This page will cover the freight aspect of Conrail.  For information on passenger operations on the North Jersey Coast Line, click on this link.

As mentioned earlier, the fate of the Main Line was clearly in the hands of Conrail.  Sand continued to be the main commodity for the CNJ, but would it continue for Conrail?  Even before Conrail operations began on April 1, 1976, the battle was on between shippers, local politicians, and Conrail leaders as Conrail looked to cut what they deemed as “excess
trackage”.  In early 1974, Conrail leaders were prepared to list the Main Line south of Woodmansie, the Barnegat Branch south of Toms River, and the NY&LB south of Asbury Park as excess trackage.  An agreement was made where Conrail would continue to run all “excess trackage” lines for one year, then make a decision on future operations.

With that agreement made, the CNJ, in preparation for Conrail, upgraded the Main Line from Red Bank to Chatsworth.  Work began in late 1974 and was completed in early 1975.  Tracks were replaced with 140/6 welded rail (which the entire Main Line received), newer ties were put in, the rail bed was placed with new ballast, and the Lakewood siding was shortened.  All
signals along the line were removed.  Upon completion of the work, most speed restrictions between Red Bank and Woodmansie were lifted.  Upon the formation of Conrail, the CNJ became Central Jersey Industries, Inc. and focused on selling its real estate properties not included in Conrail.

On April 1, 1976, Conrail officially began operation.  By June, Conrail had continued running the sand extras five times per week and continued the Red Bank to Lakehurst locals two or three times per week.  By mid-summer, all Bridgeton traffic was rerouted through Camden via the former Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line with the exception of about twenty-five loads
of glass sand.  These carloads were destined for northern New Jersey deliveries and continued to use the Main Line.  This decision would have been made regardless of the condition of the Main Line as it would make more economic sense for Conrail to route everything destined for south Jersey via Camden.  On April 1, 1977, which was Conrail’s first birthday, they
abandoned the Barnegat Branch between Beachwood and Pinewald (Bayville) as very little freight traffic moved on the line south of Beachwood.  The line now terminated at South Toms River.  The CNJ's local service on the Main Line was done two or three times per week, with a very erratic schedule on the Barnegat Branch, depending on whether Conrail had traffic for the Barnegat Branch or not.  Conrail picked up the CNJ's schedule for these lines.

Clayton Sand and Gravel Company bought the Glidden site in 1977 and the Hollander site in 1978 and continued business via the sand extras.  By early summer of 1978, almost all north to south traffic had been diverted over the PRSL via Camden.  As a result, the last revenue train from Winslow Junction to Lakehurst was on August 3, 1978.  Ironically, one of the two
locomotives was of CNJ heritage (GP-7), ending ninety-seven years of service on the line.

On February 18, 1981, Conrail notified New Jersey of its intention to abandon the unused track between Woodmansie and Chatsworth, which occurred on December 22, 1981.  The former CNJ Main Line, now referred to as the Southern Secondary, now ended at Woodmansie.  In that same year, Conrail cut the Toms River Branch back to Ciba Geigy due to the condition of the
bridges over the Toms River.  (The track was removed in the late 1980s.)  Central Jersey Industries Inc. auctioned off the abandoned right of way between Toms River and Barnegat.  Today, the right of way still exists and can be used as a pedestrian/bike path in certain areas.  Beachwood did pave their portion for pedestrian usage.  All bridges on the line still stand with the exception of the ones at Toms River, which were removed in the late 1990s.

In the fall of 1982, Red Bank Yard was closed, and all service along the Southern Secondary and Toms River Branch originated out of Brown's Yard.  The CNJ had wanted to close Red Bank Yard and make an agreement with the PRR to share Brown's Yard, but that plan never came through.  Up through 1982, Conrail still worked freight on the NY&LB to Bay Head.  My father recounts catching the train on his way into work in Point Pleasant Beach early in the morning.  Conrail ran about one train per day, five days per week.  Conrail ceased freight operations south of Asbury Park on January 1, 1983, when New Jersey Transit officially took over passenger service on the former NY&LB trackage.  Bay Head Yard is now under the operation of New Jersey Transit.

