Lackawanna Cut-Off – Part 10: Building the Cut-Off


Welcome to part 10 on the Lackawanna Cut-Off where we’re going to talk about building the Cut-Off or the construction of the Cut-Off. Hi, I’m Chuck Walsh, and I’m president of the North Jersey Rail Commuter Association and here we are on the bridge, the original bridge, that up until roughly 10 years ago was County Road, Sussex County Road 605. Now if you look at the bridge, it’s very narrow and, in fact, that’s the way it was built, it was built essentially as a one-lane bridge, with a little bit of history which we will we’ll get into. But the purpose of our episode today is to talk about the construction of the Cut-Off. Now we’re not going to go into all the intricacies because some of that has already been covered in previous episodes.about how fill is taken from one spot and delivered to another. We’ll touch on that but essentially what we’ll do today is to look at each of the seven sections, the Cut-Off was built in seven sections. We’ll visit a spot in each section and a take a look. We’ll try to vary so that we’re not visiting the same sections or at least exact locations we have previously, certainly. Now where we are right now is more less at the dividing line between section 1, which was the Timothy Burke Construction Company and Section 2 which was the Waltz & Reece Construction Company. Now you would think, the Cut-Off is just a little bit over 28 miles long and there were seven contractors. Doing the math, that’s about four miles apiece, right? You would think that each of the sections, each of the seven sections, would be about, just a tiny bit, over four miles each. It didn’t work that way. And obviously the question is, well, why? Well, a couple of reasons, but mainly they tried to balance the amount of work that was being done. But also because you had to balance within each contractors area or section how much fill they would create and how much fill they would need. In other words you basically tried to balance the cuts and the fills, if that was possible. We’ll find out that that wasn’t possible, but that’s which we’ve touched on in the Pequest Fill episode that we did a while back. But in terms of section 1, for example, that was just a little bit over 2 miles long. Section 2, somewhere in the range of about 3 miles. Now, then, you figure, well, OK, why did they do that? Well, the reason being is we have to talk about the Pequest Fill. That really drove how they set up the construction sections. And we’ll get to the Pequest Fill. But we’ll talk about it here because it explains basically why the Lackawanna and their engineers decided to do the things the way they did them. The Pequest Fill is a little more than three miles long, over six million cubic yards of fill. If they had done four mile sections, section 3 would have had the entire Pequest Fill within its section. And not only that wouldn’t been fair, they wouldn’t have been able to basically perform the work that they needed to do. It was an enormous job for just one contractor. So what happened is that they literally divided up the Pequest Fill in half: basically, at the roughly the one and a half mile mark in from one edge and from the other edge. Not coincidentally that coincides where the Lehigh & Hudson River Railway passed underneath and that was very convenient because the L&HR was a place where they could deliver goods or, not only goods, but lumber, concrete materials, cement, and so forth. And in fact there was even a factory, which we talked about in the previous episode, that was located there. So, but in any case in dividing up the Pequest Fill that really drove how things moved or how they were organized east of there. We’re east of that location now and west of there. So what they did was section 3 became five miles long, which included half of the Pequest Fill and Roseville Tunnel. That was quite a job right there to think of two major things, and Colby Cut in between, and that’s one reason why that particular section fell behind schedule in 1911, or was actually behind schedule even before 1911. But in terms of section 2 and section 1, these are relatively small sections with not enormous amounts of work and basically the Lackawanna must have taken the attitude, well, that’s fine because at least that this work will get done. But we didn’t want to overwhelm whatever contractor was going to be working on the Pequest Fill. Now as you go west you know we talk about second half of section 3 or part of Section 3 encompasses the Pequest Fill. Then you get to Section 4 which encompasses the west half of the Pequest Fill. And then 5, 6. Six covers, which we’ll get to, includes the Paulinskill Viaduct. And then Section 7 includes the Delaware River Viaduct. If they had made all the sections four miles long, Section 7 would have included the two viaducts. So that was another reason why they cut back in terms of Section 7, which turned out to be just a little bit shy of the western edge of the the viaduct that goes over the Paulinskill. So, now, so now we’ve talked about the construction set up for the Cut-Off, which was August 1908 through well, the official opening was Christmas Eve of 1911 but most of the work was already done by November of 1911, as it turned out. But there were signal work, and so forth they went on through November, December of that year. But getting to this particular overhead bridge. This bridge is you can tell I’m standing right in the middle of it is no longer in