The Ghost Tracks of Cape May Revealed
Coastal storms and beach erosion are revealing century-old railroad tracks that keep appearing and disappearing along the Cape May shore. They are known as the ghost tracks.
They are seen occasionally on the beaches between Sunset and Higbee in Lower Township. The rusted rails first surfaced in 2014 and have been revealed by different weather events over the years.
What are they?
In November of 2014 the shifting sands of Cape May County’s beachfront revealed something that hadn’t been seen in more than 80 years. A short stretch of rusting railroad tracks, referred to by locals as the ghost tracks, emerged from the surf between Sunset Beach and Higbee Beach on the Delaware side of the Cape May peninsula in Lower Township.
The tracks have resurfaced several times since then, most recently in November of last year. The re-emergence is always welcome news to the thousands of people who flock to the area annually in hopes of seeing them again.
This week, a coastal storm churned up the water and shifted the sand on a portion of the shore, unearthing the tracks for a few days. The sight of the rusted tracks brought out visitors, photographers and railroad enthusiasts. Eyewitness News met with Harry Bellangy, president of the Greater Cape May Historical Society, at Higbee Beach to find out more about this unique piece of history.
How did they get there?
A powerful coastal storm that churned up the waters and shifted sand along the shore helped to unearth something that has fascinated people who visit Cape May. The century-old “ghost tracks” that run parallel to the ocean at Sunset and Higbee beaches resurfaced again for the first time since they were spotted in November 2014.
The short stretch of rusted railroad track has drawn photographers, historians, and curious beachgoers to the area over the years. But this week’s appearance of the tracks, which had not been seen for about 80 years, was a little more eye-catching than usual because of a couple of photos posted to social media that used a technique called long exposure photography.
The tracks were built during World War I and connected to a railroad siding at Higbee Beach that was used by the government for munitions testing, according to the Greater Cape May Historical Society. They were buried again after the company stopped using them in 1936.
What do they mean to Cape May?
A coastal storm churned up the ocean and shifted the sands along the Jersey Shore last week, and it exposed century-old train tracks on a beach in Cape May. The tracks were first uncovered in 2014 and have since been visible only after a big storm or a Nor’easter.
But what these tracks represent is more than just another interesting bit of history. They are a visual reminder of what makes Cape May so unique and special.
It’s a town that has been described as being “lost in time.” And these ghost tracks are a perfect example of that.
In the 1850s, local newspaper editors printed pro and con editorials about the benefits of train travel to Cape May. It wasn’t until the 1860s that the train came to town, changing the face of the resort and making it competitive with more accessible Atlantic City and other East Coast vacation spots.
Where can you see them?
After a coastal storm churned up the ocean and shifted around the sand on Cape May beaches, one particularly powerful shift unearthed something special. The rusted, water-worn train tracks that are known as the “ghost tracks” of Cape May emerged on Sunset Beach Tuesday during low tide for the first time in more than 80 years. The eerie sight of the tracks has become a popular attraction that brings visitors to the area, and they’re usually visible after big storms like this one and back-to-back Nor’easters in March 2018.
Eyewitness News caught up with local historian Harry Bellangy on a breezy afternoon along Higbee Beach. He told us that the tracks are a visual reminder of a city that was lost to time. It’s a story that he tells visitors whenever they come to the area. It’s a part of the town’s history that he hopes to preserve for future generations. He said he believes the tracks will be there for decades to come.