A postcard rendition of the locomotive of the New Jersey Central Railroad's train "Blue Comet" which traveled between

New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey, September 1929. Click image to enlarge.

(Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Blue Comet was a named passenger train operated by Central Railroad of New Jersey from 1929 to 1941 between the New York metropolitan area and Atlantic City.

Designed by Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ) president R.B. White in 1928, this train whisked passengers from Communipaw Terminal in Jersey City to Atlantic City, making the total trip from Manhattan (via ferry to the Jersey City terminal) to Atlantic City in three hours. The Blue Comet would take NY&LB trackage to Red Bank, then follow the Southern Division Main Line to Winslow Junction, where it would travel over the Atlantic City Railroad's tracks to Atlantic City.

The colors chosen for the Blue Comet's locomotive and passenger cars were ultramarine and Packard Blue, for the sea, cream, for the sandy coastal beaches, and nickel. The tickets for the train were blue, the dining car chairs were upholstered in blue linen, and the porters were dressed in blue as well. The locomotive was capable of 100 miles per hour, and the railroad claimed the train itself was the first east of the Mississippi to be equipped with roller bearings for easy starting and stopping.


The Blue Comet debut at Red Bank, New Jersey, February 17, 1929.

(Old23skiddoo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Inaugurated on February 21, 1929, the Blue Comet was designed to provide coach passengers with deluxe equipment, accommodations, and service at a regular coach fare. The first revenue passengers to board the CNJ's new flagship at Communipaw Terminal were Miss Beatrice Winter and Miss Helen Lewis of New York. As the Blue Comet made its way to Atlantic City, it was put on display for patrons, railfans, and local residents to see and inspect.

Thousands of spectators along the line came to see the new train. This was due in part to a clever ad campaign via radio and newspaper which spurred public interest. Following its first arrival in Atlantic City, a formal dinner was held for railroad officials at the Hotel Dennis. The Blue Comet was published in several periodicals and trade magazines such as Railway Age (March 1929), Fortune (the first issue in February, 1930), The Modelmaker, and several advertisements for ELESCO Superheaters and Feedwater Heaters. Periodic articles about the train appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and local papers such as the Red Bank Register.

It was featured in a British 1937 Gallaher Ltd collection of tobacco cards entitled "Trains of the World." Billed as the "Seashore's Finest Train", it was dubbed a "Symphony in Blue." Lionel founder Joshua Lionel Cowen was among those who frequently rode the Blue Comet. Inspired by the train's elegant beauty, speed and the sublime power of its towering locomotive, Lionel offered a standard gauge model of the train in 1930. This gave the train and Lionel an almost mythical quality.

There were three factors behind the creation of the Blue Comet:

  • To eliminate passenger service south of Winslow Junction, and replace rail service with bus connections.
  • To better compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) for Atlantic City passengers.
  • To eliminate a costly Pullman parlor car lease, in which the CNJ had a loss ten months of the year.

The Blue Comet offered extra accommodations at the regular coach fare and assigned seats so passengers knew exactly where they would sit. The PRR charged extra for its all-parlor car Atlantic City Limited and New York Limited. The PRR charged extra fees for parlor cars on the Nellie Bly. The Blue Comet ran on-schedule 97 percent of the time for the first five years. A billboard was installed on the Routes 33 and 34 overpass at Farmingdale listing the times the train would pass that area.

The Blue Comet was initially a success, but fell victim to the Great Depression. Service was reduced to a single daily round-trip by April 1933. Also that year, the PRR and Reading Company (RDG) consolidated their southern New Jersey routes and formed the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. After the merger, the PRR owned two-thirds of the trackage. Reports from travelers indicate that Blue Comet information was not readily available at the Atlantic City station. This had the Blue Comet service at a disadvantage, as PRR Atlantic City-New York information was readily available for passengers heading to points north.

Ocean County stops for the Blue Comet included Lakewood and Lakehurst. The Lakewood stop was to pick up and drop off passengers as well as Jolly Tar Trail bus service. The stop at Lakehurst was for people needing a connection for the Barnegat Branch, later replaced by Jolly Tar Trail service during off-peak hours in the early 1930s, and for the locomotives to take on water. By the mid-1930s service had picked up to a morning and an afternoon train in the southerly direction and an afternoon and an evening train in the northerly in summer 1936 service.

