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Garden State: 1939

Garden State: 1939

April 1939. "Rail yard. Newark, New Jersey." Medium format negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

 

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Norfolk & Western boxcar

The N&W boxcar with the rounded eaves is their version of the better known Pennsy X31 "wagontop" boxcars.

Now?

Not a rail buff, so I'm guessing here: from the descriptions in other comments, does this image capture the same area?

Sewage plant stack?

Like they said, the camera is looking ESE from the US 1 overpass, about 40.7150N 74.1564W. The Western Electric plant in Kearny (whose twin stacks are still standing?) is out of the pic to the left -- the stack in the pic is on this side of Newark Bay. The distant lift bridge right of center is still there at 40.6990N 74.1195W.

Interesting car

Take note of N&W 46437 at upper right, with the oddly rounded roof edges. Some sort of express car, perhaps? I've never seen one like it before.

Yes, this is Oak Island yard. Most of the hoppers are Lehigh Valley and the Pennsy runs right alongside the yard. This is right about where the NJ Turnpike splits into the eastern and western spurs. This same view nowadays would be completely obscured by elevated concrete and jammed traffic.

Lehigh Valley Oak Island yard

I posted a link to the photo over at a railroad message board to which I belong, for the purposes of identifying the exact location and the identity of the railroad yard. Members there were in unanimous agreement that this location is the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Oak Island yard. The building with the tall smokestack across the river belonged to the Western Electric Plant in Kearny, NJ. The lift bridge on the right crosses into Newark, NJ

It is Oak Island

The photographer is probably standing on the Northbound U.S. 1 Lincoln Hwy. bridge looking East at the Lehigh Valley RR's Oak Island yard, with the Lehigh Valley's Upper Bay Bridge over Newark Bay in the right background. The New Jersey Turnpike now crosses over in front of the photographer, and its Hudson County Extension bridge will be just to the right of the railroad drawbridge. The Chemical Coast branch runs from right to left in the middle of the photo.

Possibly in Kearny

Oak Island Yard is possible, but the elevated structure in the background is out of place. The undeveloped area on the right side could be where Newark Liberty airport is now, but then the elevated structure would have to be Doremus Avenue (not elevated today) or another rail line that is long gone.

This may be what is now called the CSX South Kearny yards, specifically the northern yard area. Old pictures of the "flats" and "meadows" in Kearny, including the Western Electric, Ford and Federal Shipyard facilities were often identified as Newark right through the 1970s.

The track layout, and especially the elevated main line with the sunken yard, more or less matches the arrangement today leading into Newark where the PATH trains run next to a sunken yard area. The yard tracks match very closely, assuming the view is to the east (sun in the south; shadows to the north) across the Hackensack river towards the Journal Square area of Jersey City. If so, the lift bridge in the background would be today's PATH lift bridge (built by the Pennsylvania RR into Exchange Place) and the elevated structure would be the tail end of the Pulaski Skyway heading south. The smokestack on the left would be about where the Standard Chlorine plant was (mostly demolished; today a Superfund site) and the rail line running across the photo from left to right would be the abandoned rail lines north of the Portal Bridge (today's Northeast Corridor) whose outlines are visible in Google Maps.

The problem with this explanation are that there is an awful lot of undeveloped land that by 1939 I think had been built up. If that is the PATH lift bridge, where is the US 1/9 lift which was even bigger and should be visible just to the left of the one we can see?

Secret Garden

Fine crop of boxcars this year!

Pennsy NJ

Look like Pennsylvania RR signals on the gantry on the raised embankment.

Wonder if the bridge in the distance on the right is the bridge that causes so many problems for modern-day Amtrak and NJ Transit.

That’s THE Garden State to you!

Most people don’t understand Newark. The world needs airports, docks, rail yards, highways, warehouses and carting services. Most people aren’t used to seeing, or smelling, all of them in one place. My Newark native parents act like the place had the riot yesterday, but honest they just opened a Whole Foods there! The other crazy thing is just how alive the streets are there. Sure, the last place you’ll see a person in the street is anywhere near a crosswalk, and yeah, they’re are plenty of poor people, but man there’s some energy there. Newark turned the corner if you ask me!

Oak Island Yard

Oak Island Yard maybe?

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