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DISCOVERY DAYS - TOTOWA

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TOTOWA DISCOVERY DAY photos, June 27, 1998: Photos by yours truly. As a reference, here's a map of the section we hiked from an EL track diagram from 1963 in my collection. The map shows the lack of industrial trackage in early EL days.

On a somewhat warm summer day, a small group of EL fans gathered together to hike the Totowa Industrial Spur (the former DL&W Boonton Line) from Mountain View, NJ to Route 46 in Wayne. We didn't realize it at the time, but trackage here certainly did improve from DL&W days!

Our hike began at Mountain View, where the DL&W crossed the Erie Greenwood Lake Branch at grade. Not much remains to indicate the diamond here once, but looking east down the DL&W allows you to spot where the diamond once was. The track in the foreground is the Greenwood Lake Branch, or what's left of it. (At the end of our hike, we decided to hike north on this line to see how far it went. Well, about a mile north of the diamond, we hit a veritable forest! The mosquitos weren't all that great here, either... Turning around, we can see the line heading south, not looking much better...

We continued east on the former Lackawanna. The wide right-of-way was pretty obvious here. Our first big landmark was the remains of the Mountain View DL&W station. The bridge in the background is Parish Drive, and the station platform remains are visible to the right of the track. Continuing east, the Lackawanna becomes a long tangent. Just east of the station, we could not find any signs of a siding that once served Western Publishing (today, GEC-Marconi Electronics). Obviously, long gone. This aerial view of the area on December 4, 1966 shows the line with the Parish Drive bridge and station site. Time for a group photo! Matt Klemchalk (left) and Rob Schoenberg pose on the lengthy Lackawanna tangent, surrounded by trees. Just beyond this point, the William Sheppard diagram book "Schematic Track Diagrams of the EL Railway" listed a siding for Continental Can. Here's what we found: A freshly removed siding curving off alongside a large building. So much for traffic! Adjacent to this siding was the big "scenic element" on this branch - a short deck-girder bridge over the Preakness Brook. Note the line used to be double-tracked here. We climbed down for a better look at this neat little bridge. Continuing, we noticed some rusty rails in the trees to our north. The diagram book said this was the "Airport Siding." (Thanks to all the list members who explained that this was so named due to an airport at this location that disappeared in the late 1960's). We held out hope for a connection to the main, but alas, we found another torn-out switch. Again, here's another aerial view on March 14, 1974 of this area. Note the long string of cars on the Airport siding, as well as the large Continental Can plant and the Preakness Brook. We eventually hit the only grade crossing on this tangent track at Taft Road, in the middle of a large industrial park in Wayne. The crossing is particularly interesting as it is a manually-activated one (and has been since EL days). Just east of the crossing we hit the heaviest concentration of trackage. It's here that several industries were once served by the EL and Conrail. This view looking west shows two tip-to-tip switches. The distant switch going to the right led to Thomas' Bakery, once of the largest customers on this line until they moved operations to Connecticut. They would regularly receive four to six covered hoppers per train. Today, the siding lies quietly.

But more impressive is the switch in the foreground going out of the picture to the left. This leads down a short, stiff grade into a mess of industrial trackage, including this pair of crossings. Unfortunately, this group of industrial trackage appears to have been long-dormant. Going beyond the diamonds and turning around gives us this view of thoroughly-overgrown track! Toward one end of this industrial trackage is a switchback, the tail of which (the white building) was an automotive parts depot for Ford. Another customer on another spur in this complex was Contract Packaging. Ironically, this plant is now served by a Roadrailer trailer! At the west end of this industrial complex, the EL tracks are barely visible in the pavement. The three industries served here are all closed down and up for sale, thus obviating the need for rail service.

This industrial trackage was served from both the east and west end. However, the east end connection was torn out recently. Also, there is another (still-connected) siding here swinging off to the right to serve a food-service warehouse. The track looks like it hasn't been used in a while. This siding was put in after EL, according to the diagram book. Time for another aerial view of this area taken April 19, 1990. We crossed under Riverview Drive, and came to the only real "bright spot" on this hike: The last remaining customer! Omega Warehousing has a building adjacent to Riverview Drive, and on this day had a Cotton Belt boxcar being unloaded. This warehouse gets 2-3 cars a week. Continuing east, we pass another abandoned industry, R Race Plastics (and this siding was put in after Conrail!). After crossing under Route 80, we come to an industry that was here in DL&W days. The cement plant here was most recently Blue Circle Cement, but it is now abandoned and up for sale. Adjacent to the facility is the Minnisink Road bridge, the only "original" Lackawanna concrete overpass left in this area. The view looks west, and is taken from approximately the location of the switch that used to serve the cement plant on the left. Time for one last aerial view, this one from April 19, 1990. Turning around, we see the only passing siding on the line. You can see the siding sink down quite a bit from the main here. At the other end of the passing siding, we look east and see that Route 80 has encroached on the old main. At this point, there used to be a siding coming off for an Agway dealer at the left - all signs of this switch are gone. A little further east is the "new" Union Avenue overpass. The switch underneath the bridge is a new piece of panel track. The track in the foreground goes to serve the (now bankrupt and closed) Bomont Plastics plant. The track at left goes to the "Water Branch," an original Lackawanna line that serves a water treatment plant in Totowa. This track twists and turns towards Route 46. The track today is embargoed.

After a long hike back, we were glad to get some rest and cool from our cars' air-conditioners! We will be doing this interesting hike again, so keep your eyes peeled!

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