From: "Gary R DOT Kazin" gkazin AT yahoo DOT com
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2012 08:25:31 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Cycling the CNJ and Lackawanna, was: Ex Chester Branch News
"DLW_Ironia.jpg" - image/jpeg, 572x360 (24bit)
Having seen the posts from Carl and Paul, I had to take advantage of yesterday's nice weather to ride my bike.
Now, I'm a fairly serious about my cycling, so I rode from home.
I made my way through White Meadow Lake to Mt Hope Rd and Richard Mine Rd. This brought me alongside the Mount Hope Mineral Railroad (CNJ), which is very heavily overgrown in most areas. A short section has become a rail trail, very handy for getting under both NJ 15 and I 80 - from the back of a parking lot on Dewey Ave to go under both highways to East Dewey Ave in Wharton west of Shop-Rite, then to the Wharton Senior Citizens Housing where the Wharton & Northern (also CNJ at one time) crossed overhead.
Pine St and Central Ave parallel the railroads and the Morris Canal. You can travel the CNJ to Hopatcong Junction, or go through Hugh Force Park on the canal towpath (and see the recently restored lock), and then take the Lake Hopatcong Branch to Dewey Ave; I chose the road route alongside the Lackawanna. This runs into Berkshire Valley Rd, which continues parallel with the canal.
West of Ferromonte Junction, cross the High Bridge Branch, US 46, and continue on Kenvil Ave to NJ 10, parallel with the active part of the Chester Branch but too far to see it.
In Horseshoe Lake Park in Randolph, get near the Chester Branch. The new West Morris Greenway trail begins at the southeast corner of the park. The older loop path in the park turns west and a connection was built here to reach Righter Road.
Just across Righter Road, a new bridge was built to cross the Black River (not Lamington, Carl). This is the namesake for the Black River & Western Railroad, which was originally established in Chester. The bridge goes up about 10 feet; maybe they are expecting canal boats here? There was a bridge here before, but it was flat.
The new trail section crosses Pleasant Hill road and goes 1.5 miles from the park to the site of the Lackawanna's Ironia station. See the attached photo for a 1907 postcard view of the Ironia station.
The trail beyond here was cleared and given a good cycling surface some years ago (I've ridden it a few times) for four more miles to Pleasant Hill Rd (same road) in Chester; this is the Black River Wildlife Management Area. It looks like this will be upgraded to match the new section.
What would be the next section of the trail is heavily overgrown; it passes through a superfund site on the way west. At Hillside Ave, there is a place where the railroad might have been. Similarly, on US 206, there's a Patriots' Path marker where it should have crossed, but there is no visible sign of a railroad grade at either location.
Beyond Chester, there are more cycling options: try to find the CNJ westward, or go up US 206 to Four Bridges Road and pick up the Columbia Trail onward to High Bridge. I've gone there; it's an all-day 65 mile ride from home.
The ride from Randolph to Chester and back took me 90 minutes to cover 13.4 miles, including exploring on to US 206. YMMV.
On the return, I went through Wharton to Dover. At the junction of Main Street and US 46, you can see two trolley rails in the pavement - the Morris County Central had a wye junction here over 80 years ago.
The new US 46 bridge over the Lackawanna and Jersey Central (Dover & Rockaway) appears to be complete - finally! I got home with 40 miles for the day.
Gary R. Kazin
DL&W Milepost R35.7
Rockaway, New Jersey