Long Distance Trails  –  Warren Railroad Old Main





Warren Railroad “The Old Main”

The Following Information is courtesy of the authors Michael Helbing and Matthew Davis, in their collaborative effort:

Hiking the Warren Railroad Mile-by-Mile. The book is complete, you can buy it here: http://squirefoto.zenfolio.com/p726905919/h18d9eff1#h18d9eff1

Portland, PA to Changewater, NJ

A Contentious Start

For now, the official description of this route will have to begin on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Trestle. The trestle has been a controversial topic in recent years due to injuries and deaths along the Delaware in the area. Norfolk Southern, the railroad company that services the Portland Generating Station, has apparently gone to great lengths to keep people off of the bridge, including the removal of a section of the fill on the New Jersey side. This is a sad end to the history of this bridge; of fathers and grandfathers who walked the trestle as children. In the railroad company’s defense, a lot has changed in 50 years, and personal responsibility has taken a back seat to litigation and personal injury claims. While it would be amazing to see a formal pedestrian bridge on this site (the nearest crossings are 1.5 miles north, or 9 miles south), it is beyond the scope of this project. The railroad company is protecting itself from negligence and accidents. Do the right thing and do not trespass on the bridge.

For historical purposes, the section of the Warren Railroad that is in Pennsylvania is included, and described here as ‘negative’ mileage from the “official start.” This section starts in Portland, Pennsylvania, and sets the stage for what you’ll walk in Delaware, New Jersey.

-2.00  NOTE: In this area are live railroad tracks which are off limits to pedestrian traffic. Please view the area from the relative safety of River Road, or downtown Portland, keeping in mind the highway traffic as well.The Warren Railroad broke from the main in Portland, just south of the Train Station (present day convenience store).  For those who would like to tour this area by foot, be sure to take in the views from the pedestrian bridge over the Delaware River. In particular, note the pedestals of the bridge for the L & NE railroad to the north, and try to imaging the the railroad lines competing for the same passes. Also within view to the north is the concrete Delaware Viaduct of the Lackawanna Cutoff. The Lackawanna Cutoff signaled the demise of the Warren “Old Road.”

-1.00    The Portland Generating Station.

-.5  West terminus of the Delaware Trestle. Please do not trespass!

-.01  East terminus of the Delaware Trestle. There is no parking at the northern end of the walkable Warren Railroad. The nearest parking is just to the south on the corner of Charles Street and Route 46, in Delaware, New Jersey about a half-mile south of the trestle (or use the following GPS coordinates 40°53'35.62"N  75° 3'57.65"W).

0.00  Begin on the concrete paved old Route 46. This was formerly the Warren Railroad route prior to the construction of the newer bridge. The trestle approach is visible to the northwest. Just to the right of the existing trestle would have been the Darlington Bridge, sometimes called the "The Preachers Bridge". In 1856, the bridge to cross the Delaware at this site was a deck style wooden bridge that survived only until 1870, when an iron bridge with oblong shaped trusses replaced it. This bridge lasted only until 1800, when it too was replaced by another double track truss bridge. This bridge served the railroad until 1903 when it was replaced by the current structure. The railroad sold the older bridge to a preacher named Darlington, who operated it as a private toll bridge until 1955. It was purchased by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission and torn down to eliminate competition for their newly built Portland-Columbia toll bridge. Until 1996 two bridges for both road and railroad still crossed Rt. 46 at this site. To the north, on a private driveway there is still a sign reading "private crossing". To the far left across the private yard is a deep cut, originally the  route of the Blairstown Railroad (1876) and later the New York, Susquehanna, and Western (1881). When the Morris and Essex Railroad failed to receive approval for their plan to run through the Delaware Water Gap, they acquired all of the land on the New Jersey side, from the village of Delaware north, in a last ditch effort to thwart the construction of the Warren Railroad. It was this land that was later used for the Blairstown Railroad. To continue, follow the concrete pavement to the southeast.

