NJ Transit Rail Operations Celebrates 40 Years of Service

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
ALP46A 4636 wears a Pennsylvania Railroad-inspired scheme, while GP40PH-2 4109 appears reminiscent of its as-delivered Central Railroad of New Jersey paint scheme.

ALP46A 4636 wears a Pennsylvania Railroad-inspired scheme, while GP40PH-2 4109 appears reminiscent of its as-delivered Central Railroad of New Jersey paint scheme.

January 1, 2023, marked the 40th anniversary of NJ Transit assuming control and management of the operations of New Jersey’s commuter rail network, previously operated by Conrail under contract to NJ Transit and the State of New Jersey, the agency announced Jan. 11.

Now, four decades later, NJ Transit Rail Operations is commemorating its history with numerous events throughout the year, including painting four of its locomotives in “Heritage” paint schemes to “recognize the predecessor railroads and employees that make up our system,” the agency said.

Shortly after midnight on January 1, 1983, the first NJ Transit trains departed Hoboken and Penn Station New York with crews who were now officially NJ Transit employees. Over the past 40 years, NJ Transit says it has “steadily improved New Jersey’s rail network” by investing in modernized equipment, rebuilding the infrastructure and right-of-way, increasing service to Midtown Manhattan, introducing one-seat rides to Penn Station New York on three rail lines, increasing overall capacity, extending electrification on two busy rail corridors, and much more. “We look forward to achieving another 40 years of progress as we continue to enhance the travel experience for all NJ Transit rail customers,” the agency said.

“Our congratulations and thanks go out to the entire NJ Transit Rail Operations team, past and present, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary,” said NJ Transit President & CEO Kevin S. Corbett. “With a proud legacy behind us, an extraordinary team now in place, major rail infrastructure projects like the Portal North Bridge Replacement Project currently underway, and 138 new multi-level rail cars beginning to arrive in 2024, the future looks very bright for this essential division of NJ Transit–and more importantly, for the millions of customers who depend on it every year.”

History of NJ Transit

As NJ Transit Rail Operations celebrates its 40th anniversary as an operating railroad, the agency is says it is “recognizing the evolution that has taken place from its challenging beginnings to the delivery of an efficient transportation system that serves New Jersey and the surrounding region four decades later.”

On January 1, 1983, a dedicated group of employees—combined with support from the state and federal governments—began transforming an aging and disjointed passenger railroad system into “one of the premier passenger railroads of North America.” A combination of needed investments, smart planning and a shift in railroad culture from “moving equipment” to “serving customers” led to delivery of a safer and more convenient, reliable and cost-effective service.

Older railcars and locomotives were refurbished or replaced with ADA-accessible equipment. New high-level platforms were built for customers with disabilities and faster boarding and exiting of trains. Signals and overhead-wire catenary systems were modernized. Continuous welded rail was installed for a smoother, faster ride.

As on-time performance and service quality rose so did ridership, paving the way for more service expansion, including the launch of Atlantic City Rail Line service, the launch of MidTOWN DIRECT service, the opening of the Newark Liberty International Airport Station and the opening of the Frank R. Lautenberg Station at Secaucus Junction that today allows customers access to 11 of NJ Transit’s 12 rail lines.

NJ Transit also centralized its maintenance and train dispatching functions in Kearny with the opening of the Meadows Maintenance Complex in 1987 and the Rail Operations Center in 2003. These facilities created “a more modernized, reliable and efficient method of maintaining and operating trains,” the agency said.

While expanding the capacity of the rail system, NJ Transit concurrently added tens-of-thousands of new parking spaces, including the addition of major park & ride facilities at Metropark, Ramsey Route 17, Montclair State University, Bay Street, Rahway, Hamilton, Trenton and Morristown stations.

In December 2006, NJ Transit combined its focus on capacity expansion with its ongoing efforts to improve the customer experience by debuting the system’s first multilevel rail car, offering approximately 20% more seating capacity than most single-level cars, enabling the agency to accommodate more customers using the existing infrastructure. At every phase, customers participated in the design of the new rail cars, making the multilevel rail cars the first of NJ Transit’s fleet to be designed for customers by customers. A Customer Design Team, composed of 14 NJ Transit commuters from across the system, worked with the manufacturer to provide feedback on interior design, onboard amenities, seat design, and color and fabric selection.

In December 2020, NJ Transit had its Positive Train Control (PTC) system certified by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which ushered in a new era of safety on the railroad. PTC serves as an enhancement to the railroad’s already comprehensive safety mechanisms to “further reduce the possibility of train collisions, excessive speed or unauthorized train movements by utilizing high-tech hardware and software installed throughout the state.”

Future of NJ TRANSIT rail

NJ Transit says it continues to look to the future with new equipment, infrastructure and enhanced customer experience. New bridges, redesigned stations, and modern cars and locomotives continue leveraging the latest technology to move the railroad forward.


In October 2021, NJ Transit’s Board of Directors approved the largest single construction contract in the organization’s 40 years, with the awarding of a $1.5 billion contract for a new Portal North Bridge. 

The new bridge will be a modern two-track, high-level, fixed-span bridge that will improve service and capacity along this section of the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The new bridge will rise 50 feet over the Hackensack River and will allow marine traffic to pass underneath without interrupting rail traffic. The project will eliminate the existing 112-year-old swing bridge, which has been “the enduring source of major service disruptions” for NJ Transit and Amtrak customers traveling on the NEC.

