• Middlebrook / Chimney Rock branch: NY corruption story?

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New Jersey

Moderator: David

  by ccutler
2015-10-24 16.33.04.jpg
After spending tens of millions of dollars reconditioning this branch, and sinking all of US22 under a new rail bridge to the quarry in Bridgewater, check out how ready the quarry is to ship by rail!

Either NJ planners are idiots who didn't coordinate with the quarry operators, or someone got a cut of a large construction contract. Which is it? If what happened at M&E is any precedent, it is the latter.
  by 908rails
from a friend in the field, the entire Middlebrook industrial is to slated to be retied in the near future. Stavola has been transloading stone to a site off Polhemus lane while tracks over 22 were OOS.
  by ccutler
I saw the ties stacked. But there's no point in retieing a branch to nowhere. There hasn't even been any obvious prep work to reextend the track into the quarry.
  by Ken W2KB
ccutler wrote:I saw the ties stacked. But there's no point in retieing a branch to nowhere. There hasn't even been any obvious prep work to reextend the track into the quarry.
Perhaps the crew and equipment will both retie and replace the track into the quarry. That would be less expensive than doing it in two phases.
  by greyhairedpete
Why would you assume corruption or stupidity? Maybe the quarry is waiting until winter when the construction industry slows down. Then the track reconstruction wouldn't interfere as much with quarry operations.
  by ccutler
Ken W2KB, perhaps you are right and they will extend the siding this winter. However, it seems odd that no preparation work on the quarry end appears to have been done yet. In particular, if you look at the photo you will see an abandoned truck scale in the way. That has not been removed or demolished yet, and if there were any urgency or material interest no the quarry's part to ship by rail, their site preparation would have been coordinated with the completion of the highway project.

In the mean time, a massive highway excavation and rail bridge construction project has already been completed just a few hundred yards west of that truck scale. Much of the cost of that project likely could have been avoided simply by building an overpass for the road and allowing the gravel trucks to transload 1 to 2 miles away to rail cars next to the RV main line, as they do today. To my knowledge NJ Transit is the quarry's only rail customer, and otherwise the gravel is sold mostly locally.
  by Eric S Strohmeyer
An interesting thread, but not accurate.....

First off, some needed background. The genesis of this project actually began in the mid 1990. The proposed "new interchange" was supposed to make Chimney Rock Road the main heavy truck access road for all various Somerset County public works projects which were being built, or proposed, off Chimney Rock Road and Polhemus Lane ( BRI Transfer Station / Somerset County's Recycling Center / The County-owned baseball stadium / etc. ) It was envisioned by Somerset County planning officials as a complimentary public project originally envisioned to support not only the County's projects, but to also spur development along the entire corridor of the Middlebrook branch corridor. It took nearly 20 years to bring the project to fruition.

While I could give a very long and drawn out history of this project, I'll instead try to keep this brief...

The main reason the newly constructed track looks like it does can be summed up in three words..... "Location, Location, Location"

The reason why the tracks have not been extended into the quarry is simple.... When the project was first designed and budgeted for, the loading of the rail cars was done at the "end of the tracks" in the precise location where the state just rebuilt the tracks. The State rebuilt the railroad has the railroad existed and was being used in the mid-1990's..... From the start of the planning process, to the completion of the project, the rail portion of this project has remained the same for the past 20 years.

When this project began, ..... the land adjacent to the railroad was a former industrial site: Houdaille Industries. The manufacturer made roofing materials, such as shingles and other products at that location.

Immediately adjacent to the former roofing plant was a concrete batch plant (leased in the 1980's and 1990's to Weldon Concrete).

A little further down the line was the original "crushers" for the rock quarry. The track actually extended all the way into the main portion of the quarry ending not too far from the middle of the quarry "pit". Today, the former crusher location is now the Somerset County Joint Public works facility for Bridgewater and Bound Brook.

Beginning with the relocation of the crushers, the relocation of the quarry's access road, the closure and removal of the former concrete plant, the rail line was chopped back to the approximate location of the end of "railroad owned" property. Since the quarry owners owned all the various parcels, it was treated as "one very large lot" by Stavola for years. (Note: The Stavola's acquired the quarry from Houdaille when the later went bankrupt many years ago.)

