RAILFAN GUIDES of the U.S.

 

Todd's Railfan Guide to
MANUNKA CHUNK NJ
 

In General
Map
Pictures
USGS Maps
 

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In General

Location / Name:
    
Manunka Chunk NJ

What's Here:
     Former tower, station, and tunnel location.

Data:

     GPS Coordinates: 40.860353, -75.049324

    
Scanner Frequencies:
     N/A

 

Access by train/transit:

     None

 

The Scoop:

Manunka Chunk is the point where the PRR's Belvidere-Delaware Division joined the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad's Old Main Line that went through Washington NJ.

 

The view in the picture below looks eastward, and a heavy rain in 1913 washed out the bank that the tower, station, and Pennsy tracks sat on.  The tower was replaced the following year.

 

The DL&W tracks heading through the tunnels lead to Washington, Dover and Jersey City, all in NJ.  Trackage diverging to the right, along the river bank, is the PRR's Bel-Del Division headed toward Trenton, NJ.  

 

The following is from Wikipedia:

History -- The first railroad crossings through the village of Manunka Chunk, New Jersey date back to 1856, when John Blair opened the Warren Railroad throughout Warren County NJ, stretching from Washington NJ to Portland PA.  The railroad had to make use of two tunnels to navigate its way through deep mountains and hills in the northwestern portions.  The Van Nest Gap Tunnel (also known as Oxford Tunnel) opened in 1862 near Oxford Furnace NJ and the Manunka Chunk Tunnel, a then one-bore tunnel through soft shale.  During the construction of the Van Nest Gap Tunnel, Blair had a temporary road over the mountains installed.  The railway was complete when the tunnel was finished in 1862.  The delay in construction was due to difficulty boring through gneiss in Van Nest Gap and due to the fact that the Morris and Essex Railroad got a temporary injunction to stop construction of the Warren Railroad.  In 1869, a second bore was added to the Manunka Chunk Tunnel and the railroad was double tracked.

In 1876, the Pennsylvania Railroad brought its Belvidere and Delaware Branch up north along the Delaware River and created a junction at Manunka Chunk.  The Warren Railroad, now owned by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and the Pennsy created a joint venture, constructing a new train station, freight station and junction tower (U Tower) for both railroads to share.  This was done so neither railroad would have to build extra mileage or construct new bridges to serve its passengers.  The station depot at Manunka Chunk was attached to the center of the western bores of Manunka Chunk Tunnel.  The station became a junction point for travelers from Newark NJ and Philadelphia PA to reach the beauty of the Delaware Water Gap.  As a result of the newfound service, the area around the village of Manunka Chunk grew, opening as a resort town along the Delaware River.  The area had the Manunka Chunk House built in the early 1900s, but only lasted into the Great Depression, when the place was abandoned and burned down on June 13, 1938 during a suspicious fire.  The area was in a gradual depression since a 1913 washout of the railroad lines, both of which caused the station to be closed down and abandoned along with the collapse of the original Manunka Chunk Tower, which rested on its side after the disaster.

1913 flooding  -- On August 1, 1913, a cloudburst formed just west in the community of Pen Argyl PA around 4 pm.  The cloudburst crossed the Delaware River and caused extensive damage in its path, and after it passed, six railroads including the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western had washouts.  The newly created New Jersey Cut-Off withstood with no damage, however, the DLW's Old Main and the Pennsy's Belvidere and Delaware Branch both received extensive destruction.  About 200 feet (61 m) of the Pennsy's track was washed away and crumbled down to the public highway below, causing the Tower and the Freight Station to both topple with the mountainside.  The tower operator, however escaped without harm.  As a result of the flooding, both railroads were blocked and experienced numerous track washouts, along with a 50 feet (15 m) gully through the roadbed.  The Pocono special, a train run by the Pennsy from Philadelphia was blocked at the site and had to turn back for Easton PA.  The mountainside supported Lackawanna also lost a freight train when the public roadway collapsed on top of the freight cars passing 30 feet (9.1 m) underneath.  Nearby hotels and resorts were badly damaged, resulting in power outages and broken water mains.  No lives were lost in the calamity, which was estimated to cause more than $100,000 in damages (in 1913 currency).  Local news reports said the worst damage was centralized to Manunka Chunk, where wire communication became near impossible.  The Bangor and Portland Branch also lost seven bridges during the storm, causing all trains to be stranded in Portland.

The Manunka Chunk Tunnel was first constructed part of the Warren Railroad through White Township NJ.  The tunnel itself first began construction in 1854, after John Blair got the go-ahead from release of a court-appointed injunction placed by the Morris & Essex Railroad.  The tunnel itself was bore through soft shale, taking less than considerable time to complete the entire then one-track, one-bore structure.  The tunnel at Manunka Chunk opened in 1856, taking a quarter of the time it took to construct Van Nest Gap Tunnel on the same line.  It received a 2nd track and bore in 1869.  The tunnel was one of the problems with the main line for the now Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.  Its facing on the eastbound portal had a significant design flaw as the natural structures around the two portals sagged. However, the western portal was constructed of fine masonry design of stones and bricks.

The tunnel remained active for many years, although service dwindled once the New Jersey Cut-Off Line was completed to the north in nearby Columbia NJ in 1911.  By 1948, there was only one freight train crossing through the tunnel and no passenger service.  That year, the eastbound tracks were ripped up from the old main line, leaving Manunka Chunk as a single track line.  In April 1970, the now Erie Lackawanna Railway severed any train service past Washington, and closing down Manunka Chunk Tunnel for good.  It had not seen a train for a while due to another flood a few years prior.

 

Nothing much exists of either right-of-way today, and I don't even know if the tunnels are still there.... or if they are, if they are accessible.
 

Note: Although this isn't really a railfan guide, I had to create this page for the sake of the picture.... as some just warrant this kind of thing for the sake of preserving history!

 

Acknowledgements:
     Thanks to A.B. for the picture!

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:
    
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Mitchazenia/Manunka_Chunk_Union_Junction
 

Aerial shots were taken from either Google Maps or www.bing.com/maps as noted, once in a great while maybe MapQuest.  The screen captures are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! Contact info is here

Map


Pictures


    1      "U" Tower




Below is an aerial view of the area from Bing Maps.  The white dashed line is the PRR line,  the dashed yellow line is the tunnel, and the green arrows point to the Lackawanna's Old Main Line.  The tower would have been where the green dot is.


Historical USGS Maps


Courtesy of the University of Texas Library, click here for their index page.  From an 1885 Delaware PA/NJ quadrangle map.

 

And just for continuity on the Oxford Tunnel, the following screen capture is from the 1883 Hackettstown quadrangle.  The Google satellite view shows the approximate locations of the tunnel (in red) and the tracks.  I used the 1883 map to guide my efforts, but the old roads don't quite match up with the current ones....


Disclaimers:

Every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.

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NEW 03/30/2014
Last Modified 31-Mar-2014