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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Tony Macrie to speak Feb. 1 at free HSH program

Courtesy Photo Cape May Seashore Lines owner Tony Macrie will speak for the Historical Society of Hammonton’s free speaker series event on Feb. 1.

The Historical Society of Hammonton (HSH) presents an exciting free-to-the-public Speaker Series event on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Canoe Club Senior Center, Hammonton Lake Park.

Tony Macrie, owner of the Seashore Lines R.R., will focus on the railroads that built Hammonton as we know it. His mother’s backyard on Washington St. was just a couple feet away from the Reading line, where the famous CNJ Blue Comet, called “The Seashore’s Finest Train,” with its unique low-pitched steamship whistle, would cross 12th Street in each direction twice a day. The beautiful Reading Station on West End Ave. is gone with concrete traces next to Mazza’s Antique Marketplace parking lot are silent reminders.

Macrie had trains in his blood early on, visiting the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (PRSL) yards in town where multiple steam engines would be idle all night, waiting for their morning assignments. Signs of these yards are still recognizable today, including the paved expanse behind the 12th St. Wawa, NJ Transit’s present parking lot, and the strip between N. Egg Harbor and Railroad Ave. He witnessed the 1950s arrival of the PRSL rail diesel cars (RDC’s) that changed the face of rail service. His Tuckahoe-based Seashore Lines owns all nine surviving PRSL RDC units, and many other historic railroad treasures.

This month’s presentation will begin with the Camden and Atlantic Railroad, the rail line that transformed Hammonton in the 1850s, literally moving the “center of town” once again, this time from the present super Wawa site on White Horse Pike, then called Main Road. The railroad brought hundreds of thousands of travelers to enjoy the new resorts of Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore. For Hammonton, it opened up Philadelphia, New York, the northeast and beyond to the region’s agricultural and manufactured goods. Commuting became possible too.

Two parallel lines would soon follow, each competing for the fastest service, with common speeds of 90 mph. At peak times, more than 30 passenger trains a day would pass through town, plus multiple extras and freight trains. The two lines were merged in 1933 for safety and economic reasons. Previously, as more automobiles plied the byways, crossing these high-speed lines, both double-tracked, was very dangerous, and crossings expensive to man. America’s new automotive freedom began the railroads’ struggle to attract passengers that continues to this day. The streets, lands, buildings and forests around Hammonton uncover so much about this incredible period of history that built our “world” as we know it.

This promises to be one of the most entertaining speaker events of the year. His presentation will follow the monthly HSH membership meeting that starts at 6 p.m., open to anyone interested in joining the organization.

The Historical Society of Hammonton preserves and celebrates the rich multi-cultural social, economic and political heritage of our town and its people. Their mission is to increase awareness of Hammonton’s rich history, and to establish public access to that history by collecting, conserving, interpreting and promoting it to the widest possible audience. The historic 1887 (original Hammonton Town Hall, then library and then kindergarten) museum, a treasure itself, is located behind Hammonton Veterans Memorial Park, and open to the public Tuesdays 10 a.m. to noon, and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

New members and volunteers are always welcome, even if you’re new to Hammonton. What better and fun way to learn and appreciate our great town. They uncover exciting new Hammonton history every week. Membership is just $20/person, $30/family annually. The museum sells many books highlighting local history, many long out-of-print. All proceeds benefit HSH.

Historic or interesting Hammonton items are always welcome. Bring them in. Check out the HSH’s ever-changing displays and attend their informative free-to-the-public Speaker Series events. More than 40 past presentations are available on YouTube. Simply key “historicalhammonton” then click on the round blue & white HSH icon, then hit “Videos.” Check out the website too at

Upcoming 2024 free-to-the-Public Speaker Series Events include March 7: “Rascals in the Pines” – John Hebble, Batsto Historian, 7 p.m.


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