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Central Railroad New Jersey

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Central Railroad New Jersey

Stony Creek Granite also known as Pink Stony has found its way into many of America’s greatest landmarks. The historic genesis of this exquisite natural resource is traced from a small coaster village to the grand monuments of the 19th century, reflecting a transformative change in evolving technology, science, research, labor, immigration and politics. Some of the most renowned architectural artifacts made with stony creek granite include bridges, schools, railroads, commercial and private buildings, monuments, Statue of Liberty, graves.

The Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) commonly known as Jersey Central Lines was a Class I railroad based on its high operating revenue returns. It existed in the 1830s and lasted until 1976 when it was absorbed into Conrail with the other bankrupt railroad of the Northeastern United States. Conrail commonly known as Consolidated Rail Corporation was the primary Class I railroad between 1976 and 1999 created to take over the potentially profitable lines of bankrupt carriers. With the benefit of regulatory changes, Conrail began to turn a profit in the 1980s and was turned over to private investors in 1987. Its main line ran from Jersey City west through New Jersey to Phillipsburg and across the Delaware River to Easton and Scranton in Pennsylvania. Branches stretched into southern New Jersey to Delaware Bay. In 1883, the Philadelphia and Reading Railway acquired the Central New Jersey, and used it for its New York terminal.

In 1847, the CNJ was formed by buying the Elizabeth and Somerville at auction. At this point the operations were extended from Elizabeth to Bound Brook towards Easton.  Building continued through the towns of Raritan, North Branch, White House, Lebanon, Clinton, Clarksville, North Hampton, Asbury, Bethlehem, Bloomsbury, Springtown and finally to Phillipsburg in 1852. The eastern terminus was still Elizabeth port where ferry service ran into New York. In 1850’s the CNJ looked towards the Hudson, to meet the need of the rail station as a result of increased traffic.

In 1864, a bridge was built over the Newark Bay which was connected to a new terminal. In mid-1864, the Jersey Central looked like one in operation over a century. It had a double tracked mainline fir its entire length. Expansion continued as the CNJ added into the trackage by buying smaller railroads over several years. The most important acquisition at that time was the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad in 1871. Prior to this point, most of the money made was on Anthracite coal. It relied on other competing railroads to deliver the black diamonds. With the trackage from Easton to the coal fields, the CNJ eliminated the problem. The New Jersey Southern Railroad was next; it extended from Red Bank in the North all the way to Bayside in the South with connections to Atlantic City and Camden. In 1879 the CNJ leased the entire railroad without this acquisition there would have been no Blue Comet in the later years.

The final major partnership was the New York and Long Branch, jointly operated by CNJ and the Pennsylvania. It connected both in South Amboy and extended along the coast until it reached Bay Head. In 1883, the Reading Railroad started a relationship with CNJ which fell apart the next year because Reading did not make the money needed to continue the operation. Reading passenger trains used the CNJ facilities in New Jersey. In 1933, the CNJ was under the control of the Reading for good, which lasted until Conrail. As the CNJ continued to buy small branch lines throughout the NJ region in the 20th century, the railroads became the very profitable at that time. However, it was smaller than expected and it fell out of the mining industry around the turn of the century. In 1939, the CNJ filed for bankruptcy, and World War II helped to restore the needed cash flow and the CNJ continued business. After World War II, it went to Baldwin and EDM to find suitable road power. In 1947, it fell into bankruptcy again as a result of costly programs needed to replace the steam engine. In 1950, business continued to go down, it had placed cheap BUDD cars on most commuter runs and costs had been cut down drastically. Commuter operating costs continued to rise and freight revenue continued to decline. In 1961, the CNJ began operating some of the lines of the Lehigh and New England. It was making money off of cement and coal. In 1967, the CNJ filed for bankruptcy the final time. It pulled out of Pennsylvania in 1972. Unlike the previous, it did not recover from this, rather, it went into Conrail system in 1976. Most of the passenger services, structures and equipment were picked up by the state. The CNJ has the honor of being the first railroad in the States to run a diesel electric locomotive.

In 1924, there was a political dispute between City of Newark versus Central Railroad CO. of New Jersey over the construction of the railroad that was taken to court for a decision. Messes George W. Wickersham and Paxton Blair both of New York were appellants, Mr. R.V. Lindabury of Newark, an appellee Central Railroad Co. New Jersey. Mr. Julius Henry Cohen of New York appellee Port of New York Authority, Mr. Justice Butler delivered opinion of the court. This suit was brought by the city of Newark to enjoin the construction of a bridge across Newark Bay. Jersey City and the state of New Jersey by leave of court intervened as parties’ complainant. The argument is that Defendant Company constructed double-track wooden railroad bridge, with bascule draws across Newark Bay, which is below Newark, between Elizabeth and Bayonne and crosses the channel at an angle of 66 degrees. Newark Bay is a navigable estuary and its water at this place is wholly within the state of New Jersey. Construction work commenced construction without the consent of the State. Appellants maintained that the source of power to construct a bridge over navigable waters was within one state is in the state itself; that the concurrent consent of both states and federal governments were necessary before such a bridge lawfully may be erected.

