During the 1980’s gambling appeared to be bringing life back to Atlantic City and hopes to resume rail service were expressed by local politicians. In a significant turn of events an agreement was made with the State for Amtrak to rebuild the entire line from Frankford Junction to a new terminal that would eventually tie into the proposed convention center. On May 23rd, 1989 Amtrak’s inaugural departure left 30th Street station under the moniker of the Gambler’s Express, just a few months later, New Jersey Transit would commence Lindenwold to Atlantic City commuter operations. Amtrak would eventually run through service from the Philadelphia International Airport, Richmond, Washington, Springfield and New York but high fares and poor marketing would ultimately spell the demise of the short lived service which was withdrawn on April 1, 1995. This left NJT as the sole operator of commuter service between 30th Street Station and Atlantic City. Today NJT continues to offer service on the AC line but it remains unseen as to what the future holds for this operation. Potential seems high if politicians fought to increase train frequency and connect the line with the increasingly popular Atlantic City airport. Other proposals call for a return of service to Cape May County, but as of now much of this seems unlikely. Another revival in Southern New Jersey passenger rail service commenced in 2004, when light rail service commenced on the former Camden & Amboy between Camden and Trenton. The new operation; a design, build and operate program with Bombardier affords commuters access to NYC while improving connectivity with both the PATCO line in Camden and AC Line in Pennsauken.
Today freight operations are still based out of Pavonia Yard however Conrail as a railroad, survives only as terminal operation. The Shared Assets arrangement was part of the 1999 split up of Conrail, which much to the contrast of when it began operations in 1976, the company had become an attractive, highly profitable operation. As a concession to federal regulators to maintain a fair market to shippers, Norfolk Southern and CSX maintain Conrail operations in three key terminals; South Jersey, North Jersey and Detroit. Like the PRSL the two parents share a similar arrangement of terminal access and financial responsibility making South Jersey rail operations a unique and diverse operation. Through out the souther part of New Jersey, faint visual clues remain of what once was, wether it be wider than utilized right of ways, surviving stations or abandoned paths, but the heart of PRSL operations to Atlantic City and its later advances in freight continue to be a viable part of the area's economy and transportation infrastructure.
I'd like to acknowledge the generosity of William (Bill) Gindhart for providing the imagery for this article. Bill was a neighbor and friend of Robert L. Long is a long time railroad enthusiast and photographer. His imagery is commonly associated with the waning days of the PRSL service, putting a face to the decking years of a once great railroad empire in Southern New Jersey.