CAMDEN – Today “The Jersey Shore” means brazen abs and big hair. But nearly a century ago beachgoers not only dressed to the nines just to stroll the boardwalk, but they arrived in Atlantic City in the utmost style: via the Blue Comet.
A Rutgers–Camden documentary filmmaker explores a shining time in New Jersey history, 1929-1941, when a luxury train affordable to all riders brought passengers from Jersey City to Atlantic City in stunning cream and blue cars with “De Luxe: The Tale of the Blue Comet,” which will premiere for general audiences at Rutgers–Camden. The free screening will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, in the Gordon Theater, located on Third Street, between Cooper Street and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the Rutgers–Camden Campus.
Robert A. Emmons Jr., associate director of the Rutgers–Camden Honors College, where he teaches courses on film and new media, wrote, produced, and directed the film depicting the heyday of Central Railroad of New Jersey’s most glamorous train. New Jersey history is a passion for Emmons; his award-winning film “Goodwill: The Flight of Emilio Carranza,” one of nearly 40 films to his credit, summons the life of the Mexican pilot whose 1928 fatal crash in the Pinelands occurred eerily close to the Blue Comet’s one-time crash in 1939. Emmons calls it the Chatsworth triangle.
Remembering New Jersey’s role in history is important to the Barrington resident not just because of his affection for his beloved home state, but also how the train serves as a vehicle for telling impactful moments in the nation’s history.
“The Blue Comet gives us insight into this era of progress, ingenuity, and innovation. It was designed to create a luxury experience at coach fares, an attempt to democratize the travel experience, but it premieres during the start of the Depression and the emergence of affordable automobiles and new highway systems,” says Emmons.
Just as the Blue Comet came on the scene at an inopportune time, its departure as well was ill-fated.
“If the train could have run for just a year more it could have been around for World War II. Its route would have been instrumental in bringing troops to training grounds in Atlantic City and this was a time when our nation began to prosper,” adds the filmmaker.
Still, the Blue Comet is hardly forgotten. During the penultimate episode of “The Sopranos,” the character “Bobby” purchases a replica of the train and comments on its promise before he is killed in the store. Current Lionel models of the Blue Comet run upwards of $11,000 – this following, as well as the poignant scene, are examined in Emmons’ film.
Over the summer Emmons offered private screenings of the film to train enthusiasts across the state. After each show he met with numerous individuals extolling their unique connections to the Blue Comet. Bringing these memories into a public dialogue was what the filmmaker hoped to achieve. If he can’t physically save the rusting Blue Comet cars that remain in Buena Vista Township in Atlantic County, at least he could ring the bell for its proper place in New Jersey history.
“The Blue Comet represents a great nostalgia in New Jersey history. It’s something that should make us proud.”
For more information on the film or to register for the screening, visit http://robertemmons.com/Deluxe_RUC_Promo.htm.
Media Contact: Cathy K. Donovan