use; it’s actually a trail bridge now. To your right, and we’re going to walk over a little bit and take a look at this, we’ll see the bridge that has since replaced this bridge, and there’s a little bit of history behind this bridge. Well, of course there’s history, but there’s even modern “history”, I’ll call it that also affects this particular bridge. Now in the 1980s, and I’ve talked about this in the particular video on Blairstown for County Road 521, there was fear that that particular bridge would be replaced with a fill-in. This was at the time the Cut-Off was abandoned and the State of New Jersey had not yet acquired it. This was the exact same situation: county road in Sussex County–521 is in Warren County–but in Sussex County, here, and a group of us went before the freeholders in Sussex County urging them to make sure that when this bridge was replaced– it’s a narrow bridge–so it it was really, well, not structurally unsound in terms of its ability from a safety perspective, a county road should encompass two full lanes of traffic, and this one is really at best one and a half, you could say. If a truck were to go over this, it’s basically a one lane bridge. If you look over here, you can see the new bridge, which is much wider and carries the road on a basically a fill on top of the bridge. Now the bridge we’re on right now–the original is a 1911 bridge–and that one is roughly about 2005-2006 and so forth. Now if you look out this way, down into the cut here, and this is actually called Waltz & Reese Cut, after the contractor. They weren’t, wouldn’t say, terribly imaginative about this particular name. You see water. Now, we may talk about this more when we get into the future episode about the return of rail service. But one of the things if you look at the original map of the Cut-Off through this particular spot here is that there’s no stream that’s anywhere found on the maps, which suggests that somewhere above–and this water actually starts well above us here; it doesn’t start under the bridge or anything– it’s there’s some sort of spring or here this water comes from–there must have been an underground stream that was somehow unearthed when they built this cut. If you look at this cut it’s at this point a good 30-40 feet deep. When they excavated this section out they must have uncovered an underground stream which now without maintenance over the past 30 years, since the line was abandoned, has caused some problems. It really probably isn’t as complicated as it may seem, but the the drainage ditches need to be maintained, and they have not been. So but this water that runs down through the middle of the right-of-way is of concern, but it’s probably not a major issue once they bring the construction equipment into this section. Parenthetically, I’ll add here that we’re actually between two sections where there’s actually track, track on on the Cut-Off, which has been reinstalled by New Jersey Transit. If we were to walk over there, which we’re not going to do, but if you were to look off to the side of that bridge there you would not quite be able to see where the end of the track is up above us, or east of us, and the same thing is over here. But our next stop is going to be down below or not you’re going to take a look at go into section two a little bit deeper and take a look at the the track that has been installed. Now, at some point, they’re going to have to install track here, of course, but that would only be after the actual where they have to excavate out the channels for the water on each, the drainage ditches, basically, on each side to maintain so they don’t have an issue with water over the actual tracks. So, this is section 1, section 2, but we’re actually going to go into section 2 and look at that a little bit more deeply, and then we’ll go next on to section 3 and so forth. OK, here we are on section 2 of the Lackawanna Cut-Off. This would be within Byram Township. Now, to orient you, if you look in the distance beyond where the track ends and just beyond the trees, you can see some kind of rock outcropping, and so forth; that is the edge of the cut that we were in, or above, Waltz & Reese Cut and that actually segues, if you will, into Bradbury Fill. Bradbury Fill is not a huge fill, but it’s about four hundred and fifty thousand cubic yards of fill material. So, it’s actually–that’s a lot of fill, even though it is dwarfed by the Pequest Fill, which is, of course, west of us. But in terms of constructions think about, OK, you have all the material that’s in the cut and that has to go someplace; they blast it out and they don’t keep it for souvenirs. What happens is that it got transferred on to this fill most likely. Because you figure east of here would have been section 1 and they would have had their own issues to deal with in terms of the cuts and fills and balancing the material that was used there. So what I’m going to do is going to turn around here because this is actually the beginning, where you see the track ends, but it’s actually the beginning of a two-mile section of track that’s been laid here by New Jersey Transit in the early 2012 timeframe. You can see concrete ties, continuously-welded rail. They probably still have some additional work to do here then but you know this is going to be something that’s going to wait until the construction picks up at some point. So this is as I mentioned Bradbury Fill and if you look beyond here you see that there’s a curve and this is