The Railroad Comes To Long Beach Island

Dated: 08/26/2016

Views: 2659

Long before there were cars coming across the causeway to Long Beach Island, there were trains. They came from Philadelphia and New York with stops throughout New Jersey and across a trestle to the island. The passenger trains ran a north south corridor between Barnegat City and Beach Haven with turnarounds built in spurs out over the marshes.

The Long Beach Railroad that traversed the island had its origins in 1871 with the formation of the Tuckerton Railroad which ran from Whitings to Tuckerton. Popular with Philadelphians, steamships transported vacationers to Long Beach Island during the summer months. In 1885, a partnership was formed with the Pennsylvania Railroad to run track on a bridge from the mainland in Manahawkin to a station in Beach Arlington (Ship Bottom) and then a line running the length of the island. Once completed, the line was known as the Long Beach Railroad and operation of the line leased to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

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                                                  Tuckerton Railroad Engine 4-4-0 #5 built in 1892

Stations sprung up in developing communities with the largest on the southern end of Long Beach Island in Beach Haven. However, the line was not as profitable as projected, and the Panic of 1893 diminished tourism to the island. Consequently, the Pennsylvania Railroad foreclosed on the Barnegat City station and all rail travel to the northern end of the island suspended. The following year, 1894, the Long Beach Railroad was officially dissolved and broken into two pieces. The connecting track from Manahawkin to Barnegat City Junction and the southern section to Beach Haven was reorganized as the Philadelphia and Beach Haven Railroad and once again leased back to the Pennsylvania Railroad. The northern segment was reorganized as the Barnegat Railroad Company with the Pennsylvania Railroad owning all the stock.

The rail line ran profitably up and down the island bringing increasing numbers of visitors which resulted in further residential development. Some of the stations were simple in keeping with the Edwardian influences, but others had architectural elements that harkened back to the Victorian era. In summer months, the rail line was in full bloom, and in the winter months, the equipment was taken up and stored.

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    Beach Haven train station with horse drawn trolleys waiting to take vacationers to hotels

The second decade of the 1900s spelled disaster for the rail line on Long Beach Island. In 1913, the first automobile bridge was completed across Manahawkin Bay. The entrance of the United States into World War I in 1917 brought about a dramatic drop in tourism, and in 1918, the Federal Government took control of all rail lines as part of the war effort. By 1923, the northern spur of rail line on Long Beach Island ceased to operate, the line was abandoned, and the tracks removed. The remainder of the 1920s saw a drop each year in passenger traffic as automobiles became more affordable and the preferred mode of transportation.

By 1932, some Tuckerton Railroad trains averaged only two passengers per day, and in 1935, a northeaster washed away the train bridge to Long Beach Island effectively ending all service. The following year the Tuckerton Railroad filed for abandonment proceedings, and in 1938, all the tracks were removed from Long Beach Island. Over the years, the stations were converted to residences and then demolished to build larger and newer homes. Even though the rail lines operated less than fifty years on the island, their presence can still be felt, and some of the most iconic photographs of LBI are from this period. So the next time you hear a distant train whistle, think of a young family visiting the island for the first time, dressed in full splendor, carrying parasols, smelling the salt air full of expectation and wonder.

From your “Running Realtor” Andrew Gonzales….

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