The Sussex County Railroad – HO Scale

by Ray Walter

The model is based on the railroad in the Sussex County, New Jersey, USA. It is housed in a garage 24 by 14 feet and represents the 1940 — 1950s time period.  95% of the track work is completed with 40 percent scenery completed The railroads represented are LHR, DL&W, ERIE, CNJ and NYSW. The layout features four seasons, Summer and Fall are completed.  Rural scenery is featured with small towns and farms plus there is a large zinc mining at Ogedensburg.

The Prototype

The Sussex County Railroad is based on the railroads in Sussex County New Jersey, in the 1940 to 1950’s time frame during the popular steam diesel transition era. Sussex County is located in North West New Jersey in the USA . It is an area of rolling hills, dairy farms, small towns, many lakes and streams with large forests and is located in the N.W. corner of the state.

The highest point in New Jersey is located in Sussex County. Unknown to many people, the area was responsible for the early iron mining and smelting industries in the US, These were mostly finished by the 1920’s, also Thomas Edison started a large cement plant near Franklin and this closed in 1941. Located in and around Franklin were large Zinc mines, the Ogdensburg mine closed in 1986.

Franklinite a type of phosphorus mineral rock that is luminous in the dark is only found in Sussex County. The Dairy industry played an important part in the economy of Sussex County, the last dairy that shipped by rail closed in 1964, one of the last one in the US to ship by rail.

Newton is the county seat of Sussex County. A large shoe factory was located here as were oil distributors, fan suppliers, and lumber yards.  Sussex County also had a logging and lumber industry until the 1930’s. In years past, as today Sussex County was a holiday destination, camping, hunting, fishing, and just lazing about were and still are popular. At Cranberry Lake there was a large tourist camp with an18 inch gauge miniature railroad.

Many railroads taped this rich agricultural and mineral area, They were The DL&W,. NYS&W, L&HR, L&NE, CNJ.  Many of the railroads had trackage rights over each others rails so a wide variety of equipment was used and seen, also the L&HR and the L&NE had a large volume of bridge traffic to Maybrook N.Y. the New England gateway. There was a brisk commuter train schedule, mainly on the DL&W to Newton and Branchville. Passenger train excursions were also popular in this rural area that was close to New York City. Many trains also detoured on the L&HR as a way around New York City.

This is only a brief glimpse of Sussex County and its railroads, an area I grew up near and would travel to in the early 1950’s.