Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

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Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby Snowmojoe » Thu Feb 23, 2017 3:57 pm

I started working down in the general Somerville/Bridgewater area a few months ago. Now that it's light out a little later, I'm starting to look around for opportunities to catch a freight or two. Raritan, Somerville, bridgewater, the western end of the Port Reading Secondary, Bound Brook? Google Maps seems to have a few opportunities in the area. Anyone have a couple good spots they want to share?

I was hitting some Morristown & Erie spots on the way home but they don't seem to be terribly active. I've heard the Port Reading Secondary is pretty busy these days?

Is there any freight on the Gladstone Branch or the Raritan Valley line of NJT?
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby pdtrains » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:24 am

Bound Brook has been the best place for the last 60+ years, probably longer. I used to just shoot from the EB station platform .
Most freight on the Lehigh line. Freight on the old CNJ (RVL) works out of Manville Yard/Bound Brook, afaik. Just a local.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby pumpers » Fri Feb 24, 2017 12:22 pm

From the Bound brook EB platform, you might get a view of the Port Reading line now ( 200? feet to the south), but in summer I think it can be obscured by brush & trees. But there is a Port Reading line grade crossing on the on the road heading south out of twon (just east of the station) - the grade crossing is just south of the tunnel under the Lehigh line and NJT/RVL tracks. A good view is from the very north end of the road bridge ("Queen's Bridge") over the Raritan river which has good sidewalks, actually right next to the crossing. Was just there last weekend (but no trains while I was walking on the bridge). There is a small free public parking lot just south of the bridge on the east side, between the river and the canal. JS
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby Snowmojoe » Fri Feb 24, 2017 1:19 pm

The neighborhood's OK? I was up the line in the Plainfields not long ago and it didn't seem like the smartest place to be slinging $1000 worth of camera gear around. I realize Bound Brook isn't Plainfield but I'm just asking.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby pumpers » Fri Feb 24, 2017 3:07 pm

My wife and I walked all around the area and felt fine. Brand new fancy condo complexes recently opened on both sides of Queens bridge, so that is a good sign too.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby Snowmojoe » Fri Feb 24, 2017 9:02 pm

Alright, thanks very much for the input. Much appreciated.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Fri Feb 24, 2017 9:28 pm

Bound Brook is a nice station to railfan. There are plenty of railfans that congregate there. During the warmer months, you should have good lighting in the late afternoon and early evening for westbounds, both the Lehigh Line and RVL. The neighborhood is ok. I don't know if I would hang out there too late at night but during the daytime it is fine.

You don't want to hang around the station in Plainfield. It might be in downtown but it isn't a very safe area.

One tip to remember about photographing NJT in the Somerville area-almost every set consists of an ALP45DP and multilevels. The days of GP40PH-2s and F40PH-2CATs running on the line have been over for a while and that was the best time to be photographing on the RVL. On weekdays during the rush hour, NJT runs a PL42 Comet Set and if you are lucky, u might see a doubleheader.

If you want to photograph along the Gladstone Branch, you have nice opportunities but be prepared to be observing mostly Arrow III sets. Being in the Somerville area, the Gladstone Branch isn't too far of a drive, especially since you are very close to 287 and 78. At this point, you are within easy reach of Gladstone Branch Stations such as Basking Ridge, Bernardsville, and Far Hills. Bernardsville is a great station to photograph but the lighting is better for westbounds in the late afternoon and early evening. Gladstone is a nice station and lighting is better in the afternoon. While it might be dull just to see mostly Arrow IIIs, they have a long history not only with the Gladstone Branch but NJT's electric lines in general. You might want to get your photographs of them when you can because they won't be around forever.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby bigblue5277 » Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:49 pm

Have you tried the RVL crossing on Quary Ln. at the border of Somerville and Bridgewater?
I've never been but wonder myself if there's potential at this spot in the afternoon for a picture of an NJT train with the covered hoppers.

Also, if I had time I'd like to scope out the Lehigh line in Hillsborough at Beekman Ln. and Auten Rd. From google maps it looks that Beekman Ln. may offer a nice crossing shot for a westbound train in the early to mid afternoon.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby Snowmojoe » Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:33 pm

Thanks for the input, everyone. Sorry for the late reply - I lost my password for a bit there and locked myself out.

I am going to investigate the Quarry Lane crossing; seems like there might be something to that and maybe some good shots along the edge of that baseball field (if there isn't a fence or at least a relatively low fence.) That is not far from where I work so it's not hard to get to. I'll check out Bound brook again too - I have been there, I just didn't know where to park so I never got out of the car.

Related question: Does anyone know anything about this facility? It looks like maybe an industrial park or something; It's in Hillsborough Twsp. - if you enter 156 US-206, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844 into Google Maps, this place is just to the left of Rt. 206 there. There seem to be quite a few cars here, and in the one screen grab, you can see a red high nose Geep on the tracks. At first I thought it was maybe the M&E, but I don't think they have any high-nose power? Maybe that's a house locomotive or something?

Seems like this might be an interesting spot to check out as long as you can access it without getting in trouble.
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Red high-nose geep in this shot
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby Ken W2KB » Tue Mar 28, 2017 10:42 pm

Snowmojoe wrote:Thanks for the input, everyone. Sorry for the late reply - I lost my password for a bit there and locked myself out.

I am going to investigate the Quarry Lane crossing; seems like there might be something to that and maybe some good shots along the edge of that baseball field (if there isn't a fence or at least a relatively low fence.) That is not far from where I work so it's not hard to get to. I'll check out Bound brook again too - I have been there, I just didn't know where to park so I never got out of the car.

Related question: Does anyone know anything about this facility? It looks like maybe an industrial park or something; It's in Hillsborough Twsp. - if you enter 156 US-206, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844 into Google Maps, this place is just to the left of Rt. 206 there. There seem to be quite a few cars here, and in the one screen grab, you can see a red high nose Geep on the tracks. At first I thought it was maybe the M&E, but I don't think they have any high-nose power? Maybe that's a house locomotive or something?

Seems like this might be an interesting spot to check out as long as you can access it without getting in trouble.


Former military depot is owned by the federal government and leased to civilian businesses. Much of it, including several freight cars, was destroyed in a massive fire about a year ago. The Black River and Western GP9 seen in your photo fortunately escaped the blaze without damage. BR&W was the contractor for switching the complex.

See: http://www.nj.com/somerset/index.ssf/2016/02/watch_5-alarm_fire_in_hillsborough_shuts_down_rout.html
~Ken :: Fairmont ex-UP/MP C436 MT-14M1 :: Cessna 177B Cardinal N16019
Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: My Personal Site
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby ccutler » Wed Mar 29, 2017 7:45 am

At least half of the facility is active and still standing. BRW still switches it. You can get close to it from the Roycefield Road entrance but once you reach the fence and railroad crossing you reach the no trespassing signs. I wouldn't go out of my way to see that vantage point, as the satellite imagery on google is recent and tells the whole story, including showing the burnt-out part of the facility.
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Re: Good spots for rail fanning in the Somerville area

Postby glennk419 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:36 pm

It's interesting that none of the railcars damaged in the Hillsborough fire have been moved. Aside from one hopper which is noticeably buckled and split, they appear to be structurally sound. At this point, I would guess that they may be cut up on site.
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