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The Ocean County Society of Model Railroaders

02/07/2014 | Comments: 0 | |

All Aboard! History of the Jersey Shore As Told By Abandoned Railroads ~ 85 years ago today!

All Aboard!  History of the Jersey Shore As Told By Abandoned Railroads ~ 85 years ago today!

There is an entire history of the Jersey Shore to be told through the stories of its abandoned railroads. At one time, there were few towns in Monmouth or Ocean counties that were not accessible by train.

Today, the remnants of late 19th century mass transportation crisscrosses the local landscape in the form of broken ties and corroding rails. Most often, all that remain are track beds that cut through woods and wetlands, until they either disappear into the wilderness completely or merge with the car-lined streets that had usurped the trains in a time of rapid industrial progress.

In the era of big railroads, the Shore had never seen a more grander train than “The Blue Comet,” which began service between Jersey City and Atlantic City on Feb. 21, 1929, 85 years ago today. Just as it did then, its continues to captivate the imagination.

Just ask retired history teacher and Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., who at 67, said this week that he still prizes his Blue Comet toy train set, vintage Lionel, which is tucked away in a safe place — where he made clear his grandchildren will never find it.

Initially, two Blue Comet trains operated at different times on the line in the service of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and they were literally blue, from their G3 Pacific locomotives to their observation cars in the rear. The trains were painted in Packard and royal blue, with a Jersey cream-colored stripe down the sides of its cars. Packard blue was to have represented the sky, royal blue the ocean and Jersey cream the color of the beach, all according to the National Railway Historical Society in Philadelphia.

As Bartlett pointed out, each car was named for a particular comet. The baggage cars were named Olbers and Barnard; the coaches were Tuttle, Holmes, Westphal, D’Arrest, Faye, Spitaler, Winnecke and Brorsen; the dining car was Giacobini; the combine cars were named Halley and Encke, and the observation cars were DeVico, Biela and Tempel, according to the society.

Travel time from Jersey City to Atlantic City was 2 hours and 47 minutes, with the train utilizing a now-defunct line of track, the remains of which still snake its way through the most remote parts of the Pine Barrens, from Red Bank to Hammonton. “The Blue Comet” made local stops in Red Bank, Farmingdale, Lakewood and Lakehurst. Once deep in the Pinelands, the engineer could power up the locomotive to about 80 miles per hour. A round-trip ticket was $8.40 in 1929 or $114.91 in today’s money, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The train represented a more formal and perhaps more elegant time. A passenger had his or her choice of porterhouse steak, fish or chicken for dinner, served by waiters in white jackets, according to an old Asbury Park Press story.

Ultimately, a combination of the Great Depression, the increasing popularity of the automobile and the Pennsylvania Railroad’s capability to deliver passengers direct between Atlantic City and Manhattan on its “Nellie Bly” service, did in “The Blue Comet,” according to the railway historical society. Its final journey was Sept. 27, 1941, a little more than two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s involvement in World War II.

The Blue Comet

Built in 1936, this railroad trestle over a remote section of Route 72 in Burlington County's Woodland Township, used to carry 'The Blue Comet' between Jersey City and Atlantic City until that luxury train service ended in 1941. / ERIK LARSEN/STAFF PHOTO

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In this undated photo, 'The Blue Comet' makes a scheduled stop at the old train station in Lakewood, which was located at Monmouth Avenue and 2nd Street. / ASBURY PARK PRESS FILE PHOTO 

Jersey Roots is a look at the history of Monmouth and Ocean counties. Have a local historical topic you would like more information about? Contact Erik Larsen at elarsen@app.com.

File:New Jersey Southern Railroad.svg




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