Atlantic City Line
An Atlantic City Line train at Lindenwold in 2008.
|System||New Jersey Transit Rail Operations|
|Locale||White Horse Pike corridor|
|Termini||Atlantic City Rail Terminal (east)|
30th Street Station, Philadelphia (west)
|Owner||New Jersey Transit|
(Atlantic City to River Line)
Conrail Shared Assets
(Delair Bridge to Shore interlocking)
(Shore interlocking to 30th Street)
|Operator(s)||New Jersey Transit|
|Rolling stock||GP40PH-2B, (Formerly) PL42AC, ALP-45DP locomotives, Comet coaches|
|Number of tracks||1 plus sidings|
(Shore Interlocking to Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector)
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Atlantic City Line (ACL) is a commuter rail line operated by New Jersey Transit (NJT) in the United States between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Atlantic City, New Jersey, operating along the corridor of the White Horse Pike. It runs over trackage that was controlled by both the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines. It shares trackage with SEPTA and Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor (NEC) until it crosses the Delaware River on its own Delair Bridge into New Jersey. The Atlantic City Line also shares the right-of-way with the PATCO Speedline between Haddonfield and Lindenwold, New Jersey. There are 14 departures each day in each direction. Conrail also uses short sections of the line for freight movements (which are segregated), including the NEC-Delair Bridge section to its main freight yard in Camden, New Jersey. Unlike all other NJT railway lines, the Atlantic City line does not have traditional rush hour service. The Atlantic City line is colored dark blue on New Jersey Transit's system maps, and the line's symbol is a lighthouse.
For five months beginning on September 4, 2018, the line is shut down to install positive train control.
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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Atlantic City was the major seaside vacation destination for the Philadelphia area for both wealthy and working class alike. Similar to Coney Island in New York, the popularity of Atlantic City was made possible by rail transport providing inexpensive service between the city where people lived and the seashore where they played. By its height in the 1920s, there were no fewer than three competing railroad Main Lines connecting the Atlantic City resort with Philadelphia, the Atlantic City Railroad (ACRR), owned by the Reading Company, the Camden and Atlantic (C&A) and the West Jersey and Seashore (WJ&S), both owned by the PRR. Competition was fierce and the ACRR and C&A lines boasted some of the fastest trains in the world, while the WJ&S was a pioneering example of railroad electrification.
The Great Depression caused the first consolidation of the various competing lines into the new Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL), but the post-war rise of the automobile and the Atlantic City Expressway not only caused people to abandon the railroad for their cars, but also to abandon Atlantic City for more exotic vacation destinations. By the late 1960s, the surviving former Camden and Atlantic Main Line was reduced to a commuter service funded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) running trains of Budd RDC railcars operating from a small terminal at the Lindenwold PATCO station. Conrail took over from the PRSL in 1976, maintaining service between Lindenwold and Atlantic City, Ocean City and Cape May. In 1981 NJDOT discontinued the chronically under-performing South Jersey rail services.
Almost immediately, there was talk of restoring the line to Atlantic City. Casino gambling had brought the aging resort back from the brink of financial collapse and local politicians were irritated that most railway transportation projects benefited the more populous northern portion of the state. A deal with Amtrak was worked out where the line, suffering from decades of deferred maintenance and in places outright abandonment, would be completely rebuilt for a new Amtrak service. Dubbed the "Gambler's Express," service connected Atlantic City with cities up and down the Northeast Corridor as well as a local commuter service run by NJT.
The current Atlantic City line opened May 21, 1989, with Amtrak running from New York, Philadelphia, and Washington. Service was soon extended to Springfield, Massachusetts, and Richmond, and for a brief period, the Philadelphia International Airport. The following September, NJT moved in, serving commuters between Atlantic City and Lindenwold. At Lindenwold, passengers had to transfer to PATCO. By 1994, Amtrak realized that their Atlantic City plan was poorly marketed, and high fares hurt potential ridership. As a result, it was announced that Amtrak would discontinue service effective April 1, 1995.
Initially, there were worries that NJT would also cease operations, as Amtrak had been helping maintain the track and NJT would be forced to buy its own fueling facility. However, NJT reluctantly opted to stay, as the line was the transit agency's only commuter line in South Jersey. For the time being, a target of a US $1 million subsidy reduction was set in March 1996. NJT eventually extended service into Philadelphia (via Amtrak's 30th Street Station), and a new station facility was built in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Ridership increased and NJT decided to maintain the line after declaring that the line's ridership had met the target set for it.
Another improvement that has since occurred was the starting of a shuttle service between the Atlantic City Rail Terminal and the city's casinos. Free jitneys shuttle passengers to the shore and the various casinos.
On May 12, 2009, New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine, in conjunction with the Delaware River Port Authority (the agency which manages the PATCO Speedline), announced plans to review ways to expand and enhance the Atlantic City Line, in which the DRPA would "examine opportunities to improve this system including the development of a Transfer Station at the PATCO Woodcrest Station allowing for more convenient transfers between PATCO, New Jersey Transit and convenient access from I-295" and "also identify track improvements to facilitate more frequent, reliable service and a better connection to the Atlantic City Airport Terminal." The study would be part of a comprehensive transportation plan for South Jersey that would include a new diesel light rail line between Camden and Glassboro and express bus service along the NJ 42 and NJ 55 freeways. However, in 2014, any plans described by the study to increase frequency to reliable hourly service, and to add planned Woodcrest and Airport transfer stations, were nixed because of state budget tightening.
