, state, and local taxpayer money you wouldn’t have
airlines. So it’s unfortunate, but that’s one of the things that we’ve always
struggled with in the industry in getting the word out there that all
our forms of transportation–whether it’s highway, air, water or rail, as far as
passenger service–are funded, and have to be funded, by local, state, and
federal taxpayer money. But what you’re getting for that, like I said, is the
arteries and veins of our entire economy and if you don’t fund them properly,
when your arteries and veins close up it’s not a good thing. It’s very
detrimental to our economy. And all of those forms of
transportation should be funded by local, state, and federal taxpayer dollars
because they’re so important to every person who lives in this country. OK, here we are back at Andover. The
Lehigh and Hudson River Railway, down in a small cut here. I won’t venture down
there, but I will come back here. Now you’re probably waiting for an
explanation as to why we’re here. I think I’ve probably kept you in suspense long
enough. OK…this is about the end of 1984, the beginning of 1985. The owner of
this property who owned the nursing home here wanted to expand the facilities
further out towards the perimeter of the property. It so happens that part of that
property was owned by what was previously the Lehigh and Hudson River
Railway, part of that right-of-way, which as of 1976 had been conveyed into
Conrail. So the owner approaches Conrail and asked whether that he can buy about
a thousand feet from a grade crossing in the back here, over by the road, maybe a
couple hundred feet in this direction… …and then all the way to the end of the
property–I’m going to turn around again– a total of about a thousand feet of
property. And Conrail says no, we’re not going to sell you an isolated piece of
the right-of-way. At that time there’s still tracks, the tracks have not been
removed from the Lehigh and Hudson River Railway. So…a little bit of time goes
past, and Conrail comes back to the owner and says, well, we’ll sell you the whole 32
miles of right-of-way from Sparta Junction all the way down to Belvidere. And the
owner doesn’t give an answer at that point. There was a price attached to that.
And then, before that final decision is made, Conrail says, oh, by the way, we have
this other right-of-way which is available. We’ll give you both for–roughly 60 miles of right-of-way–for two point some odd million dollars. And after
contemplating that, eventually the owner says yes, I’ll buy it. I’ll buy both of them. Now the tracks won’t be included with the Lehigh and Hudson
River Railway; they’ll be taken up at a later time. And the tracks on the other
right-of-way at that point have already been taken up. We know which one
that is, that’s the Lackawanna Cut-Off. And the owner, the owner of this property
here, five miles north of the Cut-Off, is a name that’s probably familiar to
many of you. His name was Gerald Turco, or Jerry Turco as he was referred to as.
Now, Jerry Turco had in his mind that he was going to do
something with the Cut-Off–and, well, this. He wanted to expand his nursing home
property, but he must have something else in mind with the Cut-Off. We’re not really sure about this beyond just this as
property enabling him to expand his nursing home property. But the Cut-Off is
a real poser. What did he really have in mind with that? In 1985,
the Westway project is still a viable project in downtown Manhattan and that
particular project would require enormous amounts of fill material. So, it
was announced, or at least became, I’ll say, common knowledge, that that particular
project would possibly be able to accept fill from the Cut-Off. So there becomes
the nightmare scenario of whether Mr. Turco now–and he certainly didn’t deny
this and it was in the press saying that– he would actually initiate removal of
the fill from the Cut-Off, where there was fill–you would think the Pequest
Fill and other fills on the Cut-Off–and that would be somehow transported to
downtown Manhattan and become part of the Westway project. Now in September
1985 that project, the Westway project, in New York is killed. So now Mr. Turco
is stuck with a white elephant, if in fact he had essentially bet the farm, if
you will, on using the Cut-Off as fill. Probably could have made a lot of money if he could have done that. We don’t really know if that was a serious proposal or
not. It seemed like it was; it’s plausible, certainly. It would have destroyed the Cut-Off, would have destroyed any possibility of using the right-of-way again. It
was bad enough that the tracks were gone, but at least if the right-of-way were
there, oh, then there’s a possibility. But remove the fill–and later on as we
go on, Mr. Turco actually proposed to fill in the cuts when he couldn’t remove
the fills from the Cut-Off; so either way he was proposing to destroy the
right-of-way. So there starts the nightmare. As bad as everyone thought it was bad enough that the tracks were gone. So when the tracks are removed, and I’ve
talked to a few folks who were involved with that effort, it was really for
everyone involved it was an enormously emotional and very difficult time,
frustrating to say the least. But the folks who were involved with the effort to try to save the line, try to save the tracks and maybe even initiate
freight or passenger service afterwards, for the most part those people were
really burnt out and actually almost to the person there very
few that would continue on. A few would, I should say there were a few, but not many. But then a new group, I’ll say, of people become involved, myself included as a
matter of fact. I mean I can speak to the Jerry Turco story because he told me–JerryTurco told me–that story twice, two different occasions, and this
organization, North Jersey Rail Commuter Association–I wasn’t the president at
that point Fred Wertz was president at the time
when I joined in 1985–and one of the first things we did was to meet with Mr.
Turco. Now Mr. Turco was proposing different
things. One was the Westway project. And after that one away that what he would
call the Rebar Landfill project, which would have been the filling of the cuts with construction material. But there were a
couple of other projects that he also, I don’t know he was looking at them
seriously, but he at least entertained them. One of them which he actually
brought up himself was to put a string of dining cars on top of the Delaware
River Viaduct. Now exactly how people were going to get back and forth to that,
to a restaurant that would have been literally over the river, I’m not really
clear. At that time, the tracks are still on the Cut-Off when we were talking about.
This is now maybe 1986 or so. It’s not really clear as to how that would have
been accomplished. But nevertheless that was something he was talking about and
really logistically we were not really sure how that would have worked, but we
were at least talking. We wanted to make sure that while talking to him that
there was at least we’re planting the seed that ultimately we wanted the State
of New Jersey to acquire the Cut-Off; that was our ultimate goal. The question
is how to accomplish that? So as we go through that period of time, there were a
couple of different things we try. It’s I have to say, it was trial and error. You
know trying different things. This was uncharted territory in terms of trying
to preserve a rail right-of-way. Now this is the Lehigh & Hudson River; it’s not the
Cut-Off. We will be going to the Cut-Off in this episode. But as we go through the
chronology with Mr. Turco, and I shall also add there was one other
owner of the Cut-Off who owned a small section by Port Morris, Burton
Goldmeier. But Mr. Turco literally owned everything west of that, roughly
around the 602 grade crossing–what would be a great crossing–Mr. Turco owned
everything west of that, so he owned 27 point something miles of the Cut-Off. That in his mind, Turco, there must have
been some plan that he had. Maybe it evolved over time as to how he was going
to make money out of this, out of purchasing the Cut-Off. He didn’t purchase
