Railfan Sites in New Jersey
A self-guiding railfan tour
Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in New Jersey?
The CSX East Coast Tour has now reached up into New Jersey, with a tour from the Bound Brook NJT station to the Delaware River south of West Trenton. This isn't a major tour segment yet, but it is part of a much bigger series of Frograil tours, which are here. All specific points on this tour are annotated with: [CSX-E].
Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
Cities And Sites
This is European-style volume and speed, and is therefore not suited to the type of North Carolina or Iowa railfan opportunities most Americans are used to. Standing at trackside (if you can legally get anywhere near trackside!), and watching trains zoom by at 120 MPH may be cool, but is hardly conducive to taking decent pictures. Therefore, one of the best ways to railfan and photo the NEC is from the platform of the stations themselves. Between Newark Penn Station and Rahway, North Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Linden and Rahway are recommended.
Don't venture near the tracks themselves, as the Amtrak police are good at what they are paid to do, and you will be fined.
There are lots of vendors at most stations, so food, drink and something to read are readily available. For pix, morning and evening rush hours are obviously the times to be there.
This is a station somewhat west of Elizabeth proper, and south of Newark. It's on the Northeast Corridor, and sees intensive Amtrak and NJT traffic. To get to the station from Newark on I-72, go south on Frelinghuysen Street, which will become Newark Avenue when you get into Elizabeth. Take a left to go east on North Avenue East, which will take you to the station. Find a place to park and walk into the station. During weekdays, you see an Amtrak or New Jersey Transit train every 3-5 minutes! You'll see long distance, medium distance, diesel and electric powered, push-pull and MU-style trains. Don't look for Powder River unit coal trains, but for hot dog northeast corridor action, this is cool.
Adapted from a Bill Ensinger entry in the Greater Capital District Railfan Association pages, which are here. Used with permission.
Here's a different site. For those of you used to the "wide open, a train every 15 seconds" Kearny (CAR-nee), Nebraska, here's Kearny, New Jersey. You'll still see lots of trains, but don't expect to see Powder River coal. This is the New Jersey Transit's Meadows Maintenance Complex, and it is just that -- complex. Within the complex, which is only accessible after gathering written permission ahead of time, are an E-unit, Eire diesels, and 2 Rahway Valley Railroad switchers...there may even be some other oddities lurking around. Outside of the compound, shots are available from NJ-7, just before it crosses the Hackensack River into Jersey City. Raymond reports that there is a chain link fence around the facility, but that decent photos can be had, nonetheless. I'd suggest a pick-up with chairs in the back, or a van with a solid photo platform top.
As far as directions for getting there, this is a very complicated area, so I'd suggest finding Kearny on MapQuest, and then ratcheting down until you can clearly see NJ-7. Raymond says that you should "...follow NJ-7 east ... thru Kearny until you come to the swampland before you get to Jersey City. The MMC yard will be on your right, just before NJ-7 crosses the Hackensack River into Jersey City."
With kudos to Raymond Lillie for this information.
Here's a nice place to see trains within Megalopolis: From the I-95/US-46 interchange, go west on US-46 (Winant Avenue) thru Ridgefield Park. When you get to Main Street, turn left, and go south all the way to the Bergen Turnpike. Take a right on the latter, and go to the tracks. There are 3 tracks here: The eastern-most two tracks are CSX, and the western track is NYSW (Little Ferry yard is just to the south of the Hackensack River here). The CSX tracks are part of what was NYC's West Shore Line, and sees 1-2 trains per hour. A nice, quiet place to see trains in the northeast.
Our favorite producer of railroad gifs, Chris Denbow, has provided this information to us.
From the Garden State Parkway, take exit 137, and go east on NJ-28, West Westfield Avenue. At Locust Street, go north to just before the tracks at West Webster Avenue. The New Jersey Transit station parking lot will probably be full on weekdays, so you might have to park elsewhere and hoof it. It will be worth it.
Go up the steps to the elevated platform and you're between the 2 tracks shared by NJT, CSX and NS. Go to either end of the platform to catch the action, although be advised that you're getting trains head on. Look for freights to stay away during commuter hours, and expect heavy traffic (thanks to NJT) during those business hours. Lighting is best for westbounds virtually all day. Lots of action in Megalopolis.
Thanks to Lee for this posting.