Welcome to the Cape May Seashore Lines Page!
This page will give you insight into the Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Railroad's former route to the shore, the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, now the Cape May Seashore Lines.
HISTORY OF TRAINS TO THE SHORE
Trains first started rolling to Atlantic City on the Atlantic City Railroad (Now Part of CSAO's Beesly Pt. Secondary in New Jersey) in 1854, when that line was completed by the Reading Railroad. However, the first train did not reach Cape May until 1863, when the West Jersey and Seashore Railroad's line through Woodbury, Millville, Woodbine, etc, was finally completed. A longer route was completed in 1894 that connected Cape May with shore points such as Dennisville, Cape May Courthouse, and Tuckahoe, branching off from the Atlantic City Line at what is now Winslow Jnct in Winslow, NJ. By the the summer of 1901, competition between the West Jersey and Seashore (PRR) and the Atlantic City Railroad (RDG) was so keen that trains of the railroads often raced one another so as to be the first to arrive at their destination. Racing was encouraged by the fact that in many areas, the two lines were only several hundred feet apart. On the Cape May lines, the trains were in sight of each other for 11 miles between Cape May Court House and Cape May. Over the last 5 miles into Cape May, the tracks were only 50 feet apart.
In 1941, a giant Magnesite plant was built at Cape May Point, NJ, and that stood as the largest customer for freight trains south of Winslow Jnct, until the Beesly Pt. Generating Station was built in 1962. This plant was very special in the fact that it was one of few in the country that had the ability to turn Dolomite (a mineral commonly found in sea-water) into Magnesite, which was used for many different products during it's day. This plant would live to be the largest customer for freight south of Winslow Junction until the Beeslys Point Powerplant was built in the 1960's. The Northwest Magnesite Plant would continue to recieve cars until it's demise on July 31, 1983.
Competition from trucks and motor vehicles caused a great decline in rail travel starting in the 1920's, which forced the West Jersey and Seashore (PRR) and the Atlantic City Railroad Co. (RDG) to merge in June of 1933, creating the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. This was a few decades before the slots and other gambling machines were invented, cementing Atlantic City's eventual future as a gambling hot-spot. Back in this era it still relied on the income from the raw materials industry of the United States. This was the only joint venture between the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Reading Railroad, as these railroads were highly competitive with each other in every other field. Passenger and freight revenues continued to decline at a steady pace so much that passenger service ended to Wildwood, once one of the most heavily used branches along the PRSL on December 29, 1972. The Wildwood Branch was embargoed on June 6, 1974, terminating whatever little bit of freight still operated on the line. The Right-Of-Way for the Wildwood Branch was sold to a private owner in 1977, with the stipulation that all tracks be removed. The owner did as he was asked, but a problem developed while he attempted to remove the Grassy Sound Bridge. A crane that was of lighter weight than the bridge was used, and so the Grassy Sound Bridge ended up resting at the bottom of it's namesake waterway. It remains there today.
In 1976, the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, along with several other small railroads of South Jersey, were engulfed by the formation of the Consolodated Rail Corporation, commonly known as Conrail, due to bulk bankruptsy. In 1976, Conrail took over all operations on the Shore Railroads, including those of freight and passenger. This did not include passenger service to Millville or Woodbury, as these stations were closed to Passenger service in 1971 by the PRSL in an attempt to cut costs. Commuter Service to stations along Conrail's Beesly Pt. Secondary (like Haddon Heights, Audubon, Clementon, etc) ended on July 16, 1965 with the closure of these stations.
Increasing competition from cars forced the closure of passenger service to Cape May in 1981. All service (including freight) was cancelled on the Ocean City Branch from Palermo to 10th Street on October 5, 1981, when the ring gear on the Crook Horn Moveable Bridge failed. Abandonment notices were placed at the stations in 1982. Fire destroyed the Crook Horn Bridge in the late 80's-early 90's. Freight service on the Cape May Branch was not far behind, as the last freight train ran to Cape May Point on July 31st, 1983 to pick up the final string of cars from the Northwest Magnesite Plant in Cape May Point. The final train to operate on the PRSL's Cape May Branch from Tuckahoe was a Cape May Local Freight that was to operate to Cape May City and back, making it's final pickup of an empty boxcar from a lumberyard in Cape May Courthouse before heading north. That ocourred on October 10, 1983, and the rails to Cape May saw their last train that day for nearly 20 years. Some would have guessed forever.
On October 10, 1983, Conrail freight operations ended on the Cape May Branch. However, a little known fact is that the Shore Fast Line actually operated sperattic freight trains on this line to Tri-County Building Supply in Cape May Courthouse for a few years in the 90's. On July 20, 1990, Shore Fast Line (predecessor to the SRNJ) hauled 2 cars of lumber to Tri-County Building Supply (still located on Magnolia Street in Courthouse), making it the first train to operate on the line since 1983. These trains continued to operate, even after SRNJ purchased the assets of the Shore Fast Line in 1991, until 1995, when NJ Transit suddenly withdrew the contract with SRNJ for service. A dispute over maintainance of the track saw to the demise of these operations.
New Jersey Transit took over passenger operations to the South Jersey area in 1981, just after Conrail stopped service to that region and began looking for a buyer of the dead rail. Ever since, New Jersey Transit has owned those tracks, and they still do, holding a piece of history in their hands.
THE CAPE MAY SEASHORE LINES OF TODAY
Over the 11 years that these rails of history had laid dormant, many simply forgot that trains ever ran to the shore resorts. Didn't the railroads build these shore communities? How could they just forget them? Tony Macrie was determined not to let them. In January 1984, Tony Macrie entered into a long-term lease agreement with the New Jersey Transit Corp to operate trains over the Cape May Branch. New Jersey Transit was happy to comply with his wishes, since nothing was being done with the 27 miles of brush-covered track as of then. Wishing to fully cooperate, New Jersey Transit leased the 27 miles of track to Macrie for nothing starting in 1984, and he has leased it ever since. People scoffed at him for even dreaming to start service up again over this aged piece of rail. However, on May 18, 1996, Tony Macrie realized his life-long dream of re-starting service on the Cape May Branch with the commencement of active service between Cold Spring and Cape May Courthouse for the first time in 11 years. Service would have been started directly to Cape May had a barge not struck the Canal Moveable Bridge in 1993, preventing operation over it until repairs could be made.
However, Tony Macrie was so determined that he asked for a grant from the Federal Transportation Board to renovate the Canal Moveable Swing Bridge so that he could start official service into Cape May City. He did so on June 12, 1999, his life-long dream now nearly complete. Today, the Cape May Seashore Lines operates trains over 13 beautiful miles of track between Cape May Courthouse and Cape May City, NJ. Eventually, Mr. Macrie hopes to extend his rail line further North to Tuckahoe, and then finally work towards a connection with the Atlantic City Line at Winslow Jnct., allowing that official commuter service return to the city of Cape May for the first time since 1981. More information is available on the Cape May Seashore lines by using the links below.
TUCAHOE STATION DEDICATION
CAPE MAY SEASHORE LINES SYSTEM MAP
CAPE MAY SEASHORE LINES PHOTOS
THE OFFICIAL CMSL WEB SITE!
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