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BY DAVID BAER AND RICHARD JAHN PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN PETKO


W


E HAVE ALL SEEN IT HAPPEN. A lo- cal shortline with interesting power is taken over by another


railroad and the old power disappears. Operators come and go. Rosters change. Lines are abandoned. Such is the world we live in, where change is the only con- stant. Good advice is to shoot your local operations often, because everything can change in the blink of an eye. A similar story happened in New Jer-


sey back in the 1990s. On May 1, 1995, the Southern Railroad of New Jersey re- placed the West Jersey Railroad on the Salem Branch, an 18-mile line which runs from a connection with Conrail in Swedesboro, N.J., south and west through Woodstown to Salem. What makes this story a touch different is the matched sets of vintage Alcos were re- placed, in part, by pairs of EMD F-units! Let’s take a closer look.


Brief History of the Salem Branch


The Salem Branch of the SRNJ is a combination of two different railroads,


46 JULY 2015 • RAILFAN.COM


built in the latter half of the 1800s. The western end of the line was part of the Salem Railroad. The Salem Railroad was incorporated in March 1856, to build a line between Elmer and Salem, and the line was completed in 1863. In January 1868, the Salem Railroad was leased to the West Jersey & Seashore. Later, in 1882, the WJ&S built a line


south out of Swedesboro through Wood- stown to Riddleton Junction, where it connected to the Salem Railroad. This was built as the Woodstown & Swedes- boro and was completed in February 1883. Upon completion of the line south of Swedesboro, the WJ&S now had two routes into Salem. Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines


took control of the WJ&S in 1933. Seg- ments were abandoned between 1943 and 1950, leaving just the line running from Swedesboro through Woodstown and Alloway Junction to Salem. This became known as the Salem Branch. Along with the rest of PRSL, the Salem Branch was conveyed to Conrail on April


1, 1976. In the mid-’80s Conrail sold the line to Salem County. On May 23, 1985, the West Jersey


Short Line set up operations on the Sa- lem Branch, with a group of private in- vestors operating the trackage for the county. A trio of former Conrail RS3ms were acquired and put into service. The WJSL ran the Salem Branch until Sep- tember 30, 1988, when the Pioneer Rail- corp arrived.


The West Jersey Railroad


On October 1, 1988, the West Jersey Railroad was started up by Pioneer Rail- corp. Formed in 1986, shortline operator Pioneer is headquartered in Peoria, Ill. A pair of Alco RS3s was purchased from the Lamoille Valley in Vermont, along with a good supply of spare parts. Coming to Pioneer in the summer of


1988 were LVRC Nos. 7803 and 7804, a pair of former Delaware & Hudson units which were chopped-nosed while in Ver- mont. Both units have long histories, with the 7803 being built as D&H 4071


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