THE BLUE COMET,

“THE SEASHORE’S FINEST TRAIN”

 

Shortly after we began publishing the Halley’s Comet Watch Newsletter in 1982, Ruth Freitag, of the Library of Congress, sent us an article about the famous “Blue Comet” – a luxury coach train that ran between New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey from 1929 to 1941.  The fact that we are a New Jersey-based organization gave us cause to research the subject rather extensively.  We contacted a friend who is also a Railroad buff who provided us with very detailed information on the famous train.  The return of Halley’s Comet and the rebirth of Atlantic City made the topic even more timely.  Our efforts to write an essay on the Blue Comet were thwarted by a variety of comet-related activities.  Then, along with our May, 1986 New Jersey Bell Telephone bill came the Tel-news, a monthly insert, with an article on the Blue Comet by Dorothy Voss, the Editor.  With due credit and gratitude, the article is reproduced here in its entirety. (Anyone interested in learning more about the Blue Comet can read “The Seashore’s Finest Train: The Blue Comet”, a 62 –page, illustrated booklet by Joel Rosenbaum and Tom Gallo published by Railpace Company, Inc., P.O. Box 927, Piscataway, NJ 08854).

 

          Nowadays a trip to Atlantic City is rather mundane… by bus, plane or car.  In the recent past travelers made the journey in grand style on a deluxe, swift train known as the BLUE COMET.

 

          The BLUE COMET, New Jersey Central’s luxury coach train, provided service from 1929 to 1941 between New York and Atlantic City.

 

          Advertised as “The Seashore’s Finest Train,” it was designed to compete with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Atlantic City service… remember Nellie Bly?…by offering fast…three hours portal to portal…first-class service to coach passengers at regular fare.

 

          The COMET made two round trips daily with extra trips on weekends and on Fridays during the summer months.  Stops were made to pick up or discharge passengers at Elizabethport, Red Bank, Lakewood, Lakehurst and Hammonton.  It created good will all along its route, too.  Often the crew would toss newspapers from the moving train to folks who lived in the remote areas of the Pine Barrens.  They’d reciprocate by bringing to the Lakewood stop baskets of goodies or, in season, berries picked in the woods.

 

          Everything about the steam-powered train suggested a speeding blue comet.  Its exterior was painted a rich, deep blue with a cream-colored stripe running its length on both sides (a reminder, too, of the Jersey Shore’s sky, surf and sandy beaches.)  Over the course of its run, hundreds of people frequently lined the tracks just to watch it thunder by, a flashing blue comet on earthbound rails.

 

          Each car was named for a comet…including the most famous one, Halley’s Comet, visible to us Earthlings this year.  The BLUE COMET motif continued inside the train with Persian blue upholstery, royal blue linen, comets etched on window glass ovals, and even train schedules, tickets and menus with a BLUE COMET logo.

 

          A ride on the BLUE COMET was unique.  The car one entered upon boarding was lavishly furnished.  All chairs were reserved and they were triple cushioned, upholstered in expensive, figured mohair, and spaced to give plenty of legroom.  A porter (in blue, of course) waited nearby to fulfill your slightest need.   An observation car was open to all without extra charge.  There was also a smoking car for men and a tastefully decorated lounge for women.

 

          Food? A dining car with inlaid wood interior, tables with fine linen and silver awaited the hungry rider.  Food was home cooked right on board.  Prices were laughably low by today’s going rates.  The Blue Plate special was 75 cents; dinner…a choice of fish, chicken or steak…was $1.25!  Just thinking about the warm, baked apple pie served with a wedge of aged, New York cheddar cheese could set mouths watering.

 

          Like many comets, the BLUE COMET burned out.  After a few brilliant years, passenger volume dropped.  It was the onset of the Depression, revenues declined, service was reduced.  Finally, competition with the larger Pennsylvania Railroad, the expansion of the state’s highway system and the increased use of cars put an end to the service.  The BLUE COMET made its last run on September 27, 1941.  It was a blue day for New Jersey train travelers.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE #1:  The comet names for the 16 cars of the BLUE COMET were as follows:

          1 Diner:  Gicobini

          2 Combines: Halley, Encke

          2 Baggage cars: Olbers, Barnardi

8 Coaches: Tuttle, Holmes, Westphal, D’Arrest, Faye, Spitaler,   

Winnecke, Brorsen

          3 Observation cars: DeVico, Biela, Tempel

 

EDITOR’S NOTE #2: Since publishing this material, through a friend who collects model trains, we came across a Lionel train that replicated the BLUE COMET, with the various cars named as described above.

 

 

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