Ghosts of Winslow Junction

Winslow Tower - PRR styling, P-RSL ivy green.
Winslow Tower – PRR styling, P-RSL ivy green.

Winslow Junction is located at the edge of the New Jersey Pine Barrens almost exactly half way between Philadelphia and the resorts in Atlantic City. The site is surprisingly rural for something set in the most densely populated area of the United States. However, 100 years ago Winslow Junction could boast some of the highest traffic densities in the world as two railroads competed to bring millions of middle and working class passengers to the fun and leisure of the New Jersey shore.

In the few decades between the time when workers developed the ability to enjoy leisure time in the late 19th century, and when private automobiles and inexpensive air travel expanded their options in the mid 20th, Atlantic City was one of several resort cities that owed their fortunes to efficient rail transport. Like Brighton Beach, New York and Brighton, England, Atlantic City relied on a conveyor belt-like system of trains that whisked holiday seekers from the urban core to the beach in the brief period when they were released from their jobs. Winslow Junction sat at the nexus of this system, located at the point where the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s Southern Division crossed both the Camden and Atlantic (PRR) and Atlantic City Railroad (Reading) main lines. It was also the point where the ACRR’s Cape May branch split off from their Main Line with additional connections to the CNJ for its famed “Blue Comet” express service to New York City.

WINSLOW interlocking as it existed in 1968 after the initial round of cuts.

Improving road transport brought rapid change to the Atlantic City travel market and in 1933 the competing Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading System operations were merged into the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. In 1934 the state of the art WINSLOW tower and its associated interlocking was constructed to bind the system together at its nexus point, replacing older mechanical towers and antiquated signaling. The air operated switches and cab signals were installed on over 5 route miles of track, all controlled from a single power interlocking machine in a brand new brick tower.

However the story of Winslow Junction from then on would be mostly one of decline. As Atlantic City faded, tracks were cut back and the main lines were downgraded. Finally, in 1983. passenger service to the shore was suspended and the interlocking plant in the middle of the Jersey pines was shuttered for good. Fortunately, state ownership meant that the artifacts were largely left in place. Reconstruction of the Atlantic City rail line in 1989 swept away some of the decay, but the tower’s unbroken windows still let in sunlight to shine on the Model 14 interlocking machine for nearly 20 years before they were boarded up.

Windlow Tower northbound with its replacement, NJT's SOUTH WINS interlocking.
Winslow Tower northbound with its replacement, NJT’s SOUTH WINS interlocking.

The main line to Atlantic City that in its heyday hosted the fastest scheduled passenger train service in the world is now a single track line with short passing sidings and a top speed of 80mph. The interlocking that remains in sight of the tower is just a single crossover at the south end of one of those sidings. The former southward main is now just a glorified storage track, albeit one sporting 136lb main line rail with some joints still still paper thin.

Rusted 6-bolt main line rail on the storage siding.
Rusted 6-bolt main line rail on the storage siding.

Year by year, bit by bit, more of Winslow’s history succumbs to collectors, vandals and nature. The telegraph poles have fallen to those interested in the copper wire or blue glass insulators. The power supply was bulldozed for PCB remediation and even the half mile long ramp for the Cap May flyover was completely harvested for its supply of high quality construction sand.

Cape May Branch flyover, abandoned in the late 1950's as shore traffic declined.
Cape May Branch flyover, abandoned in the late 1950’s as shore traffic declined.

If anything, Winslow Junction is a testament to the force of nature to reclaim that which humanity tried to assert its dominance over.

A PRR style signal ladder is all that remains of the 10L signal on the flyover bridge.
A PRR style signal ladder is all that remains of the 10L signal on the flyover bridge.

At the same time it is a testament to those materials of the analogue age that continue to resist the forces of nature, decades after being left to fend for themselves. Creosoted wooden ties, lead painted pipelines and even rust covered structural steel still stand strong.

Lower head of old 8L signal

Many of the classic PRR position light signals at Winslow Junction were salvaged by local railroad enthusiasts during the Amtrak rebuilding project in the late 1980’s, however the former 8L signal stationed at the south junction of the connector track was rolled down the embankment to fade away.