0.13  Cross over a small creek. The railroad bridge over the same creek will be visible to the left. Shortly after, an ATV path heads onto the right of way to the left. It leads to a private yard; please do not trespass. The rail bed becomes clear and walkable next to the concrete highway here.

0.20   Pass a driveway on the left. A line of trees borders the yard of a house ahead on the left.

0.30   Reach a large open field. This would have been the beginning of rail yards and junction with the NYS&W Railroad. Ahead, railroad ties are occasionally visible through the cut grass. Remain on the rail bed closely parallel with Route 46.

0.50   Reach the gravel parking area just before crossing Charles Street. A short walk to the left will lead to the oldest Post Office in NJ still in it's original building, on the corner of Valley Street/County Rt. 605 and Charles Street. Continue past the Delaware Diner and gas station.

0.65   After crossing a large paved lot, the right of way is blocked by a line of trees and the Sanico property. Turn right to Rt. 46 and follow it south to Clarence Road.

0.75   Reach Clarence Road. Once there was an overpass here, now only one abutment remains. This bridge was removed in the 1990s reportedly to accommodate school buses. Turn left on Clarence Road and immediately right onto the rail bed, clear and used by ATVs here.

0.85  Reach a small building. Pass around it and continue. The right of way becomes more open on the west facing side.

1.00     Reach the north end of the cleared area and parking for Smitty's Deli. The owners enjoy having hikers stop by. Continue parallel with Rt.. 46.

1.15  Much of the fill has been plowed away in the vicinity of Smitty's, but on the south side an ATV path leads up to the cleared right of way. Continue on the ATV path. The rail bed crosses above a small stream. Behind the small white house is the site of Michael Kline Allen's saw mill. Mr. Allen lived in the next larger house just to the north, and in later years built and lived in the one on the corner of Knowlton Road and Valley Street.

1.30  Reach Knowlton Road at its intersection with Route 46. Marshall's Fruit Stand is directly across. The right of way ahead is clear, but well marked with signs forbidding trespassing for any purpose. Some of the right of way in this section was covered over for the creation of an access road to a cell tower in the early 1990s. It would be wonderful for the public to be allowed access to the rail bed, which is still state property. Perhaps in the future, the landowner could be convinced to allow an easement, but the language of the posted signs makes this seem unlikely .To continue, follow Route 46 parallel with the rail bed. NOTE: The shoulder of the highway is very narrow. Heavy traffic and semi-truck use make this an unattractive route around the posted section during peak times. Use caution, and consider postponing your hike if traffic seems especially heavy.

1.50   Pass the Delaware Cemetery to the right.

1.70   Reach Ramseyburg, at the corner of Ramseyburg Road and Route 46.  To continue, follow an ATV trail back up to the rail bed. Continue on the clear right-of-way, often used as an ATV path. The rail bed remains parallel with Route 46 on a shelf above it. Dramatic steep shale cliffs dominate the views to the left.

2.75  Cross a driveway and continue ahead on the rail bed. Much of the right-of-way up ahead is state park land.

3.00  Reach a huge washout to the right. Catherine's Run, a tributary which flows in part through Manunka Chunk Tunnel, has flooded the rail bed in this area.

