the High Bridge high bridge...

Discussion of the CNJ (aka the Jersey Central) and predecessors Elizabethtown and Somerville, and Somerville and Easton, for the period 1831 to its inclusion in ConRail in 1976. The historical society site is here: http://www.jcrhs.org/

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the High Bridge high bridge...

Postby SledDawg » Wed Jul 31, 2013 3:26 pm

Posting here in the newly-reconstituted CNJ Forum and hoping for the best...

I've been doing some research on the High Bridge Branch and related, and wanted to bounce something off folks here.

We know that the the High Bridge "high bridge" was built in 1852, but filled in between 1859 and 1865. The CNJ was a double track railroad from Elizabethport to Somerville as early as 1853, and the second track was extended to Hampton in 1854. The High Bridge was not double tracked however, so there was gauntlet track on bridge.

When the bridge was constructed the CNJ was using a 4’10” track gauge. In 1854 the CNJ added a 3rd rail for 6’ gauge to its mainline from Hampton to the Elizabethport waterfront terminus to accommodate the primarily coal trains of the DL&W, which the CNJ had a contract with until April 1875, when all DL&W traffic from Hampton to Elizabethport was discontinued. The DL&W alone shipped 64,110 tons in 1856, and over 50% more the following year. After the DL&W pulled out the CNJ removed the 3rd rail sometime after 1876.

What with the dual gauge and the gauntlet, the track work on and approaching the bridge must have been complicated and difficult to maintain. In addition, contemporary accounts say that the High Bridge shook and bent down in the middle of each section between the piers as the locomotive passed. I'm thinking that all of these engineering worries plus the fact that the gauntlet track probably became a bottleneck as coal traffic increased must have led to the decision to encase the bridge in the massive earthen embankment we see today.

Does this make sense to you all? I've never seen another explanation for it.

Also, has anyone ever seen a photo or drawing or account of the construction? It must have been a massive effort at the time, albeit in a semi-remote area. It was the early days of photography, so perhaps not many cameras around to document the work. But still, there must have been a huge workforce out there for years.

Also, where did the fill come from? Legend has it that there are discarded freight cars embedded in there, but it's mostly rock and dirt of course. Looking at the Lackawanna Cutoff construction photos some years later, it seems that there should be some big holes around in nearby Hunterdon County. Where are they?

Any help appreciated.

Dave Goessling
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Re: the High Bridge high bridge...

Postby toptrain » Fri Aug 09, 2013 12:31 pm

* Well Sledog Hello. I been a member here for awhile but only recently look back. Lived in town with CNJ most of life and NJT is there since scoot stopped. I look a lot at the e-books put on line . Google E books and internet archive seem to be the best. Lots of old railroad publications there. They go up to around 1920. These are complete books, and magazines. Some monthly and some bi-monthly. The ones I find stuff in are Railway Age, which was published with other names. Railroad Gazette, Railway Gazette, Railway Age, Railroad Age, and Railroad Age Gazette. Yep, every so many years they changed the name. These magazines just kept be published through many years. They are there up to about 1920. They are listed by year and Volume number. The other magazine is the American Engineer and Railroad Journal. I have seen info of High bridge there. Some drawings and a postcard or 2.
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Re: the High Bridge high bridge...

Postby Ken W2KB » Wed Aug 21, 2013 6:20 am

I realize this is the opposite of the question, but of interest - where CNJ was filled. [url][/http://www.state.nj.us/dep/njgs/geodata/historicfill/highbridge.pdfurl]
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