Abandoned Maintenance of Way flatcar

The track connecting the former Atlantic City Line to what became the Conrail Beesley’s Point freight line saw a brief resurgence after the tower was closed as it was the only way that Atlantic City bound freight traffic could access the line after the portion between the Delair Bridge and Winslow Junction was taken out of service.  When the line was rebuilt the interchange moved to SOUTH WINS interlocking and the S-curving connector was left to the weeds.   In addition to the rails, this NJT friction bearing M of W flatcar found itself stuck in time.

The 1934 southbound P-RSL Cape May ramp ducks under the older connection between Reading and PRR main lines. The pipe carried the compressed air supply to the south end of the interlocking plant.
The 1934 southbound P-RSL Cape May ramp ducks under the older connection between Reading and PRR main lines. The pipe carried the compressed air supply to the south end of the interlocking plant.

Winslow Junction was built with no fewer than 6 rail-rail overpasses to allow movements to pass by each other without conflict.  This amount of “flight” is typically reserved for busy urban junctions like Zoo, Harold or Jamaica.  Elsewhere in the country, junctions similar to Winslow would have consisted of flat switches and diamond crossings.

Winslow air line near the top of the Blue Comet ramp.
Winslow air line near the top of the Blue Comet ramp.

The air for the switches was supplied by nearly 2.5 miles of pipeline, originating at WINSLOW tower and  then following the CNJ Blue Comet connection up to the ACRR junction before splitting, with one line continuing down the Cape May branch and the other using the connecting track to serve the switches around the flyover bridge on the former PRR main line.   Most of this impressive compressed air system was left in place where it is slowly being covered by leaves and vegetation.

Air line running along the shoulder of the county road close to the tower.
Air line running along the shoulder of the county road close to the tower.

Surprisingly this isn’t the only abandoned pipeline at Winslow Junction.  On the remaining connecting track between the CNJ and Reading are a collection of concrete blocks dating from before even the depression era WINSLOW tower.  These are foundations for the mechanical pipes that ran from the original ACRR Winslow Jct tower to switches and signals on the CNJ connection.

Concrete footings for a mechanical pipeline run down the CNJ connection to the location of the former wye switch where footings for old signals can also be found.
Concrete footings for a mechanical pipeline run down the CNJ connection to the location of the former wye switch where footings for old signals can also be found. While somewhat common overseas, the  last mechanical lever operated switch machine in North America was retired in 2010.
Pipeline footings pointing towards the remains of the old ACRR Winslow Jct tower.
Pipeline footings pointing towards the remains of the old ACRR Winslow Jct tower.

Nearly invisible from the track and ensconced in a thicket of brambles and weeds, the foundation for the 1890’s vintage Reading owned ACRR tower can still be found. The upper level was razed in 1934; the basement continued to be used as a remote relay room and possibly as a secondary air compressor station. Today, still water tight, it is used as a clubhouse for local teens, looking to consume adult beverages away from the prying eyes of adults.

Winslow Junction is a double accident of history. Constructed in the middle of nowhere to take the masses to the shore in the pre-auto era, it was left to fade away due to having become the ward of a state that couldn’t be bothered to properly dispose of it. Hopefully its secrets will linger on to inspire future generations of trackside explorers.

(All photographs were taken in November, 2015. Click here to view additional photos from Winslow Junction.}

Michael BrotzmanPhotographs and text Copyright 2016
See more of Mike’s work at Jersey Mike’s Rail Adventures

Editor’s Notebook

Norfolk & Western 611, Marshall, Virginia
Norfolk & Western 611, Marshall, Virginia

Future Past

The present is the future past. The world we live in today will soon be the past. This seems blindingly obvious, but as photographers, we often fail to recognize the significance of this concept. We fail to grasp the value of recording the day-to-day aspects of our current culture.

What got me thinking along these lines is the photograph above of Norfolk & Western locomotive 611 as it passed through Marshall, Virginia on June 5, 2016. In an attempt to make the picture “timeless,” I positioned myself to eliminate the cars, buildings, people and other reminders of the 21st century. The old mill in the background reflected the era of the locomotive. But if this photograph were to survive for 100 years, wouldn't the viewer like to see the cars, buildings and people of 2016 that surrounded this excursion train?

It is easy to look at photographs of the past and wish we had access to the world that existed in front of the lens of the great photographers working in the steam age. But these men and women were recording a present which was as familiar and perhaps mundane to them as our surroundings are to us today. Those historic photos which so intrigue us today, may have seemed ho-hum when they were taken. After all, the railroad was, even more so than today, commonplace. Everyone saw the steam locomotives and stations and tracks every day. Why bother taking a picture?

