The Central Railroad of New Jersey

Joseph Corso, joecorso0875700101@earthlink.net

The Central Railroad of New Jersey began in the early 1800’s as two small railroads; Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad and the Somerville and Easton Railroad. The CNJ was born in 1849 when the two railroads consolidated. It remained a New Jersey freight and passenger line until 1866 when it entered Pennsylvania with a lease with the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad.

After 1888, the CNJ added a few more miles of track into Pennsylvania and connected with the Reading Railroad offering the residents of Scranton the most direct route into Philadelphia. By 1901, the Reading Railroad purchased controlling interest the CNJ.

Until the 1930’s The Central Railroad prospered with its major source of income coal from Pennsylvania. The railroad’s mileage reached a high of 711 miles.

The depression brought the railroad into receivership in 1939 until 1949, even after it’s reorganization the railroad continued to face financial problems. In 1976, it was consolidated into the Conrail system and trackage into the Scranton area was abandoned.

The first recorded instance of CNJ through car service began in 1848 when connection was made at Elizabeth with the New Jersey Railroad (later known as Pennsylvania Railroad) and in 1855 at Phillipsburg with the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

Connection to Elizabeth was discontinued in 1864 when the railroad opened road to Jersey City, the Lehigh Valley connection to the Easton and Amboy railroad in 1865. In 1879 the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad acquired the Delaware and Bound Brook Railroad and connected with the CNJ at Bound Brook.

In 1881 the Baltimore and Ohio began to run trains over this line this now allowed the high speed Atlantic and American locomotives to run the finest cars and fastest schedules with parlor cars and diner cars on the day runs and sleeper cars on the evening runs.

The agreement with the Reading line now allowed direct New York to Philadelphia service and opened competition with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

 

The Central Division

The Central Railroad offered passenger and freight service on several lines; there were many leases, consolidations, and mergers.

The mainline of the Central Division was completed in 1864, extending across Newark Bay to Communipaw Avenue in Jersey City.

The South Branch Railroad from Somerville to Flemington was completed in 1864 and merged with the CNJ in 1888.

The Newark and New York Railroad was completed in 1869, and CNJ began operations on that date, it did not become part of the larger operation until 1873.

A branch from Elizabethport on the main line to Brills Junction from a connection at the Newark transfer was completed in 1872. The Manufacturers Railroad was put into operation in 1882 and the extension to the Passaic River extension was completed in 1916.

The Perth Amboy and Elizabeth Railroad began construction in 1871 and was taken over by the CNJ in 1873, it connected the New York and Long Branch Railroad with the CNJ at Elizabethport.

The Constables Hook Railroad was built in 1883 as a branch to provide service from Elizabethport to 22nd Street to provide service to Bayonne.

The Lafayette Railroad was built in 1892 from Pacific Avenue on the N&NYRR to serve a number of industrial plants in Jersey City, in 1896 the West Side connecting Railroad was completed to serve industries on Jersey City’s west side.

The Sound Shore Railroad was a chicken and egg railroad built by several entities and was completed in 1896 it connected at Bayway (Linden) with the PA & SE at Bayway.

The Carteret extension built in 1889 from East Rahway ( now West Carteret) to Carteret, then expanded to provide service to Sewaren in 1891, then to Port Reading, then connected at Carteret with the Sound Shore Railroad. This was run as New Jersey Terminal Railroad until taken over by the CNJ.

The Elizabeth extension of the N & E branch was built to provide service to industry in Elizabeth and to provide service to the New Jersey Jockey’s Club, this was referred to as the Race Track Branch.

The Bay Shore Connecting Railroad was built in 1906 at the Newark Transfer of the N&NYRR to connect with the Lehigh Valley and was jointly operated by CNJ and LVRR.

The Raritan North Shore Railroad in 1896 as an industrial branch in Perth Amboy. The High Bridge Railroad was completed in 1876 as a connection of the mainline at High Bridge to Chester to the Hucklebarney Mine and Chester Furnace. The Middle Valley Railroad was an extension to a stone quarry.

The Longwood Valley Railroad completed in 1876 connected the High Bridge Railroad at High Bridge to the German Valley Railroad to Port Oram (Wharton).

The Dover and Rockaway Railroad constructed in 1881 connected Port Oram to Rockaway to connect with the Hibernia Mine Railroad, and was leased to CNJ in 1890; the entire line became the High Bridge Branch.

The Ogden Mine Railroad completed in 1866 from Ogden Mine in Sparta Township (Edison) to a connection with the Morris Canal at Lake Hopatcong. The Lake Hopatcong Railroad was constructed in 1882 and connected Lake Hopatcong with High Bridge, with the connection end to end it became the Ogden Mine Branch. Most the lines have long been torn up.

 

The Southern Division
New York - Atlantic City

The nucleus of the NJS system was the Raritan and Delaware Bay Railroad completed in 1866, it was originally intended for traffic between New York and Philadelphia. The road consisted of the following lines: Port Monmouth and Bergen Iron Works (now Lakewood) opened in 1860; Lakewood to Atsion in 1862 and Manchester to Toms River in 1866. A branch of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad was from Atsion to Atco was purchased in 1869 and established service to Camden.

The Vineland Railroad from Atsion to Vineland and from Vineland to Bayside in 1871. The Long Branch and Sea Shore Railroad was constructed from Long Branch to Spermacite Cove on Sandy Hook in 1865 and extended to Horse Shoe Cove in 1870.

The Freehold and Atlantic Highlands Railroad is rather involved due to many financial disruptions, failures and reorganizations. Freehold to Matawan was opened in 1877; Matawan to Keyport in 1880; Keyport to Keyport Pier in 1881 by the Freehold and New York Railroad. The New York and Atlantic Highlands Railroad connected the Highlands with Belford. Steamboat connections to New York were operated from Keyport, Port Monmouth and Sandy Hook.

The Toms River Railroad was purchased by the CNJ in 1881 and operated as part of the NJS division, the Toms River and Waretown Railroad Company extended it to Waretown, in 1893 it was extended to Barnegat.

The Bridgeton and Port Norris Railroad built the road from Bridgeton to Bivalve in 1872; the CNJ took over its operation in 1889. The West End Railroad built a line from East Long Branch on the LB&SSRR to West End on the NY&LBRR and was operated by the CNJ.

At it’s peak the CNJ ran as many as four express trains and 6 local trains from New York to Atlantic City. The local train took seven hours to run the one hundred thirty six mile line, the express took about three hours.  This line made connections at Elizabethport with the Newark Shuttle and Central Division line. As with other main lines there were many spur line connections, motor coach and steam boat connections along this route.

The Highlight of this route was the famed “Blue Comet”, but this line as so many others is just a faded memory.  The Blue Comet ran with coaches, diners, baggage cars on day runs and added sleeping cars   on the night runs.

At it’s height in 1929 the CNJ “Blue Comet” carried more than 62,000 passengers, by 1940 it had declined to a mere 14,000 passengers.  Many blame the decline on the increased building of public highway system, increased private automobile ownership and competition from the Pennsylvania Railroad. The CNJ's Blue Comet “De Vico” observation car is still in use by New Jersey Transit as an inspection car.

The Southern division was made part of the Central Division in early 1961. It was discontinued after a few years in favor of the all rail routes of the Reading and B&O connections.

After years of financial trouble, the CNJ disappeared forever on April, 1, 1976, when it became part of the federally owned Consolidated Rail Corporation, also know as Conrail.

 

For a listing of CNJ towers please visit our CNJ Towers page.

 

By: Joseph Corso, December, 2001


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