During the winter of 1985-1986, Red Bank Yard was removed as was the two-track connection with the NY&LB.  A new single-track connection was built along with a two-track yard.  Red Bank tower was also taken out of service by New Jersey Transit.  In the summer of 1986, Conrail sold the line from Lakehurst to Woodmansie to Clayton Sand and Gravel Company.  Clayton opened the line in September 1986 and rebuilt the track to 10 miles per hour standard by the spring of 1988.  After a June derailment, Clayton decided against additional repairs and shut down the line.  (The derailment was one of many reasons for their decision.)  The Southern Secondary now terminated at Lakehurst altogether.  Also in 1986, Clayton's former Glidden site in South Lakewood closed as deposits were exhausted.

In 1987, Conrail initiated a self-unloading, conveyer-equipped train than ran from Chimney Rock (near Bound Brook) to the Glidden Site at South Lakewood.  The train carried sand from Glidden to Chimney Rock and crushed stone from Chimney Rock to Eatontown.  Unfortunately, Conrail’s efforts for the train did not quite make the appeal to customers and the train was discontinued.

Since then, very few changes have been made to the Main Line.  Some of the old CNJ mile markers still exist, as do all “W” signs.  A rusty rail condition exists on the former Main Line and Toms River branch.  Conrail removed the connection with the South Lakewood siding and they no longer serve Ciba Geigy as the plant closed.  The siding in South Lakewood at Whitesville Road still exists, but its connections with the line have been removed and the line was cut at Whitesville Road.  One can see the siding partially hidden by brush.  Lakehurst to Winslow Junction is nearly intact, despite parts of the line not being used in almost over two decades.  Construction sand, so vital to the CNJ in the 1970s, is now moved strictly by truck.  The line is drilled about twice a week.  Motive power is usually in the form of GP38, GP38-2 or GP40-2 locomotives, usually paired.  Current speed restrictions result in 25 m.p.h. from Red Bank to the Lakewood-Howell border, then 10 m.p.h. through downtown Lakewood, and back to 25 m.p.h. from Route 9 in Lakewood to Lakehurst.  The Weyerhauser facility, located in Howell, closed in November 2000.  On the Toms River Industrial Track, many grade crossings are simply “crossbucks”, resulting in the crew having to stop and flag.  The line ceases at Route 37, trains only cross the highway to back cars into a lumber yard.  Freight on the former NY&LB no longer moves past Red Bank.

July 1999 saw the breakup of Conrail and the first non-Conrail locomotives in twenty-three years.  Some locomotives still wear Conrail blue, but are sub-lettered for either Norfolk Southern or CSX.  The Southern Secondary is part of the Shared Assets area, meaning Conrail operates the line for CSX and NS.  Conrail and Builders General Supply in Little Silver and Toms River reached an agreement to receive those shipments to their Freehold location (circa July 2000).  Now, only Columbia Propane remains on the Toms River Industrial Track, and they are seasonal.  That results in the trackage being unused for most of the year at this time.

In June 2002, work was completed on reconnecting the Lakehurst Naval base with the Southern Secondary.  The spur was rehabbed to allow the Navy to move soil taken from the Bomarc missile site via rail.  PolyOne, one of the bigger customers based on carloads received, located near Collingswood Auction, closed in the latter part of 2002.  Some of the areas of the old South Lakewood sand pits are now being developed.  One such development is called Renaissance. In June 2003, plans were announced that builder H.K. Hovnanian would build 2,400 homes in the old Heritage Minerals site in Whiting.  Another area seeing more development is Lakewood.  In October 2003, the land was cleared and foundations started along the tracks one block north of DiNaso & Sons.  Also in June 2003, the SA35 was abolished.  The Southern Secondary local is now run by the SA31, which also operates on the Freehold Secondary.  As a result, obviously, the run times of the train have changed.  

The future holds some promise for the Southern Secondary.  The Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex passenger line is finally moving forward.  With track upgrades, the speed restrictions will be lifted and the running time for freight service will decrease, which may bring more shippers along the line.  Only time will tell what will happen to the former CNJ Southern Division Main Line.

Photo 1 of rehabbed spur   Photo 2 of rehabbed spur
May 2003 Photos of the Glidden spur:  Photo 1  Photo 2