Thursday Apr 24 2014
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RAHWAY VALLEY RAILROAD
GE 70-TON DIESEL-ELECTRIC
LOCOMOTIVES NOS. 16 AND 17

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Photo courtesy of Donald A. Maxton
These 600-horsepower locomotives were the first (and only) diesel-electric units to be purchased by New Jersey's Rahway Valley Railroad (RVRR). The locomotives were manufactured at General Electric's Erie, PA assembly plant in January 1951 and January 1954, respectively, and arrived on the RVRR soon thereafter.

 

General Electric built 238 of these little engines for various switching, shortline and industrial railroads throughout the United States between 1946 and 1957. They were powered by Cooper-Bessemer FWL-6T 6-cylinder prime movers, which put out between 500 and 660 horsepower (depending on what RPM limit you put on the prime mover).

 


Rahway Valley #13
No. 16 came from the factory painted in a red scheme with yellow lettering and striping. Once No. 16 was tested and began hauling freight trains on the Rahway Valley, the company kept only two steam locomotives (Nos. 13 and 15)

 

on the roster for back up in case the day came when the diesel was out of service for repairs, etc.
Rahway Valley #15

 

In 1954, the RV accepted delivery of yet another General Electric 70-ton locomotive...No. 17. This event marked the ultimate retirement of steam-powered locomotives on the line. Engine No. 15, the only surviving Rahway Valley steam locomotive, can be viewed today, on display at Steamtown in Scranton, PA.

 

When Diesel No. 17 was delivered, it was painted in a forest green scheme (with yellow striping / lettering).
Photo Courtesy of Tom Piccirillo

 


Photo courtesy of Donald A. Maxton
The reason? According to the RV's then-president, George A. Clark, "It made the roster look bigger."

 

In the mid-1970's both engines were repainted into a less-than-inspiring maroon scheme with white stripes and lettering.

 

Both of the Rahway Valley's 70-tonners alternated between freight assignments right up until the railroad was taken over by the Delaware-Otsego System (DO) in 1986. After the DO takeover, Nos. 16 & 17 continued to serve on "home rails" until the parent company sent larger General Motors switching locomotives to ultimately replace the original, but aging, smaller engines.

 

In 1995 the DO conveyed Rahway Valley engines Nos. 16 & 17 to the United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey (URHS) for future preservation in the proposed State Transportation Museum.

 

In late 2004, the Whippany Railway Museum, through an agreement with URHS, selected Engine No. 16 (the very first Rahway Valley diesel locomotive) as the unit to be displayed at its site in Whippany.

 

The Rahway Valley Railroad served the northern New Jersey Counties of Union and Essex for nearly 100 years. From 1897 until 1992 the 15-mile RV went about its business of serving local industry, including the Monsanto Chemical Company in Kenilworth and various coal and fuel companies such as Woolley Fuel in Maplewood.
The Falk Coal Company on the Rahway Valley's Unionbury Spur - Union, NJ September 1971

 


A Norfolk & Western hopper car spotted at the Falk Coal Company in Union, NJ September 1971
From 1904 until 1919 the RV hauled passengers along its pastoral route, and even provided rail service to the Baltusrol Golf Club.

 

Originally chartered as the New York & New Orange Railroad, it was reorganized as the Rahway Valley Railroad in 1904. The RV connected with the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Roselle Park, NJ; the Central Railroad of New Jersey in Cranford, NJ and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in Summit, NJ. Managed by the Clark Family from 1921 to 1974, it was one of the more successful shortline railroads in the country and even managed to turn a profit during the Great Depression.
Rahway Valley letterhead logo

 

The RV continued to operate profitably into the 1970's, but inroads made by the trucking industry eventually took its toll on the small railroad. In 1986 the RV was acquired by the Delaware-Otsego System, the same company that owns and operates the New York, Susquehanna & Western. Unfortunately, freight customers continued to dwindle away. The final train ran in 1992 and sadly, the once-proud little Rahway Valley Railroad vanished into the mists of time.

 

The Whippany Railway Museum, in an effort to continue preserving artifacts and equipment from New Jersey area railroads, plans to cosmetically restore Rahway Valley No. 16 to her original, as-delivered 1951 paint scheme of red, with yellow lettering and stripes. This cosmetic restoration is being funded by a grant provided by the Jersey Central Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The blanked-over cab windows will be opened up and replaced with glass, and the locomotive will receive a clean, new look.

 

Whippany Railway Museum members worked tirelessly to complete the cosmetic restoration, and today the unit is resplendant in its original red and yellow paint.

 

 

The Whippany Railway Museum negotiated with URHS to obtain the other RV diesel, No. 17. The unit today sits at the Museum site, awaiting restoration into its green-and-yellow scheme this year.

 

View vintage photos of Rahway Valley 16 and 17 by clicking here!