Although NJ Transit Rail was founded at the beginning of 1983 and started operating at that time, the “official” celebration of its 40th anniversary was held in September and at the beginning of October, as reported elsewhere in this issue of the Railgram. Twenty-eight of the railroad’s original employees were honored at the agency’s Board meeting on September 14. The rest of the celebration took place 2-1⁄2 weeks later, on the weekend of September 30 and October 1.
The Saturday event was a commemorative train ride, named the 40th Anniversary Express and run in cooperation with the United Railway Historical Society (URHS). The trip ran on the North Jersey Coast Line with no rare mileage, except for the turnaround loop at the end of the line at Bay Head. The train’s consist was the main attraction. It was pulled by two ALP-46A motor units: #4636, wrapped in the historic Pennsylvania Railroad livery of Tuscan Red with gold stripes, and #4640. The latter featured a design with the original “disco stripe Retro Scheme” of orange, magenta, and blue chevrons that the agency used in its early days, along with a new design commemorating the anniversary.
The trip also recreated a ritual that took place in regular operation on the line until 1988: an engine change at South Amboy, where the electric motor units were removed and replaced with diesel locomotives to take the trains to the Shore. For the occasion, NJT used the last two F40PH-2CAT units on its roster: #4119 and #4120.
There were also 5 Comet-V cars that are used in regular service, along with 2 historic cars each from the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central, which merged to form Penn Central in 1968. It cost either $317 or $425 to ride in the historic cars, and the fare in the Comet cars was $90; compared to the “regular” round-trip base fare of $29.25. Despite the high fare for the trip, it sold out 8 minutes after online sales were first offered, according to NJT CEO Kevin S. Corbett.
On Sunday, those units, along with other historic equipment, were on display at Hoboken Terminal. Two GH40PH-2 units from 1968, which might have pulled trains south of South Amboy, were on view: #4109 in its original dark-blue Jersey Central livery with gold lettering and the railroad’s Statue of Liberty logo, and #4101 in the “Bluebird” paint scheme originated in the 1970s by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The other diesel locomotive on display was #3372, a U34CH “U-boat” built for the Erie- Lackawanna in 1971 and restored by the URHS. It is the only one of its class still in existence.
Numerous rail fans showed up for the occasion, some wearing Conrail-blue T-shirts. Along with ordinary riders and curiosity-seekers, including some families with young children, they walked on the platforms and photographed the historic units, and boarded some of the 1940s-vintage cars from the “Pennsy” and the “Central” that formed part of the previous day’s consist. The occasion gave them a chance to take a closer look at equipment that only a lucky or wealthy few could ride.
In a statement delivered at a meeting of the NJ Transit Board on October 11, Coalition Chairperson Sally Jane Gellert said: “The day certainly brought to life local rail history and provided additional motivation for protecting and expanding current passenger rail.”
For more-detailed coverage of the weekend events, including photos of the special train by Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono, see “NJT 40th Anniversary Express: South Amboy Power Swap Redux” posted on October 19