An Eastern Regional Railroad - 1930's - 1940's
Central Railroad of New Jersey
Jersey Central Railroad

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CNJ 1927
Central Railroad
of New Jersey
May 22, 1927

The Central Railroad of New Jersey, more commonly known as the Jersey Central Railroad or CNJ, was a regional railroad with origins in the 1830s, lasting until 1976 when it was absorbed into Conrail with the other bankrupt railroads of the Northeastern United States. The CNJ was basically divided into two separate routes. The mainline ran from the Hudson River waterfront in Jersey City west through New Jersey to Phillipsburg and across the Delaware River to Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton in Pennsylvania. The other line went south to the very southern part of New Jersey near Bridgeton on the Delaware Bay. The CNJ also operated the New York & Long Branch to Bay Head Jct. The CNJ was acquired by the Philadelphia and Reading Railway in 1883. Though that was later canceled, the Reading continued to exert a major influence over the CNJ, and used it for its New York City-area terminal. In 1967 the Pennsylvania trackage of the CNJ went to the Lehigh Valley and the balance to Conrail in 1976.
Paralleling the Lehigh Valley Railroad from the Hudson River to Scranton, the CNJ was a fierce competitor for anthracite

CNJ 1940
Jersey Central Railroad
June 17, 1940
CNJ logo
coal and freight traffic. With heavy commuter traffic and short freight hauls, the company was in and out of bankruptcy throughout its history. The CNJ ran several passenger trains, during the 30's and 40's on its main line from Jersey City to Scranton. It also connected with the Reading at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to run
through cars to Philadelphia from Scranton, and connected with the Lackawanna at Scranton for through services Philadelphia to Buffalo, New York. Many of these trains offered sleeper, lounge, dining and coach services. Probably the most famous of the CNJ trains was the "Blue Comet", an all coach train that traveled between Jersey City and Atlantic City in three hours. This train was introduced in 1929 as competition against the Pennsylvania Rilroad's New York-Atlantic City business. The Comet took NY&LB trackage to Red Bank, then the CNJ Southern Division Main to Winslow Junction, and finish on the Atlantic City Railroad's (Reading Railroad) tracks to Atlantic City. Three new G3 Pacific locomotives were assigned to the train. The CNJ refurbished sixteen cars for the Blue Comet. Each train consisted of a baggage car, combine-smoker, coaches, and an observation car. The diner accompanied the early morning trip to Atlantic City and the evening return to Jersey City. Initially, the Blue Comet was a huge success; two trains a day each way. However, as the Depression continued, passenger travel on the line fell. On April 30, 1933, the Blue Comet was reduced to one daily round trip. Also that year, the PRR and Reading consolidated their southern New Jersey routes and formed the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Line. An immediate impact was felt on the Blue Comet service. After the merger, the PRR owned two-thirds of the trackage and apparently downgraded the Blue Comet information for travelers. The last run of the Blue Comet was September 27, 1941. By that time service on the Southern Division south of Winslow Jct. was by bus. The Blue Comet's main competitor, the Nellie Bly, lasted until 1961.
History of the Central Railroad of New Jersey
1831 - The Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad was chartered on February 9, 1831 to build from Elizabeth on the Newark Bay (with a steamboat transfer to New York City) west to Somerville.
1839 - The line to Plainfield was completed in March 1839, connecting to the New Jersey Rail Road in Elizabeth.
1840 - Extensions took it west to Dunellen in 1840,
1841 - Completed to, just east of Bound Brook in 1841 .
1842 - Completed to Somerville in 1842.
1847 - The Somerville and Easton Railroad was chartered February 26, 1847 to continue the line west to Easton.
1848 - S&E completed to Whitehouse.
1848 - S&E leased to the E&S.
1849 - On February 11, 1849 the Elizabethtown and Somerville Railroad bought the Somerville and Easton Railroad, and on February 26 the two companies were consolidated as the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
1852 - CNJ opened to Phillipsburg.
1855 - The upper level of the Lehigh Valley Railroad's Easton Bridge over the Delaware River completed, taking the CNJ to Easton. At that time, Lehigh Valley coal trains began running over the CNJ to Elizabeth.
1856 - A similar operation with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, joining at Hampton, began May 27, 1856. This required the addition of a third rail to join the broad gauge DL&W onto the standard gauge CNJ.
1859 - On December 1, the CNJ arranged to run over the New Jersey Rail Road to the latter's terminal in Jersey City. That operation began December 19, and included a third rail for DL&W trains.
1864 - The South Branch Railroad, controlled by the CNJ, opened July 1, 1864 as a branch from Somerville to Flemington. The CNJ's extension to their new terminal in Jersey City, including the first CRRNJ Newark Bay Bridge, opened on July 29, 1864, with a ferry transfer to Cortland Street in New York City, ending operations over the NJRR.
1869 - On July 23, 1869, the Newark and New York Railroad opened, providing a straight route from downtown Newark to the CNJ's Jersey City terminal.
1872 - The Newark Branch, running north from Elizabethport to the N&NY in Newark, opened June 7.
1873 - On October 6 the CNJ leased the New York and Long Branch Railroad, which was in the process of building from Perth Amboy southeast to Long Branch. At the same time the Perth Amboy and Elizabethport Railroad was building from Elizabethport on the CNJ south to Perth Amboy. Hostilities at the crossing of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Perth Amboy and Woodbridge Railroad in April 1872 led to an injunction against the PRR interfering with the construction. The CNJ bought the PA&E later that year.
1875 - The full line to Long Branch opened September 7.
1881 - CNJ extended south, reaching Bay Head by acquiring other companies.
1881 - The CNJ leased the Dover and Rockaway Railroad for 990 years from April 26.
1882 - The CNJ leased the Ogden Mine Railroad for 999 years from January 1.
1882 - The CNJ and Pennsylvania Railroad agreed to use the line jointly, with trackage rights granted to the PRR over the Perth Amboy and Elizabethport between the Perth Amboy and Woodbridge crossing and its south end at the Raritan River bridge.
1890 -The CNJ leased the Hibernia Mine Railroad for 20 years from October 1. This lease was renewed at least once for another 20 years.
Various Dates - the following companies were absorbed into the CNJ:
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,
1924 - Alco manufactures a diesel-electric locomotive for CNJ.
1929 - The CNJ began operating its most famous train, The Blue Comet, which ran from the Jersey City terminal to Atlantic City via NY&LB, CNJ and Atlantic City Railroad, with two daily trains each way.
1930 - The ICC authorized the CNJ to acquire the Wharton and Northern Railroad and the Mount Hope Mineral Railroad on February 4.
1930 - The Hibernia Mine Railroad was merged into the CNJ on November 25.
1933 - PRR and Reading reorganize the Atlantic City Railroad, the Blue Comet's route to Atlantic City, as the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore lines, and Blue Comet is cut back to one train each way per day.
1935 - On June 6 the ICC authorized the CNJ to abandon the Ogden Mine Railroad.
1941 - Blue Comet service discontinued.
1961 - The CNJ purchased two portions of the dissolving Lehigh and New England Railroad from the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. This became the Lehigh and New England Railway, with two segments - Lansford to Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, connecting coal mines to the Reading Railroad, and Bethlehem to Bath and Martins Creek, Pennsylvania, connecting cement mills to the CNJ and Lehigh Valley Railroad.
1967 - Bankruptcy was declared for the last time. All Pennsylvania operations ceased and the Lehigh Valley Railroad took over the remaining Pennsylvania trackage.
1976 - The CNJ was merged into Conrail on April 1.
CNJ map

Our Sources
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Copyright Richard Parks, April, 24, 2009, revised April 23, 2011