we’ll call it the “curvy section” of the Cut-Off. We have one curve up here, actually there is another curve east of there. there. This was the one section the Cut-Off which really had to navigate around the terrain and basically they couldn’t create a straight shot. Now talking about straight shots. One question that could come up is why did they just didn’t bother to draw a straight line between Port Morris and Slateford and if you did that as the crow flies it would be about 25 miles, roughly speaking, instead of 28 and a half. Now, why didn’t they do that? Well if they were… there’s no doubt that they might have looked at that and probably dismissed it out of hand because of this cutting and filling balance that we’re talking about first of all, and potentially the need for additional viaducts or just enormous amounts of fill which, as it turns out, they ended up having to do with the Pequest Fill anyway. But they must have basically in their own minds, when they were doing the planning for the Cut-Off, balance between the cost which would most likely would have been much greater, and then you’ll have to balance also the grades and all that kind of stuff must have been factored in. And if you look at all the different routes that were considered, which we’ve talked about extensively in the episode about Why the Cut-Off was Built, none of those were the straight shot where they literally took the straightedge and drew a line from point A, being Port Morris, to point B being Slateford. They never considered that. So they must have really dismissed that out of hand that they’d even go to the point of doing that and probably there would have been another tunnel or two…Who knows? We’ll ever know. But at least this section here has to deal with a topography that is just west of Port Morris and even though this we’re talking about a 70 mile an hour speed limit on these curves, this is what I’ll coin to be the the curvy section of the Cut-Off. Because once you get beyond the curve at Andover there’s very little in the way of curves except when you get to just before Slateford, just over the bridge over the Delaware. So, on to our next stop, which will be on section 3, the construction section 3, and it will be next to, well, it will be next to Roseville Road, a section of Roseville Road we haven’t looked at in any previous episodes. And when we do these episodes we try to vary where we go to, although there’s some places we can’t help but go to. But in this case, we’ll go to a spot we have not been to previously. Hi, now, we’ve moved on a little bit west and where we are right now is at the western end of what is called Lubber Run Fill. Now if you look up on the top of this embankment… And where you can hear… our friendly dirt bikers and ATVers. Now in previous episodes I’ve talked about boulders, and we’ve been seeking really boulders that really meet the definition of boulders, and you take a look over here, we have some boulders, finally. And this one particular section as a matter of fact it seems to be where they put all the boulders. Now as we’re now at the western edge of section 2, presumably these would have come from some other section, probably a part of this section east of here because once we get not very much further, we walk into, or we ride into, section 3, which is the David W. Flickwir section, which is part of Roseville Tunnel and part of the Pequest Fill. But in this section here we have what appears to be a borrow pit at the base of the fill here. But we have some nice water that’s running through here in it. And there’s a couple of runs that run through this area: We have Lubber Run, which feeds Lake Lackawanna, which we’ll visit in a future episode; and then there is what is called Pumpkin Run. Not sure if this is actually part of Pumpkin Run, but though it probably does feed this area. And we have borrow pits over here which have turned into lakes and this is just a relatively small pond of sorts. But because we’ve had a lot of rain, this is actually probably almost as full as it gets. So, in any case, there you get an idea of this particular fill on Roseville Road, which is, as I’ve mentioned in a previous episode, the one on Roseville Tunnel, actually goes under the Cut-Off twice and over it once. So, we’re now going to move on a little bit further east–further west rather–and we’re going to actually go on to Wharton Fill. But also next to Roseville Road as well, so we’re not going to leave Roseville Road yet. Here we are on section 3 of the Cut-Off: the David W. Flickwir section, David W. Flickwir Construction Company which became Flickwir and Bush after Lincoln Bush joined forces with Mr. Flickwir sometime in 1909. Bush was chief engineer for the Lackawanna and became an employee of the David W. Flickwir Construction Company. Now the big fill behind me is Wharton Fill. Now fills on the Cut-Off, and cuts for that matter as well, were typically named after families, families that owned the particular tract of land through which either the cut or the fill went through. In this case the fill was named after the owner of the property. But in this case, it wasn’t a person; it was a company, the Wharton Steel Construction Company. So I think that’s unique to the Cut-Off, at least this section is in terms of that particular name that was given to this particular fill. Now we just came from section 2 and section 3 encompasses–it’s five miles long–so it actually encompasses a lot: encompasses Wharton Fill; over