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Sussex Branch

Driving Tour

"Pilgrimage"

© Dave Rutan 2002


This is my driving pilgrimage tour of the Sussex Branch. While I only drove it once, and I started in Franklin, I think most pilgrims would start in Netcong and work their way up from there. The route crisscrosses the branch as much as possible.

Although I tried to give good directions here, a good road map will undoubtedly help you out a great deal. The best time to drive this tour is during the day, not during rush hour. Preferably on July 10, as that was the last day of regular passenger service up to Branchville. Perhaps a better time would be on a bright winter day after a dusting of snow so that many of the things I mention are more visible.

 


Netcong

Time your arrival here to watch a NJT train arrive and depart

Note the telegraph poles along parking lot by the station.


To see the house which was the later Waterloo station, go south on Route 206 to just before Meier Stone. There, # 103 is a
small house which was the Waterloo station. For more info on this, see this page.

Take 46 W from Netcong station for about 1/4 mile and make a hard right to cross the tracks. Keep going until you cross the old Sussex Branch ROW. The recycling center on the left is on the old right of way.

Continue on to the intersection and make a left. follow the road to stop sign and make a left turn onto Waterloo Valley Road.

At the next stop sign you will be at the remains of a trestle. One of the abutments still stands on your right. Make a right turn and continue on along the ROW. You will see the green overpass where the Branch ROW crosses Route 206. At the stop, you can turn left to go to the Waterloo station site or straight to continue on.


Left

 

Keep going towards the Trade zone until you see a sign for Waterloo Valley Road on the right. Turn onto this road and follow it. You will cross the NJ transit Hackettstown line (note the Mt. Olive station.) After crossing the track again slow down. You will have Route 80 on your right and the tracks on your left. Look for a 'dirt' road on your left. This leads to the station site.

Waterloo

You'll have to get out and walk to see it, but there's a turntable pit, the remains of the retaining wall for the tower and a few foundations. This area is seen better on a warm day during a dry winter because the foliage and weeds tend to hide things.

The station site is located several hundred feet further west. You'll know it when you see the concrete wall along the in-service tracks. The wall used to be the platform for the station and the station was right across from it.

 


Straight

Follow this road until you come to a stop. Much of it is actually the ROW of the Sussex Branch. The two bridges you pass over are actually built on Sussex Branch stonework. One is a graceful arch, and the other a pair of cut stone abutments.

At the stop sign you can see a cinder path parking lot for hikers on the branch. In the car you need to turn right. Keep going till you get to 206 N at the light. Turn left onto 206 N.

 


Cranberry Lake

The ROW goes through the commuter parking lot on the right.

At the bottom of the hill you will see the 'Hole in the Wall' at Whitehall. From here until it goes under the Lackawanna Cutoff the Sussex Branch is on probably it's highest fill.

 


Andover

After you go through the tunnel you're in Andover. Make a left onto Brighton Ave/517 right before the Getty station. Then make the first right onto Railroad Ave. The depot and creamery are long gone of course, but what did you expect?

Take the right to get back onto 206 N at the light. It's a narrow road.

You will see an Exxon station on the right. You can either go straight on to Andover Junction or right onto Limecrest toward the Andover Mine.


Right

Limecrest road parallels the path of the Sussex mine Railroad which is the reason the Sussex branch was originally built. My wife told me that when she was younger she always wondered why there was black dirt (cinders) in the field along Limecrest.

Anyway, the ROW was on the right as you travel down Limecrest. You'll come to a dip in the road and the trees will quickly encroach on the road. At this point, in winter, you can see evidence of the railroad embankment on the right.

Just before Old Creamery Road, the ROW crosses Limecrest, goes into the woods, turns and crosses Limecrest again to enter the mine property.

THE ANDOVER MINE PROPERTY IS PRIVATELY OWNED. I DO NOT RECOMMEND ANYONE EXPLORING IT UNINVITED.

However, occasionally, tours have been given (mainly because the mine operated during the American revolution.) If I find out about it, I'll post a notice.

