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Booze on the Branch

Booze on the Branch
By Jeff Jargosch (c) 2013

A wine delivery spends a Sunday coupled in front of #102 at Kenilworth. A multi-domed wine tank car, built in June 1929, is marked "Not For Flammable Liquids" and was lined in May 1947 with Amercoat 23. This shipment was destined for International Wine. May 31, 1959. Collection of Jeff Jargosch.

#17 posts #16 as a sentinel to guard a boxcar of liquor in the end stall of the Kenilworth Engine House. Collection of Patty Clark Gilbride.

The thirsty people of Union County had a taste for the ‘good stuff’. The small short line Rahway Valley Railroad had a few customers online that handled distribution as well as bottling of spirits and wines.

International Wine was located on its own siding just south of Kenilworth and was accessed via the first switch north of the Garden State Parkway overpass. Multi-compartmented six dome tank cars would frequently be seen on RV freights carrying inbound loads of wine to be blended and bottled at the Kenilworth plant. In addition to bottling ‘jug wine’, International Wine also blended and relabeled other vintages. Additionally, box cars of bottles and supplies, frequently Southern Pacific ‘cushioned’ cars, were brought inbound. Carloads of cardboard cases, containing wine in bottles and jugs were then shipped out to market.

At times, the inbound tank cars would have to be held for delivery and would be set out by the station or the engine house for safe keeping. Sometimes, older cars would be used. Diligent track workers would lend a hand and keep an eye on the 8000 gallon tanks, just in case one of the valves should start to leak. "Mysteriously", this could happen and only with faithful attention to securing buckets and pans could the leaking product be saved. Many an evening’s pasta was washed down with the RV’s tasty vintage.

If your tastes ran to the high brow, two consignees on the wye handled the hard stuff. Gordon, Bass & Company and Baxter Warehouse stocked Hiram Walker’s Canadian Whiskey. Baxter received one car at a time, which was typically spotted for quick unloading. Gordon, Bass & Co. had a fenced siding and could only receive one or two cars at a time. The cars would be locked in to keep from being broken into. If a car would not fit in behind the fence, the RV would hold the car for safe keeping by locking it in the end stall of the Kenilworth engine house. When the siding was empty, the car could be safely spotted under lock and key – assuming thirsty "section men" could be kept at bay.

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