Open up nearly any coffee table photo book on the Pennsylvania Railroad and you'll see references to Red Bank, South Amboy, and Bay Head Junction. These locations are known for being the last pasture for steam, as well as diesels that have fallen out of favor, like the Baldwin BP20 passenger sharks. However, I've lacked an understanding and appreciation of how and where these locations fit into the Pennsylvania Railroad system.
I now know that they are part of the New York & Long Branch (NY&LB), a railroad jointly operated by the PRR and the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ). Unlike most PRR affiliations, however, they aren't documented in regular PRR documentation, like the employee timetables or regional maps. Perhaps that's what led to my oversight.
The NY&LB is like the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL) of north Jersey. Coming out of New York City, it hugs the Jersey shoreline down to Point Pleasant Beach where it terminates at a reversing loop known as Bay Head.
While the PRSL is known mostly as a line to take tourists to south Jersey shore points, the NY&LB doubles for taking tourists to north Jersey shore points but also provides commuter service to NYC for those who live along the line. Towns like Asbury Park, Belmar, and Manasquan dot the right-of-way.
It was on a visit with friends at a beach house at Manasquan last Memorial Day that I discovered the railroad just blocks from the beach. Upon returning home and checking railroad maps I discovered that it was the NY&LB, which I knew the PRR had a role in.
The following week I discovered the web site of Jerry Woolley, who models the New York & Long Branch. Jerry lives in Point Pleasant Beach and is the town historian. Like myself, Jerry digs into the history of each locale modeled and uses post cards, valuation maps, Sanborne maps, and other records to bring each scene to life.
Jerry and I have conversed over the past year as I have watched his railroad progress. This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Jerry and his NY&LB and it was well worth it. Though still in the plywood and foam stage, this layout is one to watch and will be fun to operate on when the time comes.
I thank Jerry for the visit, and recommend checking out his web site and share in his vision for this seldom-modeled portion of the Pennsylvania Railroad system.