Ralph A. Heiss’s The Lehigh Valley Railroad Across New Jersey, the latest in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of Rail series, is a “must have” for fans of steam railroading in the industrialized northeast.
It portrays the physical plant and rolling stock of one of the country’s most interesting railroads; a railroad that practically invented the terms “make do,” “home made,” and “ingenuity.”
The Lehigh Valley Railroad Across New Jersey focuses on the line’s broad range of rolling stock, often home made. The cover features a beautifully detailed image of the line’s signature accomplishment, The John Wilkes steam engine with it’s distinctive boiler shroud and striping effect. This engine, and its kin, showed what could be accomplished on a budget by the road’s own shop forces. It remains one of the most easily-identified locomotives from the steam era.
The distinctive striping of the 4-6-2 engine was carried through on the line’s passenger cars, creating an impressive consist with Cornell Red and white stripes set against a black background. Few railroads had as beautiful a train, and the fact the streamlining and painting was done in the yard’s own shops makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.
What I like best about this volume is its great variety of freight and passenger equipment displayed on its pages. These ranged from diminutive waterfront camelback switchers, articulared gas electrics, and several generations of Cornell Red diesels from Alco and EMD.
Everybook contains its own surprise
I learn something new in every Images of Rails book. My “pleasant discovery” in The Lehigh Valley Railroad Across New Jersey is found on the page 28-29 spread, which shows an A-B-B lashup of F units hauling several of the Lehigh Valley’s 95 unique gondolas which were equipped with pressurized air containers for moving dry bulk cement from eastern Pennsylvania to the New York Harbor.
The containers would be lifted by cranes and placed on barges, which brought them to construction sites in and around New York Harbor.
These gondolas and their pressurized air containers would make an excellent modeling project for the enterprising O-scale modeler—who could probably count on selling excess inventory to other modelers intrigued by the car’s shape and distinctive outline.
The Lehigh Valley’s trackage in New Jersey often ran through communities in cuts, or depressed rights of ways. There are numerous photographs showing showing the stations at street level, with long and perilous stairways leading down to the tracks below. Today, OSHA would have a cow if a passenger railroad tried to build stations like the Amboy Avenue station on page 48 and Oak Tree Station on page 71.
Trackage in other areas, like Meeker Avenue shown on page 81, of course, was built on a raised right of way, with equally arduous stairways leading up to the tracks!
The Lehigh Valley’s extensive New York Harbor marine facilities are also portrayed in The Lehigh Valley Railroad Across New Jersey. These photographs depict the line’s “minimum upkeep necessary to maintain safe operations” philosophy.
There are also photographs and marketing materials for the line’s massive investment in the Claremont Terminal in Jersey City. Claremont Terminal was intended to load and unload multiple ocean going vessels at one time. Although the road invested in Hulett Unloaders, similar to those synonymous with Cleveland, the major investment proved to be overbuilt and an expensive disappointment.
Ralph A. Heiss. The Lehigh Valley Railroad Across New Jersey. Arcadia Publishing. $21.99. Available at area bookstores and online from Arcadia Publishing, www.arcadiapublishing.com.