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Sussex Branch EL Memories 

Bob Stafford

I recently got an email asking me if I remembered trains on the Sussex Branch.

To this I can say, Yes, I do remember trains on the Sussex Branch. I remember the Sussex Roustabout with an RS or GP a couple of cars and a caboose. I remember seeing the passenger trains behind a GP and I even remember the milk cars, but by this time the wooden D.L. & W. cars had been replaced by the steel Erie milk cars. I do not remember the L&HR freights. It was EL days and I am sure they had stopped running to Port Morris by then. We also used to go to the Andover Diner, which to me was a big treat so I could get a milk shake. Then we would go to the Springdale Market and I would buy comic books for 5 or 10 cents each. Once in a while Model Railroader or Trains magazines would be there with the top of the cover ripped off and I got them for about 25 cents. Also when I was a teenager I purchased a lot of boot leg 8 track tapes at the market.

I also remember the yard at Newton and the huge brick shoe factory next to it. The water tower was gone. The station was standing without the platform and the freight house was still there.

We used to cross the Sussex Branch going toward Port Jervis and Beckers Dairy was near the Rt. 206 crossing and I remember the Erie milk cars sitting in front of it. I think there was mostly two of them. I never got to Branchville until I was 17 and got my drivers license and by that time the tracks where ripped up. I have a couple of slides I took of the depot.

The other thing that I remember about the branch was that we would go shopping at Shop-Rite in Netcong and I would stand in front of the plate glass window. I could see the station area and the coal and lumber dealer across the street. I would wait for a train while my parents did their weekly grocery shopping. I still remember the biggest treat was when the two passenger trains met at the depot. One was on the Washington line and the other was on the Sussex Branch and it always had two Erie Milk cars behind the engine.

For one summer in the late 1950's or early 1960's by grandparents rented a summer place on Lake Lackawanna. This lake was formed by a D.L. & W. barrow pit when the cut off was built. The place had a dock and row boat and I would row out into the lake to the spot where I could see the cut off and sit and sit and wait for a train. I still remember seeing the silver and blue passenger cars in the trains and wonder what they where as a kid. I now know that they where the through NKP cars.

When we went for the Sunday afternoon ride with my grandparents Flumerfelt we also ended up at Blairstown to see the eastbound Phoebe Snow make its station stop. I remember her in G_M_Y and later with the Erie Green cars also mixed in and the Erie power.

Now my wife had family just out side of Andover who had a dairy farm. Their son ran the Andover Diner. She remembers going to the Johnsonburg creamery with the milk cans in the back of the pick up truck. They unloaded the cans and they went on a roller into the building then they drove around to the other side and waited for their cans to come out empty and washed then load them up and go back to the farm. Growing up in Warren and Sussex Counties was a good life. Now it is all gone. The farms are no more. The open space is no more. Just think of the changes in life style. My father was born in the Allamuchy Hotel. His first job was working at the feed mill their when he learned how to drive truck. My Grandparents Stafford both worked for the Rutherford family estate. My grandfather Joseph Stafford drove one of the cars that went to the LHR depot to pick up Franklin Roosevelt and his body guards when he visited his girl friend at the estate. My grandfather Flumerfelt used to haul slate out of Pen Argyl with a chain drive Mack truck.

During the depression he drove a milk truck, got his wages reduced but keep a job. My grandmother always talked about how lucky their where that my grandfather had that milk truck job. I still remember my Great Grandfather OB Flumberfelt's steam powered saw mill on his farm at Great Meadows. My Great Grandfather Abram Wildrick worked in the early teens as a trackman on the L&HR. I often talked about being on the gang that used a big steam powered shovel and dug out the side of the mountain beside the Pequest River between Pequest and Butzville to build the Pequest Siding. He left the L&HR after his wife died and his 3 kids where getting bounced around among the Wildrick family at Johnsonville and went to work for Morgan Brothers Lumber Yard in Great Meadows. He rented a house from OB Flumberfelt and that is how my grand parents met. Abe used to tell me L&HR stories when I was a kid and loved engines 10, 11 and 12 and talked about the sound of their steam whistles going across the Pequest Valley. He lived right next door to us and until he died in 1962. His house never had running water. He used to come to our house with a bucket and carry water back to his house. I still remember the outhouse and used it and thinking nothing of it. The house we lived in was a old iron ore company house on Barkers Mill Road. All the open fields now that used to have dairy cows in them from George Cummins farm and OB's farm which by this time he was too old to work himself and had rented out to a dutch family and it was being called the Dutchman's Farm, is now houses. The last time I was home in 1988 the Cummins where now totally out of dairy farming and selling fruit from their barn area.

My mother's sister lived in a old company house from the iron foundry at Pequest. As kids we used to always run across the backyard to the tracks to wave at the L&HR train crews. We used to cross the river and explore the ruins of the foundry. We took rocks and built a dam across the Pequest River that was about 3 feet tall and made ourselves a swimming hole. Their was a small island in the river just above the swimming hole and we built our fort on it. Every bunch of kids in those days had to have a fort.

I understand now that even the muck lands at Great Meadows no longer grow produce. They are all now sod farms. I whole way of live has been lost to so called progress.

Bob Stafford