Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines

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Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines
PRSL logo.gif
PRSL on US map cropped.png
PRSL System Map
Reporting mark PRSL
Locale New Jersey
Dates of operation 1933–1976
Successor Conrail
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 413 miles (665 kilometres)
Headquarters Camden, New Jersey

The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines was a railroad that operated in southern New Jersey in the 20th century. It was created in 1933 as a joint consolidation venture between two competing railroads in the region.


The Philadelphia-Atlantic City, New Jersey, corridor was the setting for one of North America's most intense railroad rivalries — back long before the term "corridor" was applied to railroad routes. The two railroads involved were the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the Reading Company (RDG) — specifically PRR's West Jersey & Seashore Railroad (WJ&S) and RDG's Atlantic City Railroad (AC).[1][2]

West Jersey & Seashore Railroad[edit]

The WJ&S had been formed in 1896 by the consolidation of several PRR properties in New Jersey, among them the Camden & Atlantic, which had a direct route from Camden to Atlantic City via Haddonfield and Winslow Junction; the West Jersey Railroad (Camden-Cape May through Newfield and Millville plus several branches to towns west of that line); and the West Jersey & Atlantic, which ran from Newfield to Atlantic City. In 1906 the WJ&S electrified the more southerly of its routes to Atlantic City (the Newfield route, which served a more heavily populated area and did more local business than the former Camden & Atlantic) with a 650-volt third rail system. The Newfield-Atlantic City electrification as dismantled in 1931, but Camden-Millville, New Jersey electric trains lasted until 1949. The railroad's Camden-Philadelphia ferries were discontinued in 1952.[1][3]

Atlantic City Railroad[edit]

The AC had been built as a narrow gauge line from Camden to Atlantic City via Haddon Heights and Winslow Junction, parallel to the Camden & Atlantic and no more than a few miles from it — indeed, within sight much of the way. The narrow gauge line went bankrupt and was acquired in 1883 by the RDG, which standard-gauged and double-tracked it. By the mid-1890s, the RDG's subsidiary had reached Cape May, duplicating the WJ&S route.[1][4]

Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines[edit]

In the 1920s it was clear to all that the competition and duplication were ruinous, particularly for traffic, both freight and passenger, that could easily be diverted to the highways. Moreover, the business was seasonal — two-thirds of the revenue came from summer trade traveling to and from the New Jersey shore.[1] On March 4, 1931, New Jersey's public utility regulators ordered the two companies consolidate operations.[5] The PRR bought two-thirds of RDG's AC stock for $1 (the AC was piling up deficits because of taxes, interest on debt, and equipment rentals), and assigned its lease of the WJ&S to the AC. The consolidation was effective June 25, 1933, and the AC was renamed Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL) in July 15 of that year. The initial rationalization of the lines resulted in the abandonment of the RDG line east of Winslow Junction and the PRR line route south of Woodbine. Most of the Newfield-Atlantic City line was abandoned in the early 1960s.[1]

PRSL's business, largely passenger, dwindled to a handful of Camden-Atlantic City and Camden-Wildwood/Ocean City/Cape May RDC runs, and they eventually terminated their runs at Lindenwold, end of the PATCO rapid transit line, instead of Camden.[6] On July 1, 1982, the last of those runs, by then operated by Conrail, were replaced by buses because of a federally imposed track speed limit of 15 mph.[1]

PRSL properties were conveyed to Conrail on April 1, 1976.[1]

Portions still operated[edit]

PRSL Atlantic City Station, circa 1930s



The 21 steam locomotives owned by the PRSL were from the PRR subsidiary WJ&S.[5] They all consisted of PRR classes. Before dieselization the PRSL was more apt to lease its motive power from either of its parent railroads as it completely lacked any heavy passenger locomotives (like 4-6-2 Pacifics). As its parent railroads began to replace steam with diesel locomotives, the PRSL became a haven for steam locomotives during their final years of operation.

Class B: 0-6-0[edit]

The 0-6-0 type was assigned class B, and was used in switcher service.

Class E: 4-4-2[edit]

The 4-4-2 "Atlantic" type was assigned class E. and was used in passenger service.

Class H: 2-8-0[edit]

The 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type was assigned class H, and was used in freight service.

