The Morristown & Erie Railway (M&E) is a short line freight railroad that has been providing continuous service to customers in Morris, Essex, and Union Counties in New Jersey for over a century. Its earliest predecessor, the Whippany River Railroad, was chartered in 1895, and merged with the Whippany & Passaic River Railroad in 1903 to form the Morristown & Erie Railroad. In the coming decades, the railroad remained a well-run, profitable freight railroad. With its continued success, the company became the only railroad in the United States to pay off all of its debts during the Great Depression.
After years of prosperity, the railroad felt the impacts of declining rail traffic in the 1970s and fell into bankruptcy in 1978. A team of investors reorganized the railroad in 1981-82 as the present-day Morristown & Erie Railway. The original Whippany River Railroad right-of-way, now known as the Whippany Line, is still owned and operated by the Morristown & Erie Railway today as part of the M&E’s Morristown Division. The line sees regular freight service, and commodities handled include frozen fruit, corn syrup, petroleum, used cooking oil, biodiesel fuel, and petroleum additives. The M&E is currently developing the Whippany Line with new transload facilities to attract additional business.
The Morristown & Erie Railway expanded throughout the 1980s, cooperating with Morris County to orchestrate the County’s purchase of three former Conrail branch lines. The M&E was contracted to operate these three rail lines (the Chester Branch in 1983, the Dover & Rockaway Branch in 1986, and the High Bridge Branch in 1986) and promote their economic development. With three decades of experience creating business opportunities along these rail lines, the M&E is an industry leader in cooperative contract rail operations.
In the past decade, the M&E has fostered significant carload increases and several new customer acquisitions. In one example, the M&E’s active marketing brought a new regional distribution center for building materials to the Chester Branch in 2011, considerably increasing rail traffic and bolstering Morris County’s economic development. The three Morris County-owned branches are operated as part of the M&E’s Morristown Division (along with the Whippany Line), and are accessed from the Whippany Line via trackage rights over NJ Transit’s commuter lines. Active interchanges for the Morristown Division are maintained with both Norfolk Southern and CSX. Commodities handled on the County lines include corn starch, resins, paper, lumber, and plastics. The County lines are being upgraded with financial investments by the M&E and Morris County to improve infrastructure, enhance existing transload facilities, and attract new customers.
In 1995, the M&E was selected to be the contract rail switcher for the Bayway Refinery in Linden, NJ, the second-largest oil refinery on the East Coast. In 2014, the M&E handled over 15,000 railcars and provided over 35,000 switching movements for the refinery. Now in its twentieth year of operation in the plant, the M&E has become an integral part of the refinery’s operations. The M&E has partnered with the refinery to acquire and construct additional railcar storage tracks and acted as a liaison between the refinery and Class I railroad partners. The M&E’s Bayway Refinery operation handles commodities including petroleum, chlorine, plastics, chemicals, and acids, and M&E crews and management are well-versed in the safe handling of hazmat and other dangerous materials. Cars are delivered to the refinery by Conrail Shared Assets Operations.
The M&E has received several ASLRRA Jake Awards over the past decade, which recognize short line railroads that exceed the industry safety average.
The M&E also has nearly two decades of experience in the charter & excursion passenger train business. The M&E maintains a fleet of Amtrak-certified railcars that are available for charter anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. These cars are often used for both business trips and private vacations, and their continued use has built an excellent working relationship between the M&E and Amtrak. The M&E has also operated several major public charter trips in conjunction with NJ Transit, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern. In addition, smaller excursions are operated seasonally by the M&E on the Whippany Line in conjunction with the Whippany Railway Museum.
For over a century, the Morristown & Erie Railway has maintained one slogan: "Service Is Our Business!" Today, the Morristown & Erie is still dedicated to service, offering shipping services catered to fit its customers' needs with the same personal attention and professionalism that the railroad was founded on. The M&E continues to do business with the same enthusiasm and good business practices that have served the company well since 1895.