 


Straight

You will cross the weed-choked Lehigh and Hudson ROW, and as you go around the curve, the Sussex Branch ROW.

About a half mile down the road make a right onto Goodale road. A ways in, you will cross the ROW again and parallel it for a short time. Keep following this road till you come to an intersection. Make the left turn and go to the traffic light. Make another left onto Newton-Sparta Rd.

After you crest the hill, make a left onto Yates Ave and go until you cross the ROW then make a right onto Sticklepond Road. When you get to the intersection, make a left onto Newton-Sparta road.

Just before the 'Welcome to Newton' sign there is an open spot where the "Welcome to Newton" sign USED to be. Behind this is Newton Junction. The place where the Bell Road to Branchville originally broke off. (There is a cut stone culvert in evidence to attest to this fact and once when I walked it I swear I saw the remains of a smashed battery box.)

 


Newton

Going into Newton, you will see the Hicks Avenue crossing with a surviving Relay box on the right and then the 'great scar'. The town of Newton took away the fill in the early 80's to better cover their closed dump, (because it wasn't covered enough I guess.) The town of Newton owns the ROW in town and I've heard that there is a bike path ROW in there somewhere. Anyway, there's a great big building in the middle of what used to be the ROW. That's all I know.

At the light, go straight and keep going straight till you come to a beige-painted concrete mini mall. This is the Newton Train yard! They turned the Freight station into shops (better I suppose than taking it down) Up until the shops were done, the cobblestones were still in where trucks would pull up to receive goods brought by rail.

(Until they build the roundhouse restaurant and the passenger station replica/museum (ha ha) have some lunch in the cafe.)

Follow Lower Spring Street to Diller Avenue and take a left onto Stewart Street (it's a 3 way stop street) When you get to Trinity Street, the gray building with the cinder parking lot on the left used to be a creamery on the railroad in the 1930's. Now go up Trinity Street to the blinky light and make a left onto Union Place. Make a left at the next light and head back towards the Freight house.

Bear right onto Sparta Avenue and go straight at the next two lights. Turn left onto Hicks Ave. You will cross the ROW. Keep going down Hicks Ave. When the road straightens out, you are driving on the old ROW for the Bell Road to Branchville. It was abandoned by 1911, because the ROW was extended through Newton Proper to the connection about where the road comes closest to the ROW on the left. (see it?)

 


Branchville Junction/Warbasse Junction

Warbasse Junction is hard to see. You can drive right past it and not even know unless you're aware of its location. Where once it was an open field there are now trees and houses. What you'll see is a gravel parking lot on the left after you've passed it. The state has constructed a solar powered outhouse here for the convenience of hikers. The gravel parking lot is actually for the Paulinskill Valley trail, but if you park there you can easily walk into the junction and follow the Sussex Branch Trail.

On Route 663 just south of the Sussex Branch crossing, the Branchville Junction station agent's house still survives.

Incidentally, if you walk down the Susquehanna trail toward Sparta Junction and look carefully, you can see where the Franklin line crossed over the Susquehanna. There was a lone standing telegraph pole still standing in the woods when I did this.

 


Lafayette

Keep going on Hicks Ave (here called Warbasse Junction Road) until you rejoin Route 94 N. Just before the bridge by Lafayette Village is where the branch crossed Route 94. Continue on this road to the traffic light. Make the Left.

At the next light turn left. This will take you past the station site on the left and the old mill on the right. (there's still a length of rail from the siding. One of the few industries on the branch right up to its last day.)

At the next intersection bear right and continue until you make the right onto Valley View Rd. You will cross the branch. Take the next left onto Morris Statesville Rd. You will come to where the branch crossed over the road on a low clearance trestle. The state has recently removed the abutments and created a scar for the benefit of bikes and horses.

 


Strader's

Take the next right onto Decker Rd. You will be paralleling the branch on your right. At the intersection with 206 turn right. Before the bridge, you will cross the branch. The building which housed Strader's/Becker's creamery is on the left.