So, in the mid 1990's, when the project began, the tracks ended at the end of the railroad owned property adjacent to the site of the former roofing plant. The Houdaille owned tracks in the Quarry having been previously removed. So, when the plan was designed, the planning for the new interchange only took into account that which existed at the time. The planners assumed that the Quarry would still receive service from off of the former roofing plant site.

However, the now virtually completed projected has created a new "economic situation" governing the surrounding real estate at the new "full interchange" ..... It has made the land surrounding the line far more valuable. Stavola Industries, the parent company for the quarry, realized that the near highway location (where they were loading the cars) at the new interchange would become far more valuable after the construction was completed. When the County planners needed to reroute Frontier Road to accommodate the new on ramps to I-287, Stavola sought the rerouting of the road in such a manner that would produce a large parcel near the highway which would be capable of being developed.

When one looks at this aerial photo..... it becomes obvious why Frontier road was rerouted the way it was..... It was strictly to support redevelopment of the former Houdaille plant site.... See Google maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.5763278 ... !1e3?hl=en" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The quid pro quo becomes obvious..... In exchange for the development concession, a grade crossing (which actually did exist at the time) would get "rebuilt". So as to not impact the construction schedule, the extension back into the Quarry would be done by Stavola (or so I've been told by County officials). So, that is why it looks pretty obvious why loading is not going to be done on former loading site..... Loading WILL NOT be done at that site....

And not surprisingly, Whole Foods is now seeking Bridgewater Township approval for a new store on that site.

As for getting the track back into the quarry, ..... That battle is just beginning.... Until the highway project is "finished", the Federal Highway Administration is still subsidizing the cost of the trucking material over to the temporary trans-load location in Finderne. That subsidy will end this year. The contractor will be done in the next couple of weeks, and the job will be closed out. At that point, the financial "pinch" of not having a load out near the quarry will begin to be felt.

So, stay tuned, this project is far from over......
  by ccutler
Eric, thanks for that background. Its less than 2 miles from the quarry to the RV gravel transload site. I sure hope they do extend the track into the quarry to transload. But seriously was it worth it if NJ Transit is the only customer? We will see.
  by pumpers
The explanation in the previous post sure has the ring of truth. Probably not legally corruption, but sure sounds like Stavola and the real estate development lawyers out maneuvered everyone else, with who knows what kind of backroom deals on the rerouting of Frontier Rd, and so forth, and are walking away rich from all of this. The American way. Much easier to compete against local politicians and highway departments,etc, and make $$ on real estate than trying to compete against the Chinese in manufacturing. All we need now is a condo development on former Houdaille land next to Whole Foods, with the future condo owners suing the quarry for the dust and noise to shut it down. JS
  by carajul
Did they rehab the entire branch or just the end over Rt 22 ??? The line was in such horrendous shape derailments were common. Sometimes the rails would split wide just by having cars parked on them. NS owns the track but refuses to sell it to NJT. I remember back in the late 70s/early 80s all those buildings has spurs into them and they always had cars spotted on them. Now all the spurs, except for the lumber yard, are ripped out. Even the ballast was taken up for crying out loud.
The xing at Rt 22 had those futuristic darth vadar type lenses. Don't get my term 'futuristic' to mean 'modern' as they were in place in the early 80s !

The branch was built around the turn of the century just to tap the quarry. I'm sure back in the day the quarry shipped out by rail but now NJT is the only customer. You can look at the old arials from 1900s-1950s and NOTHING is there but the quarry... in the middle of the forest with a 2 lane Rt 22. It wasn't until the 1960s all the development occurred and the spurs were put in.
  by ccutler
Judging by the piles of railroad ties spread out near the tracks, they intend to upgrade the rest of the line somewhat, according to a 20 year old plan. The world has somehow changed in 20 years, but I'm sure the plan NJ Transit is using to refurbish the line today would have added value 20 years ago.

Sarcasm aside, I too remember this line being used by smaller industries, but most of those industries have since moved out and been replaced by other types of industrial tenants that don't ship by rail, or service companies that don't ship anything at all.

- Chris
  by ccutler
I rode along the branch today...RR ties have been distributed along the side of the tracks for future installation. There has been no work whatsoever in preparing to lay track into the quarry.
  by greyhairedpete
No work whatsoever?

Funny, the other day I was in the area, and there was a machine moving material away from the end of track, and there was a surveying crew there too.
  by ccutler
That's encouraging! All I saw at the end of tracks were a few traffic cones moved so cars don't think the tracks are a turn, but I don't have an eagle eye for small details.