Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rusty Relics in New Jersey

I was up at 4am on Sunday to meet with urbexing pals and head up to New Jersey where we were going to photograph a salvage yard. And not just any old salvage yard, this one's draw was the photos we'd seen earlier from the outside, showing large hulks of planes, suspended in the air, stacked and balancing on old school buses or trucks.
After signing waivers with the owner we were handed a map of where we could go and where we couldn't go and then we were off, shutter caps hastily tugged from lenses in eagerness to start shooting. We all started down the same path into the depths of the junk, marveling at how high the husks of airplanes were stacked. It was overwhelming to see so much stuff, but as we gradually got accustomed to the sights and started focusing on what we would take photos of, people filtered off down their own paths into the ruins of rust, and chatter gave way to concentration.
It really was a novelty seeing these huge plane hulks appearing to be balanced precariously atop old school buses whose roofs no doubt had caved under the weight. Cockpits were wide open for anyone who wanted to scramble up and look in, there were huge chambers of jet engines, still shiny inside, cockpit glass clouded by time and the elements, wires and fuselage trailing down towards the ground. Some massive jet engines, minus their propellers had been stacked in a row, looking like huts, and steel glinted, stained in a spectrum of colors by old fuel and oils leaking over the years.
The planes themselves could have kept me busy all day, but deep in the woods were more gems to be discovered. Old buses and cars from the 30's, 40's and 50's were standing quietly, most stripped of their paint, and now colored orange and brown, their rust the same color as the deep leaves they were nestled in. These leaves hadn't been disturbed for years, in places they were 6" or more deep, I stumbled frequently as I made my way around them. Occasionally I would hear someone behind me, and would chuckle as they lurched about, looking just like a zombie invasion, stepping high over tree roots, ducking low under branches, or stumbling over holes in the ground, hidden by the thick mantle of leaves.
Liz took a photo of me as I took shelter in an old bus, a plane shell hanging above me, keeping off the rain which was making yet another appearance. A good time to reflect on what I'd seen and what I should revisit or even what I'd missed. This place wasn't actually that huge, but there was certainly a lot packed in it. A veritable feast for the photographer or explorer. Old vehicles and equipment everywhere. I didn't have time to look inside all the buses or cars, and there were also old camper vans, trucks, RV's bicycles and motorcycles, as well as the usual household and yard junk. There was even an old coffin dumped on the side of a path; I'd walked past it at least three times before I finally noticed it.
I took some final photos of an old plane that still had its propellers in place and then stopped. I was burned out, having taken so many photos in such a short time. And it seemed the others felt the same way. The rain was coming down again as we met up outside and then drove onto a pizza joint for lunch.
A beer or two had to be consumed at some point during the day so we decided to visit the local brewery. On the way, we stopped at a huge abandoned greenhouse where we snapped a few photos before a neighbor shooed us off, once she'd let us know it had once been part of a commercial grower's site, with other greenhouses next to this one, all growing flowers to sell. She didn't want us inside due to injury reasons, since apparently there were some very industrious groundhogs burrowing in there. Luckily my ankles didn't find any holes while I'd been snapping shots.
Passing through Woodstown on the way home, we pulled over by a canning warehouse, drawn to the many quotes that were painted over all the white buildings. The owner Earl Erdner used his own words or quotations that he admired and had them put on display for everyone to see.

"Rise to the occasion - But know when to sit down."

 "To those who talk and talk
This adage doth appeal;
The steam that blows the whistle
Will never turn the wheel."

"In quarreling the truth is always lost."

"The greatest, the most important of the arts is living."

There are supposed to be 170 of these sayings on the walls but much of the black paint was wearing off, rendering some of the wording illegible. Mr Erdner had died in 1975 and it seemed his quotes had not been maintained since then. Some were even chopped in half by later additions to the the buildings. But it had been an interesting place, likely putting Woodstown on the map for folks looking for oddities, and I hope someone starts to restore the walls. All the quotations were hand painted, it would be sad to see that hard work fade away completely or continue to flake off as some have already done.
Our final stop before the long haul homewards was Cowtown, where we were unlucky enough to catch the cowboy outfitters store just as it was closing, but we could at least admire John Wayne on his steed outside on the grass verge. Across the road next to the rodeo grounds was a 20ft muffler man who's been stood here since 1975. He was toppled by high winds in 2005 but was soon repaired and put back in place. There was also a large cow standing close by, the rumors say that its back end faces the town to affront the snooty folk in Woodstown. Cowtown may warrant a trip later in the year, it has the oldest weekly running rodeo in the USA.

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