Slicing through the heart of the Pine Barrens are the disused rails of the defunct Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ). Rider's Switch, named after Andrew J. Rider (Rider University of New Jersey), is a mile long fire road that connects Hampton Furnace with the former right-of-way.
August 26, 2008
As a railroad buff of many years, I was most intrigued to find this old train bridge in the middle of the desolate pinelands not far from Hampton Furnace. From the satellite photos on Google Maps, the bridge appeared to be fully intact and beared exploring. On my August 26, 2008 trip to the ruins I drove south on the smooth, nearly dustless road to locate the bridge.
Parking at the end of Rider's Switch, one needs to walk a mere 200 yards north along the tracks to reach a solidly built timber trestle. The smell of creosote and the sight of heavy beams assured me that this bridge over the ruddy Batsto River was meant to last. According to a May 2006 posting on the NJPineBarrens.com website, the deck boards were added by some people wanting to build a bike path along the tracks. In any event it was completely safe to walk across. Though unused since the last Conrail train rumbled over it in 1978, it would not be hard to image this structure easily standing for another 50 years.
Janauary 1, 2009
An unexpected opportunity came on January 1, 2009 to revisit the CNJ train bridge at the end of Rider's Switch. Ever observant, I noticed a few more things that I had not seen on my first visit.
July 3, 2009
D uring an early spring visit to Hampton Furnace, I took a side trip down Rider's Switch. Like Hampton Furnace, the woods to the west were still recovering from a controlled burn. While the blackened ground is unpleasant to look at, such burnings often expose things that are difficult to see when summer growth is present. About 1/3 mile down from Hampton Road I noticed two areas that were littered with bricks, broken glass, metal fragments and other objects that indicated possible locations of former structures. There were no obvious cellar holes, foundations, or footings to indicate the former presence of structures. A check of the USGS Pemberton southwest quad map revealed that no structures were in this area in 1949. So the question remains: just what were these two areas along Rider's Switch used for?
Rider's Switch is the vertical line that runs alongside the Batsto River from Hampton Furnace to the CNJ railroad tracks. A train station once stood at the end of the road, but no trace of any such station exists today. A rail siding used to ship cranberries from Hampton Furnace was removed in 1942. Interestingly enough, there is little indication a rail siding or station even existed here. The 1940 aerial photos show nothing identifiable.