The History of The Blue Comet

We all have and had our heroes. For me, it was my grandfather. A world war two veteran who saw action in France, Holland and Germany. When he came back, he brought back a little German trainset. My father played with it and both he and my grandfather had their own mancave with a real small world with little human beings and little trains. When I first laid my eyes on my grandfathers and fathers trainset I immediately wondered why on earth they painted that little trainset blue?

“Listen kid” my grandfather said like he used to say with a deep voice. Between 1929, before there was even a second war coming to the world people could travel fast from Jersey City to Atlantic city within three hours all thanks to a comet, a blue comet.

Why was it blue I asked, actually it was not blue blue. It was ultramarine and Packard blue kid. It resembled the sea. The cream colors represented the sand of the shore. The tickets, the dining car chairs, the other carriages all was blue. Even the porters were dressed in blue. To even add more to the mistery of the train, each cart was named after a comet.

In 1929 thousands of spectators, rail fans and even local residents stood along the line to see this new blue wonder. The word was spread through a clever ad campaign via radio and newspaper which off course spurred major public interest. Besides transportation, the blue comet had another goal. It was to provide coach passengers with deluxe equipment, accommodations and service at a regular coach fare. It was billed as the Seashore’s Finest Train and dubbed as the Symphony in Blue.

The Blue Comet was initially a true success but like all other economic ventures in the 30’s, it fell victim to the Great Depression. Also another major player in the transport sector those days had two-thirds of the trackage in their portfolio and produced heavy competition towards the Blue Comet.

The Train Itself

Three brand-new G3 Pacific locomotives were assigned to the train. They also refurbished 16 cars for service, inside and out. I have presented that stats so nicely put on the Blue Comet wikipedia page.

Locomotive

  • Builder: Baldwin Locomotive Works
  • Year: 1928
  • Tractive Force: 46,841 lbs.
  • Weight on Drivers: 197,660 lbs.
  • Total Weight: 326,470 lbs.
  • Factor of Adhesion: 4.21
  • Pilot Truck:
  • Commonwealth cast steel w/ pedestals cast integral with frame
  • Weight on Front Truck: 65,850 lbs.
  • Front Elevation Erection Drawing of Baldwin G-3s Heavy Pacific 4-6-2 locomotive
  • Front Truck: 36″
  • Frames: Vanadium Cast Steel
  • Driving Wheel Base: 13′-10′
  • Driver Diameter: 79″
  • Trailing Truck:
  • Commonwealth Delta type
  • Weight on Trailing Truck: 62,960 lbs.
  • Wheel Diameter: 55″

Drive train

  • Cylinders: 26″x 28″
  • Valve Gear: Walschaerts
  • Piston Valves: 13″
  • Pistons: 5″ diameter. Heat treated Steel Casting.
  • Reverse: Alco Power Reversing Gear
  • Crossheads: Underhung type with forged steel box guides.
  • Side Rods: Floating Bushings, grease cups forged solid & integral
  • Counterbalancing: 55% of the reciprocating weight

Suspension

  • Chrome Silicon Manganese driving & truck springs.

Firebox

  • Firebox Dimensions: 126-1/8″x 97-1/4″
  • Stoker: Type B

Boiler

  • Steam Pressure: 230 lbs.
  • Boiler Diameter 1st Ring: 78″
  • Number of 2″ Flues: 251
  • Number of 5-3/8″ Flues: 36
  • Length of Flues/Tubes: 228″
  • Grate Area: 84.3 SF
  • Superheater: Type “A” w/36 heating elements
  • Total heating surfaces: 4,647 SF
  • Elesco Feedwater Heater mounted on front of smoke box above the headlamp.

Lubrication system

  • Nathan Eight Feed mechanical lubricator w/ 20 pint capacity.

Throttle

  • Chambers backhead throttle valve

Drifting valves

  • Automatic

Automatic train control

  • Union Switch & Signal coded continuous
  • (2) Westinghouse Simplex Air Compressors mounted on right side of boiler.

Tender

  • Commonwealth one-piece cast steel water bottom underframe.
  • Tender Water Capacity: 10,000 Gallons
  • Tender Fuel Capacity: 15 Tons bituminous coal
  • Weight of Tender: 217,000 lbs.
  • Total Engine & Tender: 543,470 lbs.
  • Wheel Base Engine & Tender: 72′-2″
  • Overall Height to top of Cab: 15′-0-7/8″

Rolling stock

  • Diner: Giacobini 81
  • Combines: Halley 300, Encke 302
  • Baggage cars: Olbers 391, Barnard 392
  • Coaches: Tuttle 1170, Holmes 1171, Westphal 1172, D’Arrest 1173, Faye 1174, Spitaler 1175, Winnecke 1176, Brorsen 1177
  • Observation cars: DeVico 1178, Biela 1179, Tempel 1169

Model versions

  • The Lionel Corporation produced a model in the 1930s. It is a desirable collectable however the set doesn’t bear any resemblance to the actual train.
  • Rivarossi produced a special HO-scale edition in 1979. The set was not prototypical of the actual train.
  • International Hobby Corporation reproduced the Rivarossi HO sets.
  • Overland Brass made an HO-scale.
  • Bethlehem Car Works makes an HO version.
  • MTH produced several versions of the train in O gauge.
  • Aristo Craft produced a G-scale set.
  • Lionel produced a second version in 1998 with a 4-6-4.
  • In 2001, Lionel produced another model with only a 1000 made.
  • 2012 brings another Lionel model
  • PIKO Model trains produced a G scale version in 2014