I made my first photographs at the old Lackawanna Hoboken Terminal with my father back in 1976. He made his first photos there about 20 years earlier.
Today, Hoboken Terminal survives as one of the last great waterfront railroad terminals. Perhaps, the last great American waterfront terminal.
There’s no longer a Lackawanna Limited for Buffalo, nor any of the Lackawanna EMD F3s or F-M Trainmasters that my dad saw, but New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal remains as one of the most atmospheric locations in the New York City area to make railway images.
While I’ve featured Hoboken Terminal previously on Tracking the Light, (see: Hoboken?!) I exposed all of these photos in one morning about ten days ago using my Lumix LX7.
My intent here was no to make one photo, but rather a group of images that capture the character of the place.
When ever I think of Hoboken, New Jersey, I conjure up a vision of that classic Warner Bros., Bugs Bunny cartoon titled: ‘8 Ball Bunny.’
Bugs, upon discovering that the performing Penguin he’s just guided from Brooklyn to the South Pole was born across the Hudson from Manhattan, cries out. . . “HOBOKEN!? Oooo I’m dyin’ . . .”
That classic line, plus a bucket of steamed clams at the now-defunct Clam Broth House, and images of the old copper-clad Lackawanna Terminal represent Hoboken for me. It gets a bit confusing when I visit Antwerp, but that’s a story for another post.
I was traveling with Tim Doherty in Pennsylvania. A full moon illuminated the landscape. We opted to make time exposures of the Herculean former Lackawanna Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct at Nicholson, Pennsylvania.
We opted for several vantage points. This view was exposed from a graveyard located on a hill above Nicholson to the west.
Using my Nikon F3T firmly planted on a Bogan tripod, I exposed this image for more than a minute. The filtered moonlight allowed for a ethereal image of the viaduct.
I’m not completely satisfied with the photo. It doesn’t really convey the immense size of the bridge and the foreground is underexposed.
However, what really annoys me is that most of the photos I tried to make that evening never existed. In the darkness, I grabbed the wrong Nikon body. As it turned out, I failed to load that camera. So there was a lot of standing around making time exposures without a recording media in the camera! Poor show.
Here we have an immense abandoned bridge, rising above the trees like some Tolkienesq ruin from an ancient empire, the vestige of some lost civilization.
I was researching for my book North American Railroad Bridges in March 2007, when Pat Yough and I ferreted out the former Lackawanna Railroad Bridge in western New Jersey at Paulins Kill.
This was no ordinary railroad bridge. Lackawanna’s Slateford Cutoff (Port Morris, New Jersey, 28.5 miles to Slateford Junction, Pennsylvania) was built beginning in 1908 to shorten its mainline and lower operating costs by reducing gradient and curvature. The line was showcase for reinforced concrete construction.
Here’s an excerpt of my text on the Paulins Kill bridge:
The seven-span Paulins Kill Viaduct was 1,100 feet long and 117 feet tall at its highest point, and required an estimated 43,212 cubic yards of concrete and 735 tons of steel.
It was part of a super railroad and one of the best engineered lines of the early 20th century. Here the vision of Lackawanna president William H. Truesdale prevailed to invest private capital to the improve efficiency and capacity of his railroad.
Yet, by the 1970s this railroad was no longer valued. Its route was deemed redundant, its traditional traffic had vanished, and so Conrail which reluctantly inherited the line from Erie-Lackawanna, abandoned it.
While this was a gross waste of infrastructure and, to my mind, demonstrated a lack of vision on the part of planners and governments, it does make for fascinating photographs.
Someday, hopefully, the Slateford Cutoff may again see trains.