Essay Writing Samples

APA History Paper on the Central Railroad

This sample history paper from Ultius explores the history of the Central Railroad in New Jersey. It traces its origins from the Civil War through World War II. This APA paper was written at a high school level to serve as a sample for history students.

The history of the Central Railroad

The Central Railroad of New Jersey (also known as the Jersey Central) was originally established in 1831 as the Elizabethtown and Somerville, before being consolidated as the Central Railroad in 1847, when the Elizabethtown route merged with the Somerville and Easton Railroad. Although this line went bankrupt in 1967, it remains significant as one of the first major railroads in the United States.

Central Railroad and the Civil War

During the 1850s, the Central Railroad expanded with a crossing over the Delaware River, and in 1864 (during the American Civil War) the line established a crossing over Newark Bay, which allowed passengers to then take a ferry into New York City. As related by the New York Times, thousands of commuters were thus moving daily across the river from New Jersey into the city. Today we often take it for granted that New York is a major commuter hub, but this was not possible until the construction of the necessary transportation infrastructure, and we might thus compare the Central Railroad with the Merritt Parkway which similarly established connections between Connecticut and New York.

Connecting New Jersey and New York

The original wooden Civil War era bridge was replaced in 1926 by a metal construction. This Newark Bay Bridge was demolished in the 1980s, but was once one of the iconic features of the New York skyline. Baugn provides an excellent photo from the Historic American Engineering Record, along with a map showing the bridge’s location just east of Jersey Gardens. Indeed, as the New York metroplex has steadily expanded into what some describe as a ‘megalopolis’, eastern New Jersey has increasingly become associated with ‘the city’, and the Central Railroad was instrumental in drawing these regions together. Unfortunately, like many bridges, the Newark Bridge also experienced its share of tragedy. Most notably, in 1958, a commuter train plunged off the bridge killing nearly sixty people, including the New York Yankee’s Snuffy Stirnweiss (Heininger).

During the early Twentieth Century, the Jersey Central was one of the nation’s leading rail lines, pioneering the first diesel electric locomotive. Later, in 1929, the line hosted the Blue Comet, which ran from Jersey City to Atlantic City, drastically reducing the transit time between Manhattan and the popular Atlantic City resort. In other words, the rail line was instrumental in the rise of Atlantic City as a popular tourist destination. As discussed by Rosenbaum, the iconic train could exceed a hundred miles per hour, and was a well-known staple of American life after World War I and during the Great Depression era.

Tragedy strikes the bridge

However, once again, railroads are often associated with tragedy, and in 1939 (merely days before the outbreak of the Second World War) the train crashed with dozens of injuries. Chef Joseph Coleman was crushed by a burning hot stove and later died of his injuries (Whiten). In many ways, the story of the Blue Comet is also the story of the railroads decline and replacement by automobiles. In 1929, the train had nearly seventy thousand passengers, but this declined to less than fifteen thousand per year by the time of the fatal crash (Corso). Another notable train was the Crusader, which ran from Jersey City to Philadelphia, beginning in 1937 (Smith 27). Unfortunately, passengers steadily declined, and by the 1980s the train only had a few hundred daily passengers (Pawson).

Related Blog Post: Read more about America in the WW2.


Although the Central Railroad is officially defunct, it effectively lives on. Following the bankruptcy, the rail line was acquired by the state of New Jersey, and continued operations as NJ Transit. These assets were then later merged into Conrail in 1976, which continued to operate along many of the same original lines until its breakup in 1999 (Withers 1). However, Conrail has itself been succeeded by a number of smaller railroads which continue to operate.


Baugn, J. Newark Bay Lift Bridge., 2009. Web. Retrieved from:

Corso, J. The Central Railroad of New Jersey. Jersey Central, 2001. Web. Retrieved from:

Heininger, C. Looking Back: 48 killed as train plunges off Newark Bay drawbridge., 2007. Web. Retrieved from: looking_back_48_killed_as_trai.html

New York Times. Opening of the Newark and New-York Railroads. New York Times, Jul 24 1869. Web. Retrieved from: 9D0DE2DC133AEF34BC4C51DFB1668382679FDE&legacy=true

Pawson, John. New Backing for Crusader Route. The Delaware Valley Rail Passenger. Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers, 1993. Web. Retrieved from:

Rosenbaum, J. The Seashore’s Finest Train: The Blue Comet. Piscataway: Railpace, 1983. Print.

Smith, Douglas. “Train of two countries”. Passenger Train Journal 19 (2), 1987: 22–27. Print.

Whiten, J. Today in History: Train Bound for Jersey City Crashes in the Pine Barrens. Jersey City Independent, 2011. Web. Retrieved from: 2011/08/today-in-history-train-bound-for-jersey-city-crashes-in-the-pine-barrens/

Withers, P. Conrail, The Final Years: 1992-1997. Halifax, PA: Withers Publishing, 1997. Print.

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