 


Augusta

At the light turn left to stay on 206 N. At the next light turn left and pull into the gravel lot on the right. This was the station site and the junction of the Branch and the Lehigh and New England. Go back to the light and turn left to go to Branchville.

 


Branchville

Turn right at the next light, then left. bear left again onto Mill Street and after you cross the bridge, take the next right. Turn right at Milk Street, right onto Broad Street and a quick left onto Railroad Ave. Check out the plaque in front to the firehouse, leave your flowers and get back into your car.

(read the plaque here)

 


To Franklin

Take Milk street back to 519 S and go the the light at 206. make the left. You will go over one of the two automobile overpasses on the branch. Stay on 206 S until you get to the light. Go straight onto 15 S until you get to 94 S in Lafayette. Take the right onto 94 S, pass by Lafayette Village on the right and re-cross the branch. Make the next left onto Warbasse Junction Road and drive through Warbasse Junction again. Make the next Left onto Garrison Rd. Just after you cross the bridge, you will cross the ROW of the Susquehanna and then the Franklin Line. The tree line on the right marks the ROW.

At the intersection turn right onto Sunset Inn Rd. Just before you cross the bridge you will cross the Franklin Line ROW and then the Susquehanna. Turn left onto Limecrest, cross the tracks and turn left again onto Houses Corner Rd. Follow this until you cross the tracks at a big crossing.

 


Ackerson

Take the next left onto Demarest Road (be careful it has a sharp turn to the right ahead) After you pass the industrial park Demarest will turn to the right. The crossing of the Franklin line is right there. It will parallel the Road on the right until you reach Route 15. The crossing at Route 15 is to your right, but you want to turn left onto 15 N .

At the light, turn right onto 94 N. Follow this road until you reach Sussex Tech High School. The ROW went right through the campus as you come into it. The fill can still be clearly seen in the winter months.

 


Monroe

Now the ROW is on your Left. Keep going on 94 N until you see Downing's Furniture on the right. Turn Left here onto Hopkin's Corner Rd. About a quarter mile in you will cross the ROW. There is a small house on the right which was built on the site (if not the foundation of the Monroe creamery. Interesting that their shed occupies the approximate location of the Monroe Station too.

Go back to 94 and turn left onto 94 N. If you look carefully you will see remains of cinder path on the left just before the road goes up a hill. Coming down the hill, as you enter the curve, this is where the ROW crossed 94 for the last time.

Continue on to Franklin. At the next Traffic light, bear right onto North Church Rd. After you pass a cemetery on the left, you will go around a corner. At this point the ROW is between the road and the existing tracks.

 


Franklin

Somewhere, I figure across from Scott Road (on your left) the ROW crossed the tracks and went over the first of two stone bridges. Keep driving till you cross the Franklin Viaduct and come to a 'T' in the road. Turn right onto Fowler Street. After a sharp curve, turn right onto Wildcat Rd. The cut that the Railroad made to enter Franklin proper is on your left, and the house on the right used to be the switch tender's house for the Lackawanna. Up until a few years ago it still had a flat roof.

Continue down Wildcat until you come to an intersection. Turn left onto Maple and follow it past the Golf Course. You will cross the very end of the Franklin Line just before you reach Cork Hill Rd. Turn left and look for Dixon Road on the left. Turn Left onto Dixon. As you crest the hill you may see a 'sort of' dirt path leading toward three ROW this was the road to the Franklin Station--Now Gone.

At the bottom of Dixon Road, turn left onto Church Street. About a quarter of a mile down the road you will cross a small bridge. As you cross the bridge, look to the left and you will see the other stone arch.

 


To get back to 94: At the bottom of Dixon, turn left onto Church street. Follow Church Street until you reach Fowler and then the Viaduct. Turn left onto the viaduct and follow North Church Road to Route 94.

To get to Route. 23: At the bottom of Dixon, Turn Right onto Church Street and follow it to the light. This is Route. 23.

This is the end of my Sussex Branch Auto Pilgrimage. If you have any suggestions for improvements, please let me know.

Thanks,

Dave


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