Island Heights

Historical   Site





   The Railroad at Island Heights

    The Island Heights run was actually just a spur of the Pennsylvania main line from Camden to Bay Head (where it connected with the New York and Long Branch Railroad).  The spur branched off at Pine Beach and on return continued across the Barnegat Bay to Island Beach and Bay Head.  The first passenger service on the main line to the ocean surf at Seaside was on July 12, 1881, before the Island Heights spur. The passengers were members of a church and YMCA delegation on  excursion from Mount Holly.  At the same time (from 1878) a Methodist group had formed a camp meeting ground in Island Heights, just across the river from the main line.  These people recognized the potential utilization of the rail service, pressed for, and received a spur to the south edge of Toms River.  From there Island Heights was served by a steam ferry,  the "Florence".  In 1884, after a lengthy battle over navigation rights, a trestle was built with a 40 foot drawbridge across the Toms River.  A passenger station was secured from Pemberton and placed on pilings at the Island Heights southern shore. 

    This rail line also served the campgrounds of John Wanamaker who established, in 1900, a summer camp at Island Heights for the young employees of his Philadelphia store.  This served hundreds of young men and women who arrived at the Island Heights station and marched across town to the camp grounds.  The objective of the camp was to provide these young store workers with vacation fun on the Toms River and also to instill in them a sense of discipline and respect for others in the military style atmosphere of the camp.  Wanamaker operate the camp until 1941, ten years following the discontinuance of the rail service.  In the interim the cadets derailed at Toms River and were bused to the campgrounds.

    Members of the "Girls Friendly Society" also used the rail service to reach their retreat at "the Springs" in Island Heights during its operation.  This was a summer school and camp operated by the Episcopal Church of New Jersey for young girls and women.  The cadets from Girard College, Philadelphia, also utilized the Island Heights spur and from there marched to their camp on Money Island.  Add to these summer activities the fact that most Island Heights homes at the time were only summer residences, you can see that this rail service was primarily a summer service.  In the early twenties over one hundred trains were scheduled each week in the summer.  During the winter months this diminished to five. 

    The trestle remained, with draw bridge opened for boating traffic, until 1934 when it was removed. 

Excerpted from an article in the Society Scroll, Dec. '93/'94 by Pauline Miller, reprinted with her permission.