On an unusually cold and crisp New Years Day, 3 members of the New Jersey Shore Region, Melonie Stemba Bruce Reils and Mike Riebe witnessed the lighting of the new beacon in Barnegat Lighthouse on its 150th anniversary. Old Barney, commissioned by General Meade, was darkened in 1927, being replaced by a permanently anchored lightship and then by radar. Throughout the 1800's and early 1900's the ocean along the New Jersey coast was a highway of schooners and cargo ships from Europe traveling North to New York or South to Philadelphia or Baltimore. The beam from the new rotary beacon , is visible for a radius of 21 miles. The red and white!72 ft. Lighthouse is also aglow in floodlights.
140 Years Ago
A race like no other occurred in 1869, the building of the transcontinental railroad. Track builders raced from the East and the West, big bets were on, and the meet was at Promontory Point Utah. On May 10, the driving of the golden spike was telegraphed to New York where there was a 100 gun salute and Philadelphia where the Liberty Bell began to ring. Workers from the West built less mileage as they had to overcome severe terrain including steep grades over mountain ranges. Coast to coast travel across America went from approximately 2 years by covered wagon to 2 weeks! Much of the original route, improved and straightened, is still used today.
80 Years Ago
On February 21, 1929, a few months before the stock market crash and the depression set in, a comet streaked across New Jersey. No, it wasn't in the sky, but rather an exciting new luxury express train from Jersey City across from Manhattan to Atlantic City and was called "The Blue Comet". The route was a bit unusual as there never was a rail route South all the way to Atlantic City. It went South to Red Bank then West Southwest several miles where it connected from a line from Philadelphia and then went East to AC. At speed "The Blue Comet" painted Royal Blue, medium Packard Blue and Jersey Cream (the sea, sky and sand) powered by a 2 tone blue Pacific steam locomotive with chrome plated trim resembled a comet streaking across a blue sky. In the days of Dark Pullman Green, "The Blue Comet" was quite a sight to behold. Signs posted along the right of way even proclaimed the time that it would pass by.. "The Blue Comet" predated silver streamliners powered by steam or new diesels in the mid 1930's..There was even a "Blue Comet Marching Band". Plagued by the depression and the growing popularity of the automobile, "The Blue Comet" lost money for the CNJ Railroad and was discontinued in 1941.
In a striking parallel, in the midst of today's recession, a new luxury train "The Gamblers Express" began running in February 2009 from New York to Atlantic City on a similar route,SW to Philadelphia, then East to AC. Running time is 22 minutes faster than "The Blue Comet". The new train is more generic in style and decoration. You won't find the fine china, table linens or oak panels but rather plastic and metal panels covered with a wood like wallpaper. But like "The Blue Comet", the new luxury train is still a fun way to travel to the New Jersey Shore.
40 Years Ago Seems Like Yesterday
This Summer will be the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing and Neil Armstrong's walking on the moon in July 1969. One of my college professors predicted there would be a "National Lunar Day" greater than the 4th of July. Whatever happened to the celebration of that great accomplishment? Anyway, I hope there will be a 100th anniversary of an active Chrysler Corporation in 2024!!! Think positive!!!