Today’s article is by guest contributor Kenneth Gear. You’ve heard his name before, since Ken has generously loaned us many Railroad Record Club and other similar records from his collection, so that we could transfer them to audio CDs. Thanks to Ken, we are well on our way towards our goal of making the entire RRC collection available once again.
But Ken is also an excellent photographer, with a particular fondness for the PCC cars that ran from 1954 to 2001 in the Newark City Subway. I only rode the line once, in 1991, and you can see a picture I took here. Last year, along with Ray DeGroote, I gave a program about the Newark and Rochester subways, which you can read about here.
All the Newark PCC photos in today’s post are by Kenneth Gear.
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The latest addition to our steam audio CDs (again, thanks to collector Kenneth Gear) features Hi-fi recordings made in late 1964, showcasing the last great days of Mexican steam:
Valle del Locomotora de Vapor (Valley of the Steam Locomotives)
Mexican Steam Railroading in Twilight, 1964
# of Discs – 1
A decade after mainline steam railroading had largely disappeared from the United States, it was still going strong in the Queretaro Division of the National Railways of Mexico. These Hi-Fi stereo recordings were made in the summer and fall of 1964, just before diesels took the place of steam in some of the last North American holdouts. This two-LP set, originally issued on a long-defunct record label in the 1960s, fits on a single CD and is a remarkable document of a vanished era.
Total time – 75:12
Our Twilight of Steam title (again, made possible thanks to the generosity of Kenneth Gear) has been expanded to three CDs, and now covers four LPs in this series, with nearly three hours of audio:
Twilight of Steam
# of Discs – 3
The long out-of-print, thrilling audio counterpart to the exciting and controversial 1963 book The Twilight of Steam Locomotives by Ron Ziel. (Book not included.)
This collection includes LPs 1 through 4 on three CDs.
Railroads covered include the Reader, Virginia Blue Ridge, Southern Pacific, Bevier & Southern, Mobile & Gulf, Kentucky & Tennessee, Magma Arizona, the Mississippian, Graham County Railroad, Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, Denver & Rio Grande, East Broad Top, Reading, Canadian Northern, the Strasburg, the Burlington, Buffalo Creek & Gauley, Grand Trunk Western, Alabama Central, Valle de Mexico, Rockton & Rion, Duluth Missabe & Iron Range, and Great Western. These were among the last steam locos in regular service on North American railroads, in recordings made between 1958 and 1966.
Total time – 171:17
Remembering Newark’s PCCs
Most of my trips on the Newark City Subway (excepting fan trips) were not railfan photography outings. I rode for the fun of riding a PCC car on an interesting route. I might ride on the spur of the moment because my Amtrak or NJ Transit train wasn’t due for an a while. Sometimes when I had a free day I took a NJT Raritan Valley Line train from Dunellen to Newark Penn, bought a coffee, and rode to Franklin Avenue and back.
I did on occasion make a photography day out of a trip on the subway. In my opinion there were only a hand full of good photography locations on the entire 4.3 mile length of the line. I tended to shoot these same locations over and over but I wish I would have taken photos at more stations. I went where I knew I’d get good photos and be reasonably safe.
The locations were Norfolk Street, the only station I photographed at that was below street level in the old Morris Canal bed. Still visible was sections of the ramp that carried the Route 23 Central Avenue line up to street level. Buses replaced trolleys in 1947.
Orange Street was the location I went to the most. It is at street level with plenty of room to move around and even take broadside views of the PCCs as they crossed Orange Street, the only grade crossing on the subway. According to the April 1999 issue of RAILPACE both Orange Street and Norfolk Street are “the stops which could pose the greatest safety concerns as the surrounding areas at these locations are blighted”. I never felt threatened at either place, in fact my interactions with locals were always pleasant and usually we chatted about the trolleys and how they will be missed.
My second most photographed location is Davenport Avenue . I always enjoyed spending time here. It is in a nicely kept neighborhood at the entrance of Branch Brook Park. Elevated photos could be taken from a pedestrian walkway and there was a conveniently located set of vintage signals that, like the PCCs they governed, were on borrowed time. Here in March of 2001 I photographed motor flat # 5223, the only time I saw this car out on the line. This work car was made from Public Service composite car # 2683 in 1954. The car was originally built in 1917! The only other railroad equipment of that age I saw in regular service were the steeple cab locomotives on the Iowa Traction. These electrics seem to be able to stand the test of time!
My other photo spot was the end of the line at Franklin Avenue Station. Here was located that wonderful loop track. I really enjoyed the sight and sounds of the PCCs rounding that impossibly tight curve, screeching and clawing their way from being outbound to being inbound. The loop was built around 1940 because the PCCs being single ended, needed a means of changing direction. The loop is now gone, Franklin Avenue Station is now called Branch Brook Park Station and , of coarse, the PCCs are long gone.
On August 24th 2001 I rode the Newark City Subway for the last time. That was the last day of PCC car service. The cars had been running since 1954, but it sure seemed to me that they still had a lot more life left in them. NJ Transit, to their credit, did a nice job of giving these cars a grand send-off. Car # 6 was painted in the grey paint scheme of Public Service Coordinated Transport. It looked great in it’s new shiny paint on that warm sunny day. It was quite a nice gesture for NJT to completely repaint a piece of equipment that only had one more day of revenue service.
This wasn’t only the end of the PCC era this was, after all, August of 2001. We all know what would happen on the 11th of the following month and railfanning the subway, or any place other place would never be the same.
This batch is from the first time I rode the Newark subway. It is also the only time I photographed the PCCs before they were equipped with pantographs. The occasion was an Electric Railroad’s Association fan trip that ran on May 24, 1987. In the morning we rode a farewell to the PATH K class cars and after lunch we rode the subway and toured the shop at Penn Station. My tripod was accidently left at home so I got very few useable photos of the shop. Somehow I managed to get a fairly good shot of the snow sweeper.
Here is the next bunch of photos. Again these are from a fan trip. This time the trip was run by The North Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society. All photos taken on April 22, 2000:
After taking tons of photos of car 1, we toured the Penn Station subway shop.
Photos in the next bunch are all April 22, 2000:
Here is the next bunch. All photos were taken on March 28, 2001 at Davenport Avenue Station:
All photos taken at Orange Street on March 28, 2001:
Here is the last batch of the PCC car photos. These were all taken on the last day of PCC car service on August 24, 2001:
PS- Here are some scans of Newark Subway related documents from my files.
These are all from NJ Transit except the newspaper article: