Of all the trains that ran to Atlantic City in the glory days of American railroading, the Central Railroad of New Jersey’s Blue Comet is probably the most famous and fondly remembered. Inaugurated on February 21, 1929, two round-trip Blue Comet trains ran each way between New York and Atlantic City making the trip in 3 hours. The cars of the train were painted in a two-tone Packard blue and royal blue scheme with a band of Jersey cream painted along the center of the cars, running the length of the train. Each car was named after a comet. Three powerful Pacific type steam locomotives built by the Baldwin works in 1928 were painted in the same two tone blue with gold striping. These engines could easily handle the train at 70 mph as it streaked through the Jersey Pine Barrens. It’s deep throated 3-chime steamboat whistle could be heard for miles.
Passengers from New York had to take the 23rd St. ferry from Manhattan to the railroad’s terminal in Jersey City where they would board the train. The Comet was a deluxe coach train with reserved seats at no extra cost. There was a dining car featuring a blue plate special for $.85 to $1.00 and full dinners for $1.25. Fish, chicken or steak was served. Passengers all had access to the observation car on the rear of the train with it’s parlor lounge and open observation platform. In it’s advertising, the railroad referred to the Blue Comet as “The Seashore’s Finest Train”.
The Blue Comet was an immediate success even after the stock market crash of October 29, 1929. But the deepening great depression took it’s toll on ridership. Their service was cut back to one trip per day in 1934. The train valiantly soldiered on through the 1930s but was finally discontinued on September 18, 1941. Highway competition along with economic conditions doomed the handsome train.
Part of the Blue Comet’s enduring fame is due to the Lionel Corporation’s Blue Comet standard gauge electric toy train set which is a sought-after item among toy train collectors. Several of the Comet’s original cars still exist, some awaiting restoration and one of the observation cars is part of a restaurant while all three of the original blue locomotives were scrapped, Central Railroad of New Jersey’s No. 592, a fast Atlantic Camelback type locomotive which pulled the train when the blue engines weren’t available is preserved today in the B&O Museum in Baltimore.
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