it just for the sake of purchasing it. Can’t believe that this alone was the
reason why he would spend two million dollars in cash to build a few out- buildings, which are now gone by the way.
They used to be here. We haven’t been here in a couple of years,
but up until a couple years ago there were buildings out here. They were
abandoned, they were not used, but there is this entrance driveway, so Turco definitely went through at least with
that part of the plan. But to have acquired the Cut-Off there must have
been something more to that than just buying 27 miles of right-of-way and all
the acreage that would have gone along with that. So as time goes on, as we go
through the 80s–and I can speak from my perspective, North Jersey Rail Commuter
Association and there are others who were involved with that–that the
thinking evolves towards a way of trying to figure out to get the State of New
Jersey to acquire the Cut-Off. So how do we do that? Well, early on I’d say
1985-86 we approached then-senator Dumont, who was the senator from Warren
County. And both Sussex and Warren and Morris County were all involved in the effort to try
to save the Cut-Off originally, before the tracks were removed. And they would
become involved afterwards as a matter of fact as well. But we approached
Senator Dumont. He did introduce a resolution into the state legislature in
New Jersey supporting the Cut-Off. It really was only symbolic. So that was
essentially a dead end. And then by ’86, ’87 we are put in contact with Assemblyman
Chuck Haytaian who represented Warren County in the Assembly–Dumont
represented Warren County in the Senate, the state Senate–and at that point we
basically strike a deal with Chuck Haytaian. And I say “we”, I mean North Jersey Rail. And he agrees that he will support the performance of an Urban Mass Transit
Administration (UMTA) study on the Cut-Off if we’ll support–meaning us,
North Jersey Rail–will support the extension of service by New Jersey
Transit into Hackettstown. This is before the Hackettstown service will
actually happen; it won’t happen until 1994 that it will start. But that’s leading
up to that. Now the Urban Mass Transit Administration is the forerunner of, or the
precursor to, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) which is essentially the same entity that exists today, but in those days it was UMTA. So that
study would be a springboard–people cringe at studies–but that study would
be a springboard to bigger and better things. Now for Assemblyman Haytaian to support us in our effort to support the Cut-Off, he asks…requests…I’m not going to say demands…but he basically tells us that we need to go to each of the towns along
the Cut-Off and get a resolution of support, which is done. It took several
months–three, four months at least–going to each of the towns. I went to each of
the towns with the exception of Green Township; they adopted a resolution
without us having to come in. And that was done. So the UMTA study is done and
is ready by 1989, I guess it would be. In the meantime, the idea springs upon us
that, well, what about if we could possibly get a bond issue? In other words,
we have a right-of-way. It doesn’t seem that we can get a direct
appropriation of money from the state legislature in New Jersey. The money
isn’t available from the New Jersey DOT or New Jersey Transit to acquire
the right-of-way, but what about if we were to get a bond issue? So in
communication, once again, with Assemblyman Chuck Haytaian, I have the honor of
writing or drafting the first version of that particular legislation, what would
become known as the bridge bond bill. And the philosophy behind that was to set
aside ultimately, when the bill was created, a hundred and fifty million
dollars for the rehabilitation of bridges in New Jersey and 50 million
dollars for the acquisition of railroad rights-of-way. That will be pared down to a
total of 90 million for bridges and 25 for railroad rights-of-way ultimately as
presented to the voters in New Jersey, who will approve that particular bond
issue overwhelmingly. And so that money will become available. It’s in 1989 they
vote, November of 1989, so that money becomes available presumably almost
immediately but however the bureaucratic type of machinations work,
sometime in 1990. And that basically opens the door to the New Jersey
Department of Transportation going forward with a pot of money–25 million
dollars–which you know you have to hope that that’s going to be enough to
acquire the Cut-Off. We’re hoping that would maybe even acquire other
rights-of-way, but certainly it was primarily put to the voters with the
intent that it was going, if nothing else, acquired the Cut-Off. And so that starts
the process of condemnation, eminent domain, by New Jersey Department of
Transportation, and that process will take a little bit over a decade to
accomplish…1990-2001, the Lackawanna Cut-Off is finally put into state hands
and during that time–it’s a long process, so when people say, well, how
long it’s taking taking, we were thinking the same thing back in those days. How long
is it taking and it seemed like it was taking forever. What Mr. Turco had
had done is basically broken up the Cut- Off into different sections in each town,
each of the viaducts were different corporations, he had an umbrella corporation for that and he had a whole bunch of different corporations, which
made it much more difficult, more complicated, more complex, for the state
to acquire the land because you’re acquiring land, the right-of-way. And so after that protracted period of time,
finally the right-of-way is acquired. And then that opens the door, which will
go into our next episode to talk about the effort to start getting the
rebuilding of the Cut-Off. But we’re not we’re not going to go there in this
particular episode. Now what we’re going to do is we’re going to switch venue.
We’re going to go down to the Cut-Off, and I have a whole list of people I’ll call
it, whatever you want to call it, the Hall of Fame of those who people who through
the years, concentrating primarily during this period of time, 1985 to
2001 period, but also those who even beyond that time who have helped save
the Cut-Off. And we’re going to go through that list; it’s quite a list.
Maybe your name is on it, maybe your name isn’t. But it’s a list of over 50 names,
actually we’ll go through, and I will explain the role that each person had.
Some had minor roles; some had absolutely crucial roles. One person in particular had a 30-second conversation, that if that conversation
had not happened chances are the Cut- Off would never been ended up in state
hands. So sometimes a short conversation can have an enormous
impact to say the least. So our next stop will be down on the Lackawanna Cut-Off and we’ll go where the Lehigh & Hudson River meets the Cut-Off and we’ll
pick up there with the list of the people who if there was a Hall of Fame of
people who helped save the Cut-Off, I think most of those names should be on it. Here we are on the Lehigh and Hudson
River Railway right-of-way where it goes underneath the Lackawanna Cut-Off.
This is considered Huntsville and this is the Pequest Fill. Imagine this fill
being removed, basically returning this area to what it looked like before the
Cut-Off was built. Once again, whether that was Mr. Turco’s plan or not, we’ll really
never ever know what was in his head but we have to assume that it was certainly
a possibility. But this was the meeting point of the two rights-of-way. So he owned
that right-of-way, everything in it literally. And this right-of-way…60 miles
of railroad right-of-way, over a thousand acres. I don’t remember the exact amount
but it was quite a bit of a property, which the State of New Jersey purchased that. Bits and pieces of this have been acquired and there’s no plans for this
being anything other than a trail at best. But the Cut-Off? Well, we will see.
But in 2001, the Cut-Off is officially acquired via eminent domain and becomes
the property of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. So that was
really the end of that particular fight: the saving of the Cut-Off, literally