Since the Consolidation Agreement had decreed that the PRR Mechanical Department would oversee equipment policy decisions, the PRSL did not gain ownership of any ACRR-RDG locomotives.[5]

Additional locomotives were leased as needed from PRSL's parent companies, PRR and RDG.[5]


Beginning in the 1950s the PRSL purchased a rather modest fleet of its own diesel locomotives to replace its steam engines for passenger and freight services. When additional power was needed for the busy summer tourist season engines were borrowed from the parent corporations (usually the PRR) as was true previously the with steam locomotives. To further supplement its small fleet the PRSL made increasing use of run through power on certain freight trains to large customers that did not require classification at the PRSL's Pavonia yard.

The first generation of PRSL diesel locomotives were all from the nearby Baldwin Locomotive Works, which was the vendor of choice for the parent PRR in both the steam and early diesel era.

The PRSL's diesel locomotives were almost all painted in what is commonly referred to as Brunswick Green which was so dark it seemed almost black. The paint scheme was borrowed from its PRR parent and with the company's official name for this color being DGLE (Dark Green Locomotive Enamel). The undercarriage of the locomotives were painted in black referred to as "True Black."

Baldwin Locomotive Works[edit]

Builder Model designation/PRR Class Notes Build month/year Total owned AAR wheel arrangement Prime mover Power output Road №
DRS-4-4-1500 / BS-15ms † ‡ 4/1950
608SC 1,500 hp (1,100 kW) 6000-6005
S-8 / BS-8 ฿ 5/1951 1 B-B 606 800 hp (600 kW) 6006
AS-16 / BS-16ms † ₡ ₣ 3/1953 10 B-B 608A 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) 6007-6016
S-12 / BS-12 ฿
606A 1,200 hp (890 kW) 6017-6021
AS-16 / BS-16m † ₤ 3/1953 2 B-B 608A 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) 6022-6023
AS-16 / BS-16ms † ♦ 11/1953 4 B-B 608A 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) 6024-6027
S-12 / BS-12m
606A 1,200 hp (890 kW) 6028-6033
  • (†) All were built with dual control stands
  • (‡) were rated for 65 mph
  • (฿) did not have mu installed, and rated for 60 mph
  • (₡) were rated for 70 mph
  • (₣) 6011-6016 were painted in the ivy green AKA "Green Hornets"
  • (₭) 6011-6016 & 6024-6027, they were rated for 80 mph
  • (₤) were built for freight service, and rated for 65 mph
  • (♦) were a cancelled order by RDG, № 551 to 554 were built in 1953 with dynamic brakes and conventional mu (as opposed to BLW's air-controlled design). In 1956 the PRSL acquired the units and had the dynamic brakes removed, BLW air-controlled mu and steam boilers installed
  • (♥) have M.U. installed, and rated for 60 mph

By the late 1960s, the original Baldwin diesels were beginning to suffer reliability problems, which was exacerbated by the fact that Baldwin had gone out of business some 10 years before and could no longer provide spare parts or maintenance. With the new powerplant being constructed at Beesley's Point ready to consume several 90 car coal trains per week the PRSL was in need of more powerful and more reliable locomotives and turned to industry-leader EMD to supply 10 new second generation diesel electric locomotives.

General Motors Electro-Motive Division (GM-EMD)[edit]

Builder Model designation/PRR Class Notes Build month/year Total owned AAR wheel arrangement Prime mover Power output Road №
GP38 / EF-20A 12/1967 5 B-B EMD 16-645E 2,000 hp
(1.5 MW)
GP38 / EF-20A 3/1969 5 B-B EMD 16-645E 2,000 hp
(1.5 MW)
  • (♣) built with dual control stands, which required the front of the cab to be built out an extra foot to allow extra room in the cab.


Gas-electric car (Doodlebug)[edit]

Road Number PRR Class Builder Builder Model Built month/year Power output Note
400 OEW250A Brill 250A 9/1926 250
401 OEG350B Pullman/Brill 350B 4/1929 350 2x175
  • (†) Ex-PRR № 4635 acquired May 7, 1935; retired May 6, 1952; scrapped
  • (‡) Ex-PRR № 4654 acquired May 7, 1935; retired May 6, 1952; sold to F.C. de Tunas Railway, Cuba


Model Note Built month/year Total owned Road Numbers
RDC-1 # 9/1950 - 6/1951 12 M-402 - M-413
  • (#) M-404 and M-412; destroyed in Camden shop fire on February 16, 1958.

