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Journey by rail! Highlands and Highland Beach connected by a pedestrian and rail bridge in the 1890s. An increase in transportation choices became the important catalyst for the development and growth of destinations on the New Jersey shore, none more than Highland Beach excursion resort. At first, travelers coming to Highland Beach for the day would land on the opposite side of the river in Highlands and walk across the quaint drawbridge between Highlands and Highland Beach on the peninsula. Will Sandlass eventually built a steamer dock at Highland Beach to make the trip even easier.

Chris Brenner’s words resonate in the documentary Destinations Past: Highland Beach: “The railroad was actively involved in the construction of a railway bridge and train station that satiated transportation needs of attendees from distant locations. On February 1, 1892, the Highland Beach Association sold to the Navesink Railroad Company a tract of land between Lots 33 and 37 for $1.00. A new bridge followed allowing the pedestrian and horse and carriage portion to remain with the construction of a new drawbridge.”

The resort acquired a legendary reputation when the number of visitors arriving from the cities increased. Tourism on the Jersey Shore awakened when other resorts arose and gained acclaim throughout the area. The Oracle newsletter at the resort reported twenty-three yachts from the New York Association were received at the Highland Beach boathouse. The year 1892 brought significant change. The Central Railroad of New Jersey’s burgeoning growth gave rise to an idea. It added more rail lines crossing Monmouth County to increase capacity and built an enormous pier at Atlantic Highlands within three miles of the resort. This new construction allowed large steamboats from Manhattan to connect with the new rail extension or a variety of smaller steam launches. The connecting rail line ran from the new pier in Atlantic Highlands to the newly finished criss-cross bridge at Highlands and Highland Beach. This new bridge also facilitated train, wagon and pedestrian traffic across the Shrewsbury. The old Highland Beach Station was moved south along the seawall to a spot that allowed the train tracks to curve onto the beach after coming across the river. The pedestrian and wagon span “criss-crossed” the train tracks and landed right in the middle of the resort at Highland Beach. Anticipating larger crowds, Highland Beach added one hundred bathhouses.

The Highland Beach station is renamed North Sea Bright in 1939.

Courtesy of Sandlass Family Collection.

Once the auto age arrived at the turn of the twentieth century, transportation changes appeared and changed life at the shore more than the arrival of railroads, marking the beginning of a new era. Following a major storm in 1944, Highland Beach rail station washes out to sea and is replaced by a temporary shed. The announcement eventually arrives in December 1945 that discontinues rail service along the northernmost point of the shore between Long Branch and Sea Bright.

Courtesy of Randall Gabrielan Collection.

Learn more about Highlands and Highland Beach. Stories and artifacts of a bygone era await you in Gallery 1 at the Twin Lights Museum. Read the recent book, Sandy Hook’s LOST Highland Beach Resort, found in the museum store recounting a fanciful era in a town glittering with stars from Broadway and the early years of silent film.





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