Ride from Branchville
for your approval: On July 10, 1966 the last passenger train traveled
to Branchville and return on the Sussex Branch of the Erie Lackawanna.
Who wouldn't have liked to have been on that trip? For one Passenger
on this train, the next station will be in the Twilight Zone.
by David E. Rutan
2006 David E. Rutan
breathed a sigh of relief. For hours he had waited for the conductor
to return to the train that would take them back home. Now that the
return time was imminent, the passengers that had accompanied them on
the trip up, as well as interested local citizens, were gathering at
Branchville's ancient wooden depot.
boarded up windows and peeling greenish-blue paint were hardly complimentary
to the weeds growing along the base of the building. The freight platform,
obviously a later addition, blocked one of the doors and a paper notice,
stapled to the siding decried today as the last day of service to Branchville.
automobiles arrived, carrying a few who would join the passengers headed
towards Netcong at the foot of the Lackawanna Railroad's Sussex Branch.
A woman stood on the rear vestibule of the coach and waved her handkerchief
in a dramatic farewell as her husband filmed her with a wind-up movie
camera. Then he climbed the steps of the dark green coach and joined
her inside for the trip.
the steps, Eddy glanced at the station one more time. As he turned his
head away, he thought he saw a similar image in the corner of his eye
on the opposite side of the tracks. Glancing back to check, the abandoned,
brick, Sussex Milk & Cream Company building was the only thing he
windows and small electric fans were the sole ventilation in the coach.
It must have dated from the '20's, he thought. The seat that Eddy sat
in was covered in rattan, a few rips allowed the stuffing to poke out.
Perhaps he would venture forward to the other, more modern car during
the trip. Through his window, he saw only the wall of the creamery on
one side and the station on the other.
air horn on the engine tooted and the train slowly began moving. Eddy
rose and walked to the rear of the car to look out the open door. Several
other men were standing there, looking down at the track as they departed.
He reached out to take hold of the grab iron when the car lurched and
he knocked his head against the door jam.
He righted himself, but The station he had previously seen was on the
opposite side of the tracks, where the creamery had been, and it was
painted barn red. Eddy shook his head, but the view was the same when
he looked back.
the... Do you see that?"
station..." Eddy turned to the man to continue, but he instead
found himself facing the conductor.
don't see anything but the end of the line," he said sadly. Then
he walked away down the aisle.
looked out the back of the car again, but he only saw the faded green
station hundreds of feet back, just like it had been when he boarded
the train. They rumbled past a row of buildings. He recalled from his
explorations during the hours-long wait for the train that they had
served lumber and building dealers.
returned to his seat and watched the countryside of Sussex County roll
by. In the distance, he watched as a horse drawn hay wagon topped the
hill on a dirt farm road. Horse drawn? he thought. They were using tractors
on the trip up only a few hours before.
his mind was whirling about the farm wagon, the whistle blew for a crossing.
The diesel engine was but a single car ahead of him on this two car
train, and many of the windows were open on this July afternoon. The
whistle was distinctly a steam whistle.
has got to be a gimmick for the last trip, he thought. Eddy rose from
his seat and made his way to the empty open rear door. What he saw shook
him. The rails running out behind them were obscured by a mist in the
distance despite a sunny and clear sky.
He turned to find the head of the train, The passengers in the seats
of his coach were now oddly dressed. Previously he'd barely noticed
the typically dressed men and women, mostly locals, but many fans of
the railroad like himself. Now however, the coach was filled to overflowing
with people dressed in period costumes.
Women in long dresses many of them with children beside them held onto
baskets or bags. The men, mostly farmers and laborers stood where necessary
from the crowding. He could see a few on the open vestibule smoking
cigars. Not knowing what to think, he waded through them to make his
way to the front of the train.