The C&A is actually a shortened version of
New Jersey's first chartered, and constructed, such system the Camden & Amboy Rail Road & Transportation Company that was created in early
1830. However, the earliest predecessor of the C&A was the New
Jersey Railroad Company established more than 10 years earlier,
recognized as the first chartered line in the country. However, the company
never made it past the paperwork. After the C&A was opened it
offered, more or less, rail service between New York City and
Philadelphia. While it did not operate into either city's downtown
sectors it nevertheless vastly increased the speed
upon which travelers could reach the two cities. Eventually, the
C&A and a nearby competitor were acquired by the Pennsylvania
Railroad. Amazingly, today several sections of the original alignment of the company remain in use and even make a short segment of the high speed Northeast Corridor (NEC).
The John Bull, which once operated on the Camden & Amboy, is seen here in a photo dating to 1893.
The Camden & Amboy Railroad was one of the earliest systems
chartered in the United States. It was created on February 4, 1830 as
the Camden and Amboy Rail Road and Transportation Company by Robert Stevens with the purpose of connecting the Delaware River, upon which the city of Philadelphia
sat with the Raritan River, which ran into New York City to the east.
In those years canals and waterways were still important transportation
arteries so the plan made logical sense. Two months later the railroad
began surveys although it was not until that December that construction
actually began, at Bordentown, New Jersey (located near Trenton it is
actually about 30 miles north from Philly) along the Delaware River and
proceeded northeasterly. The route was opened to the public on October
1, 1832 where it had reached Hightstown, about 13 miles away.
However, this was only part of the proposed line and until it
was completed Stevens did not wish to use his newly acquired steam
locomotive, which had been on the property since 1831, the English-built
John Bull (originally named the Stevens). As the system
opened in segments it relied mostly on tried and proven horse to move
people and freight. To complete the journey to the two major cities
required connections to either steamboats or normal stagecoaches.
Unfortunately, for the C&A on the same day it was chartered a
competitor was also born the Delaware & Raritan Canal Company, which
had the same intentions of connecting Philadelphia and New York City
via the Delaware and Raritan rivers. The D&R never became a true
threat to the C&A (more of a nuisance as it precluded areas in which
the railroad could construct new lines) although the New Jersey Rail
Road and Transportation Company did, chartered on March 7, 1832.
The westbound Manhattan Limited/Golden Triangle arrives at the Englewood Union Station in Chicago led by E8A #5766 on April 21, 1965.
A year later the C&A had completed its line further south to
Camden, just across the Delaware River from Philly. That year also saw
the John Bull put to use in regular service, along with the
railroad's other steam locomotives it had acquired by that time. By 1839
the C&A opened a route between Bordentown, Trenton and New
Brunswick, and Stevens' original dream of connecting the towns finally
became reality. However, its competition from the NJRR was growing. By
the fall of 1832 the NJRR was growing, although it originally was only
able to operate a route between Jersey City (directly across from
downtown Manhattan) to Trenton as its charter did not allow it to
continue further south due to the C&A's influence and operations.
By 1834 it had a route open to Newark and two years later was serving
New Brunswick after it acquired the New Brunswick Bridge Company on
September 8, 1836.
The NJRR's growth was as much due to the purchase and takeover of other
transportation systems as it constructing its own lines. For instance,
it acquired the Essex & Middlesex Turnpike in 1832 and the Newark
Plank Road & Ferry Company in 1852. In the late 1830s the C&A
acquired an interchange with the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad and
NJRR when it completed a branch between Bordentown and Trenton that
opened in April of 1838. This line was later extended northward, opening
January 1, 1839 that gave the C&A another connection with the NJRR
at New Brunswick. Later, another connection was established between
Jamesburg and Monmouth Junction to the north, which gave the C&A further flexibility.
By the mid-19th century competition
was increasingly growing between Philly and New York City as more and
more railroads were chartered or under construction like the National
Railway, Raritan & Delaware Bay, and Camden& Atlantic along with
the aforementioned NJRR and P&T. For much of the rest of the C&A's history it spent
realigning current routes or constructing short extensions to improve is
operations around Philly and NYC. On February 1, 1867 the C&A
acquired the New Jersey Rail Road and Transportation Company to form the
United New Jersey Railroad and Canal Companies, which itself was leased
by Pennsylvania Railroad for a length of 999 years (the PRR would
eventually wholly own the line). With the C&A now connecting both
Camden and South Amboy, the NJRR had reached Philadelphia and New York
City along the west bank of the Delaware River.
Part of the C&A's main line is now used as the Northeast Corridor hosting fast through passenger trains and local commuter runs like Amtrak's Acela Express trainset, seen here at Halethorpe, Maryland on February 26, 2006.
These two railroads, of
course, comprised the PRR's primary line between New York and Philly,
which became known as its highspeed, four-track Northeast Corridor
(about 49 miles of the NEC is original C&A property).
Today, the line retains its four-track alignment and is an
important artery in Amtrak's network, which is amazing considering that
is more than 170 years of age today. Other segments remain in use by
PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) for commuter services and Conrail
Shared Assets, jointly owned by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern
still uses other sections for freight services.
To learn more about the history of the Camden and Amboy Railroad please click here to visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's website. Also, you are interested in the famed John Bull steam locomotive please click here.