Central Railroad of New Jersey 1940’s Commuter Train in LEGO
This is my LEGO model of a 1940’s Central Railroad of New Jersey commuter train. This train is typical of those that made up the CNJ’s short haul commuter service in the first half of the 20th century. You may have already seen the locomotive in my recent article on Vinyl Decals, or on a recent youtube livestream. Now that the locomotive is properly decaled, I finally took some time to photograph the whole train and write this article.
The seeds for building this train were planted several years ago while on a trip to visit Steamtown National Historic Site. While there one of the locomotives that caught my attention was an odd little Canadian National engine, no. 47. Canadian National no. 47 is what is referred to as a “Suburban” locomotive. These locomotives were built for short haul service on commuter lines. The Suburban type had its tender, carrying coal and water, integrated with the main frame of the locomotive, rather than having a separate “tender” car semi-permanently coupled to the locomotive. This gave the locomotive excellent dual directional capability, handy for when there were no provisions for turn the engine around at the end of it’s run. It was not uncommon to see these engines running backwards pulling their train on a return trip.
I love smaller, and unusual locomotives. The little CN 4-6-4 was instantly fascinating. I wanted to build one of these Suburban locomotives, but Canadian National isn’t my usual territory, so I started searching for a more local railroad to me that owned some of these neat steamers. I soon found out that one of my home railroads, the Reading, had several 2-6-4 Suburban types. I thought I had found my locomotive to model. At least that was the plan. My club, PennLUG, is firmly in Reading RR territory, and more than a few of us are Reading fans. I soon learned that at east two others in the club also had a desire to build one of the Reading’s 2-6-4 tank engines. I wasn’t sure when I would get to the project, I figured one of the others would beat me to it and I’m not normally interested in covering something already done by one of my club mates. So my search began again. I soon found that the Central Railroad of New Jersey had their own 4-6-4 engines very similar to that Canadian National no. 47 that had first caught my attention. Now the Jersey Central was never high on my normal railroads to model. Though the CNJ did have lines into Pennsylvania, it never really caught my imagination. That changed though when I found the little 4-6-4 tank locomotives that ran the Central New Jersey’s commuter lines. Small and odd, but some how still well proportioned and beautiful. I had fallen in love with a Jersey Girl.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey 4-6-4T Steam Locomotive
The Central Railroad of New Jersey, operated a large volume of commuter service around New York City using four-coupled locomotives. Beginning around the turn of the century the CNJ was seeking heavier motive power for its suburban trains, and in 1902 and 1903 purchased from the Baldwin Locomotive Works a number of 2-6-2T locomotives that proved quite successful. But with time the need for power exceeded even their capacity, and in 1923 the Central of New Jersey had the Baldwin Locomotive Works design and build six 4-6-4T Baltic tank-type locomotives, numbered 225 to 230. In an article published three years later in Baldwin Locomotives, the quarterly house organ of the Baltimore Locomotive Works, Paul Warner described the characteristics of these first American 4-6-4T locomotives:
These locomotives were designed to traverse curves of 20 degrees, and had flanged tires on all the wheels. Both trucks were of the swing bolster pattern with three-point suspension links, the front truck being center bearing and the rear truck side bearing. The latter was placed under the tank, which was of the water-bottom type. The rear frame, on which the tank was carried, was of steel, cast in one piece with the truck center plate, draft gear housing, rear bumper and tank supports.
These locomotives used superheated steam, and the distribution was controlled by piston valves 11 inches in diameter. The Walschaerts valve gear was used in conjunction with a power reverse mechanism. . . .
The boiler was of the wagon-top type, with a wide firebox placed above the main and rear drivers. The fuel used was a mixture of anthracite and bituminous coal, and the grates were of the rocking pattern, arranged to shake in four sections. Feedwater heating equipment was applied, with a heater of the closed type placed above the smokebox in front of the stack. The smokebox shell was depressed on top, in order to keep the drum and piping within the limit of height. The feed-water pump, and also the air pump, were placed on the left side. The saving in water consumption effected by the feed-water heater has proved of special benefit to these locomotives, on account of their limited tank capacity.
While the greater part of the suburban traffic on the New Jersey Central [sic] is now being worked by locomotives with separate tenders, the double-ender tank locomotives have proved practically indispensable on certain short runs where facilities for turning the engines are lacking. The locomotives operate in either direction with equal facility, and are well liked by the enginemen.
The CNJ’s 4-6-4 class H-1 (later reclassified as SU-31) “Suburban” engines used Walschaerts valve gear, Elesco feed water heaters, and Sellers water pumps. The H-1’s were superheated, with a maximum boiler pressure of 200 pounds per square inch, and produced a tractive force of 30,940 pounds through 63 inch drivers. They were plenty powerful enough to pull the CNJ’s commuter trains, which often had frequent stops and required quick acceleration when pulling away from station to stay on schedule.
The lack of a separate tender gave the locomotives excellent dual directional capability, making for quick turnarounds at the end of a run. The CNJ would often run them backwards pulling trains on return trips. Engine no. 225 was the first of the 4-6-4T’s to delivered from Baldwin and was one of the last two in service at the end of steam on the CNJ. No. 225, and 227 were scrapped in 1950.
My LEGO model of no. 225 is driven through the drivers by a Power Functions L motor. The gearing is 1:1, and when coupled with the L motor and the Emerald Night drivers gives the locomotive enough power to pull a string of commuter passenger cars, as well as accelerate quickly, just as it’s real life prototype did.
The I.R. receiver is in the locomotive cab with the top of the receiver exposed through the roof vent. The battery is stuffed into the rear coal/water bunker area. It can be accessed by removing the two assemblies that make up the top of the coal/water bunker.
Every Locomotive Needs Something To Pull
Of course building the engine is fine and dandy, but to have any real fun you need to have a train to pull. So I also set out to build some typical passenger cars for my little CNJ steamer. And nothing could be more typical of Central New Jersey’s commuter operations than a class CA combine and a class PB Coach. The two cars shared a majority of their construction, the only real difference being that the class CA combine gave up some passenger seating for a small baggage section. Both of my passenger car models feature fully detailed undersides. Neither have an interior yet, but accommodations were made to install interiors at a later date.
CNJ Combination Car No. 302
Combine 302, classed CA, is one one of a series of cars, no.269 to 304, built for the Central New Jersey by the Pressed Steel Car Company in 1926. These cars had a maximum seating of 51 passengers and were of all steel construction with standard 4-wheel trucks. Car no. 302 carrying the name Encke, was one of the two CNJ combines outfitted in 1929 for the prestigious “Blue Comet.”
CNJ Coach Car No. 1135
Central RR New Jersey coach car 1135, class PB, was part of a series of cars built by American Car and Foundry in 1923. Each car carried 78 passengers. These coaches were among 223 passenger coaches ordered by the railroad from several manufacturers in the early and mid-1920s.
Many of the CNJ’s suburban coaches are still around today. They are popular with tourist railroads in the Northeastern US. Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvania has several in their collection.
This Central New Jersey commuter train has become one of my favorite recent builds. It’s a great little train to play with, running backward wile pulling its two car train is a great conversation starter. In the future I may convert it over to the SBrick for control. Using the SBrick will allow me to start and stop anywhere on the layout without having to be close to the train. You know, for that full commuter train experience. I’m also thinking of adding a third car. The CNJ also had several coaches of Reading RR design. One of those would be an interesting addition to the consist.
You can find my full gallery for the train on my Flickr page.