Cause of Branchport derailment revealed

[Editor’s note: In The Hub’s April 28 Red Bank Retrospect, which features old photos from Dorn’s Photography Unlimited, the photo shown was of a train wreck that we had no information about. This week an Oceanport reader fills in the details for us. Thanks to him and a Little Silver resident who also called to give us the story.]

The photo of the derailment was of Penn Central Train No. 1110, operating from Bay Head to New York, on June 25, 1973, at Branchport (a former station in Long Branch) between Joline and Branchport avenues. The train was operating over the tracks of the New York and Long Branch Railroad Co. which was jointly owned by the Penn Central Transportation Co. and the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The Penn Central was in charge of finances and the Jersey Central was in charge of operations.

The photographer was standing in Joline Avenue and facing geographical northwest, railroad direction east while taking this photo. The cause of the derailment was a broken rail (the north rail) a few feet east (railroad direction) of the Joline Avenue crossing.

The speed limit at this location was 60 mph for passenger trains, however, this train was still accelerating and probably not exceeding 50 mph, having just departed Long Branch Station and having a 30 mph speed restriction on the curve between Long Branch Station and Chelsea Avenue. The heavy and well-constructed P-70 class Penn Central coaches were also responsible for the fact that there were no casualties as a result of the accident.

I was director of operating rules and time table for both the Central Railroad of New Jersey and the New York and Long Branch Railroad Co. and inspected the scene with John Larkin of the Railroad Division of the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission. Both of us were formerly railroad operating employees and knew what we were looking for and what we saw. We agreed on the location, identification and the cause. The break in the rail was not "new," it was peened from the hammering of the wheels passing over it and was rusty and dirty, which indicated that it had existed for a while.

Robert G. Hoeft