Today, the United States does not place the important emphasis on passenger rail travel it once did. The public has largely ignored trains in favor of cars and airliners. There are few places where one can still enjoy trains traveling near or above 100 mph today. This was not the case prior to 1950 when railroads spent a great amount of effort and money providing the public with efficient, high-speed service. A case in point was the PRSL; trains traveling the 58 miles from the nearly arrow-straight line linking Camden with Atlantic City regularly did so in just 52 minutes with a top speed of 80 mph. In the years prior to the Seashore Lines speeds were even higher; 4-4-2 "Camelback" designs (or "Mother Hubbards" as they were sometimes known) of the Atlantic City Railroad zipped along at speeds eclipsing 100 mph. During one particular run on July 20, 1904, led by #1027 the locomotive set a speed record of 115 mph between Brigantine Junction and Egg Harbor City carrying a five-car consist.
A Brief History Of PRSL's Predecessors
The Pennsylvania Railroad
The Pennsylvania Railroad's predecessors were collectively known as the West Jersey & Seashore Railroad. The WJ&S was created in May, 1896 and was actually a conglomeration itself of smaller lines including:
Camden & Atlantic Railroad: Chartered on March 19, 1852 by the state of New Jersey the C&A connected Camden with Atlantic City. It opened for service in 1854.
Delaware River Railroad: Originally chartered as the Delaware Shore Railroad in February, 1873 it was completed between Woodbury and Penns Grove in July, 1876. The line went bankrupt and became the Delaware River Railroad in early 1879. The WJ&S took over the property in the spring of 1900.
Millville & Glassboro Railroad: This line was chartered in March, 1859 to connect its namesake towns, finished in October, 1860. It attempted to push service to Cape May but ran out of money. It was re-chartered as the Cape May & Millville Railroad, finally reaching Cape May in 1867. It was leased to the West Jersey Railroad two years later in 1869.
Philadelphia, Marlton & Medford Railroad: Chartered in January, 1880 it connected Haddonfield and Medford in July, 1881. It became part of the C&A by 1885 and subsequently a division of the WJ&S. It lasted just a few months into the PRSL era before being abandoned in the fall of 1931.
Salem Railroad: Chartered in March, 1856 the road connected Pittstown to Salem by 1863. The line was leased to the West Jersey Railroad in early 1868.
West Jersey Railroad: The West Jersey Railroad was chartered by the state of New Jersey in February, 1853. Its original main line stretched from Camden to Cape May and also reached Glassboro from Camden via the then abandoned Camden & Woodbury. In addition, the road leased, built, or took over a number of other small systems including the Millville & Glassboro, Salem Railroad, and Camden & Atlantic mentioned above. It chartered the Swedesboro Railroad in 1867 to connect Woodbury and Swedesboro, opening the route a year later. The WJRR later chartered the Woodstown & Swedesboro Railroad to reach Woodstown, completing that line in February, 1883. Finally, the WJRR chartered the Maurice River Railroad in June, 1887 to connect Manumuskin with the Maurice River, opening the route in November, 1887.
West Jersey & Atlantic Railroad: Chartered by West Jersey Railroad in November, 1879 it connected Newfield, Atlantic City, and Mays Landing opening for service in June, 1880.
The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad
The Philadelphia & Reading's southern New Jersey lines were operated by its Atlantic City Railroad subsidiary, which was created on April 1, 1889 to effectively control them. The Reading had originally acquired control of the predecessors in 1883 and standard-gauged the Camden, Gloucester & Mt Ephraim in 1884. These properties included:
Camden, Gloucester & Mt Ephraim Railway: Chartered in June, 1873 the CG&MtE connected its three namesake cities by May of 1876. Originally a three-foot narrow gauge line, after its purchase by the Philadelphia & Reading in November, 1884 it was converted to standard gauge.
Philadelphia & Atlantic City Railway: Chartered in March, 1876 this railroad looked to connect its namesake cities (via Camden) and opened in just three months completing the 55-mile line by July of that year. Originally a narrow gauge operation it was converted to standard gauge in 1884 with the Philadelphia & Reading gaining full control by December, 1885.
Williamstown & Delaware River Railroad: Chartered in March, 1871 as the Williamstown Railroad this railroad looked to connect Atco with Glassboro, finishing only as far Robanna by 1873 before financial troubles ended the plan. It was reorganized as the Williamstown & Delaware River in 1883 and controlled by the Philadelphia & Reading and Central Railroad New Jersey who completed the route to Glassboro. The P&R gained full control by 1885.
The ACRR also leased the Pleasantville & Ocean City Railroad and Philadelphia & Brigantine Railroad, although it divested itself of the latter operation by 1897. Between 1901 and 1930 the railroad acquired five additional lines including the Camden County Railroad (connecting Mount Ephraim Borough and Spring Mills); Cape May, Delaware Bay & Sewell's Point Railroad (connecting its namesake towns); Ocean City Railroad (connecting Ocean City Junction to Ocean City); and Seacoast Railroad (connecting Winslow Junction, Tuckahoe, Sea Isle City, and Cape May); and the Wildwood & Delaware Bay Short Line Railroad (connecting Wildwood Junction to Wildwood). After the PRSL's creation it acquired the Stone Harbor Railroad in 1932 which connected Cape May Court House to Stone Harbor.
While passenger services dominated PRSL operations there was also some freight serving a variety of customers. During World War II some 18 regular trains plied the network on a daily basis. Since the PRSL relied so heavily on travelers it was susceptible to highways and interstates and was particularly hurt after a series of new roadways were built follwoing World War II; these included the Garden State Parkway constructed between 1946 and 1957 along the entire length of New Jersey's eastern shore, the Atlantic City Expressway opened in its entirety during 1965 competing directly with the PRSL between Turnersville and Atlantic City, and finally the New Jersey Turnpike finished in 1952 cut across the state from the northeast to southwest. There were many others under construction at around the same time which harmed the railroad's bottom line.