J. Alex Lang

July 6, 1992 “Epson Therapy 2020”

A cab ride with Conrail WPDJ-61

Noted author and photographer Greg McDonnell is prolific – he’s written many excellent books and articles, and made thousands of wonderful images of railroads and industrial landscapes.  His Facebook feed is a daily inspiration of evocative writing and imagery.  Greg often posts that he’s spent some time “today with Epson therapy”, meaning, that he’s spent some time at home digitizing old slide film on an Epson scanner.

As we’ve now surpassed 30 days of 2020’s insane COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, I’ve decided to clean out the basement room and make room for the scanners.  Having started years ago to digitize my slide collection (as well as my late friend Peter McGilligan’s collection), this seemed to be a perfect time to get that latent project started again.

It’s slow and tedious, and a bit noisy, but after 3 days of intermittent messing about we have our first set of images – and fond memories – to share with you today.

It was July 6, 1992, the summer after my freshman year of high school, and I’d spent a long weekend at Peter’s house for 4th of July weekend.  Peter, a sort of an honorary uncle, lived in Port Morris, NJ, and we had driven up to northern NJ to catch some of the NYSW stack trains.  I’d run out of print film, and Peter offered me up a roll of Kodachrome – my first roll of slides.  My first slide image is that of NYSW 4008 leading HAN-2 west at Baird’s Farm in Warwick, NY.  The colors have shifted (I’ve attempted to correct) and the focus is rarely good, but the memories are still there.

NYSW HAN-2 at Baird’s Farm

We attempted to chase HAN-2 to Sparta Jct.  Here are two more images of HAN-2…

Later that day, we headed over to Netcong, NJ which wasn’t far from Peter’s house at all.  Peter thought we might run into the Dover local grabbing lunch, and he (in his usual way) leveraged his jovial manner (and Irish accent) to get us a cab ride from Dover to Washington and back.  We spent the rest of that afternoon with Conrail’s WPDJ-61 local, behind GP38-2 8122 and GP38 7717.

A cab ride with Conrail WPDJ-61 – Starting out at Netcong

Thankfully I took good notes – they were usually better than the pictures – and I found that the engineer’s name was Dick Eppsley, and he’d started out with the DL&W.  We rode west from Netcong through Hackettstown – at the time this trackage was owned by NJ Transit but service hadn’t yet been extended that far west – and then we went through Port Murray, home of a neat (and still standing today!) station, and then arrived at Washington where we met the WPAL-18 local out of Allentown.  We swapped cars at Washington and then went back east towards home.

As the photographer, I’m rarely in photos, and most of the time I wouldn’t want to be.  I remember a particular moment where Dick wanted to take our picture, and I said it wouldn’t work.  He tried anyway, and through the digital ability to manipulate, I was able to recover (somewhat) what might otherwise be lost to time…

Alex (me) and Peter McGilligan in the cab of CR 8122 GP38-2

We continued on east, passing through Mount Olive, near I-80…

Mount Olive, NJ. Note the interesting consist and cars lined up at the crossing.

And finally we arrived at Netcong where Dick waved a final goodbye and took his train the rest of the way to Dover where they’d be done for the day.

A typically blurry view…


Dick waves goodbye. Gotta love his Team Conrail hat!

Later that evening, presumably after Peter headed to NYC for his 3rd-shift power desk job at Metro North, I took a walk around the NJT at Port Morris.  Back then, Port Morris was a forlorn shadow of itself, with the remnants of the once-mighty engine facility used as Bridges & Buildings department storage yard.  (Today, the area has been revived as a storage yard for commuter trains.)  Here, a typical NJT commuter train of the day whisks homebound folks west to Netcong, the last stop of the day.  I don’t know why I included so much sky…

NJT 4182 U34CH at Port Morris, NJ

And it’s apt that my final image of today’s post is the “going away” shot of 4182 headed for Netcong.

NJT 4182 U34CH at Port Morris, NJ

Enjoy, & stay safe!