here, which you have difficulty seeing now–actually it’s impossible to see now–is through the trees is where Roseville Tunnel is. Not very far. This total fill is only about about a half a mile long. Perhaps when New Jersey Transit does the restoration of this section, and part of that would include taking down trees, maybe we’ll be able to see the tunnel again. And then section 3 continues on through Roseville Tunnel, Colby Cut, and then half of the Pequest Fill. So that’s a whole five miles as you can imagine. Now here we see a very nice pond. In fact there are ponds on both sides of this road here. And these were borrow pits. If you look at photos from the construction time, you see Wharton Fill. There’s a nice one which is taken from the top of what was becoming Roseville Tunnel at the time. You see Wharton Fill. But all this area is dug out, but there’s no water here; that happened later over time as water accumulated and you get these ponds. Now you can’t see it from where you are right now but just across the way is Wright Pond which we saw in the segment we did on the Roseville Tunnel. So this basically covers all of, well–I’ve talked about all of section 3; we haven’t visited all of section 3–but over time we’ve visited almost everything on section 3; we’ve covered it pretty well because of the things that are here. Next, we’re going to move on to section 4 which, of course, includes the Pequest Fill. Here are on section 4 of the Cut-Off. This is actually the corner of Pequest Road, which runs underneath the Cut-Off, and then Whitehall Road, which is behind the camera. We’re more or less just a stone’s throw from the Lehigh & Hudson River [Railway] which is to your right, which as I’ve pointed out is the dividing line between section 3 and section 4 for the construction project on the Cut-Off. Now, section 4 really only included two major things really other than than, well, of course, the Pequest Fill; that was the major thing. But the the only other thing that was really part of section 4 that is noteworthy would be that of Greendell Station and Tower, which we’ll visit in a future episode. But other than that there wasn’t a whole lot of construction, not that half of 6.6 million cubic yards of fill movement isn’t a major project. Of course it is. So, but in any case, as you can tell, you look at the fill you can’t really see the fill from here because of all the trees that have grown up, well, certainly since the the late 70s or at least, let’s say, the early 80s when any kind of defoliation or tree-clearing would have ceased on the Cut-Off. Because after that, in those days, it was Conrail who probably was not doing much of anything in terms of maintenance of the right-of-way, including the trees that would start growing over time. So, in this bucolic setting, here we are section 4. Our next stop is going to be another bucolic setting. Of course, just about everything on the Cut-Off is a bucolic setting. But next stop will be section 5. Here we are in Vail, New Jersey which is actually part of Blairstown Township. Section 5, the construction company of Hyde, McFarland, and Burke. I forgot to mention the previous one, section 4 is Walter H. Gahagan, which also included the western half of the Pequest Fill. Now, behind me, Vail Fill. This section here or this part here– right here– was referred to as Molasses Junction. Not junction in the railroad sense, but junction that where from one of these houses that existed used to produce molasses and it was like a place where you went to to get molasses, if I understand the story correctly. I’m not sure if I do or not. But I that may be close to what the legend is for why it was called Molasses Junction. If you look at the underpass here, a couple things to note about that, and this is not unique to this spot; there are several places along the Cut-Off where when the Lackawanna built the underpass they also channeled a stream. So in this case you have a stream that runs underneath the road. And there are other places where they did that as well. In a sense that makes it more, I guess, a little bit easier or a little less complex. But you have the stream over here, but the stream actually runs literally under under the road. Now these underpasses tended to cause a little bit of consternation with the folks when they were first constructed. And now we’re talking towards the beginning of the 20th Century –1908 through 1911– but afterwards even. This is the time where there were still people who used horse-and-buggy or a horse to pull a sleigh during the winter time, before global warming and you never got snow or rarely got snow. But there were complaints, first of all–two things–one, was that some of the underpasses were too narrow. You see pictures of the Lackawanna with the hay wagon or maybe even two hay wagons passing each other trying to prove that these underpasses are big enough for vehicles to go through. And once again we’re talking about that the internal combustion engine cars were a relative novelty in those days. But even for with sleighs and so forth you can imagine that in those days they might have not been too happy with the fact that if it was snowing, and they have the horses pulling–you know, the Jingle Bells type of thing–and all of a sudden you come up to this 100 or 200 or 250 foot where they would call a dead-pull, it wouldn’t be something that would have been well-received. So at least in the beginning, I guess people maybe got used to it after a