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The Camden & Amboy Railroad

The Camden & Amboy railroad was one of the first charters granted for a Railroad by the New Jersey State Legislature. This historic event occurred on February 4th, 1830.

New Jersey of the 1800s was not well know for its open minded politics. Corruption ran unchecked in many cases, and a good opportunity for the state and the people who lived in it was not enough to allow any enterprise to proceed. At the time of this venture, the Canal owners still held a substantial amount of clout with the State government. To overcome this obstacle, the C&A had to make it worth the state's while. This came in the form of a stipend of 10 cents for every passenger carried and 15 cents for every ton of freight. In addition, the state would not issue any charters for competing railroads over the same route. If they did, they would lose this potentially lucrative income.

At the same time, the C&A was charter, a similar charter was granted to the Delaware & Raritan canal. The enthusiasm for the two ventures pretty much mirrored their fates. The C&A sold its stock in a day. The Delaware & Raritan took almost a full year to sell its full issue.

Because of the agreement of the charter, and the cash flow it came to represent, the C&A had a monopoly on railroading in New Jersey. A few years later, it became illegal to build a railroad between New York and Philadelphia without the approval of the New Jersey State legislature.

With the charter granted, the technical details needed to be worked out. First, came the route. A route roughly from New York to Philadelphia had already be chosen. The exact route would be from South Amboy to Bordentown.

The next detail was the rails. As hard as it is to understand in this day and age, the United States of the early 19th century did not have much in the way of manufacturing. The steel mills of the day could not turn out iron rails and steam engines. To meet both needs the founder, Stevens, took a trip to England. Across the pond, he was able to secure a mill to manufacture his specially designed rails. He then ordered the C&As first engine, The John Bull, and returned to the United States.

Toward the end of 1832, the C&A started its passenger business. Freight service started the following year. Late in the year of 1833 the companie's newly modified steam engine, John Bull, started operating regularly in revenue service and some horses were put out to pasture. In 1834, the John Bull got company in the form of the first engine built for the railroad in Hoboken. This new engine was simply names The Monster.

This same year, the C&A finally validated its name. In 1834, the railroad had reached Camden. The next major construction activity was a response to the Philadelphia and Trenton Railroad's purchase of land between Trenton and New Brunswick. The C&A quickly built rails from Bordentown to Trenton in 1837. Construction to New Brunswick with a spur to Princeton University began at this point. A junction was built with the New Jersey Railroad at New Brunswick. This connection, built in 1839, allowed travelers to go from Philadelphia to Jersey City. In addition the route chosen 150 years earlier, now forms the backbone of the best stretch of railroad in the United States, the Northeast corridor, currently operated by Amtrak.

The C&A continued to be a gold mine for the State of New Jersey and its stockholders. This attracted the interest of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The PRR wanted a route to the market of New York city. The C&A offered this opportunity. In 1871, the C&A ceased to be a truly independent company. The PRR took out a 999 year lease on the C&A and all assets. This lease came to a premature end in 1976 when the Penn-Central went bankrupt.

Camden & Amboy Railroad 1830-1871

(c) 1999 - Phil Paone