saving the right-of-way as opposed to saving the tracks, which is the effort
that occurred during the 1979 through ’84 timeframe. Now as I mentioned before the break for the interview with Larry Malski, Part
2 of his interview, I said I was going to read a list of people who had contributed
in one way or another to the saving of the Cut-Off. There’s one
caveat: I don’t know every single person who was involved, or has been
involved, over the years. I’ve met the vast majority of those people and
interacted with them. And clearly Larry Malski could come up with a similar
lists for people who acted similarly in Pennsylvania. He did mention a few. I
didn’t ask him specifically to give us names, but he did mention a few. But I’m
sure he could come up with a sizeable list himself. And there’s no doubt that there will be some people who would be on
both lists; in other words, both in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey. Just
to orient you, we are north of the Cut-Off. So this is east on the Cut-Off;
that’s west on the Cut-Off; this is south towards Belvidere on the Lehigh & Hudson
River Railway; and that will be north towards Sparta Junction. But this
list, and it’s quite sizable, contains names of folks who in some
cases had relatively, I’ll say, relatively minor contributions; some had
major contributions; and some had absolutely critical or crucial
contributions. I’ve prepared the list in alphabetical order, so I haven’t tried to
prioritize people. In other words, oh, this person had a greater contribution than
that person. I really didn’t think that was fair, but there are a few people
who I’ll call out as obviously having very key contributions. But once again
this is not an exhaustive list because I personally don’t know of everyone
who was involved although, once again, I think this is a fairly
comprehensive list. But let’s go at it and some of these folks, once again, I
think they really need to be thanked if nothing else for their contribution. So,
first name on the list is David Peter Alan, and he has headed the
Lackawanna Coalition for a number of years, and he has certainly supported us,
supported the Lackawanna Cut-Off effort, and I certainly just want to thank him.
And he’s still the head of that organization, he has been for a number of
years. We both date back to the same town as a matter of fact, South Orange. So
we’ve known each other for quite some time. Next person is Fred Aun, who wrote a number of articles when he worked for
the Newark Star-Ledger on the Cut-Off. He now does some work with a website
that covers Roxbury Township. Roxbury is the beginning point; Port Morris is in
Roxbury Township, so like to call out and thank him. Guy Baehr, another reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger. Guy wrote a number of articles. I think he was the
one that wrote the article that really brought me into this effort directly.
I’d been watching it from a distance and I think it was was he who wrote that
article where he quoted Fred Wertz, speaking in Green Township. Why isn’t
there anyone helping with this effort? Well, I took that as a personal
invitation to start. So I think that was Guy that who wrote that
article. Don Barnickel. Don came into the North Jersey Rail Commuter Association about a year or so after me and he helped
with a number of presentations. He helped put them together. In fact he
was the one who really did all of the legwork in terms of preparing slide
presentations. Back in those days we actually used slides when we did the
presentations to the various towns. So Don played a key role there. He
also helped out with efforts having to do with the state railroad museum
efforts both in the late-80s and the mid- to late-90s. And Don’s a very good
friend. I’m leaving out so much of what Don has done, but that
is at least the Cliff Notes version,
certainly, of what his contribution has been. Frank Barry. Frank was a member of the
Monroe County Railroad Authority and in the installment of Larry Malski’s
interview that we just listened to he talks about the combining of the two
railroad authorities. Well, before that combining took place, Frank was one of
the members of the Monroe County Railroad Authority and I’d just like to thank him
for all his effort. Ray Baxter. Ray was involved with North Jersey Rail
at the very beginning, long before I started with North Jersey Rail, and he was
also involved with the effort to try to save the tracks here on the Cut-Off and
also in Pennsylvania as well. Doug Bowen. Doug for a number of years was
the president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers and
his lobbyist, who I’ll talk about in a few minutes, played a key role in
saving the Cut-Off. But Doug actually went on an excursion or trek, if you will,
from Blairstown all the way to Slateford Junction, and we went across the
Paulinskill Viaduct. I guess he didn’t know what the Paulinskill Viaduct
looked like and he was a little concerned about us going over it. I said
don’t worry about it, Doug, it’s one of those bridges that’s not a
problem at all walking across it. Because anyone has walked across a bridge where
you have just ties and then you look down X number
of feet below you, I could see where someone would be nervous about that. The
Paulinskill Viaduct is not like that. And we also went across the Delaware River Viaduct. Doug played a key role, certainly. Finn
Caspersen. I never met Finn and, unfortunately, he died under tragic
circumstances a few years ago. But Finn was really the impetus behind the
Andover station stop. And had he not passed away we might very well at this
point be talking about a little bit of a transit village across from the Andover
station stop, because he actually was willing to contribute land because
he owned the property which is now Hudson Farm. And we will talk about
Hudson Farm and the issues that have come from Hudson Farm in our next
episode. But Finn was really very helpful. I did not interact with and I never met
Finn. Fred Wertz interacted with his people and
worked on the Andover station stop and Finn was also heavily involved with Waterloo Village as a matter of fact as well. A great loss, that’s all I can say.
Art Charlton who’s now with the the DEP as a spokesperson. I believe he’s still
there. Well he was at least until the the changeover in administrations. I
don’t know if he’s still there as of now but Art Charlton wrote a number
of articles on the Cut-Off working out of the Warren County Bureau for the
Newark Star-Ledger. So I’ll just mention him. Mike DelVecchio who now heads the
Tri-State Railroad Historical Society, but Mike I know he spoke at one
hearing, certainly I remember him speaking. But he’s he’s always been very
interested in the Cut-Off and I just want to recognize him. Tom Downs. Tom was
the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation in New Jersey, DOT, at
the time, at the very beginning of the initiation of eminent domain. And I know
we had at least one meeting with him and he was helpful in expediting, to the
extent that it could be expedited, the internal workings of DOT to support the
eminent domain process which is a very lengthy process. And as we’ve discussed
Mr. Turco did not help in terms of the way he set up the Cut-Off into
different corporations that enormously complicated that process. And Tom
actually went on to head Amtrak for a little bit as a matter of fact. Tom
Drabek. I met Tom back in the 80s. He’s been with Sussex County Planning all
that time and he’s been one of those constants that’s been in the effort,
one of the people that’s been there, who has that history that few of us
have. And Tom is still there and I want to certainly compliment his effort. I
actually got to speak in his place and I considered it a great honor. There was a
meeting a couple of years ago up in Mount Pocono where the head of the FTA,
talking about FTA–the Federal Transit Administration–was there, and Tom was supposed to
have spoken there, and because of a scheduling conflict he had to be somewhere else and
I ended up speaking in his place, which, once again, it was a very great honor I
