The 1937-built Crusader trainset
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Status||Discontinued (partially replaced by the West Trenton Line)|
|First service||13 December 1937|
|Last service||3 December 1982|
|Service frequency||2 daily round trips
(6 days per week)
The Crusader was a streamlined express train that ran on a 90.3-mile (145.3 km) route from Philadelphia's Reading Terminal to Jersey City's Communipaw Terminal, with a ferry connection to Lower Manhattan. The Reading Railroad provided this service in partnership with the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ), in which it was the majority owner of capital stock. Trains operated over CNJ tracks for the 30 miles (48 km) from Jersey City to Bound Brook and over the Reading System for the 60 miles (97 km) from Bound Brook to Philadelphia.
Introduced in 1937, the service declined during the 1960s. The southern part of the route was cut in 1981, followed by the northern part in 1982.
By the 1930s, the Reading Company offered hourly expresses from Reading Terminal to Communipaw Terminal via the New York Branch. In 1937, the railroad introduced a new premier service. Built by the Budd Company of Philadelphia, the dedicated trainset was a five-car stainless-steel streamliner. The train consisted of two stainless-steel coaches, two observation cars and a tavern-dining car. By placing the two round-end observation cars at each end of the passenger cars, the railroad eliminated the need to turn the train around at the terminals; only the locomotive had to be turned around at the completion of each trip. Two full coaches bracketed the tavern-dining car which operated in the middle of the train. Also, matching the stainless-steel cars were two streamlined Pacific Steam locomotives. Each locomotive had a specially-built tender (coal car) that wrapped around the observation car directly behind it.
A contest was held to find a name for the new train, offering a $250 cash prize to the winner. The Crusader, the entry of Mr. P. W. Silzer of Plainfield, New Jersey, won the prize, selected by a committee of 29 railroad officials from among 6,086 suggestions. The Crusader's first regular run was on December 13, 1937. The train was scheduled to make two round trips six days a week; Sundays were reserved for maintenance work.
In the early 1950s, the steam engines were replaced with diesel-powered EMD FP7 locomotives. In 1962, the original trainset was sold to the Canadian National Railway and the train began using smooth-sided cars originally made for the Reading's other upscale Philadelphia–Jersey City Reading train, the Wall Street. By the mid-1960s, the Crusader and Wall Street were the only remaining trains operating on the section between Bound Brook and West Trenton.
In May 1967, the Aldene Plan went into effect; this closed the Communipaw Terminal and diverted trains to Newark Penn Station, adding 13 minutes to the commuter to Wall Street. The trains could not go beyond Newark Penn Station to New York Penn Station because diesel-powered trains are not permitted in the North River Tunnels. The locomotive-hauled service soon ended, replaced by two Budd Rail Diesel Cars. Deteriorating track and additional stops caused the length of the trip to increase from its 90 minutes to 110 minutes.
The service, like many former Reading and CNJ lines, was eventually subsidized by SEPTA and New Jersey Transit. In the early 1980s, SEPTA began cutting back its diesel-powered lines in preparation for the opening of the electric-only Center City Commuter Connection. Through service from Philadelphia to Newark ended on July 30, 1981; SEPTA continued service on its electric West Trenton Line, with a connection to a once-daily, weekday-only diesel West Trenton-Newark shuttle. This service ended on December 3, 1982, when the NJ Transit shuttle made its final trip due to poor ridership and a budget deficit. The trip served 290 daily passengers and cost $319,000 annually to run. NJT has explored restoring the service as its own West Trenton Line.
Two of the train's original five cars are known to survive. One of the observation cars is in the collection of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania at Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The other observation was in service as part of the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train in Washington state until 2007, and is now part of the passenger car fleet of Iowa Pacific Holdings.
- Kehoe, Tom (December 2, 1982). "Rail service terminations opposed". Courier News. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com. (subscription required (. ))
- Smith, Douglas N.W. "Train of two countries". Passenger Train Journal. 19 (2): 22–27.
- Holton, James L. The Reading Railroad: History of a Coal Age Empire; Vol. II: The Twentieth Century. Garrigues House. p. 170. ISBN 9780962084430.
- Pawson, John (March 1993). "New Backing for "Crusader" Route". The Delaware Valley Rail Passenger. Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers. 13 (3).
- Plant, Jeremy F. (1998). Reading Company In Color. 1. Morning Sun Books. ISBN 9781878887955.
- "Chapter 1: Purpose and Need" (PDF). Proposed Restoration of Passenger Rail Service on the West Trenton Line Draft Environmental Assessment. New Jersey Transit. November 2007. p. 1-1.
Media related to Crusader (train) at Wikimedia Commons