Later, NJ Transit built a transfer station in Pennsauken to connect the Atlantic City Line with the River Line, which runs from Camden to Trenton, where it meets up with Northeast Corridor trains to New York. This enables Atlantic City passengers to travel as far as New York completely on New Jersey Transit rail and light rail and avoid transfers in Pennsylvania for the first time. The Pennsauken Transit Center opened to passengers on October 14, 2013.
The line received some damage from Hurricane Sandy on October 29–30, 2012, causing suspension of service after the storm moved away. However, the damage was not as severe as on other NJT rail lines in the northern part of the state, and normal rail service was restored by November 4, one of the few NJT rail lines to do so in such short time.
Also operating along the line, but not making any stops along it, was the Atlantic City Express Service (ACES), a route owned by Caesars Entertainment and the Borgata and operated by NJ Transit under contract. This route operated between the Atlantic City Rail Terminal and Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan. This service began in February 2009 and ended in March 2012.
On September 4, 2018, the line will be shut down for five months so NJ Transit can replace a portion of the track, as well as install positive train controls to comply with a December 31 deadline from the Federal Railroad Administration. The rail line is the only one in New Jersey that will be shut down in its entirety, which sparked criticism from residents and an online petition on Change.org. NJ Transit will operate bus service along the route while the rail line is shut down.
The line was originally double-tracked but is now a single-track operation, with 5,000-foot (1,500 m) passing sidings along its length. Meeting points for trains moving in opposite directions are pre-scheduled and can be located in the employee timetable. Trains also are scheduled to pass on the NEC just prior to Frankford Junction (SHORE interlocking) in order to minimize the number of times Atlantic City trains obstruct through trains on the busy corridor. The Atlantic City Rail Terminal incorporates a fueling facility and trains are fueled in between midday runs. Daily inspections and light maintenance are performed at the Atlantic City Rail Terminal by Herzog Transit Services, while heavy maintenance must take place in NJT's facility in North Jersey. Both cars and locomotives involved with servicing are shuttled up and down Amtrak's Northeast Corridor on weekends for washing and heavy maintenance as needed.
As rebuilt by Amtrak, most of the line was equipped with cab signaling and built to Class 4 track standards allowing speeds up to 80 mph. Around 10 miles (16 km) of tangent track around Absecon was built to Class 5 standards, allowing speeds up to 90 mph. Several years after Amtrak ceased operation on the line, NJT downgraded this segment to Class 4 due to maintenance cost considerations. Until 1995, Amtrak's Section E dispatcher controlled the line from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, but after the incorporation into the NJT system, the dispatching was shifted to Hoboken Terminal, and later the Meadows Maintenance Complex.
Prior to the 1995 takeover, NJT trains terminating at Lindenwold would actually run to just east of the present day Cherry Hill Station where the nearest passing siding was located in order to clear the line for "Gambler's Express" trains and to allow the crew to change ends. After the terminal was moved to 30th Street Station, NJT commuter trains laid over at the south end of the station platforms to allow the diesel locomotives to exhaust into the open air (as opposed to under the confined space under 30th Street Station).
Regularly scheduled service on the Atlantic City Line consists mainly of ex-Penn Central GP40PH-2B diesel locomotives pushing or pulling primarily a three- to four-car Comet train, although other rolling stock is also used on the line. When Amtrak had regular service on this line, power was provided by now-retired F40PH locomotives, with a Metroliner cab car on the opposite end to provide push-pull operation. All trains run with the locomotive on the west end and the cab control car on the east end to facilitate boarding and reduce diesel noise and exhaust issues at the Atlantic City Terminal.
Originally, a type of proof-of-payment fare collection was envisioned for the line to cut down on operating costs. Standard railway tickets were purchased from vending machines which then had to be validated prior to boarding. However, the system was never fully implemented and tickets were always collected normally on board by conductors.
In 2014, the line had around 1 million riders, which declined to 800,000 in 2016. Daily ridership is around 2,000 passengers.
Atlantic City Line train tickets are also honored on the 551 and 554 NJT bus lines for travel to and from railroad stations at all times. Customers using rail tickets to ride the 554 line must board and alight directly at or within one block of the Lindenwold, Hammonton, Egg Harbor City, or Absecon train stations, or at the Atlantic City Bus Terminal. Tickets for travel between Philadelphia and Atlantic City are honored on the 551 between the bus terminals in the two cities.
- "Atlantic City Line Timetable – November 19, 2014 edition" (PDF). New York, New York: New Jersey Transit Rail Operations. 2014. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "Amtrak National Train Timetables". The Museum of Railway Timetables. 1990. p. 24. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- "Amtrak National Train Timetables". The Museum of Railway Timetables. 1990. p. 25. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- Belden, Tom (April 16, 1990). "Midway, Amtrak Team Up Rail Line To Link Airport And A.c." The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
- http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1215/is_n3_v199/ai_20460328, Railway Age
- "Delaware River Port Authority – Regional Transportation & Economic Development Initiative"
- "New station links two South Jersey rail lines". Philadelphia Inquirer. October 15, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
- Donald Wittowski (March 10, 2012). "Casinos end ACES train service from Atlantic City to New York". The Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- Curtis Tate (August 3, 2018). "NJ Transit to shut down Atlantic City line for 5 months starting in September". USAToday.com. NorthJersey.com. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
- Jason Laughlin (August 16, 2018). "NJ Transit: Atlantic City line must shut down for safety upgrade". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
- "New station links two South Jersey rail lines". Philadelphia Inquirer. October 15, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
- "Amtrak Northeast Timetable May 1, 1994". The Museum of Railway Timetables. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
- Baisden, Cheryl L. (2009). Images of America: Delaware River Port Authority. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 110. ISBN 9780738565811.
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