was able to do that. I happened to be there and I was asked on very short
notice, was asked literally when I walked in there, to fill in for him.
So I did that. But Tom, he’s been great and I certainly
want to thank him for all his contributions. Over the years. I mean 30
years literally when I first met him. Phyllis Elston. Phyllis was a lobbyist for the New Jersey
Association of Railroad Passengers which Doug Bowen, higher in the list I
mentioned earlier on, was the head at that time. Phyllis had what was probably
not more than a 30-second conversation with Larry Haines, who was the Senate
Transportation Committee chairman in New Jersey in June of 1989, and Larry was about to remove the
railroad rights-of-way provision in the bond issue, in the legislation for the
bond issue, that was going to be put before the voters later
that year. And she talked him out of it. Had she not talked him out of it, had
she not had that conversation, what would have happened? We don’t know. Was that the
one possibility of ever acquiring the Cut-Off, where we get the money–
25 million–21 million of which would be used for acquiring the Cut-Off? We don’t
know. It’s unimaginable that if that conversation had not taken place if the railroad rights-of-way provision have been taken out of that
legislation, what would have happened? I don’t even want to think about it.
So Phyllis Elston had we’ll say a very short but, in terms of its
importance, probably one of the most important conversations that has ever
taken place having to do with the Cut-Off. Absolutely, positively, that’s the case.
The next person on the list, oh boy, we could we could spend a whole hour
talking about his contribution. Rod or Rodney Frelinghuysen, Congressman Rodney
Frelinghuysen. He sponsored legislation, the money to reactivate to Andover, including Roseville Tunnel, to basically to rebuild or restart what we’ll talk about in the next episode, start
rebuilding the railroad literally. Something that in 1984 very few people
would think that would ever happen. But he has been so key I don’t know what possibly you could say that if he were not involved in this,
had not been a supporter, I don’t know where we would be. He’s one of those key
persons that without him I don’t know where this whole effort would
be. I remember he visited the company I work for and I was in the audience. It
was dark in the audience but he was up front with all those spotlights on him
and I asked a question and said, well, I have a question but I
also I want to thank you and I thanked him. I said thank you for your contribution with
helping with the Lackawanna Cut-Off and he interjected “21 miles to go!” and then I
asked him a question after on something unrelated. Bt he’s been a
great supporter. So, once again, I could talk about Rod Frelinghuysen
for quite some time. Bill Gearhart. I only met Bill once he’s
part of the Venturail group and I know that they’re folks who when that
name is brought up pretty much shudder with anger. I’m not really sure. The
jury is really out with me in terms of where Venturail sits because we don’t
want to go into it in any great detail, but Venturail ended up being at least
at the end of the effort to try to save the tracks and actually operate a
railroad, Venturail ended up being like what would have been the designated
operator. And it didn’t work out. We know that it didn’t happen and there
are a lot of folks who feel that Venturail is really to blame for that. I’m not
totally convinced of that but I don’t want to turn this into the forum of talking about that because I
think that there’s probably legitimate arguments on both sides. But the story
I’ve heard I want to say vindicates them. But without getting all the different
parties together, including CSX and so forth who was also involved, you wouldn’t
really know exactly what the stories are, and so as a result I know people have asked, well, why didn’t you include that in the
discussion in the last segment in Part 14. That’s the reason why. I’m not really sure how to really present that when you don’t know the
whole story. So, but I’ll leave him in because in talking to him and Tucker
Lamkin, who is also on the list, I think they did try. They’re often characterized as bogeymen or bad guys. I’m not really
convinced that’s the case. It didn’t work out, though, and that’s all I can say.
Whether they’re to blame or not, I mean sometimes you need a scapegoat and I guess maybe they’re the scapegoats for that effort. But I don’t know if they really
deserve that or not. Burton Goldmeier. You might say why is he on there? Well, he was an owner of the Cut-Off for sixteen years such as was Jerry Turco.
Incidentally, just parenthetically, sixteen years. This particular right-of-way, the
Cut-Off, was in private ownership, meaning Mr. Turco and Mr. Goldmeier, as long as was the line operated by Erie Lackawanna. Erie Lackawanna operated the Cut-Off for sixteen years as well. Obviously Mr. Goldmeier
and Mr. Turco didn’t operate the railroad, but they owned it. And the Erie Lackawanna
owned it for sixteen years, but from 1960 to 1976, when Conrail took over. But I
mentioned him maybe not in the same sense that he was part of the saving the
Cut-Off but certainly he didn’t destroy it. He wanted to use it for a
driveway to a project that he was talking about, but that never happened, so. And the
line was acquired from him as well as Mr. Turco in 2001. Larry Haines. I just
talked about him with his interaction with Phyllis Elston. I don’t think I
have to say too much more about that. But if he hadn’t given in, shall we say, he hadn’t agreed to keeping the provision
in, 25 million, I don’t know where would be. John Hart. John Hart
was the head of Steamtown Foundation, Steamtown USA, at the time when it moved
down from Bellows Falls (VT) to Scranton and it was in Scranton. Well, it’s still there
but now it’s part of the National Park Service. That transition took place in
1986. But I had meeting with him and Mr. Turco and Mr. Turco’s lawyer, I want to say it was David Biederman I believe it was. And that was one thing that was being
pursued. Turco was open to these these different
ideas. I don’t know how seriously Turco took talking to John Hart about
Steamtown–Turco called it “Steamtrain”–and possibly running trains over the Cut-Off, which was a kind of a
crazy idea because there were no tracks on the Cut-Off at that time but, hey, I give
Turco credit. I don’t know what to make of it, but he was willing to meet.
I ended up driving the two of them up there to what later was called the Dansbury
Depot and then was a restaurant that was in the East Stroudsburg train
station. It was the four of us who met together. Paul Hart, no relation to John
Hart. Paul Hart was involved with the Lackawanna County Railroad Authority.
Paul, a big supporter, he was involved with the earlier effort to save the
line and he also headed the Penn- Jersey Rail Coalition later on. That was created back in I must say around 1990 or so
and was an advocacy group for both states for this particular project.
Amos Hawkins, the head of the Delaware Water Gap
National Recreation Area, and for one day was the head of Steamtown on the
very first day and then he retired. Amos, I’ll tell this story because I
there’s a certain comic aspect to it. I won’t mention his name but he had
someone who worked for him and I met with Amos Hawkins and this
other person, I’ll call him Mr. Jones, at the headquarters of the National
Recreation Area. I’m trying to think where that was. It was north of Stroudsburg. But
we had a meeting to talk about what were the possibilities of saving the line
and in Pennsylvania and with New Jersey and so forth. And Mr. Jones,
once again not his name, once he heard that I had met with Turco, or had some
relationship to Turco, he went absolutely ballistic on me. And Amos Hawkins calmed
him down. Amos was a very adroit and even-tempered person, very politically
astute, and I wish he had spent more time at Steamtown. I think he really could–
not that the successors there didn’t really work on making it a success at
Steamtown, but I would have really liked to have seen Amos to have stayed there,