The complaint alleges that the city of Newark owns real estate above the bridge of the westerly shore of the bay, that neither the present nor the proposed bridge is necessary to the operation of the railroad; and that, if any bridge shall be constructed between Elizabeth and Bayonne, the free and unobstructed access of vessels to the Newark terminal will be prevented and the value of the terminal destroyed. The complaint showed that the defendant the Port of New York Authority is a body corporate and politic, established by a compact between New Jersey and New York for the creation of the port of New York district, and for the comprehensive development of that port. Congress gave its consent to the agreement. The district extends as far north as Irvington on the Hudson, N. Y., as far east as Long Beach, Long Island, as far south as Atlantic Highlands, and as far west as Summit, N. J., and so includes Newark Bay and the site of the bridge. A comprehensive plan for the development of the port of New York was approved by both states and consented to by Congress. The New Jersey city petitioned the decision saying, that it would be unjust and public nuisance; and that its construction without the permission of the New Jersey board of commerce and navigation and the Port Authority is unlawful. The complaint was dismissed on the ground that it fails to state a cause of action. The motion to build was granted and by the legislation empowering the company to construct, maintain and use the railroad, the state of New Jersey consented to the construction of the bridge in question. At the time the bridge was built, there was no applicable legislation by Congress. And it was within the power of the state to authorize its construction. Laws of New Jersey 1860, provides: 'That it shall and may be lawful for the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey to extend their railroad from some point in their track in the city of Elizabeth, to some point or points on New York Bay, in the county of Hudson, at or south of Jersey City; and for that purpose, in its construction and completion, maintenance, use and enjoyment, all and every provision of the act entitled, 'An act to incorporate the Somerville & Easton Railroad Company' was approved in 1847, and of the several supplements thereto was extended and be applicable to the railroad now authorized to be constructed, in every respect as if the same had been originally authorized under the said act to which this was a supplement. The company was empowered to have as many tracks, within the width specified, as it deemed necessary. It was also empowered to maintain and improve its railroad, as it might from time to time find necessary or expedient. It was not bound to have its performance limited to the capacity of the bridge first constructed, but it was free to add to its transportation facilities by laying down additional tracks over waters crossed by its bridges as well as upon land.

In 2003, the abandoned railroad that ran from Barnegat to Beachwood, a distance of 13.6 miles was acquired by the Ocean Board of Freeholders. This part was known as Toms River and Waretown Railroad in 1870s. Operations of the railroad has been is steady progress and in phases. Phase I runs from West Bay Avenue in Barnegat North to Waretown at Pancoast Road, a distance of 2 miles; Phase II runs from Pancoast Road to Wells Mills Road (Route 532) a distance of  1.1 miles. Phase III runs from Route 532 to the Waretown-Lacey Township line and from Dudley Park to Serpentine Drive in Berkeley Township. Construction of the railroad on Township property has been delayed due to political differences. The township wants to construct a roadway with sidewalk along the railroad corridor versus a graveled Rail trail, this idea is opposed by the Lacey Rail –Trail Environmental Committee (LRTEC) with some other conservation groups backing this cause. Eventually, the Rail Trail will terminate in Toms River through a series of proposed road and sidewalk connections. In 2006, the Waretown’s Pancoast to Route 532 phase included a 1.65 acre trailhead site which the county acquired.

Despite outcries and legal battles with local residents the railroad succeeded in further developing the location. The new terminal was constructed by architects Peabody & Stearns of Boston, Massachusetts and while the Jersey Central was never an extremely profitable railroad its new complex was quite stunning once completed in 1889. Jersey City Terminal was designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, so named after famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson who sculpted buildings to mimic Medieval Europe castles and ancient structures. It was built almost entirely of red brick, featured arched windows along its three main floors, dormer windows, and steep pitched roofs. Additionally, the building was accented with a central cupola and fine clock piece. The interior waiting room featured a balcony and cast iron trusses painted red and given a simple, but elegant starburst pattern.  It is said that between 1890 and 1915 Jersey Central Terminal witnessed several million, mostly Italian and Irish, immigrants passing through the complex.

The Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal which is now a part of The Liberty State Park area has always been historically significant as a major point of egress. Whether simply crossing the bay or heading for the open ocean, several different societies during the past centuries have utilized the Communipaw Cove area. The growing populations and the demand for transporting goods and supplies in the 1800s necessitated a means of transport that was fast and dependable. Railroads would supply the solution to the increasing transportation demands.

In 1864, the CRRNJ bought extensive acreage in Jersey City, and opened its first terminal. By the mid 1880's, the need for a larger terminal became evident. The complex, constructed in 1889, represented the greatest concentration of rail facilities in the Now York Harbor area at the turn of the century. There was increased traffic in the terminal by several thousand immigrants each day. Approximately eight million immigrants traveled to their new homes via the Central Railroad. From 1890 - 1915 the combination of commuters, immigrants and freight brought between 30,000 - 50,000 people and almost 300 trains each day to the CRRNJ Terminal. The railroad became a way of life for most of the surrounding community.

The decline of immigration and the Great Depression severely hurt the rail industry, railroad travel and traffic dropped which lead to the death of the Railroad operational activity within a time frame of twenty years from inception. In 1967 the CRRNJ discontinued commuter operations. The Terminal and adjacent waterfront were purchased through Federal, State and local funding. A major cleanup effort was begun and Liberty State Park opened on June 14, 1976. Today the park is the focus of many community and statewide special events. The CRRNJ Terminal stands with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island marking an important era in American history.

All in all, Jersey City Terminal was a very beautiful building that one would have thought was built by a prominent railroad but the CNJ never reached more than a few hundred miles in length at its largest. While the terminal played host to many commuter trains it never saw many well-known passenger trains.

Currently, save for the terminal herself and its train shed little evidence remains of the once sprawling railroad operations that went on along the Jersey City waterfront known as Communipaw Cove. The station still stands and has been partially preserved as the Liberty State Park. However, train service had ended over 40 years ago and devoid of railroad tracks, saved for its train sheds which still stand but are severely deteriorated and in serious need of repair and maintenance. There are no immediate plans currently in place to revive the place.











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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.