Bryan J. Dickerson, Township Archivist
Township of Brick (New Jersey Caucus)
For sixty-five years, the Pennsylvania Railroad serviced the transportation needs of residents and visitors to Ocean County, New Jersey’s northern barrier island. While the physical remains of that rail line have long since disappeared, some traces of its existence remain in the documents of the Township of Brick, New Jersey.
Ocean County’s northern barrier island stretches some twenty miles from Bay Head south to Island Beach State Park. This island includes the municipalities of Mantoloking, Lavallette, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights and sections of Brick Township, Toms River Township and Berkeley Township. Brick Township’s section comprises 1.9 miles of the barrier island.
On 24 September 1880, the Philadelphia and Long Branch Railway Company was formed to construct a rail line to service the northern barrier island. Construction was begun from Whiting in January 1881. A 7,000-foot trestle bridge with a 181-foot swing span was constructed to carry the rail line over Barnegat Bay to the barrier island. By July 1881, the section to Seaside Park was completed and the following month, the remaining 11.5 mile stretch north to Bay Head was completed. In Bay Head, the line connected with the New York and Long Branch Railroad, thus providing passengers with rail access all the way north to New York. On 3 November 1883, the company merged with the Pemberton and Sea Shore Railroad Company to form the Philadelphia and Long Branch Railroad Company.
The new Philadelphia and Long Branch Railroad Company was operated under the auspices of the massive Pennsylvania Railroad Company conglomerate. Rail stations were established at Bay Head, Mantoloking, Normandy Beach, Lavallette, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Rail access spurred commercial and residential development on the northern barrier island and brought tourists to vacation at the various hotels and resorts which sprang up.
On 25 February 1915, the Philadelphia and Long Branch Railroad Company was merged with two other lines to form the Pennsylvania and Atlantic Railroad Company. This railroad operated on the barrier island until December 1946 when a fire seriously damaged the bridge over the Barnegat Bay. Rail service was discontinued and the company received approval from the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the rail line. In the late 1940s / early 1950s, the tracks were torn up and the right of way was acquired by the State of New Jersey. Today, the southbound lanes of NJ State Highway 35 run along the old railroad right of way.
Even though the railroad tracks have long since disappeared into history, traces of the Philadelphia & Long Branch / Pennsylvania & Atlantic Railroad may be found in records preserved by the Township of Brick. These records include Tax records, Township Committee records and land use records.
The Pennsylvania Railroad was mentioned numerous times in the Tax Collector’s records. These records date back to 1907 and are preserved by both the Tax Collector’s Office and the Township Archives. The railroad was mentioned in two ways. First, taxes were assessed and collected for the railroad’s land holdings for its tracks. For example, in the 1923 Tax Collection Duplicate, the Pennsylvania Railroad’s land was assessed at $15,800.00, for which the company paid $791 in taxes to the Township of Brick.
The Pennsylvania Railroad was also used to describe the location of properties in the Tax Assessment records. For example, the 1949 Tax Assessment records described one particular undeveloped property owned by C. J. Kupper as being west of the Pennsylvania Railroad by Ellis Tide Pond.
References to the Pennsylvania Railroad do not appear in the Tax records after 1952.
Surprisingly, the Pennsylvania Railroad was barely mentioned in the minutes of Township Committee meetings. One such mention occurred on October 17th, 1945. On that date, the Township Committee adopted a Resolution authorizing Tax Sale Certificate No. 13 in the amount of $3,240.06 to Charles J. Kupper. The properties in question were described as being east and west of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The third important group of records which document the Pennsylvania Railroad in Brick Township is land use records. Filed Map B-66 for the Ocean Heights section showed the railroad’s right of way. This map was accepted by the Township Committee on September 10, 1925. Another map from 1925, Filed Map C-185, showed the railroad’s right of way adjacent to Ellis Tide Pond. Accepted by the Township Committee on August 3, 1925, Filed Map C-185 recorded the right of way as being sixty-six feet wide.
Filed Map D-173 for the South Mantoloking section also showed the Pennsylvania Railroad right of way as it existed in September 1945. In the accompanying images, the railroad right of way ran north-south across the top of the filed map and passed close by Swamp Cove. The 2013 Tax Map for this section shows how this area looks today. Note that the old Pennsylvania Railroad right of way is now occupied by the southbound lanes of State Highway 35.
The approximate end of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s association with Brick Township can also be dated using the Township’s land use records. Approved by the Township Committee on September 2nd, 1953, Filed Map B-39 for the Mantoloking Dunes section depicted the railroad right of way but labeled it as “Former Railroad” suggesting that the rails had been removed.
Further evidence that the Pennsylvania Railroad was no longer operating on the northern barrier island was provided in the Township Committee Meeting Minutes for August 19, 1953. At that meeting, the Township Committee adopted a Resolution at the request of the Ocean County Freeholders urging the construction of twenty State Highway projects to alleviate “terrific traffic problems” in Ocean County. Project No. 7 on this list was “Construction of a highway on the
former Pennsylvania Railroad from Seaside Heights to Bay Head.” This Resolution was sent to New Jersey Governor Alfred E. Driscoll, the State Highway Department and Ocean County’s state legislators for action.
For sixty-five years, the Philadelphia and Long Branch, and the Pennsylvania Railroads brought passengers and freight to and from the northern barrier island of Ocean County. Even though the physical remains of the railroad have long since disappeared, documentary evidence of this important railroad can still be found preserved in the records of the Township of Brick.
Note on Sources: The basic history of the Philadelphia and Long Branch and Pennsylvania and Atlantic Railroads was provided by The Pennsylvania Railroad Company: Corporate, Financial and Construction – History of Lines Owned, Operated and Controlled to December 31, 1945. Volume IV – Affiliate Lines, Miscellaneous Company and General Index. (NY: Coverdale & Colpitts – Consulting Engineers, 1947) George H. Burgess and Miles C. Kennedy Centennial History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company 1846 to 1946. (Philadelphia PA: Pennsylvania Railroad Company, 1949), and Howard W. Schotter, The Growth and Development of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company: A Review of the Charter and Annual Reports of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company 1846 to 1927 Inclusive. (Philadelphia PA: Press of Allen, Lane and Scott, 1927).