but he moved on and he retired. But the story I wanted to tell which has somewhat of a
comic aspect to it: ten years later. This is not related to the Cut-Off
directly. I’m on a flight from Washington DC to Florida. I got a connecting flight, went
into Washington and then I’m going down to Fort
Lauderdale. I’m seated next to two gentlemen who are obviously aides of a
congressman from Florida and they’re going back home from Washington and they’re having this conversation, and now we’re one, two, three. I have the window
seat and they’re occupied in the two seats next to me, and it becomes apparent
they’re talking about Mr. Jones who had yelled and screamed at
me about Mr. Turco in that meeting with Amos Halkins–ten years earlier, in Pennsylvania. And so they’re talking and there’s a break and I said, ah, excuse me, is it possible that you’re talking about Mr. Jones–not his name
of course–and the young aide, he must been in his mid- to late-20s looks at me
as if he had seen a ghost, basically, and he said, yeah….how do you?–and I explained how I knew, that there was something going on
in their particular district and they were having problems with this person and
it was pretty clear because I knew with a little bit of background as to where
“Mr. Jones” had moved to after where he had been with Amos Hawkins. And, anyway, but
for that moment what are the chances of a person like me sitting next
to them, picking up on a conversation that had absolutely nothing to do with
anything other than the fact that I picked up a couple of different facts
that it was clear who was they were talking about? I’m not sure if that’s the
only person who’s ever yelled at me while I’ve been involved with the Cut-Off. Not everyone is on your side, let’s put
it that way, for different reasons. Not that Mr. Jones was against me per se but
he misunderstood that I had this relationship with Mr. Turco. I was not a
supporter of Mr. Turco. I was working with Turco because I wanted to save this
thing. I didn’t want Turco to tear this up. But it necessitated having to deal with Mr. Turco, having to meet with him, try to come up with alternate ideas. That was where I was coming from. I
wasn’t getting paid by him. He did pay for us, Fred Wertz and myself, to go up
and look at some rail cars up in Canada for the restaurant on the Delaware River Viaduct. He gave us a couple hundred dollars. It
didn’t cover our costs but it paid for something. But I never received
any direct payment for anything, so it wasn’t like I was on Turco’s payroll. But,
anyway, be that as it may, our next person is Larry Higgs. He’s more
in the present day. Larry writes for He’s written a number of articles
on the Cut-Off. I’ll put him on this list. I think he’s part of that
current effort which is still, in a sense, saving the Cut-Off, although reactivating is different than saving the right-of-way from being
torn out. But you know collectively he should be on this list. Bob Hay.
Absolutely, Bob Hay became the chairman of the Monroe County Railroad
Authority, and he’s now the chairman of the board of the Pennsylvania Northeast
Regional Railroad Authority. And Bob, he’s been involved with this effort for 30
years, so we could spend a lot of time talk about Bob’s contribution, in
Pennsylvania primarily, certainly, but he’s also had some interactions over
here in New Jersey. So, you know, my hat’s off to Bob. Chuck Haytaian. I’ve
talked about him his support before the interview with Larry Malski, so I
don’t think I have to say too much more about Chuck. But he really, really,
really, really, without him if there’s a group of key individuals without whom
this effort would have never gotten were it is today, Chuck would certainly be on
that short list. Bill Herkner. Bill was and I point this out in a previous
episode, it was the one about Sidings on the Cut-Off, but Bill worked for the
Lackawanna, and he worked for New Jersey Transit, he worked for, I want to say, he worked for Conrail as well. But he was instrumental in getting
the Amtrak run on November 13, 1979. And so the visibility of that
particular run I think you can never underestimate and I just want
to thank him. Bill passed away a few years ago but his
contribution was not insignificant. Tom Kean. Well, that’s Governor Tom Kean or Tom Kean. Some people pronounce it ‘keen”, some people pronounce it “cane”. I believe “cane” is the correct pronunciation.
He signed the legislation for the bridge bond bill, which included the 25 million…
I have to thank him. Tucker Lamkin was actually part of the North
Jersey Rail Commuter Association effort early on. He was meeting with Turco
along with us trying to come up with something that Turco would be willing to
do. We were actually even proposing putting tracks back on the Cut-Off. But, hey, we
were pulling anything out we could possibly come up with the try to come up
with something that Mr. Turco would do in lieu of maybe not tearing out the
fill because at some point he couldn’t really do that. The soil ordinance
removal, the ordinances that prevent that or regulate that in the towns
and the counties, those really prohibited him from doing that. And to
the extent that as time went on, the cat was out of the bag and by that time
with Westway going away, he was limited to what he could even propose. So he went
on to the Rebar Landfill project that he was proposing to fill in cuts, as opposed
to removing fills. But that didn’t go anywhere either. But we
were meeting with Turco to try to just keep him from doing anything what we
thought was really stupid. But it turned out well; they got 21 million out
of it so he did very well in terms of sticking it out and not doing
anything that would destroy the right-of- way. Jim Lockwood also worked for the Newark Star-Ledger. He wrote a few articles to say the least.
Maurice and Bea Lewis. They’re two of the founding members of Penn-Jersey
Rail Coalition and just want to thank them for their contribution. The two of
them, they moved out to Arizona a number years ago I think. But then when they
were in Northeast Pennsylvania they played a key role in the creation of
that organization. Bob Littell. Assemblyman Bob Littell. Well, later,
Senator Bob Littell, state senator in New Jersey. Bob certainly was in involved in the effort to try to preserve the line back
in the day with Sussex County. Once again, not successful but you know there
was a lot of people who really tried and just because that particular effort
wasn’t successful doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a contribution that in toto
didn’t lead to where we are now. Granted, tracks aren’t back yet on this section
here but given how things have turned out maybe we’re dealing with the best-case scenario, even though I know a lot of people don’t think that way and think
the best-case scenario would have been that the tracks would have been retained
on the Cut-Off. And, yes, it would have been if they could have been. But the question
is was there any scenario which would have allowed for that? Don’t know. It
doesn’t seem like that was going to be in the cards. But aside from that
possible scenario maybe the scenario we have now is the
best we could hope for. I can’t say but Bob was certainly a big help at
least in fighting in the early days. Larry Malski, well I don’t
think we need to talk too much about Larry. I mean we’re doing the four-part
interview. I met Larry 30 years ago and he, well, we know what he’s done. I mean we’re documenting that in this video. And Larry’s a key person.
Without him I don’t know. All I can say is that I don’t know where we would be. He’s one of those folks on a very, very short list of folks. I know I have
50 people here but he would be on that very, very short list of people that if
they were not involved, or had not been involved, with this project I don’t know
where it would be. Ted Mathews. He was a key person at the
DOT, New Jersey DOT, helping during the eminent domain condemnation days. He was a point person so he helped a lot and then certainly he was our conduit,
our liaison if you will, to the DOT. Don Maxton. He wrote an article in Tel-News, which was the article that appeared in I’ll say July of ’90, I believe it was off