PRSL inherited the following from the WJ&S:[2][5]

  • 71 PRR-Type P-70 passenger cars №'s 9865-9936 (steel, 44 seats)
  • 21 PRR-Type PB-70 passenger-combines Cars №'s 9938-9958 (steel, 40 seats) 9959-9962 (steel, 40 seats)
  • 17 various PRR-Type mail and baggage cars №'s 25 (steel underfame), 6403 (steel), 6428-6438 (steel), 9963-9966 (steel)

Additional passenger cars were leased as needed from PRSL's parent companies, PRR and RDG, and sometimes from the Central Railroad of New Jersey (CNJ).[5]

The PRSL did not own any of the P70s that carried its name. They were leased from the WJ&S. The passenger cars of the PRSL were painted Tuscan Red. This is a brick-colored shade of red.


Class Note Built month/year Total owned Road Numbers
ND † ♥ ?? 21 203 - 224
N-5 † ‡ ♠ ♣ 3/17 - 11/29 22 200 - 202, 225-242
N-11E ‡ ♦ 9/69 3 250 - 252
  • (†) PRR Class, built by PRR
  • (‡) Penn Central Class
  • (♥) Inherited from the WJ&S, all retired in 1950.
  • (♠) №'s 200-202 inherited from the WJ&S. № 200 built 3/17 to Conrail, № 201 built 8/17 retired 9/9/69, № 202 built 4/19, retired 9/9/69.
  • (♣) №'s 225-242 rebuilt by the PRR and sold to PRSL in 1950. № 232 retired 9/9/1969, № 237 retired 8/12/1972, №'s 241-242 retired 1/20/1973, rest to Conrail.
  • (♦) Built new by the Penn Central's Hollidaysburg shops; all went to Conrail.

Successor railroads[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Drury, George H. (1994). The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Waukesha, Wisconsin: Kalmbach Publishing. pp. 260–262. ISBN 0-89024-072-8. 
  2. ^ a b Kramer, Frederick L. (1980). Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines: an illustrated history of South Jersey's jointly-owned railroad. Ambler, Pennsylvania: Crusader Press. ISBN 0-937156-02-7. 
  3. ^ The Reading Seashore Lines: a pictorial documentary of the Atlantic City Railroad. Palmyra, New Jersey: West Jersey Chapter, National Railway Historical Society. 2007. p. 168. LCCN 2005936161. 
  4. ^ Atlantic City Railroad: The Royal Route To The Sea. Palmyra, New Jersey: West Jersey Chapter, National Railway Historical Society. 1980. p. 172. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Gladulich, Richard M. (1986). By Rail to the Boardwalk. Glendale, California: Trans Anglo Books. ISBN 0-87046-076-5. 
  6. ^ Stroup, John P. (1996). Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines In Color. Edison, New Jersey: Morning Sun Books, Inc. ISBN 1-878887-57-2. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Trans-Anglo Books By Rail to the Boardwalk (1986) Richard M. Gladulich ISBN 0-87046-076-5
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS West Jersey Rails (1983) NRHS
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS West Jersey Rails II (1985) NRHS
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS West Jersey Rails III (2002) NRHS
  • Crusader Press Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (1980) ISBN 0-937156-02-7
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS The Reading Seashore Lines (2007) LIbrary of Congress Control Number 2005936161
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS Atlantic City Railroad (1980) Library of Congress Control Number 77-79997
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS The Philadelphia Marlton and Medford Railroad Co. 1881 - 1931 (1973)
  • West Jersey Chapter-NRHS The Trains to America's Playground (1988) Morning Sun Books Inc.
  • Morning Sun Books Inc Pennsylvania-Reading Seashores Lines In Color (1996) ISBN 978-1-878887-57-3
  • Morning Sun Books Inc Pennsylvania-Reading Seashores Lines In Color II (2009) . ISBN 978-1-58248-258-3
  • Robert Stanton The Railroads of Camden New Jersey (2006)
  • Robert Stanton Trolley Days in Camden New Jersey (2004)

External links[edit]