For residents of the more isolated sections of the Pine Barrens, the Blue Comet's railroad crews dropped off newspapers. In Chatsworth, the train slowed as it went through the center of town on its return from Atlantic City to disperse a bundle of the daily papers - including The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, among other big-city publications - which had been provided for passengers to read while on board. This goodwill gesture offered a way for locals who did not have radios or electricity to stay informed on current events. Community lore has it that residents would show their appreciation by bringing baskets of freshly-picked berries for the crew. However, this anecdote has been disputed by some who lived in the area at the time and insisted the express train did not stop in a location where such an exchange would have happened.

The train's last run was on September 27, 1941. Its main competitor, the PRR Nellie Bly, lasted until 1961.


A Blue Comet schedule from 1936.

(Fair use. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_Comet_schedule.jpg)


On Friday, December 26, 1935 the Blue Comet experienced a small fire in the roof of the dining car Giacobini. The fire was discovered while the train was en route to Red Bank by the chef, who promptly alerted the steward Lewis Herring. The two men attempted to put out the fire themselves using fire extinguishers; however, the origin of the fire was inaccessible. An overheated flue from the coal stove had caused some of the roof structure to burn between the ceiling and the roof of the dining car.

Red Bank firefighters were summoned as the train pulled into the station, and the fire was quickly put out. Damage was estimated at only $50.00. The passengers were unaware that there was any problem until they were politely asked to leave the dining car at the station. The Blue Comet was delayed for 39 minutes while the fire was put out and the dining car removed from service. The train arrived in Atlantic City only 22 minutes behind schedule

On August 19, 1939, train No 4218 was traveling east-bound with a consist of a combine Halley, a coach D'Arrest, a diner Giacobini, a second coach Winnecki, and an observation car Biela. Engine No. 820, a 4-6-2 Pacific, was on point. Conductor Walsh and Engineman Thomas were in charge of the train, which was carrying 49 passengers and crew. Extraordinarily-heavy rains fell in the area throughout the day. It is estimated that roughly 13+1⁄2 inches of rain fell, and about 10+3⁄4 inches fell between 2 and 6 pm.

The train's crew had reduced speed from the usual 70 mph to between 35–40 mph, as visibility was poor and the crew had been given a message at Winslow Junction to keep a lookout for sand on the crossings due to the heavy rains. Near milepost 86, about a mile west of Chatsworth station, the train hit a washout at 4:37 pm. The surface water had overwhelmed two 24-inch culverts, and undermined the roadbed. The engine and tender made it across the damaged track, with the rear tender truck being derailed. The rear truck floating lever was damaged, rendering the tender brakes inoperative. The entire 5-car consist had become uncoupled from the tender and derailed.

The cars came to rest in general line with the track, and were leaning at various angles. Roughly 500 feet of track was destroyed. When the train failed to arrive at Chatsworth Station, personnel and local residents waded over a mile through the woods in water waist deep in parts to reach the wreck. Reports that one hundred people were killed led to a flurry of ambulances from northern parts of the state. Actually, only forty-nine people were on board. The injured included 32 passengers, 4 dining car employees, 1 porter and 1 train service employee. The chef, Joseph Coleman, was crushed and badly scalded in the kitchen of the dining car when the stove fell on top of him as the car overturned. He later died from his injuries.

The majority of the injuries were minor, resulting from the flying wicker chairs in the observation car. CNJ crews replaced about six hundred feet of damaged track in approximately forty-eight hours. A relief train arrived a few hours later to transport the remaining passengers. An investigation concluded that the derailment was caused by the washout, which resulted from the unusually heavy rainfall. Today, the mainline track and wreck site are abandoned and very overgrown.

All of the equipment involved in the wreck was repaired and returned to service, except for the dining car "Giacobini. Being a steel-clad wooden car, it was unable to withstand the forces of the wreck and was too badly damaged to repair. It was used as a rail yard freight office until it was eventually scrapped.


Crossing accidents

On Friday, January 10, 1936, William Taylor, 42, a farmhand, was instantly killed when his produce truck was struck by the Blue Comet while crossing the tracks at Finkel's Lane, Shrewsbury. Mr. Taylor was employed on the farm owned by C. Borderson of Shrewsbury and had been transporting produce from one side of the farm to the other. The crossing was on private property and had no watchman. The engineer, William J. Smith of Elizabeth, was taken into custody for questioning and later released.

Engineer Smith stated that the bell of the Blue Comet had been kept ringing ever since the train pulled out of the Red Bank station. He said the whistle had been sounded. The truck was demolished and the locomotive badly damaged. A steam valve cap from the automatic safety control of the engine was damaged, and the steam escaped. After a delay of about an hour, the train limped into Eatontown station, where an extra locomotive from Red Bank took up the interrupted journey.