the top of my head, about the Cut-Off and that would have been mailed out to
somewhere around three plus million individual houses, residences in the
State of New Jersey back in the day when there was a New Jersey Bell and they
actually did a monthly article and that article would be attached, or enclosed
with your monthly phone bill, back in those days. And still in contact with
Don. We also did an interview with him with Walter Smith which we
included in the Pequest Fill episode where we talked to Walter Smith,
with the rocks coming down off of the Pequest Fill and hitting his schoolhouse
that he was in in Huntsville, not too far from here as a matter of fact. Not too
far at all really. Ken Miller. Ken Miller was at that
meeting with Tom Downs with DOT. Ken Miller was a freeholder in Warren County. A big supporter of the Cut-Off. We’ll thank him for his contribution. Steve Oroho, current state senator
in the district I’m in in Warren County. He’s a big proponent. He took a lot of
flack for spearheading the effort to increase the gas tax in New Jersey. But
that money, that revenue was very badly needed and I certainly give
him a lot of credit for having the courage to do that. Don’t necessarily want to get into the politics of it. He’s a Republican and I think he took a lot of
heat from his own party for that. But I want to certainly reach
out to him and say thank you. And I’ll just say the
Republicans in general, and the Democrats too; this is a nonpartisan effort. This is not about whether we’re dealing with a Republican
or Democrats. We’ve dealt with both sides of the aisle, in both states, and so I
can’t bring myself to criticize either party except to say that where it’s been possible it seems like we’ve gotten the support we needed. Maybe not always but it has not had anything really to do with party. So, I
just want to say that that’s what we’re about. We try to keep
this out of the political realm, even though we deal in the political realm. We
know that, but not to do it from a partisan perspective because I think
that would be not in the best interest of this entire effort. And
I urge people who are part of this effort, or who support the effort, to think in
those terms. This is not really about that. We’re just looking for support,
whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican it doesn’t matter to us really, at all. Gail Phoebus, former assemblywoman covering the district
in Warren and Sussex County. Gail, a big supporter. She’s no longer in the assembly
but certainly a big supporter. I want to thank her for all her help in the later
years having to do with Hudson Farm which, once again,
we’ll get into but trying to get the Andover Extension restarted with New Jersey
Transit, working with Rod Frelinghuysen. Really, so I thank her certainly. Frank Reilly. Wow. Frank. I don’t even know where to begin with Frank. He spearheaded the UMTA study. He
was trying to save the Cut-Off in the beginning, back in the days and
before the tracks were removed. He headed the Board of Transportation in Morris
County for a number of years. He led the TransAction
meeting which is the really big transportation meeting in New Jersey
every year, and he always mentioned the Cut-Off and people used to laugh about it.
But aside from the sort of the jocular or making a joke about a type of thing
that people kind of laughed on–so there he is talking about the Cut-Off again–but
people knew what the Cut-Off was and I can tell you this from my own experience
that that is half the battle in this that if people know what it is you’re
talking about that is half the battle. Even if they maybe laugh it off at least
superficially. But knowledge and education of the people, anybody, either
whether directly or indirectly involved that is a key component of success and
certainly no one was better at doing that than Frank Reilly. I think that’s all
I can say. And Frank has since retired and he’s still involved with rail
preservation. So he’s still around. Norm Ressler. Norm passed away a few years ago. He was the New Jersey equivalent of Paul Hart, who was the
co-chair in Pennsylvania. Norm was the co-chair of Penn-Jersey in New Jersey. I had a number of conversations with Norm over the years. He was in
charge of that group during the 2000s I guess I say, late 90s and the
2000s. And he kept things to the best he could and and he would be a point
person for newspapers to call up and talk to. So he was like almost really a de facto spokesperson for that particular effort, this effort. I miss Norm, he was a really good guy.
Jerry Rohsler. He followed Frank Reilly in that position of the board of
transportation in Morris County. So I mentioned Jerry’s name because he
carried on after Frank had retired.
Ross Rowland. Ross is quite a sales person himself with the 614 and High
Iron Company and the American Freedom Train. Probably one of the most iconic pictures of the Cut-Off was taken of the American Freedom Train in Roseville Tunnel and Ross would
have been at the throttle of the locomotive. So, indirectly but I mentioned
Ross because, yeah, I think it’s at some level he really needs to be
associated with the Cut-Off because he has been at different times.
Charlie Rydell, mayor of Frelinghuysen for 30 some odd years. Talked about him
extensively in the segment about Johnsonburg and where we’re at that
spot, looked a little bit like this, but different with the Cut-Off, where we talked about where his farmhouse was on fire and the train
stopped there and basically that the engineer and fireman actually saved not only just the barn but also the
family. When I told the story in that segment I had
forgotten and I was contacted by Charlie Rydell’s daughter and I got a little bit more detail on that and that in those days
the barn was right next to the farmhouse. So that the farmhouse could have very
easily gone up as well and the family could have been trapped and that
explained Charlie’s deep almost devotion to supporting the Cut-Off
because that hadn’t been for them who knows what might have happened to his family. Nancy Shukaitis, who was a
commissioner in Monroe County. She would have part of the effort to create the Monroe County Rairoadl Authority. So I want to shout out to her. She’s still around. She’s in her 90s but
she also had involvement with the Tocks Island project, trying to stop it
actually as a matter of fact, and was successful in that respect.
Fred Suljik, who was Tom Drabik’s boss when I met him back in the Planning Department in Sussex County. A call out to him. Seth Taylor. He was
involved with Penn-Jersey. He maintained the website for a number of years. Jerry
Turco is on this list. Don’t know what would have happened if Jerry Turco had not purchased the Cut-Off and if we didn’t have that thing
to fight against. We don’t know what would have happened. What if we didn’t have the proposals for the Cut-Off to be destroyed, would there have been the
same impetus to try to save it? Don’t know. So he’s on that list. I’ll put him
on the list. Not that we’re congratulating Mr. Turco. But he did play
a role and he didn’t destroy the Cut-Off either. His attorney at that time,
Dennis Joy, after a meeting where I pretty much excoriated Turco
and everything that he was proposing. This was actually in Johnsonburg and Dennis Joy walked up to me after this I thought he was going to punch
me in the nose. But he walked up and shook my hand he said we’ll ride your
railroad any day. So I don’t know if that meant that they will ride it if you
give us the money or find the money for us. But, hey, it worked out at least as best it could have under the circumstances. There
are three guys named Walsh on this list. I’m one of them. I’m not gonna really
talk about my contribution, at least not in this episode. Maybe in a future episode we’ll talk about what I did in all of this but we’ll talk
about the other two Walsh’s. Larry Walsh. No relation. He used to call me Brother
Walsh as a matter of fact. Larry was a member of the Monroe County Railroad
Authority for a number of years. I remember I told Larry one time–we were
