A Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines diesel sits in Atlantic City, N.J., on Aug. 15, 1956. (Railfanning.org Digital Collection)


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The first passenger train steamed into Atlantic City on July 1, 1854, making a 2½-hour journey from Camden, N.J.

The Camden-Atlantic City Railroad was the brainchild of Dr. Jonathan Pitney, a well-known physician and considered by many to be the father of Atlantic City, and Richard Osborne, an engineer from Philadelphia. That first train on July 1, 1854, arrived on the then-bare Absecon Island in Atlantic City with 600 dignitaries, politicians and members of the press.

The idea for the railroad dates back to 1852, though it would take two years and just over $1.2 million for the road to be completed. The road would later become a part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Osborne is also credited with designing Atlantic City’s layout.

The city’s major tourist attraction, the boardwalk, was in part built because of the railroad. As legend has it, Alexander Boardman, a conductor for the Camden-Atlantic City Railroad, was charged with building a device to keep sand out of area hotels and train cars. The boardwalk did, by covering large portions of the beach’s sand, thus keeping tourists from tracking sand all over the city. The first section opened on June 26, 1870.

In 1878, a second railroad opened between Atlantic City and Philadelphia. The Atlantic City & Philadelphia Railroad was built to narrow gauge. The road would later become a part of the Reading Railroad.

The 1920s started the decline for the railroads in Atlantic City, just as the number of automobiles began growing. And in 1933, the Pennsylvania and Reading railroads merged in south New Jersey, creating the Pennsylvania-Seashore Lines.

Over the next few decades, passenger traffic on the railroad continued to decline. And by the 1960s, only a few commuter trains serviced Atlantic City. Eventually all rail service ceased and many of the city’s rail yards were torn up to make way for the Atlantic City Expressway.

By the early 1980s, rail service resumed to Atlantic City. By the end of the decade, N.J. Transit and Amtrak revitalized the line to Atlantic City.

Published in the September 2005 edition of The Cross-Tie.

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