Jersey Reflections: Greenwich Line

Posted:

By Vince Farinaccio


A Columnist for the Grapevine


The tracks from the Vineland Railway Company line may be buried, but you can still view the edges of some of the railroad ties by peering into the marshland on the side of the road.
Standing at the end of Caviar Lane in the westernmost reach of Greenwich, New Jersey, it’s possible to look across the bay at the Delaware shoreline. The paved road that leads to this point gives way to a short stretch of dirt that is then consumed by the marsh that surrounds this land. Beneath the section that approaches the water, aged railroad tracks lie buried, the remnant of Vineland’s short-lived rail line created by Charles K. Landis in the late 1860s.
According to Greenwich resident Charlie Andaloro, the rusted train tracks were still visible 10 years ago before the passage of time succeeded in obscuring them from view. Those tracks, which connected with another line to New York, ended at the Delaware Bay where cargo from railway cars would be transferred onto boats and carried across the water to be loaded onto a southbound line. Landis saw an advantage in Vineland products making their way to New York as well as to Maryland and envisioned a line running from Atsion to the Delaware Bay that included stops in Vineland and Bridgeton.
The plan was underway in the winter of 1866 when, according to chronicler A. G. Warner in Sketches, Incidents and History. Vineland and the Vinelanders, Landis filed with the state legislature “an application for a railroad to connect Vineland with the City of New York by way of the Raritan & Delaware Bay Railroad.” Early the following year, Landis witnessed in Trenton the approval of the bill for the Vineland Railway Company.
At the time, the only rail route to New York from South Jersey consisted of the Camden and Atlantic Railroad, which used another branch of the same system in order to reach Atsion, where a transfer to the Raritan & Delaware Railroad would provide access to Sandy Hook and a boat to Manhattan.
The organizational meeting of the Vineland Railway Company was held July 27, 1867 and, after quickly overcoming a setback, surveys were undertaken from Vineland to the Delaware Bay and completed by December 28, 1867. Surveys from Atsion to Vineland concluded shortly afterward.
However, according to Don Wentzel’s South Jersey Magazine article “Vineland’s Second Railroad,” financial problems delayed the laying of the tracks. It wasn’t until July 1871 that the rail line spanned the area from Atsion to Vineland. Soon after, the tracks extended into Bridgeton, but it would take until 1872 before they finally reached the Delaware Bay. The following year, the Vineland Railway Company, according to Wentzel, “failed to meet expenses and was sold to Jay Gould for $10,000 on July 2, 1873 when it was consolidated with the New Jersey Southern.”
The rail line merged with the Central Railroad of New Jersey in 1917 but was discontinued by 1929 and many of the tracks were removed in the Bridgeton area. Over the remainder of the 20th century, the rest have become obscured like those in Greenwich.
Today, the end of Caviar Lane, which Andaloro says earned its name when Russian fishermen trawled the sturgeon-laden waters off the Greenwich coast, is desolate. A prom invitation spray-painted at the end of the paved portion is the only sign of recent visitors. Off in the distance, the Salem nuclear reactor billows a cloud of smoke, a nonchalant nod to modernity. In the opposite direction, the Ship John Shoal Lighthouse projects from the surface of the water, the only reminder here of just how essential waterways were before the advent of the railroad.
The tracks from the Vineland Railway Company line may be buried, but a visitor can still view the edges of some of the railroad ties by peering into the marshland on the side of the road. Already largely buried, they will undoubtedly disappear altogether sometime this century.
Greenwich, the manor town known for its tea burning and Revolutionary spirit, has provided artifacts dating back to when the Lenni-Lenape inhabited the entire region, visiting fishermen plied their trade in coastal waters and British troops fought to maintain a hold on the colonies. But for Vineland, it’s possible that the most noteworthy relic in this location might be the last remnant of one of its earliest and boldest enterprises.