Travel along the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway long enough and you’ll notice them: bridges that seemingly span nothing.
On the Atlantic City Expressway, there’s one near milepost 13 in Hamilton Township, behind the Timber Glen condominium complex.
That bridge seems to serve little purpose other than to provide a 40-foot-tall graffiti canvas for youths. A meandering dirt road starts on Lombard Street by the housing complex, but after going under the highway it peters out about 100 yards later, in a tangle of mud, downed trees and apparent illegal dumping.
There are several more bridges on the Garden State Parkway that span a whole lot of nothing.
One is at about milepost 5.1 in Middle Township and another is at milepost 23.1 in Upper Township. Both provide access between quiet residential communities and the tidal marsh.
A third, at milepost 36.3 in Egg Harbor Township, is behind the Cardiff Center, and also sports an impressive coat of graffiti.
It’s all the stranger, considering that these cost money to build. The truth is that all of the mystery bridges are remnants of a time when there were a lot more trains and a lot fewer cars, according to detailed maps from the New Jersey Department of Transportation called straight-line diagrams.
On those maps, the Atlantic City Expressway travels over a railroad line belonging to the “Penn Reading R.R.” That was the train that used to deliver supplies and passengers to the nearby Atlantic City Race Course, a line that was apparently in operation when the expressway opened in 1964.
The last train ran on that line in October 1967, according to the local railfan website SJRail.com, and the rails were taken up in 1974. The dates are based on railroad management orders from the time and personal observation, said Mike DiMunno, the site’s manager. These days, all that’s left of that line is a stub that crosses Aloe Road in Galloway Township and dives into the woods behind the old Lenox China factory on Tilton Road.
Similarly, the DOT diagrams show the parkway bridges cross now-vanished tracks belonging to the “Penn Reading Seashore R.R.”
The bridge in Middle Township spanned the former rail link to Wildwood, while the one in Upper Township carried cars over one to Ocean City. While the parkway opened in 1954, the last passenger train in Wildwood was in December 1972, according to SJRail.com, and the final freight train ran in June 1974. The line was officially abandoned in February 1976 and the tracks pulled up in 1977.
The Ocean City line closed in October 1981 when the train bridge over Crook Horn Creek broke. NJ Transit officially abandoned it the next year.
Rails still lie beneath the Egg Harbor Township bridge, although they are thickly crusted with orange rust and buried beneath pine needles. These rails abruptly end at the Black Horse Pike, and the Atlantic County Bikeway uses the old railroad right of way on the other side of the highway.
While no trains pass under this bridge, trains still serve industrial customers east of the bridge several times a week.
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