The old photos that I most enjoy connect me to the past because they include the ordinary buildings, the view down the track, the old automobiles, and the people.

And one day, people will look at photos taken today and marvel at the old buildings, the view down the tracks, the clothes and funny haircuts. “Look at that old car—my great-grandfather had one like that.”

Who knows what direction photography will take in the next decades. Perhaps a still photograph as we know it will itself be a relic from a lost age. But you can be sure no matter what the years may brings, the people living in the future will be intrigued by the way things looked in 2016. Don't let them down.

Edd Fuller, Editor
Your thoughts and comments are welcome

Babysitting and Railroads

My daughter did not plan very well. She lives in Yuma, Arizona, in the southwest corner of the state, one of the hottest places in North America. She already had two rambunctious boys, ages three and five, and her third was going to arrive in June of 2014. Her husband would be off with his National Guard unit on the baby’s due date, so my wife and I flew down to help out.

Our days mainly followed the same pattern: get up, take the boys outside early in the morning to work off some energy before temperatures hit triple digits, back home to amuse them in the air-conditioned house, out for a little more running around after sunset, and then bed. There wasn’t much time for photography, but there was a little.

I was surprised to learn that Yuma, despite being in this harsh, hot desert (at least in June), is the center of a major agricultural district. During the winter, 80% of vegetables sold in the United States come from the Yuma area, and my daughter’s home is surrounded by citrus farms. Union Pacific has a very busy line running through Yuma, but there are a lot of other tracks around.

The reason Yuma can support all of this farming is the Colorado River, which is one of the few places one can take hot children to cool off. And one spot, a very nice little beach, also features shade cast by two bridges, one highway and one railroad.

View from the river - Yuma, Arizona
View from the Colorado River – Yuma, Arizona

I occasionally had a bit of time to poke around and see what I could find. Near one little collection of spur tracks I found a bit of discarded history.

Cut rail – Yuma, Arizona

One of the main north/south roads through Yuma near my daughter’s house once had a railroad track running right next to it. Sand keeps trying to cover it, but wind won’t let it.

Tracks, ties, sand - Yuma, Arizona
Tracks, ties, sand – Yuma, Arizona

The two boys were scheduled to attend Vacation Bible School. My daughter wasn’t sure how she would get them there, since by then the baby had arrived. Sensing an opportunity, I volunteered to take them, since I could roam with my camera for two hours, and then go back to the church and pick them up. One evening, I visited the top of the bridge we had played underneath a few days earlier.

Eastbound off bridge - Yuma, Arizona
Eastbound off bridge – Yuma, Arizona

Another evening, I went scouting, and found a signal bridge with interesting possibilities. The next night, I took a good book and a jug of water, went back to the bridge, and waited. An eastbound train came at just the right time.

Eastbound under signals - Yuma, Arizona
Eastbound under signals – Yuma, Arizona

Rob Richardson – Photographs and text Copyright 2016
See more of Rob’s work at Where Trains Were

Last Train to Arusha

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania
Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

Dear Readers, sorry, the title is a bit deceptive. There are no trains to Arusha, and I think the last one left the station at least a decade ago. Arusha is a bustling commercial city in north central Tanzania. Most western visitors know it as a gateway to safaris in the Tanzanian game parks or as a gathering point before a climb of Kilimanjaro. Arusha itself does not offer much for the tourist, but it is busy, noisy, and colorful.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

The railroad was built in the early 20th century, during the great era of railroad-building around the world. The official Tanzanian railroad web page states, “Construction of the 86.08 km Moshi-Arusha railway extension of the Tanga Line starting at Moshi in 1911 and reaching Arusha in 1929. The railway distance from Arusha to Tanga and Dar es Salaam is 437km and 644km respectively.” My guide, Morris, said the railroad was built by the Germans. He was partly correct because while the Germans were forced out of their African colonies in World War I, they certainly began the construction project when Tanzania was part of German East Africa. According to Wikipedia, Germany controlled this part of east Africa from the 1880s to 1919, when, under the League of Nations, it became a British mandate.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

On my first day in Arusha, I asked Morris to take me to the train depot. He was surprised, and said he had never had a tourist ask him to go there. We took rides with rent-a-motorbike transport guys. Mine had a spare helmet and was very careful, avoiding the rain gutters that line most of the roads. Some of these are serious troughs, about a meter deep and lined with organic debris of unknown aromatic origin. The depot buildings are in a warehouse part of town. Lorries were parked in the dust.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