Shortly before noon on January 14, 1936, a National Biscuit Company trailer-truck stalled on the tracks of the New York & Long Branch railroad at the Shrewsbury Avenue crossing and was struck by a southbound Pennsylvania train. The driver, Joseph Clark, 53, of Corona, Long Island, jumped from the cab of the truck before the train crashed into it. According to the driver, the motor of the truck stalled just as it reached the tracks. A wrecking crew removed the truck from the tracks so as to permit the Blue Comet, due at Red Bank at 10:04 o'clock, to pass.

At 6:10 PM on Monday, September 8, 1941, very sadly, a mother and two of her children were killed when the Blue Comet express train crashed into a light delivery truck at an unprotected crossing not far from their home. They were Mrs. Antionette Macciocca, 35, of White Horse Pike Elm, and her two daughters, Gloria, 13, and Joanne, 4. The accident took place as Mrs. Mocciocca was driving back to her home after visiting a neighbor to obtain advice on canning vegetables.

The crash occurred a few minutes after the Blue Comet left Hammonton, bound from Atlantic City to Jersey City. State police said the crossing was marked with a sign but was without a watchman, crossing bells or signal lights. The train stopped several hundred yards up the tracks after the incident and was delayed for an hour. The crew included A. Feryling, Phillipsburg, engineer, and J.F. Walsh, Somerville.


Observation car interior of the CNJ train "Blue Comet". (Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Smoking lounge of the CNJ train "Blue Comet". (Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Coach car of the CNJ train "Blue Comet". (Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dining car of the Central Railroad of New Jersey's train "Blue Comet". (Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Three brand-new G3s Pacific locomotives were assigned to the train: numbers 831, 832 and 833. The CNJ totally refurbished sixteen cars for Blue Comet service, inside and out. The train and its engines were painted in Packard Blue to suggest the sea and the sky. The passenger cars all had a cream band running the length of the side at the windows to evoke the sand of the shore. The paint scheme was unusual, since the road name did not appear on each car. Only the name of the train, "THE BLUE COMET", appeared in gold lettering on the letter board.

Each car was named for a different comet. The name of each car was placed in gold lettering at the middle of each side below the windows. The underframes and trucks were painted royal blue and varnished. The locomotives' marker lights, headlights, handrails, coupler lifting rods, cylinder head covers and back valve chambers were nickel-plated. Side rods were polished. The name of the train was painted in gold lettering on a blue nameboard that was mounted to the front of the locomotive smoke box just below the Elesco feedwater heater.

The train was known by its distinctive whistle. Mounted on the fireman's side of the steam dome, it was usually angled forward. While the manufacturer and cadence of the specific whistle has not been verified (none are known to exist), it is reported to have been a long-bell 3-chime steamboat whistle similar to a Hancock or Star Brass 6" long-bell 3-chime.

In later years, as ridership declined, the usual G3s locomotives were sometimes used in other service. As a result, a variety of motive power was used. Sometimes the Blue Comet was pulled by other CNJ fast Pacifics such as No. 820, or Camelback locomotives such as No. 592. No. 592 was one of the CNJ's fastest Camelbacks and could frequently be found on the point in Blue Comet service.

Each train consisted of a baggage car, combine-smoker, coaches, and an observation car. Inside the train, the cars were lavishly furnished. Each car was clad in Circassian walnut with a gold inlay pattern. The headliners were cream colored. Window shades were made of blue Spanish Pantasote. The luggage racks were nickel-plated. Each car had a drinking fountain by the North Pole Sanitary Drinking Fountain company of Chicago. Collapsible cone-shaped paper cups with the train's logo were available via a dispenser above the fountain.

Coaches were fitted out with 64 individual seats which rotated, nickel-plated coat hooks and umbrella holders mounted to the back of the seats. Upholstery was Persian Blue, rendered in figured mohair. The observation car seats were triple-cushioned, 48 rattan lounge chairs in silver and blue, lining either side. These were upholstered in Persian blue Avalon plush, with a gold-tinted floral pattern. The coaches and combines each had a men's lavatory and toilet located at one end of the car to each side of the aisle.

The coaches and observation car were each fitted out with a generous women's lounge with an adjoining toilet. The lounge had a full-length mirror, two wicker armchairs, a boudoir chair, and a cup and towel vendor. The floor covering was a Persian blue carpet with a gold modern pattern. The combines had 48 blue leather bucket seats. The flooring was a blue-and-cream diagonal checkerboard linoleum tile. This same flooring was installed in the vestibules and lavatories as well as on the observation platform.