while, but it was one of those things that didn’t exactly go over real well at first. As time went on, of course, that became less of an issue with horses and sleighs during the wintertime. Although cars have become more of an issue as we’ve seen like earlier at County Road 605, for example, you have that narrow one lane, or one-and-a-half lane bridge with hairpin turns on either side, which was basically very similar to what we saw in the Blairstown episode. Same scenario where they wanted to fill it in. Well, anyway, but fortunately that was well, not only in that case was preserved, but actually an entirely new bridge was built over there. But here you can see, well, you can’t really see the fill necessarily, but this is a really big fill in terms of size and also height. Interestingly enough, this is one of those fills that is on a curve. We talked about a little bit earlier about the curvy section of the Cut-Off on the eastern end. This is a curve above us. But it’s a 1-degree curve. So you’d have an 80 mile an hour speed limit on this particular fill, even though it is a curve. But one degree is not– that’s basically a turn of one foot for every 100 feet– so that’s really a fairly, it’s not a very sharp curve. So, that’s it for section 5 for now. We will now move on to section 6. Both section 6 and 7 we’ve been to before but we’ve tried to pick out slightly different places where we’ll actually physically visit those particular sites, because, well, I’ll tell you that the two viaducts are in section 6 and 7, respectively. Hainesburg and Delaware River Viaduct,. So those are our next stop. MARION: Years ago there was a man who lived there and they had something growing. I don’t remember right now what it was. Rhubarb. I think it was rhubarb. CHUCK: Now this is Molasses Junction or the house over across the way? MARION: No, no there were the house on this side. Where that pile of logs is, that’s part of the foundation. CHUCK: Oh, right there. MARION: Yeah on the side of the road. CHUCK: OK. MARION: And some city slickers came and according to the article I read told the farmer that he could make molasses out of the rhubarb and I don’t know how it, I can’t remember how it, how it goes but, they swap–he swapped–a pair of horses for the rhubarb. CHUCK: Well the story I’ve heard that the rhubarb actually sounds like it could be right. Somehow he, I guess you could say he got taken for a ride, or sort of kind of got fooled into this because his molasses business didn’t turn out very well is the way I understood. Is that true? MARION: Yes. Anyway, the farmer got rid of his horses. Or oxen, or whatever he had, in return for the recipe to make molasses. So that’s why it’s called Molasses Junction. CHUCK: OK. Because there are old photos which I was telling this gentleman. I don’t know your name. JIM: Jim I’m sorry. CHUCK: Jim. That’s OK. I don’t know your name. MARION: Marion. CHUCK: Marion. MARION: And that’s Alma. She doesn’t live here. She’s a Floridian. CHUCK: Oh gosh. Well a good time to be here. You know this time of year, actually, is a matter of fact. There are old photos which we were talking to Jim about that from about 1910, let’s say, which show that building and probably I guess that building that you’re referring to over by the woodpile. This one I presume as well? Because how old is this house? MARION: It looks like it might be, except the roofline, the roofline is opposite. But have been fires in this house years ago, so it’s a possibility that the roof was put on at a different angle. CHUCK: OK. MARION: But across there behind the stone house there used to be a hotel. Over behind this stone house. CHUCK: Behind the stone house? Really? MARION: And the men that worked on the railroad, putting the railroad in, lived there. CHUCK: During the time of the construction. MARION: Yes. CHUCK: Oh, really? Because there’s stories with that that they used to charge–and this is now a hundred and almost a hundred and ten years ago–that they were charging like two or three dollars a night which apparently was– I don’t know if in this particular– but some of the hotels in the area were charging that much a night which apparently was a lot. I don’t know if they did or not. We wouldn’t know. But that’s interesting. I had no idea that there was a hotel there. MARION: And that stone house is like an office for the railroad company. CHUCK: Really? MARION: That’s what I heard. CHUCK: So we don’t know if that was built specifically for the railroad, or it might have been there before? MARION: It might have been there before. CHUCK: Okay. MARION: But I’m not an old resident here, so I’m not sure if I have all the stories straight. CHUCK: Well, what can I ask you when you moved here? MARION: 1960. CHUCK: OK, so you would you would remember trains up on the… MARION: Yes. CHUCK: But, was it noisy or did you hear them or are they kind of like what? MARION: After a while you don’t hear them. JIM: Yes, it’s just like the cars going through the tunnel blowing their horns. Everybody said to me. Doesn’t it bother you? I say no, I don’t hear it anymore. I get immune to it. CHUCK: Yeah, I grew up next to the tracks as well and after a while you, yeah, you really…I remember one time having to, because for a couple years I commuted to school by train and I was so oblivious to the trains going past, there had been a snowstorm and I hadn’t heard a train, so I called up the local train station, which was like maybe about a 10-minute walk to go there, and