By Justin Franz
The United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey unveiled its newly repainted Erie Lackawanna U34CH over the weekend, the precursor to an eventual operational restoration of the “uniquely Jersey” locomotive that was an icon of Garden State railroading in the 1970s and 1980s.
Last year, the non-profit announced that it was launching a fundraising campaign to restore EL 3372 to operation. The first part of that effort was cosmetic and saw the six-axle General Electric painted into the blue, silver and red scheme of the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The cosmetic restoration was completed by an all-volunteer crew and was aided by a $10,000 matching grant from the Tri-State Railway Historical Society. Volunteers from the Railroad Museum of New England also lent a hand in painting the locomotive. Phase II of the restoration will require raising $15,000 to get the prime mover rebuilt.
“As an organization, we could not be more proud of the work accomplished here. This is URHS’s very first all-volunteer restoration effort,” URHS officials wrote online. “What you see here is the product of hundreds of hours of work by dozens of volunteers, over the course of only seven months. Folks of all stripes put their hearts and souls into this project, and we cannot thank our volunteers enough for these incredible results.”
The 3372 is the only survivor of EL’s fleet of 32 U34CHs built for commuter service in New Jersey in the 1970s. The locomotives remained in service into the NJ Transit era and the last ones were retired in 1994. The U34CHs was considered a landmark locomotive for its use of 480v head-end power and some of the principal designs introduced on the locomotives are still in use today on NJT.