3.05 Reach the west portal of the Manunka Chunk Tunnel. This was also the junction site with the Belvidere and Delaware Railroad, which continued south to Trenton. This northern section was deemed irreparable after the flood of 1955. The tunnel, while interesting, is very dangerous and unstable. Both sides have serious collapsed areas, the eastern one more seriously so. It can only be hoped that what is left of the tunnel, especially it’s twin western portholes, can be preserved for future generations. Maps show the area directly above the tunnel to be on public land; both state park and as part of Beaver Brook Wildlife Management Area. To get over the tunnel most easily, and to stay directly above the rail bed, follow an ATV path to the right of the tunnel up hill. Do not continue on the level grade to the right (which is the Bel-Del rail bed).  The ATV path leads to a field with a wide line of trees to the left, and a path to the left leading to another nearby field. Go straight ahead, avoiding the most obvious ATV paths. Head southwest as the edge of the field curves a bit. Near the corner, a small path leads to the left. Follow it until the cut at the mouth of the tunnel's eastern side comes into view below. Continue on the path, which can be very overgrown, that parallels the rail bed’s eastern side. Catherine's Run comes into view on the left; the path becomes visible between it and the rail bed. Carefully cross wood planks over Catherine's Run. To see the west portal of Manunka Chunk Tunnel, continue ahead and the path will descend to the rail bed, which is very wet in this area (an eyewitness can attest to ankle to knee deep water, plus soft mud). The right of way to the south becomes very overgrown and wet, and so a close parallel route through Beaver Brook WMA is advisable. Return to the plank crossing. Continuing on from the plank crossing, reach another somewhat overgrown field. The planks, along with many other planks laying in Catherine's Run below, were once part of an above-ground flume system which once carried water away from the rail bed to a stone lined raceway above.

3.80  At overgrown field, turn right and follow ATV path south. Intrepid hikers can bushwhack into the weeds on the right parallel with the field and see the stone sluiceway that carried Catherine's Run during the railroad's operation.

3.90  The ATV path, an old farm road, enters the woods. Continue.

4.10  The farm road reaches another field and keeps to the right, soon rejoining the railroad bed.

4.20   Reach Upper Sarepta Road at a former grade crossing. Parking is available at a small, unsigned lot a short distance away on Ledge Road (turn left on Upper Sarepta, right on Ledge). About a half mile along Upper Sarepta Road to the left is a beautiful view of the surrounding highlands area as well as more parking for Beaver Brook WMA. To continue, cross Upper Sarepta Road and continue on a narrower ATV trail, which can be a bit overgrown with a few fallen trees.

4.40  Reach Sarepta Road near its intersection with Ledge Road and cross directly onto a much wider and clearer right of way. A brief walk to the left on Ledge Road, then right turn on a woods road leads to an abandoned quarry for which Ledge Road takes its name. The quarry was once serviced by a railroad spur; its grade visible as a bump in Ledge Road.

4.90   Reach Beaver Brook Road and cross directly. The right of way remains clear and wide.

5.10   A municipal park with a ball field appears on the right. Parking is available here, accessible from Route 519.

5.25   Reach the old Bridgeville Railroad station on the left. Barely recognizable as a station, it is nevertheless the only remaining Warren Railroad station south of Portland PA. It is recognizable only by it's roof. To the right are more foundations; reportedly a former creamery.

5.35  Reach Route 519. Unfortunately, the rail bed ahead crosses private land and is also obliterated in part by a large sand quarry. It is necessary here to turn right along Route 519. After .7 miles pass the entrance to the municipal park.

5.75  Reach Route 46. An ice cream stand and Crossroads Diner are roadside, and a Bagelsmith is a short distance across Route 46, on Route 519. Turn left on Route 46. Pass the intersection with Titman Avenue on the right, followed by Hot Dog Johnny's also on the right.

6.60   A small paved road ascends to the rail bed, now closely parallel with Route 46 again to the left. At the top of the hill continue on the road parallel with the rail bed. An ATV path follows the rail bed a short distance to the north from here to the sand quarry.

6.80   Reach Green Pond Road. Cross and turn right parallel with the edge of the Buttsville Cemetery, then into the woods on an ATV trail on the left, again following the clear rail bed.

7.10   After passing through a small cut, reach a cleared area where the rail bed has been destroyed. Descend toward Route 46 behind a gas station. Turn left and cross Route 46 at the traffic light at the intersection with Route 31. Note: Please be careful at this intersection; drivers often have arrows not visible to pedestrians and turns may be hard to predict. Follow Route 46 very briefly westbound to a gravel lot on the right.

