By Justin Franz
BOONTON, N.J. — A “uniquely Jersey” locomotive that was an icon of Garden State railroading in the 1970s and 1980s will run again, the United Railroad Historical Society of NJ announced Wednesday. The non-profit group has teamed up with railroad contractor FMW Solutions to restore Erie Lackawanna U34CH 3372 to operation.
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.
“There are so few preserved locomotives that are uniquely Jersey, and this is one of them,” said URHS President Kevin Phalon. “There are thousands of people who still remember riding behind, working on, and running these locomotives. 3372 holds a lot of meaning for a whole lot of people, so it was imperative that we start this project off right — with funding and professional experience.”
Three U34CH locomotives are seen in Hoboken, N.J., in November 1980. Photo by Steve Barry.
Over the summer, URHS contracted FMW Solutions to perform a full mechanical evaluation of the locomotive. That inspection found that despite years of outdoor storage, the General Electric locomotive was in surprisingly good shape. While the prime mover shows signs of wear from its in-service career, it is still useable. Although there is damage to the locomotive’s wiring thanks to vandalism and weather, it is repairable. Perhaps most importantly, the report concludes that “there was nothing that precluded this locomotive from running again.” URHS has published a full mechanical report on the locomotive that can be found at URHS.org/U34CH.
“URHS has a great vision for preserving New Jersey’s railroad industry and our diesel-electric experts are looking forward to being a part of it,” said FMW Vice President of Mechanical Shane Meador. “Our inspection of 3372 was promising, and it shows that locomotives from this era can make good candidates for restoration.”
That restoration is being jumped started with a $10,000 matching grant from Tri-State Railway Historical Society. Donations can be made at URHS.org/Donate.
This weekend, 3372 and other pieces of URHS equipment will be on display for the group’s annual “Railroad Museum [For a Day]” event. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 25. Visit URHS.org/museumforaday for more information.