The diner accompanied the early-morning trip to Atlantic City and the evening return to Jersey City and could accommodate 36 patrons. Porters in blue uniforms served savory dishes and homemade goodies. The fresh apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese was a popular offering. The tables were set with the finest embroidered blue tablecloths with the train's logo, special china and flatware, and a silver base lamp with parchment shade. The lampshades had an astral pattern of comets and stars, and tinted lightbulbs were employed to cast a soft blue glow.


Pilot truck: Commonwealth cast steel with pedestals cast integral with frame
Trailing truck: Commonwealth Delta type
Drive train: Pistons: 5" diameter, heat treated steel casting
Reverse: Alco Power Reversing Gear
Crossheads: underhung type with forged steel box guides
Side Rods: floating bushings, grease cups forged solid and integral
Counterbalancing: 55% of the reciprocating weight
Suspension: Chrome silicon manganese driving and truck springs
Firebox: Stoker: Type B
Lubrication system: Nathan Eight Feed mechanical lubricator with 20 pint capacity
Throttle: Chambers backhead throttle valve
Drifting valves: Automatic
Automatic train control: Union Switch & Signal coded continuous
2 × Westinghouse Simplex air compressors mounted on right side of boiler

Rolling stock

Diner: Giacobini 81
Combines: Halley 300, Encke 302
Baggage cars: Olbers 391, Barnard 392
Coaches: Tuttle 1170, Holmes 1171, Westphal 1172, D'Arrest 1173, Faye 1174, Spitaler 1175, Winnecke 1176, Brorsen 1177
Observation cars: DeVico 1178, Biela 1179, Tempel 1169
As passenger traffic diminished, the G3s engines were withdrawn from Blue Comet service and other locomotives pulled the train. Frequently, one would find camelback locomotive 592 at the point, or other Pacifics. Pacific 820 was on the point for the only derailment of the Blue Comet on August 19, 1939.


Locomotive of the "Blue Comet" which traveled between New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey. September 1929.  (Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Observation platform of the "Blue Comet" which traveled between New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Click to enlarge. (Central Railroad of New Jersey, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

 An original un-used ticket for the CNJ Blue Comet. Click to enlarge. (Old23skiddoo, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Blue Comet locomotive

Type and origin
Power type: steam
Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works
Build date: 1928
Total produced: 3
โ€‹ • Whyte 4-6-2 Pacific
Gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Leading diameter: 36"
Driver diameter: 79"
Trailing diameter: 55"
Wheelbase: 72'-2"
 • Drivers: 13'-10"
Height: 15'-7/8"
Frame type: cast vanadium steel
Axle load:
 • Leading: 65,850 lbs.
 • Trailing: 62,960 lbs.
Adhesive weight: 197,660 lbs.
Loco weight: 326,470 lbs.
Tender weight: 217,000 lbs.
Total weight: 543,470 lbs.
Tender type: Commonwealth one-piece cast steel water bottom underframe
Fuel type: bituminous coal
Fuel capacity: 15 tons
Water capacity: 10,000 USG
 • Firegrate area: 84.3 ft2 (126-1/8" × 97-1/4")
โ€‹ • Diameter first ring: 78"
 • Tube plates: 228"
 • Small tubes: 251 × 2" flues
 • Large tubes: 36 × 5-3/8" flues
Boiler pressure: 230 lbs.
Feedwater heater: Elesco
Heating surface: 4,647 ft2
โ€‹ • Type: Type "A"
 • Heating area: 36 heating elements
Cylinders: 2
Cylinder size: 26" × 28"
Valve gear: Walschaerts
Valve type 13" piston valves
Performance figures
Tractive effort: 46,841 lbs.
Factor of adhesion: 4.21
Operators: Central Railroad of New Jersey
Class: G3s
Numbers: 831–833
Locale: Jersey City–Atlantic City
Scrapped: 1954–55


 Map of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. Click to enlarge.

(Image: James R. Irwin, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)



Jersey City (Communipaw Terminal)
Newark Bay Bridge over Newark Bay
Raritan Bay Draw over Raritan River
Red Bank
Barnegat Branch

PRSL to Philadelphia
Winslow Junction
Atlantic City



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: New Jersey, United States
First service: February 21, 1929
Last service: September 27, 1941
Former operator: Central Railroad of New Jersey
Route Termini: Jersey City, New Jersey / Atlantic City, New Jersey
Distance traveled: 136.3 miles (219.4 km)
Average journey time: 3 hours
Service frequency: varied
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reserved coach seat
Catering facilities: Dining car
Observation facilities: Observation car
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)