7.20   From the gravel lot where a bridge once crossed Route 46, an ATV path ascends to the southbound rail bed and immediately crosses the Pequest Viaduct, an early example of William Truesdale's efforts to replace all Lackawanna bridges with concrete. Below the bridge the former Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad (1886-1986) is within view, and may also be hiked. The Warren Rail road ahead lies within Pequest Wildlife Management Area. Continue off of the bridge, and parallel the Pequest River high above it on a shelf.

8.30  Reach a former junction site at the entrance to the dramatic Pequest Cut. To the left, a rail line led in a short distance to Pequest Furnace. A short walk along this rail bed leads to obscure ruins and foundations around the former industrial site. ATV paths lead to the L&HR Railroad bed, which when followed east to Pequest Road offers more parking, on the corner of Pequest Road and Route 46. To continue, turn right and enter Pequest Cut.

8.45   Exit Pequest Cut. Soon, another former junction with one of Pequest Furnace's railroads approaches from the left, though more obscure than the previous one. Look for grey refuse in which vegetation does not grow will also appear below the right of way on the left, more remnants from the furnace workings.

8.65   Pass beneath a power line with a bit of a view to the east. Ahead the ATV path begins to parallel the rail bed to the left.

8.80   Reach Pequest Road. Turn right, immediately crossing the often water filled former Warren Railroad cut, then turn shortly left on a paved bike trail which parallels the rail bed with a field to the right.

9.10   The paved trail rejoins the former railroad, soon passing through a line of trees.

9.15 A paved road joins from the right. It leads a short distance to Pequest Road. Parking is available just ahead, accessible from Pequest Road. This was the site of an old farm. The house and barns were destroyed in 2001-2002.

9.35   The trail enters the woods skirting some of the wetlands from Cat Swamp on the left.

9.60   The trail leaves the railroad bed to the left. Ahead, the rail bed passes through yards and thick weeds. It is best to continue on the trail.

9.75   The trail ends at Lower Denmark Road where parking is available. Continue walking along Lower Denmark Road.

10.25    Lower Denmark Road is built on the rail bed from here. Originally, the road continued straight to join Route 31 but was realigned in the 1980s. The Oxford Station platform is visible on the right. Also, the original Warren Railroad route prior to the construction of the Van Nest Gap Tunnel diverged from the later route in the section parallel with Lower Denmark Road, though little remains of it. Some of the right of way is visible from Rt. 31 as it gradually ascends, and short pieces of it can be walked, including a section nearby behind the Shippen Manor. The road behind the Manor is the former rail bed. The original plaque from the tunnel's construction has been built into the wall behind the building as well.

10.50    Lower Denmark Road curves to the right, leaving the rail bed. The rail bed is inaccessible from here behind fences. Continue on the road. Reach another intersection and turn left. A right turn leads to Route 31 where food can be purchased at the Busy Bee directly across. Behind the fire department was the right of way of the Oxford Iron Mine railroad which broke off the Warren Railroad nearby. Look for the level grade.

11.83    Reach Route 31 after crossing Green Street. Across the highway to the right is Academy Street which was built almost entirely on the Warren Railroad's 1856 right of way. Just up the hill a short piece of it can be walked where it departs to the left, now part of Warren County's West Oxford Mountain Preserve. The later right of way can be viewed by turning left on Axford Avenue, but it is extremely wet and soon

passes through the Van Nest Gap (Oxford) Tunnel which is partially caved in and is full of water over knee deep. It is best to continue walking Route 31. Keep to the left facing traffic.

11.15   Pass Orams Lane on the left. It was here that the original 1856 track crossed what is now Route 31. As you continue, watch to the left and the right of way is visible. There is also a large pile of stone which may have been removed during construction of the tunnel. I've found no evidence suggesting what this otherwise might be.