The buildings were intact and secure, so someone still takes responsibility.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

The tracks were meter gauge, another remnant of the German origins for this project.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

Notice there was once first and second class on the train.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

Some gents were sitting at one of the platforms. Morris asked them if I could take their portrait. They said they did not see many white people (Westerners?) around there.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

It was pretty sleepy on the track side of the depot. The bugs were buzzing, the sun blazing – time for a nap.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

There was not much happening inside, either. The buildings are locked, so someone has possession. I hope they can one day restore train service.

Railroad station, Arusha, Tanzania

Andrew Morang – Photographs and text Copyright 2016

See more of Andrew’s work at his blog, Urban Decay.

Standing Tall

Sanford, North Carolina
Sanford, North Carolina

Today this noteworthy freight depot is frail, yet still standing tall. It was originally built for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, either at the end of the 19th century or shortly thereafter. It stands just south of the brick, 1910 Union Station at the rail crossover of the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Airline Railroad in Sanford, NC.


During the first quarter of the 20th century, Sanford was blessed with four railroads converging at the same location; the Seaboard, the Southern, the Atlantic Coast Line and the Atlantic and Western railroads. At that time the town was bursting with commerce more than 50 years after the Civil War.

Presently the freight depot is used for the storage of signal equipment for the Atlantic and Western and CSX railroads. The exact date of the wood frame construction is not known. However, there are pictures of several other freight depots along the line of the Atlantic Coast Line that are of similar shape, dimension and detail. Rumor has it that a roving, gifted black contractor was responsible for their construction.  A wood or coal fired stove used as a heat source was connected to a chimney strategically located at the one-third point of the roof  on all of the floor plans. The generous overhangs supported by large brackets on the east and west elevations are quite distinctive. Evidently the train loading platform was located on the east side while the truck loading activity occurred on the west side. During its later life the structure was expanded to the south until it reached the former Sanford Sash and Blind Company that has since been abandoned. Hence, the change in roof treatment.


The only question that remains unresolved is why the northwest roof corner was clipped off later in life. My guess is that when CSX absorbed the Seaboard it wanted to maintain its ROW air rights. Nevertheless, in spite of its present physical condition, the hope is that the community will see fit to save this significant landmark that played an important role in the development of a major transportation hub in the center point of North Carolina.

David Kahler – Photographs and text Copyright 2016

Wheat-Filled Wonders

Denny, Saskatchewan
Denny, Saskatchewan

It was 30 years ago. Disembarking from VIA Rail Canada’s Super Continental in Saskatoon, I began a Saskatchewan scavenger hunt photographing Canadian classics – wooden-crib grain elevators. Driving off in my rented Chevy Cavalier, map in hand across the seemingly endless prairie, my plan was to visit 50 towns over three days, overnighting in Davidson and Rosetown. My subjects were very visible on the horizon every eight to twelve miles!

Ridpath, SK
Ridpath, Saskatchewan

Most other railfans might have chosen a more elusive quarry – Canadian National and Canadian Pacific grain pickup freights still serving a sinewy spiderweb of subdivisions. But I could already see, both literally and figuratively, the massive new concrete high-throughput elevators on the horizon. In the 10 years preceding my visit, the number of Saskatchewan’s grain elevators had already been cut in half. Time was of the essence.

Among my favourite scenes from this trip were three solitary elevators: Denny, Ridpath and Leach Siding. Lettered with elevator company names or logos and not augmented by annexes or silos, these prairie sentinels stood alone in summer’s heat and winter’s icy bite, guarding their golden harvest safely inside. Characteristically, each elevator had its own unloading shed, office and elevating equipment. Each awaited the arrival of 60-ton boxcars or 100-ton covered hoppers in ones or twos, fives or tens. Each posed politely as the sun arched in the boundless sky through morning, high noon til suppertime.

Leach Siding, Saskatchewan
Leach Siding, Saskatchewan

Now, thirty years on, I’m sharing the results with you. These three wooden-walled, wheat-filled wonders no longer stand – all systematically toppled in the name of sheer unromanticized progress.

Eric Gagnon – Photographs and text Copyright 2016

See more of Eric’s work at Trackside Treasure.