“Rush hour” at Bernardsville

So we trekked over there to find out what was happening.  I wanted to find out whether the trains were really still terminating there (Yes), were they being parked somewhere farther west on the main line (No), or were they being sent back east to possibly delay the next train coming west (Yes).

We arrived at 5.35, fearful that we had missed the westbound #427 due at 5.34. No way; it didn’t arrive until 5:55 and pulled in to the station (main) track; one of two NJT buses departed for Gladstone.

Equipment from #427 had not cleared the interlocking so perhaps received special dispensation to reverse direction within interlocking limits; in any case, it departed east at 6:10.

The next train #429 is due at 6:13; since the next meeting point is at Stirling, it was likely not to arrive for half an hour, but nonetheless there was an announcement at 6:13, as the equipment off #427 left, that #429 was running ten minutes late.  No way.

#429 finally staggered in at 6:46, 33 minutes late. At 6:48 it pulled up a bit before discharging passengers, clearing the interlocking but not the walkway across which the next train would have to discharge passengers, assuming that 429’s equipment was still in the station.  A bus left; somewhere along the line an NJT bus arrived, probably back from Gladstone.  They were briefly joined by a Lakeland bus, one of the few that run to Bernardsville, and only in peak hours.

As #429 was pulling in there was an announcement that the next train, #433 due at 6:46, was running 19 minutes late. No kidding; it should already be here. (NB: normally there is a Midtown Direct train before #433, but these have been annulled.)

#429’s equipment waited patiently on the station track until #433 pulled in to the siding; it took until 7:10 to come to a stop clear of the interlocking, but was still unable to discharge passengers because it was cut out by #429’s train.

At 7:11 #429’s equipment departed east. #433 then had to align its train with the passenger crosswalk and finally discharged its 13 passengers at 7:13, 3 minutes after its first stop at the station and a full 27 minutes off the schedule. The last bus headed to Gladstone, but no doubt there was one headed back to fill the gap.

At 7:21 433’s equipment departed east.

The next train due was #435 at 7:08; an announcement incorrectly quoted its schedule time as 7:17 and said it was running 25 minutes late. It’s unlikely that it could arrive before 7:50 given it had to meet #433’s equipment at Stirling, which would make it at least 42 minutes late.  We didn’t wait around.

Conclusion: It’s impossible to run even a half-hourly schedule on the Gladstone if there are opposing trains; that’s why there will never be counter-flow rush-hour trains, short of building a number of sidings or double-tracking the line.  Why NJT chose to send the incoming trains back against following trains is unclear; maybe they needed the equipment, maybe there wasn’t space to run them west on the single track that was out of service; maybe it’s money. However, since the trains normally lay over in Gladstone anyway, one would think that storing them on the single track west of Bernardsville might have been possible.  OTOH, we don’t know how many trains were trapped out at Gladstone when the wires went down.

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