11.35    Reach a parking lot followed by a building on the left side of the road.

11.55   Pass Tunnel Hill Road on the left. A short walk up this road would reveal a level grade and the fact that it was built on the 1856 right of way. The original rail bed remains on the road until it turns off to the left on Jost Drive (private). It swung around and recrossed Tunnel Hill Road, then Route 31 before rejoining the later right-of-way. Continue on Route 31 to a picnic bench on the left side. The rail bed is just across and below the highway. There are several ATV trails from several angles which approach the rail bed, but how to access it best is both uncertain and constantly changing. In addition, landowners may close off lands where it was in the past possible to access the rail bed. For my purposes I will continue the mileage as a good access route existed from the picnic bench.

11.95   Reach the railroad bed just south of the tunnel. Despite the date reading 1906, the tunnel was indeed completed in 1856, but refurbished and reinforced with concrete in 1906. Continue south on the rail bed. Be sure to continue straight where farm roads diverge left and right.

12.50   Reach an abandoned farm overpass. Note the abutments are stone on the bottom, but new concrete on top. As locomotives became larger, it became necessary also to raise the bridges to accommodate them. Just beyond this bridge watch as a narrow, barely recognizable path descends from the left.  This is the 1856 Warren Railroad right of way on it's way to join the later alignment.

12.95    Cross Pohatcong Creek on a high fill. A stone culvert carries the creek beneath the fill.

13.10   Reach Jackson Valley Road. The bridge over the road was removed in the 1980s. An ATV path descends to reach the road. Turn right and soon left up another ATV path to regain the right of way. Watch for Poison Ivy. The rail bed ahead can be extremely flooded out.

13.35  A backyard butts up against the rail bed directly. Respect private property.

13.50   Grounds of Warren Hills Regional High School appear on the right.

13.90   An ATV path to the right leads steeply up to the dead end of Green Street, Washington, New Jersey.

14.00   The rail bed leaves a cut, and reaches an open area behind former Warren Lumber. Beyond this point, there are tracks which are still active as an industrial spur. There is also an abandoned spur that led into Warren Lumber. If you want to avoid walking along the active tracks, it is necessary to backtrack and follow the ATV path up hill to Green Street. It's very easy to follow roads parallel to the tracks, and upon reaching Jackson Avenue a block from Route 31, there is a short walkway parallel with the tracks below the fill. This was reportedly constructed because the the Jackson Avenue underpass had been filled in and people wanted another way to walk around. For the purposes of this writing, the mileage continues as if you were following the active tracks.

14.50   Route 31 overpass near Dunkin Donuts.

14.70  Route 57 Overpass. Beyond this point it is easy to parallel the tracks along Railroad Avenue. The station platform is within view from the road.

15.00  Current railroad crossing at Railroad Avenue.  The tracks that now cross Railroad Avenue were originally the route of the Morris and Essex line. When the Warren Railroad was completed through the Delaware Water Gap, the M&E abandoned their similar plan and built to Phillipsburg. At this time, the Lackawanna and M&E were still rivals, so the Lackawanna forced the M&E to build a fill and bridge over their main line, as crossing at grade could cause accidents and interruptions in service. The fill is still visible on both sides of Railroad Ave, and the original road alignment is just to the east. The abutments still remain for where the road would have passed beneath the tracks at this time. When the DL&W acquired the M&E, it was no longer needed or even practical to maintain a bridge and so the line was moved to a lower level.

From the crossing, the Warren Railroad right of way can be seen entering a cut slightly left of Railroad Avenue. The right of way is very overgrown ahead, but can be followed seasonally. The next section would be a wonderful rail-trail to Changewater, as most of the right-of-way is intact, and simply overgrown. Hopefully one day landowners in the area will allow an easement through their backyards to connect with the New Jersey Fish & Game parking lot at the Changewater bridge.

After the acquisition of the Morris and Essex, the Warren Railroad from Washington to Hampton (at that time known simply as "The Junction") became the "Hampton Secondary" and main line traffic was rerouted east along what became the Morris and Essex Division of the Lackawanna. It was no longer necessary to haul freight over the CNJ's trackage.

15.15   The rail bed once passed beneath Washburn Avenue via a culvert here. The right of way is very badly overgrown ahead as it passes through cuts and over fills, but it can be easily paralleled to the right on Changewater Road.