I asked the stationmaster, are the trains running? If he had been looking at me…He said… “What are you talking about? Of course the trains are running today!” But yeah, I didn’t hear them. I was close as close as you are. Well, even closer. Only they were down below, instead of up here. That’s what I’m wondering because if it that way up there. I’m wondering if the sound is different than it would be that if the trains were right down below like here? MARION: I never thought of that. CHUCK: I wonder. JIM: I could remember, I mean it was a long time ago, but I can remember… there’s a grade. There’s a grade and that you could hear off in the distance ’cause the train would be laboring. CHUCK: Oh, to go up. JIM: The grade. I mean, like I said, we just got used to it. It was here; we lived here, and that was the way it was. CHUCK: And you don’t remember the passenger trains so much? Maybe they weren’t as loud, perhaps? Maybe, I’m wondering, because they did, they ran passenger… MARION: They ran passenger trains because we had relatives in New York City and they came up here by train. CHUCK: Oh, they did. MARION: They went straight to the station that’s over there on route… JIM: Where the radio station used to be. CHUCK: 521 – over, yeah, Hope-Blairstown Road. MARION: Yes. CHUCK: So you’d pick them up and.. Really? Where are they coming from, I’m curious? MARION: They lived on, right in the city. I don’t remember. CHUCK: Oh, New York City, then, OK, so they’d have to go to Hoboken and then, oh OK. Interesting. MARION: Twenty-eighth street? Over… a men’s… clothing store. It was pretty well-known. I can’t remember the name of it. Do you remember where George and Mary lived? ALMA: They lived over Barney’s on Seventh Avenue. Yeah, that was my godfather. CHUCK: So coming out here must have been like coming out into, like, the wilderness. ALMA: Out in the boondocks. It seemed to take forever, too. When we were kids our mom and dad used to come out here before we were born, and Marion’s in-laws…how many generations does this go back? MARION: My husband’s grandmother bought it…this house. And it was already an old farm house. CHUCK: Really? MARION: And we inherited it. We’re real happy here. CHUCK: Hmm, so this house then goes back several generations, then? MARION: I couldn’t find out the date the house was built. I have deeds from property owners way back, but nothing mentions the building. JIM: And my great-grandmother– according to mom–had goats and chickens running in and out of this place. MARION: She had a goat, and it had kids, so she had the baby goats running around inside the house. CHUCK: Really? That must have been a mess. Well, that’s, wow, so this was just a serendipity type of thing because we were just about ready to pack up and I know you were going to start your lawn. JIM: Yeah, I ran out of gas, actually, and I saw you over there talking to your daughter, and I said, I can’t start the lawnmower now because he’s not going to hear her. And I just waited then I was like I got real curious why you were filming. CHUCK: Because I told Larissa, I saw you with the gas can. I figured, OK, you ran out of gas, but it’s only a matter of time before you start up. So I figured we better do this real quick before, you know, because we were doing a video–not this one so much, we didn’t have a problem with but–our previous one we had several different places we went to. The first one we had a train that interrupted us, which wasn’t such a bad thing ’cause we’re doing a train video; the second one I’m trying to think what the interruption was there. One, we had a dog. And I’m trying to member what the third one was, where we were interrupted by… I forgot. But it was one of those things where you had, you know, it could be any number of things that interrupt you. I know what it was it was the bicyclist. We’re on a trail and the bicyclist almost ran me over when I’m in front of the camera. I’m see him coming at me. I was, like, do I go this way, or that way? Fortunately it turned out OK. Yeah, but this is great because now you filled in a part of the story that I was telling in front of the camera. But I didn’t have the whole story either, so it sounds like, you know, we’ll go with that. I mean if it’s rhubarb recipe, sounds good to me. It sounds like it could be. MARION: In fact, my mother would spend her summers with me and she dug out the rhubarb and planted it in the backyard. Now, I don’t know what happened to it. JIM: I think I mowed it over. I just kept mowing it until it disappeared. MARION: Oh, is that what happened? Hi, we’re at section 6 on the Cut-Off, the construction section: Reiter, Curtiss and Hill Construction Company. In this section the big-ticket item was, of course, the viaduct, the Paulinskill Viaduct, Hainesburg Viaduct also. Of course, this is the Paulinskill. One thing we haven’t talked about during this whole time of the construction is about the men who did the construction. Not only were they all men, but we don’t know who most of them were because they were identified by numbers. In other words that the Reiter, Curtis and Hill, for example, would have actually kept track of their employees by number, which is something that we do nowadays as well; companies have employee numbers. But they actually didn’t necessarily even know their names. So, we know that, for example, according to Larry Lowenthal’s and Bill Greenberg’s book about the Lackawanna Railroad in Northwestern New Jersey that they estimated between 