The Portal North Bridge project, NJ Transit says, is an important initial element of the broader Gateway Program, which will eventually double rail capacity between Newark and New York.

In addition, construction is under way on a new Raritan River Bridge, which carries the North Jersey Coast Line between Perth Amboy and South Amboy. This megaproject will replace a bridge dating back to 1908 with a resilient, modern structure suitable for the next 100 years.


Modernizing stations is a key aspect of improving the customer experience for the future, the agency said.

NJ Transit is in the process of fully reimagining two of its major rail hubs, Newark Penn Station and Hoboken Terminal. The Murphy Administration has committed $191 million to transform Newark Penn Station and $176 million for improvements around Hoboken Terminal. Construction at Hoboken has also included filling in the unused Long Slip canal to prepare for future rail expansion with six new tracks and high-level platforms in addition to providing storm resiliency.

Major reconstruction work is under way at Elizabeth, Lyndhurst and Perth Amboy stations with more stations, including Roselle Park and Bloomfield, in the pipeline.  In all, NJ Transit has 20 rail stations in design or active development for future work.

“There hasn’t been this much active station work on the rail system at one time since the 1800’s,” the agency said.


In the coming years, NJ Transit says it will “continue to write its history” when its first ever self-propelled multilevel rail cars are put into service. Included in an order for 138 new multilevel cars are Electric Multiple Units (EMUs), which do not require a locomotive to push or pull them. They will allow for the retirement of the 40-plus year-old single level Arrow fleet and bring with them “increased mechanical reliability, additional capacity and new onboard customer amenities, such as USB power ports.”

The railroad is also actively receiving additional dual power ALP45 locomotives.  In all, 25 of these new locomotives will join the fleet and “continue to enhance the versatility of the railroad operations with their ability to operate as diesel or electric while also providing improved reliability and reduced emissions.”

NJ Transit Rail Operations Timeline

1983–NJ Transit Rail Operations replaces Conrail as the operator of commuter rail service throughout New Jersey

1983/1984–New Comet II and Comet IIA railcars arrive and Overhaul of Arrow II railcars

1984–Modernized electrification system debuts on the Morris & Essex Lines; 50+ year-old coaches replaced by modern Arrow railcars

1986-1988–Overhaul of Comet I railcars and conversion of Arrow I cars to Comet IB cars

1987–Meadows Maintenance Complex opens

1988–North Jersey Coast Line electrification extended from Matawan to Long Branch

1989–Atlantic City Rail Line (ACRL) opens between Lindenwold to Atlantic City

1989-1995–Arrow III railcars rebuilt

1990–New ALP-44-0 electric locomotives arrive

1990/1991–New Comet III railcars arrive

1993–GP40PH-2-A locomotives rebuilt

1993–Atlantic City Line service extended to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station

1993-1997–GP40PH-2-B locomotives rebuilt

1994–Cherry Hill Station opens

1994–Morristown Line/Boonton Line extended to Hackettstown

1996–MidTOWN DIRECT debuts (M&E one-seat ride to NY) utilizing further deliveries of ALP-44 locomotives and new Comet IV railcars

1999–Hamilton Station opens

1999–Rollout of new system map with matching color coded rail line timetables issued

2001–Newark Liberty International Airport Station opens

2001/2002–New ALP-46 electric locomotives arrive

2001-2004–Comet II railcars rebuilt

2002–7th Avenue Concourse opens at Penn Station New York

2002–Montclair Branch and Boonton Line consolidated, renamed the Montclair-Boonton Line and new Great Notch Yard opens, allowing debut of MidTOWN DIRECT-Montclair

2002-2004–New Comet V railcars arrive

2003–Frank R. Lautenberg Station at Secaucus Junction opens ( linking 11 of 12 NJ Transit rail lines)

2003–High-density signal system completed on eastern segment of NEC, increasing train capacity to/from NY

2003–Rail Operations Center opens in Kearny

2003–Union Station opens

2004–Ramsey Route 17 Station opens

2004–Montclair State University Station opens

2004–Morrisville Yard opens

2005–New PL-42 diesel locomotives arrive

2006–Multilevel railcars, designed with the help of customers, begin arriving

2007–Expanded service on the Pascack Valley Line

2008–Wayne/Route 23 Transit Center opens

2008–Mount Arlington Station opens

2009–Penn Station New York 31st Street entrance opens

2009–Meadowlands Station opens

2009–Trenton Transit Center renovated

2011-2013–New ALP-45 dual-mode locomotives arrive

2013–Pennsauken Transit Center opens

2016–Wesmont Station opens

2018–Elevator modernization program initiated to upgrade electrical and operating components of elevators systemwide

2019–Heritage fleet of coaches and locomotives decorated to honor NJ Transit’s predecessor rail companies

2020–PTC system successfully made operational and certified by the FRA; NJ Transit breaks ground on the Raritan River Bridge Replacement Project

2021–Portal North Bridge $1.5 billion construction contract approved and awarded

2021–Locomotives decorated in tribute to armed services unveiled as NJ TRANSIT provides service to the Army-Navy game at the Meadowlands

2022–Locomotive decorated in “Ride with Pride” scheme debuts, along with a heritage tribute scheme from the NJ Department of Transportation on GP40PH-2 41O1.

2022– NJ Transit breaks ground on the construction of the Portal North Bridge


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