talking after meeting–and I said you know by the way I think of all the
different sections on the Cut-Off–this is before the Cut-Off had been acquired from
Mr. Turco and Conrail. Don’t forget Turco owned part of the section in Pennsylvania. So I’m just telling you Larry, I think this is going to be the section that is probably gonna cause the most problems. I
just mentioned that after this as well if like one was off-the-cuff type of
remarks. Well about five years later when I go to a meeting and he
pulls me aside–he said Brother Walsh, the old thing–by the way you were
absolutely right about that this was going to be the most difficult piece of
the Cut-Off to acquire. He asked me how did you know that? I don’t know. I
mean it was just a thought, I mean just based on what I thought based on having a bridge involved, two states, the river, but it
was it wasn’t really a thought that I had any kind of scientific type of or
you know deep-seated type of information. It was just a gut feeling and he said well
you’re absolutely right. It was tough. They had
a tough time with that. Tom Walsh. Once again not related, maybe somewhere we’re distant
cousins from the old country. Tom, the current mayor of Andover, he’s
fighting really hard to get the culvert which we’ll talk about in the next
segment. It’s been a big problem to get that culvert taken care in Andover and basically jumpstart the entire project to Andover. Get
that off of, stuck on the dime there where really has been
nothing happening for now five years. Fred Wertz. Fred passed away a couple years
ago. He got me into this effort. Fred was a real good salesman. There was probably
nobody better than Fred at getting in to see a politician, a Jerry Turco, you
name it. Fred and I had our differences over the years but he
played a key role there’s no doubt it. And he also had a lot to do with, as I
mentioned, talking to Finn Caspersen’s people and Rod Frelinghuysen’s people
and getting them together to agree on Andover as a designated place to have
the station for at least the initial phase, phase one, of the Cut-Off
reactivation. John Willever. John passed away at the end of August, 2017. John worked
for the Lackawanna. He was a huge advocate, especially after he left the
DOT. He was retired for 25 years and he wrote countless letters over the years and was actually part of the team that was did the initial condemnation at
DOT. John he was also involved
when we talked about the freight trains over the Cut-Off, we talked about Garrett
Mountain. He was also involved with that condemnation of the right-of-way
originally adjacent to Route 80. You know we talked about that, the severing of the line there in and near Paterson. But John a huge
contributor and a great loss and but I mention him because he
deserves to be really be mentioned. And then finally as we get to the end that
there’s no Xs, Ys, or Zs. The end of the Ws is Larry Wills, he was chairman of the Monroe County Railroad Authority for a number of years when I first started
going out to they met in Stroudsburg and then they met in East Stroudsburg, if memory serves, so Larry kept the flame burning. That was a key thing that needed to be done during the dark days. This effort never died and there are a few
people who managed to keep it alive and Larry’s one of them. Then finally the last two I’m mentioning is all the the towns along the Cut-Off, the
freeholder boards in Morris, Sussex and Warren County. All the people who supported us… …names just too numerous to
mention, but I just want to say collectively they made a huge contribution and kept the flame burning. And then finally all the people in New
Jersey, how many millions of people that would have been, who voted
for the bridge bond bill. If they hadn’t voted for it–I voted for
it, certainly, but I was only one vote–if they hadn’t voted for it and
approved that 115 million, 25 million of which was set aside for railroad
rights-of-way, what would have happened? So you know that list would be, of
course, well, we don’t know who voted for it, they’d have to tell us. But it passed overwhelmingly and that’s the most important
thing to know. So that’s the end of the list of all the people at least I know.
And once again the caveat is that I didn’t know everybody and I
apologize to the people who I omitted unwittingly. But that’s a pretty comprehensive list. I have to think you have to admit all the
people who have over the years, and especially concentrating on the time
that we’re concentrating on this particular effort between ’85 and 2001.
But there are a few I mentioned here whose contribution goes beyond that
and so though that’s a mentioning of that Hall of Fame if
you will. Finally the one thing I do want to mention and this this has to do with
the videos in general. I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s been
watching these, and there’s more to come. But I want to mention the enhancements
we’ve been trying to make because we get feedback. People write us on YouTube
and they let us know, often sometime very often to complement us and sometimes
to tell us we don’t like this and that kind of thing. A couple of
things we wanted to take care of was that one, first of all, closed
captioning which we’ve added to all of the videos. And they’re handcrafted so
they’re not just relying on the voice recognition program that YouTube has,
which is not the best. You have to correct it, otherwise you
get gibberish. If I had to rely on what they provide when you
just press a button and it populates into your video it, I personally
would be lost. So I’ve had to go in–it’s a lot work–but I’ve had to go in and
actually tweak the verbage and correct sometimes where the words are
absolutely wrong, like Johnsonburg usually is Johnson Berg or Johnson burg. You know what it is. But in some case you don’t, like
Greendell is Greendale and there are other words which Pequest comes out
all sorts of different ways “Peak West Phil”, you wouldn’t even know what the
heck it was that that was coming out off the voice recognition
programming. So that’s one enhancement we’ve had. The other thing, lapel mic. Now it’s not windy today but we’ve had some days where it’s really been windy
and we’ve gotten complaints about that. The earlier videos we can’t do
anything about, but now the lapel mic, the wireless mic, hopefully is
taking care of that as an issue. We’ve had people who have asked us about
whether we’re going to put anything out on a DVD. No, we’re not going to do that.
We’re going to stick with YouTube. I think that is the most appropriate forum
for this and don’t want to have to, quite frankly, create another thing that needs
to be done, creating DVDs. I don’t want to do that. But I wanted to say
this is, and I mentioned this a little bit earlier, that this effort has not
been about making money. Not that we would sell DVDs to make money, but I
don’t want any kind of perception that somehow this effort is about
that. This is a labor of love, as difficult as it may be to sometimes
believe that. But the purpose… and I want to make sure that everyone understands that that’s what we’re about and that
this is done as a means to communicate information, to try to keep you up-to-date
because at some point we expect that there’s going to be activity finally
on the Cut-Off in terms of construction. But also to tell you about the past. This is going to be about the present, and in
our next episode we will be talking about the present, which we haven’t done a
lot about. And next segment will be about New Jersey Transit, that project. We’ll go
into that in great detail. And then we’re going to get to the future. And so want
you to look at this as not as a historical video but as one that is covering
the whole spectrum. But you have to understand the past to understand the
present and perhaps to also understand the future. So, that is the end of Part 15.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed this. The next video which will also include
part three of Larry Malski’s interview, but that’ll
be Part 16 on the Cut-Off. So until then thank you for watching and hope you look
forward to our next episode on the Lackawanna Cut-Off.