15.40   The rail bed crosses a new driveway.

15.60   The rail bed crosses another driveway, this one has obliterated a piece of the fill.

16.40   Reach Asbury-Anderson Road, the site of Murderer's Bridge. Prior to the construction of the railroad, current McCollough Road was the original extension of Changewater Road (it's easy to picture how this road would have passed through), and two men convicted of murder were buried alongside what is now McCollough Road. Originally referred to as Murderer's Crossroads, when the railroad went in it became quickly known as Murderer's Bridge. There are no longer grave stones, but a study of old maps and photographs leads to the conclusion that the graves are in close proximity to the stop sign on McCollough Road. They were originally on the west side of the road, but the road was moved for the railroad, putting them on the east side.

The rail bed ahead remains badly overgrown so it's necessary to follow Changewater Road directly across.

16.75   Pass Maxwell Farms, a small fruit and vegetable stand. The farm site near the driveway was the original site of the Changewater Creamery. The water tower still stands, though it's a mess.

16.90    The road turns 90 degrees to the left.

17.10   Reach the former site of Changewater Trestle, removed in 1959. The north abutment has a kiln of some sort built into it for reasons unknown.

17.15    Reach signs relating history of the Lackawanna Railroad. If careful, it is possible to ascend to the railroad bed which is now part of State Department of Fish, Game, and wildlife.

17.17   The right of way is reasonably clear enough to walk from the trestle site. The fill makes it's way to the hillside and becomes a shelf.

17. 85    The rail bed continues past a washed out section (the cast iron pipe from below the rail bed is visible down the hill). Soon the right of way is behind people's houses.

18.50   The railroad bed reaches Dutch Hill Road. The rail bed reaches private land  before reaching this road. The section would make a great trail, but please respect private property. To follow the right of way further it is necessary to  walk Musconetcong River Road because it is not only badly overgrown, it is also on private land.

18.65   From the corner of River Road and Dutch Hill Road, continue west along River Road.

18.70   New Hampton Road appears from the right. This was once the route of the Spruce Run Turnpike, an early major road which stretched from Oxford Furnace to Clinton NJ. Note: Washington NJ was built on the intersection of Spruce Run Turnpike, Easton/Morristown Turnpike, and King's Highway. Continue along River Road, the Spruce Run Turnpike's former route. Soon reach the little hamlet of New Hampton. Although the name is prefixed with "new", the town is actually older than Hampton. The town of Hampton was originally called "The Junction" after the arrival of the Lackawanna in 1856. Probably because this name was too confusing and generic, the town eventually adopted the name "Hampton Junction" named for the next settlement up river. When the junction was gone the name was simply dropped from the town name. As you walk River Road the first structure you will pass will be the historic schoolhouse, which is also home to the Lebanon Township Historical Society.

19.00   Reach Shoddy Mill Road, with the old mill building in sight.

19.65  Reach Route 31. To the immediate north is a section of land owned by the State Department of Fish, Game, and Wildlife. The original Route 31 bridge still stands abandoned over the Musconetcong River to the right. A few paths lead to the river. Directly across the river is the historic hamlet of Imlaydale. An old purged dam on the river here poses an obstacle to paddlers who come through. Turn left along Route 31 south.

20.05   Reach the former site of the railroad bridge over Route 31. To the left the rail grade has been obliterated for the construction of a few buildings, and on the southbound side of Route 31 only one bridge abutment remains. Beyond the abutment the fill has been removed in the Hicks Paving property. It is necessary to continue a bit further on Route 31.

20.13   Reach the corner of Route 31 and Lackawanna Street. Use extreme care if you cross Route 31. Just ahead is the site of the former railroad bridge over the street, sadly torn down in 2002. The right of way from here to the former junction with the CNJ, next to the Rt. 31 underpass lies on private land. A short distance down Lackawanna Street, the name of the street changes to Station Road. This is because the original station road once continued to the left at the bend in the road to the Hampton station.