Central Railroad of New Jersey
|Central Railroad of New Jersey|
|Dates of operation||1839–1976|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
|Length||693 miles (1,115 kilometres)|
|Headquarters||148 Liberty Street
New York, New York
The Central Railroad of New Jersey, also known as the Jersey Central or Jersey Central Lines (reporting mark CNJ), was a Class I railroad with origins in the 1830s. It was absorbed into Conrail in April 1976 along with several other prominent bankrupt railroads of the northeastern United States.
The earliest railroad ancestor of the CNJ was the Elizabethtown & Somerville Railroad, incorporated in 1831 and opened from Elizabethport to Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1836. Horses gave way to steam in 1839, and the railroad was extended west, reaching Somerville at the beginning of 1842. The Somerville & Easton Railroad was incorporated in 1847 and began building westward. In 1849 it purchased the Elizabethtown & Somerville and adopted a new name: Central Railroad Company of New Jersey. The line reached Phillipsburg, on the east bank of the Delaware River, in 1852. It was extended east across Newark Bay to Jersey City in 1864, and it gradually acquired branches to Flemington, Newark, Perth Amboy, Chester, and Wharton.
The New Jersey Southern (NJS) began construction in 1860 at Port Monmouth. The railroad worked its way southwest across lower New Jersey and reached Bayside, on the Delaware River west of Bridgeton, New Jersey in 1871. The NJS came under control of the CNJ in 1879. CNJ's influence briefly extended across the Delaware River in the form of the Baltimore & Delaware Bay Railroad, from Bombay Hook, Delaware, east of Townsend, to Chestertown, Maryland. That line became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) family in 1901.
CNJ's lines in Pennsylvania were built by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company as the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad (L&S). The main line was completed between Phillipsburg, New Jersey and Wilkes-Barre in 1866. A notable feature of the line was the Ashley Planes, a steep stretch of line (maximum grade was 14.65%) operated by cables driven by stationary engines, which remained in service until after World War II (WWII). CNJ leased the L&S in 1871. The line was extended to Scranton in 1888 by a subsidiary of the L&S, the Wilkes-Barre & Scranton; L&S leased the line upon completion and assigned the lease to the CNJ. The bulk of the traffic on the Pennsylvania lines was anthracite coal, much of it produced by subsidiaries of the railroad, until the Commodities Clause of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1920 forbade railroads to haul freight in which they had an interest.
From 1883 to 1887 the CNJ was leased to and operated by the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, with which it formed a New York-Philadelphia route. CNJ resumed its own management after reorganization in 1887. In 1901, the Reading Company (RDG), successor to the Philadelphia & Reading, acquired control of the CNJ through purchase of a majority of its stock, and at about the same time Baltimore and Ohio Railroad acquired control of the RDG, gaining access to New York over RDG and CNJ rails.
In 1929, CNJ inaugurated the Blue Comet, a deluxe coach train operating twice daily between Jersey City and Atlantic City. It was painted blue from the pilot of its 4-6-2 to the rear bulkhead of its observation car, and its refurbished cars offered a level of comfort much higher than the usual day coach of the era. The train was the forerunner of the coach streamliners that blossomed nationwide in the late 1930s and the 1940s. Unfortunately, it succumbed to automobile competition in 1941. Also in 1929 CNJ purchased a 30% interest in the Raritan River Railroad, a 12-mile (19 km) short line from Perth Amboy to New Brunswick. In 1931 it acquired total ownership of the Wharton & Northern Railroad and a partial interest in the Mount Hope Mineral Railroad from Warren Foundry & Pipe Corporation.
The lines in Pennsylvania were organized as the Central Railroad of Pennsylvania (CRP) in 1946 in an effort to escape taxation by the state of New Jersey. CNJ resumed its own operation of the Pennsylvania lines at the end of 1952. The CRP continued in existence as owner of the Easton & Western, four miles of track in Easton, Pennsylvania.
