ROXBURY, NJ – An upswing in traffic on the Morristown & Erie Railway means the blast of locomotive horns and clacking of steel wheels will remain a part of life in Roxbury for the foreseeable future.
The short-line railroad says it saw a 13 percent increase in freight traffic last year compared to 2013. It is pursuing new freight customers -- pointing to increased capacity at a freight unloading area in Kenvil called the Kenvil Team Track -- and Steve Friedland, the railway’s director of operations, sounds optimistic.
“It’s a good sign for local business,” said Friedland. “It’s allowing local businesses to utilize the railroad because the facility is available to other businesses, who do not have direct rail service, to get freight.”
The Kenvil Team Track expansion, completed in October, added track and three railcar spots. It was performed jointly by the Morristown & Erie and the Morris County Department of Transportation. Currently, only Blue Ridge Lumber uses the facility, to unload lumber onto trucks. But the railway, in a statement, said “marketing efforts are already underway to bring additional freight customers to this facility.”
Railroads have been an integral part of life in Roxbury since the mid-1800s and the Morristown & Erie began as the Whippany River Railroad in 1895. Friedland said the Morristown & Erie’s presence not only continues the tradition but adds to the quality of life by removing truck traffic from area roads.
“Every car of freight, every freight car of lumber, paper and corn starch takes four trucks off the road,” he said. “With a 13 percent increase in traffic, we are taking a couple hundred truckloads of freight off the road every year.”
As did most companies, the railway took a hit during the recent recession. However, the Morristown & Erie says it saw a 59 percent increase in freight traffic between 2010 and 2014.
“There was a drop-off when the economy dropped off a bit, but with county’s rehabilitation of the Chester Branch, the line that goes to Holland Manufacturing (in Succasunna), combined with the opening of Kuiken Lumber in 2011, there’s been growth," Friedland said. "As the economy comes back, there’s been growth by the customers.”