Tom’s Raritan River Railroad Page

www.RaritanRiver-RR.com

 

 

 

Forgotten History of the Raritan River Railroad

 

South River Swing Bridge

 

Contents

History of the South River Swing Bridge. 1

Interview with bridge tender - 2000. 1

Building the Swing Bridge. 1

Silent Movies made on the South River Swing Bridge. 1

Checkers – 1919. 1

Loyal Lives – 1923. 1

Sure Fire Flint – Johnny Hines – 1923. 1

Accidents and Wrecks on the Swing Bridge. 1

1892 – Drunk Man Falls Off Bridge. 1

1895 – Engine Goes Into the River. 1

1968 – Caboose No. 5 rolls off the Swing Bridge. 1

Trains on the Swing Bridge. 1

Logo. 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History of the South River Swing Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with bridge tender - 2000

 

 

Interview with John Ptak, bridge tender from October 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building the Swing Bridge

 

 

 

 

Work may have started on the bridge over the South River in the fall of 1888. 

 

 

But considering that Noah Furman did not sell his property to the RRRR until the spring of 1889, it’s not clear exactly
when the railroad has the right and title to build the actual bridge and lay the rails.

 

 

 

 

From the official maps of the RRRR, we can see that Noah Furman owned
property No. 21.1 leading up to the South River Swing Bridge

 

In Sayreville and leading to the South River, a long trestle is completed across the meadows connecting to the South River Bridge as of October 1888, as grading continues across the river, from the town of South River to Milltown (“The New Railroad.,” 1888).  Although the trestle work is done, the tracks may not have been laid yet.

 

 

 

0418 The Daily Home News (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, April 18, 1889

 

Just a year after the Raritan River Railroad’s incorporation in April 1888, the first through passenger train left for New York in April 1889.   The train left Van Deventers station, as it would seem that the facilities, or the bridge over the South River, were just not ready yet

 

 

VanDeventers Stop was on the Sayreville side of the river

 

 

In early June 1889, the station facilities were finally being started as it was reported in South River that “work is progressing rapidly on the Raritan River Railroad now.  We hope to soon have accommodations to travel to points South” (“South River.,” 1889).  By mid-month, construction men were busy grading the location for the new South River station, and it was expected that passenger trains will be running between South River and South Amboy by July. 

 

So it’s expected that by the summer of 1889, since the stations are being constructed, that the first South River Swing Bridge is built and has active tracks laid on it.  This first bridge would have been a wooden pile trestle bridge.

 

 

 

A signal house was also constructed in South River, designed to protect the passenger trains from running through an open draw bridge over the South River (Assessors, 1891)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0302 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Wednesday, March 2, 1910 SR bridge to be replaced

0302 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Wednesday, March 2, 1910

 

 

In 1910, the RRRR decided to start the process to replace the wooden bridge over the South River

with a steel span that would sit on concrete piers.

 

 

railroad_bridge

South River Swing Bridge after 1910

South River Historical Society collection

 

 

This is the oldest photo we have of the Swing Bridge in South River.  The Hermann-Aukman Handkerchief factory

is seen on the right.

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/ForgottenHistory_SouthRiver_files/image003.jpg

 

For many years the swing bridge was just pained black.

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/ForgottenHistory_SouthRiver_files/image012.jpg

 

Eventually getting a nice red coat of paint to match the engines and cabooses in the early 70s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silent Movies made on the South River Swing Bridge

 

I have cataloged at least 24 silent movies made on the RRRR from 1910 to 1923.

Only three are known to survive in some form.  The Runaway Engine from 1910 is in its original length but the title cards are in

German as it was restored from a copy found in the Netherlands, The Juggernaut is shortened but includes a wonderful crash

scene, and the third is only an 8 second clip.

 

For more information on these movies and how to view them, click here or go to my Movies Page.

Be sure to watch the Runaway Engine, it shows a few scenes from South River showing the old Passenger and Freight Stations from 1910.

 

Many of these movies were made in the Milltown, South River (including East Brunswick), Sayreville, and Parlin.

 

Three of these movies actually used and showed the South River Swing Bridge!