  • Reply Ken in Wisconsin February 11, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Great music! My viewing is set for this evening.

  • Reply Kyle Michael February 11, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    My buddy and I watch all your videos. You do so much work for these videos. If you haven't heard it enough, we do appreciate it and a big thank You! We drive around on Sunday's and look at the good sightings on the cut off!

  • Reply John Pluciennk February 11, 2018 at 7:54 pm

    Chuck, your videos are great. Are there similar efforts to extend service to Phillipsburg on the Raritan Valley Line? Do you foresee yourself making a similar video series on the Central Railroad of New Jersey mainline?

  • Reply matej _n February 11, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Chuck. I would like to thank for your thorough work after fourteen parts about Cut Off. It was plesantly spent time for me. I'm just about to watch the next (and the last?) episode. I'm not local, but it is very interesting story for me too. I hope that passenger train traffic will be rise again not only on this piece of track. Greetings to NJ from your fan from Czech Republic.
    And now sit down please, watch and enjoy… Great work!

  • Reply barrister2u February 11, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    Terrific series. Informed, historical and accurate. Now. let's get the cut-off operational.

  • Reply g bridgman February 12, 2018 at 2:00 am

    Thanks for the list of people who contributed to saving the cut-off. There were several names I recognized. I wondered if John Willever was still around. I saw John on the 765 excursions out of Steamtown two summers ago. I spoke to him many times over the years about the Lackawanna Railroad both in person at various rail events and over the phone a few times. He had a large collection of glass plate negatives of the railroad from the company photographer. I also knew Nancy Shukaitis and spoke to her about the cut-off back in the early 80s. At that time the Monroe County Commissioners were seriously thinking about acquiring the property, with rails intact, for $7 million. They had the cash but the deal fell through when the funds were allocated instead for the prison in Snydersville. That may have been as close as anyone came to saving the entire line from Slateford Jct. to Port Morris. It was a big disappointment when the deal fell through. I road the Lackawanna and the EL between Morristown, NJ, and Cresco, PA, extensively for many years as a kid, including every weekend in the summer of 1966. My father and grandfather rode it before me. Our family has a lot of history with the DL&W. I've lived a stone's throw from the tracks all my life and always kept an eye on the railroad. I'm glad it came back in PA even if only as a regional carrier. I expected to lose that, too. Thanks for all these informative videos and all the interest they've generated. When the line is completed to Andover, I'll be sure to take a ride on it!

  • Reply Blue dust February 12, 2018 at 2:28 am

    Is there any timetable to restart the construction to Port Morris?

  • Reply Dunbar February 12, 2018 at 2:35 am

    How about a movement to reacquire the Lehigh and Hudson right of way.

  • Reply yardmstr February 12, 2018 at 5:20 am

    I really appreciate your work, and I especially enjoy your videos. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the two deer at 54:13? Pretty amazing phenomenon. Mother Nature putting her stamp of approval on the restoration of the cutoff perhaps? At any rate, also exciting to know there will be more from Attorney Malski. Thanks again sir! Looking forward to your continued work on YouTube and on the ground, so to speak.

  • Reply PeterT1981 February 12, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Thank you Chuck! Another great episode! Very informative.

  • Reply glenn habrial February 15, 2018 at 2:20 am

    minute 54.09 has two deer in the background.

  • Reply Tone James February 15, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    When can we expect part 16?

  • Reply Ken in Wisconsin February 17, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Chuck I sent you a message via youtube. Let me know if you received it?

  • Reply Frank Hempel February 17, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    the improved sound with the wireless mic is great – i really hope you didnt get a cold standing 1 hour+ in the snow! i really like the rich details on the cutoff – more to come in part 16!

  • Reply Chuck Walsh February 19, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Evan Kolb, not a dumb question at all…the Morristown & Erie would have provided freight service over the Cut-Off had Venturail been successful in becoming the designated operator back in 1984. Their future role is unknown at this point. But given that no freight service on the Cut-Off is expected, the question is probably moot.

  • Reply Terry Dean February 21, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    Chuck, I've watched all your videos on the cut off. Thanks for your effort in explaining its importance. I now have a better understanding why it needs to be re-activated. I grew up on the west end of the Lackawanna & the Erie's Rochester Division so naturally they are my 2 favorite railroads. Having grown up several hundred miles from the cut-off it was not prominent in our thinking of its importance to the Lackawanna. This super railroad should have never been allowed to devolve to its present day state. I guess we can thank Conrail for that.

  • Reply Chuck Walsh February 24, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    I doubt that we’ll see much in the way of freight service. There was almost nothing back in 1978, and that was 40 years ago.

  • Reply AE Kurier February 26, 2018 at 2:40 am

    Hello Chuck.
    Thank you for all your hard work in producing the series of videos about the loss and the struggle to save the line: All 15 videos have been watched with great interest; I have gained knowledge about other aspects of railway operations, law and legislation, too, with these videos especially the meeting with Lawrence Malski with his explanation of the hurdles encountered, how they were solved and hopefuffy will be solved.. The comment by Lawrence Malski – not exactly word for word here – about airports, freeways/roads and railways are the lifeblood of the economy, the arteries and veins of the economy; all passenger transportation systems, including the railways need to be fairly funded with government support, whether on a national or local level, in favour of a greater persentage than the funding for freeways.
    These videos should be offered to UK government and local councils/administrations as a learning and trailing advice tool, especially important for the United Kingdom ( My location)! – This is a small group of 3 countries, where the London government does not invest nearly enough in the railways; so many lines had been closed thoughout history. I believe that it is a start of a new and up and coming renaisance in passenger rail travel, including tram systems for the UK in favour of the automobile; too many private autos on roads with just one person inside vehicle; that is the UK – A small island of automobile conjestion; a little exaggerated, I know, but it is getting worse, not better.

    Wishing you all the success with your project.

    Andy v. B.

  • Reply JAMES MARK February 26, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    I binge-watched the entire series this weekend. I remember riding with people on LV 353 who wanted to see this line preserved and reactivated. Glad things seem to be coming together and hope it will be a harbinger of other rail projects in the state.

  • Reply CNStamford Subdivision March 2, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    Great series so far, the Cut-Off reminds me a lot of the NY central, Penn central and ConRail CASO mainline across southern Ontario canada, Abandoned by CN throughout 1996 to 2012.

  • Reply Ob Fuscated March 6, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    We'll need those lines as development progresses in the region. Once destroyed by development they will never be restored to passenger rail transport.

  • Reply Engineer Cat March 17, 2018 at 3:43 am

    I loved every single one of these videos. And being I have been to Roseville Tunnel a bunch of times, It was great learning more about it. Was east of the tunnel a fill like the Pequest Fill but much shorter? Thanks for the vids!

  • Reply 4windowcoupe March 21, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    Hi! I've been watching the series and enjoying them immensely. There are three things that I feel haven't been mentioned. (Perhaps I missed seeing them.) First, several years ago I took a road trip following the cutoff and I feel that except for the the four (one to come) station locations, the cutoff is either on top of a high fill or deep in a cut. "Public" access is extremely limited due to this. Secondly, I feel that mention should be made of the concrete underpasses that were constructed before the fills began. Third, I feel that the need for additional fill for the Pequest Fill from borrow pits was most likely caused by the substitution of a tunnel for the Roseville Cut. Way less material than was anticipated came out of the cut once they stopped work on the cut and began boring the tunnel. Anyway, I look forward to further "chapters."

  • Reply Chuck Walsh March 22, 2018 at 1:43 am

    Thank you. I’ve kicked around the possibility of doing a segment on the bridges and underpasses, although several of each have been mentioned or shown over time in the videos. Yes, I will do a segment on Greendell and Andover. Regarding the Pequest Fill, while the completion of a cut would have added a lot of fill, my unofficial estimate left Section 3 (Flickwir & Bush) quite a bit short and extra borrow pits would still have been needed anyway. Regarding constant cuts and fills on the Cut-Off I thought I brought that up, or maybe Larry Malski brought that up in his interview. Working on the next segment…weather has caused delays, however.

  • Reply Rick Porvaznik December 20, 2018 at 7:17 am

    Great job gentlemen,.

  • Reply davidde rios December 27, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    Nj transit merger

  • Reply davidde rios December 27, 2018 at 5:10 pm

    Nj transit / Lackawanna merger

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