When the Lehigh and New England Railroad was abandoned in 1961 CNJ acquired a few of its branches and organized them as the Lehigh and New England Railway. In 1963 Lehigh Coal & Navigation sold its railroad properties to the RDG, but the lease to the CNJ continued. In 1965 CNJ and the Lehigh Valley Railroad consolidated their lines along the Lehigh River in Pennsylvania and portions of each railroad's line were abandoned; the anthracite traffic that had supported both railroads had largely disappeared. CNJ operations in Pennsylvania ended March 31, 1972.
CNJ maintained a small carfloat terminal in the Bronx. It was the site of the first successful Class 1 railroad diesel operation. Over the years CNJ maintained an extensive marine operation on New York Bay, including a steamer line to Sandy Hook. CNJ's last marine service, the ferry line between Manhattan and CNJ's rail terminal at Jersey City, made its last run on April 30, 1967. It was also the last day for the terminal itself; the next day CNJ passenger trains began originating and terminating at the PRR station in Newark via the Aldene Connection, where New York passengers could transfer to either PRR or Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains.
The years after WWII were not kind to CNJ. Passenger traffic was almost entirely commuter business, requiring great amounts of rolling stock for two short periods five days a week. Three-fourths of CNJ's freight traffic terminated on line — the railroad was essentially a terminal carrier, which meant little profit was made, if any. In addition, heavy taxes levied by the state of New Jersey ate up much of CNJ's revenue. The state of New Jersey began subsidizing commuter service in 1964, and the tax situation changed in 1967. The merger between the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and Norfolk and Western Railway that was proposed in 1965 to counter the impending PRR-New York Central Railroad merger was to have included CNJ, but the bankruptcy of Penn Central killed that prospect. CNJ drafted elaborate plans for reorganization; they came to naught as neighboring railroads collapsed. Conrail took over the railroad properties and freight operations of the CNJ on April 1, 1976; New Jersey Transit purchased the routes over which it now operates its North Jersey Coast Line and Raritan Valley Line.
CNJ emerged from bankruptcy in 1979 as Central Jersey Industries (later CJI Industries), a corporate shell. It merged with the packaging company Triangle Industries, owned by Nelson Peltz, in 1986.
Portions still operated
- Buena Vista Railroad
- Carteret and Sewaren Railroad
- Carteret Extension Railroad
- Cumberland and Maurice River Railroad
- Cumberland and Maurice River Extension Railroad
- Elizabeth Extension Railroad
- Freehold and Atlantic Highlands Railroad
- Lafayette Railroad
- Manufacturers' Extension Railroad
- Middle Brook Railroad
- New Jersey Terminal Railroad
- New Jersey Southern Railroad
- Navesink Railroad
- Passaic River Extension Railroad
- Raritan North Shore Railroad
- Sound Shore Railroad
- Toms River Railroad
- Toms River and Barnegat Railroad
- Vineland Railroad
- Vineland Branch Railway
- West Side Connecting Railroad
- West End Railroad
Named passenger trains
The CNJ operated several named trains, most of which were interstate operations run jointly with the RDG:
- The Blue Comet, Jersey City-Atlantic City, New Jersey
- The Interstate Express, Syracuse, New York-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- The Mermaid, Sandy Hook, New Jersey-Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Queen of the Valley, Jersey City, New Jersey-Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- The Williamsporter, Jersey City, New Jersey-Williamsport, Pennsylvania
- Central Railroad of Pennsylvania
- High Bridge Branch - CNJ Branch from High Bridge, NJ to Wharton, NJ, which mainly carried iron ore from mining operations
- SS Asbury Park, a crack coastal steamer built for the CNJ in 1903, and subsequently rebuilt and operated as a car ferry in San Francisco Bay (1919 to 1940), Puget Sound (1943 to 1951), and the Strait of Georgia (1952 to 1976)
- The Blue Comet, New Jersey Central’s luxury coach train, provided service from 1929 to 1941 between New York and Atlantic City.
- Central Railroad of NJ Historical Society, P O Box 4226, Dunellen,NJ 08812 USA
- "Railway Consolidation". The New York Times. March 19, 1872. p. 5.
- "New-York and Suburban News". The New York Times. June 1, 1872. p. 8.
- "Railroad History Database".
- "PRR Chronology".