A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

History: Passenger Train Service Ends on Freehold-Matawan Branch, 1953

Camel-Back Train Replaced By Bus 
Freehold-Matawan Commuters Rode Old 757 Last Time Saturday

Camelback Steam Engine c 1920, CNJ (Wikimedia)
The whistle of old 757 sounded sad and mournful Saturday [25 April 1953] as the veteran Central Railroad of New Jersey camel-back locomotive left the Freehold station at 7:12 a.m. with its string of its four coaches on its last trip to Matawan.

Somehow it sensed that its traveling days on the daily round trip run between Freehold' and Matawan were over. For passenger railroading on this branch line is another victim to the ever-increasing automobile and bus. The Freehold-Matawan run was the last Shore run for the old camel-back steam engines.

From now on the railroad will run a bus to take its commuters to the main Shore line at Matawan. Whether the passengers will miss the romance of riding the old train might be open to question. But for the veteran crew there can be no doubt. For them, it is the end of an era in which they played a prominent part.

Recalls Early Days

Conductor Edward R Jones, Barnegat, a 30 year veteran of the run, recalls back in 1911, when the railroad ran seven round trips daily between the two towns, with six coaches to each train. The latest tally of passengers showed an average of 30 a day on week-days, and from five to eight on Saturdays.

With him on the last trip were Engineer Edward Irons, Red Bank; Fireman Harold Tillon. Barnegat; Brakeman Oliver Klrkpatrick, Lakehurst, and Flagman George Egan, Keyport. They will soon be seen on other runs, railroad officials said.

Banned for Safety Reasons

The doom of old 757, along with others of its type was forecast back as far as 1925, when the camel-back type of engine was banned for safety reasons. The engineer could not see the left side of the roadway, and the fireman was not in the cab with the engineer to take over in an emergency. Although the branch line has been abandoned for passenger service, the railroad will continue to run freight over the tracks. But the freight trains will be powered with diesel engines.

For the commuters, gasoline fumes will replace the smoke and cinders of old 757!

Source: The Matawan Journal, 30 April 1953, front page


  1. Good story.

    Very sad. :(

  2. I was born too late to see it as an active line.