 

 

 

Checkers – 1919

 

 

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image043.gif

 

 In rails up the Raritan, we see that Caboose No. 3 was sold to Fox Films, this would have been for the movie Checkers, where the caboose and a boxcar…

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image044.jpg

Flaming Caboose – SR Bridge - 1919

 

… are set aflame and sent down into the river off of the South River Swing Bridge!  

 

 

Loyal Lives – 1923

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image048.gif

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image050.gif

 

Another film that uses the RRRR’s South River Swing Bridge

 

 

Sure Fire Flint – Johnny Hines – 1923

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image052.gif

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image054.gif

This looks like the Washington Ave crossing in Parlin, with the RRRR Water Tower off to the right

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/Silent-Movies_files/image056.jpg

And off course, we see yet another movie made on the South River Swing Bridge!

 

 

 

 

Accidents and Wrecks on the Swing Bridge

 

 

1892 – Drunk Man Falls Off Bridge

 

The Annual Statements of the Railroad and Canal Companies for the year 1892 reports that on November 8th, 1892, Patrick Sanders, a trespasser on the tracks of the Raritan River Railroad company, fell from the South River Swing Bridge and into a boat at South River, breaking his neck.  Supposed to have been intoxicated.

 

 

1895 – Engine Goes Into the River

 

In 1895, the first serious accident happens when an Engine goes through the open swing bridge and falls into the South River

 

1107 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895 Wreck - Engine goes into the South River p1

1107 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895

 

1107b The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895 Wreck - Engine goes into the South River p2

1107 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895

 

1107c The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895 Wreck - Engine goes into the South River p3

1107 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895

 

1107d The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895 Wreck - Engine goes into the South River p4

1107 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Thursday, November 7, 1895

 

 

1108 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Friday, November 8, 1895 Engine still in river

1108 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Friday, November 8, 1895 Engine still in river

 

 

1109 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Saturday, November 9, 1895 Engine fished out of South River

1109 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Saturday, November 9, 1895

 

1109b The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Saturday, November 9, 1895 Engine fished out of South River p2

1109 The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ) — Saturday, November 9, 1895

 

 

 

 

1968 – Caboose No. 5 rolls off the Swing Bridge

 

 

D18_Caboose5_intheriver_Dec1968

 

In December 1968, a CNJ work train show up in South River, complete with a heavy crane and gondola, but they are not here for a vacation…

 

 

D19_Caboose5_intheriver

With the CNJ engine, gondola and crane near the edge of the fixed part of the bridge, the movable bridge is opened and swung wide.
   There is something in the river that needs some help…

 

D20_Caboose5_intheriver

So the hook is lowered into the river and attached…

 

 

D21_Caboose5_intheriver

…attached to poor old Caboose No.5 who rolled all by herself from Parlin when her brakes gave way.

 

 

D22_Caboose5_intheriver

 

Poor old Caboose No.5, she arrived from the Lackawanna Railroad in 1937

 

 

 

D23_Caboose5_intheriver

And was painted yellow by the RRRR for most of her life, almost 30 years…

 

 

 

 

D25_Caboose5_intheriver

and only recently got her red covering in the mid-60s to match the red diesels who faithfully pulled her along…

 

 

D26_Caboose5_intheriver_Dec1968

 

But today, on her last day, RRRR Caboose No. 5 would sit upside down on the bank of the river and wait for her crew show up, but not for one more ride, but instead to scrap her by burning her to the ground and taking any remaining metal to the scrap yard…

 

To see the story of the rest of the RRRR Cabooses, click here

 

 

 

Trains on the Swing Bridge

 

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/ForgottenHistory_SouthRiver_files/image004.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/ForgottenHistory_SouthRiver_files/image011.jpg

 

Inspection train with Caboose No.8 with its added observation deck – 1973

 

 

 

http://www.raritanriverrailroad.net/ForgottenHistory_SouthRiver_files/image029.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conrail crosses over the South River Swing Bridge – 2005

 

 

 

Logo

 

 

In 2004, the RR logo on the South River Swing Bridge was hardly visable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

 

Assessors, N. J. S. B. of. (1891). Annual Report of the State Board of Assessors of the State of New Jersey. https://books.google.com/books?id=WHobAQAAIAAJ

South River. (1889, June 5). The Daily Home News (New Brunswick, NJ).

The New Railroad. (1888, October 1). The Daily Times (New Brunswick, NJ).

 

 

 

 

 

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