25 and 30 men were killed during the construction of the Cut-Off. But in just thinking about that many of these men just travelled from project to project. The ones that were involved with this project–the Cut-Off–would have gone on possibly to other projects, railroad projects in those days because there was still railroad construction that was going on. Many of those men lived in barracks in the surrounding areas. The supervisors and, shall we say, the people and engineers and so forth, the ones who were the higher paid individuals, could have afforded to live in local hotels which supposedly were charging an arm and a leg: two or or three dollars a night, which in those days was a lot of money; we’re talking over a hundred years ago now. But the people who worked on this project for the better part of three years helped actually create a sort of a mini boom to the area in not only Sussex County, Warren County, but also probably over in Portland, Pennsylvania as well by spending their money on trinkets and so forth. Really this was, they had nowhere to go so they would spend it–spend their money–and help the local economy, at least for as long as it lasted. There was a downside to it at least in Blairstown there was concern about whether the workers might constitute a problem and what happened was that there was actually a night watchman that the people in Blairstown hired at something like forty or fifty dollars a month which would have been a pretty good salary, I guess, in those days. But that was for the duration of the project, but there really was no at least there’s no recorded major instances of problems with the workers, but I guess there was a certain amount of concern since many of the men were, shall we say, they would have been roughnecks. But that was it wasn’t an easy job that they did. And they didn’t work under what we consider great conditions because this time of year where it’s like about sixty degrees would be nice but they worked during the winter; they work during the hot summer. So it was quite a challenge for them. And then they didn’t live under the best conditions even when they went back to sleep at night or at least to hang out when they’re actually, you know, when they were off. Because the barracks would probably be something like one person actually said that the barracks were somewhat like the living in with the Army of the Potomac, going back to the days of the American Civil War. So, in any case, section 6; one more stop to make. We’ll be heading off to section 7 on the Lackawanna Cut-Off. Here we are on section 7, the construction section 7 of the Lackawanna Cut-Off, built by Smith McCormick. Smith McCormick had responsibilities from just beyond the western edge of the Paulinskill Viaduct, through here–of course this is the Delaware River Viaduct–and all the way to Slateford Junction. And they would have also built the bridge over the Slateford Road at Slateford Junction, as well as the tower at Slateford. As you can see that the river is running as it always is, but it’s running a little high. But just think about all the pressure that’s put upon the piers that support this bridge. One of the things have been talked about in terms of rehabilitating or during restoration of the Cut-Off is that this particular bridge would need to receive probably the most amount of attention. It’s believed that they’d have to actually tear down to the actual arches on the bridge because of spalling and deterioration which has taken place over the years. My personal theory on this is that unlike the Paulinskill Viaduct, which is twice as high and also goes over, I’ll call it a smaller river, but a river that would not evaporate off as much moisture as this one would. And with the lower viaduct–in other words, this is 65 feet tall above the river line versus 115 feet for the Paulinskill– with freeze and thaw and over 100 plus years, this bridge has probably sustained, has been challenged more by the elements than the Paulinskill has. There’s also one aspect which has also led to some legends surrounding the viaduct, and that is that this bridge was built by a continuous pour, a continuous pour meaning that they kept pouring the concrete and never stopped. And that led to the legend that there were one or more workers that ended up being buried alive in the viaduct; that they couldn’t stop the flow of concrete and what happened was that they ended up burying and basically are still somewhere encased or ensconced inside the viaduct, the concrete. As far as we know that’s just absolute nonsense. But it’s the same thing for the Paulinskill Viaduct. Anyone falling into concrete could be easily fished out. It’s a ridiculous type of thing, but it was, it’s a legend that’s out there like a number of other things that have come about. But that’s one that’s been there for quite some time. So, this is section 7. The big-ticket item here is the Delaware River Viaduct, which as we’ve pointed out in previous episodes, also crossed over a trolley line on the other side, as well as the Old Road and as well as the New York, Susquehanna and Western on the opposite side where Route 80 now crosses, just beyond Route 80 where Simpson Road is. So a lot would have been going on, still goes on today, but in years gone past certainly even more that went on right at this location. So, this is the end of Part 10 of the Lackawanna Cut-Off. Certainly look forward, hope you look forward, to watching Part 11 on the Lackawanna Cut-Off.

15 comments on “Lackawanna Cut-Off – Part 10: Building the Cut-Off”

  1. Martin Doyle says:

    man u videos are actually really well done brother. i like what u have here. ur documentary skills on camera are very good sir!! keep up the good work and i hope u expand some of ur line coverage. and other railways maybe. u are literally bettet than anything on any history channel show etc.. thank u for ur great work sir!

  2. blownb310 says:

    Excellent job once again Chuck. Nice upgrade for the audio as well!

  3. Dennis E says:

    Excellent job Chuck!

  4. Robert Ottman says:

    great stuff, great railroad

  5. warren wilson says:

    Montage great, very professionally done.

  6. scott peterson says:

    This series has been great. Ever since I was a kid and was fascinated by that level topped mountain that cuts through Andover, this rr line has always amazed me. Great job, Chuck!

  7. g bridgman says:

    Marion would have been born around 1923, 13 years after the cut-off was completed. Then she didn't move her until 1960, with 10 more years of passenger trains still to come. You'd have to go back to Marion's parents for someone who remembers the cut off being built. I wonder what happened to the hotel behind the stone house?

  8. Chris Ransdell says:

    So amazed at the amount of work you are putting in on this exhaustive series. Great work.

  9. Steven Williamson says:

    Chuck, what is meant by a "dead pull" for horse sleighs ?

  10. UTubeGlennAR says:

    Just loved the old fotos

  11. Christopher S. O' says:

    Great photos of the building of the Lackawanna cutoff and also great narration as well. Conrail should have never ever dismantled the cutoff at all. The D,L & W along with the Lehigh Valley and the D & H as well as the Erie which later became the Erie Lackawanna are my favorite Eastern railroads. I used to visit my late paternal grandmothers & late grand uncle during summers, Thanksgiving and even Easter’s in Pittston. My late grand uncle & 4 other grand uncles, 2 second cousins and my great grandfather Kearney all worked for the Lehigh Valley railroad out of Coxton Yard near Pittston and a long time childhood friend of my late paternal grandfather worked for the D,L & W. Which was later the Erie Lackawanna. Once the cutoff restoration project is finished and rail passenger service is restored to Scranton that will ease traffic on the I-80 & I-380.

  12. Tickled Funny Bone says:

    Wow, looking at these old photo's i am noticing that there wasn't alot of trees as much as there are now. in some place no trees, especially also where they were not working. Trees like snow dampen the sound of trains. trees also block the beautiful view of the line, i wonder if it is feasible to have the tops of the trees line up with the top of the fill so passengers can see the country side. I think more trees the better except maybe up in the higher part of this line where people can the sights.

  13. Tickled Funny Bone says:

    Paulinskill Viaduct Drone footage; https://youtu.be/a5X7Vqsz8D8 look at all those trees. this bridge is one of the beautiful bridges on this line. i would love to see trains running on this line.

  14. Karen Lund says:

    So awesome to learn the history of the Vail fill. I go by there every day.

  15. danthetechguru 1 says:

    This bridge was formerly part of the railroad or no?

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