Key Dates in Connecticut Railroad History
1835 : BOSTON & PROVIDENCE RAILROAD opened, Readville to Dedham
1838 : Railroad completed between New Haven and Hartford
1840 : HOUSATONIC RAILROAD opened from Bridgeport to New Milford.
1843 : NORWICH & WORCESTER RAILROAD, opened Norwich to Allyn’s Point
1848 : Cape Cod Branch Railroad opened, Middleborough to Wareham, MA.
1872 : The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was formed
1902 : MANUFACTURERS RAILROAD COMPANY extended through Ferry Street across Quinnipiac River and along east shore to plant of National Wire Corporation.
1903 : J.P. Morgan gained control of the New Haven
1904 : Control the Central New England Railway is secured through the purchase of a controling interest of it’s stock for $5 million.
1929 : New Haven’s New England Transportation Company begins truck service.
1935 : First bankruptcy of the New Haven Railroad
1940 : Quonset Pt. Naval Air Base at North Kingston, RI sidetrack connection from railroad’s main line at Davisville, RI
1956 : George Alpert, prominent Boston lawyer and a founder of Brandeis University, where he served as its first chairman from 1946 to 1954, is elected as the 20th President of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, replacing the controversial and flamboyant Patrick B. McGinnis, who immediately moved on to become President of the Boston & Maine Railroad.
1961 : Second bankruptcy of the New Haven Railroad
Old Railroads Of Connecticut
The Central New England Railway actually ceased passenger service in December 1927 when a train went from Millerton, NY to Plainville, CT and returned. Normally a Mack railbus, this last run was a steam locomotive with one coach. Last through freight was January 1919 between Hartford and Maybrook. Until 1926, freight operated from Maybrook to Winsted every other day. After the end of passengers, there was no freight service east of Norfolk to Pine Meadow. Canaan to Norfolk service was sporadic from 1927 until 1938 when the tracks came up (except for a portion to East Canaan still served by the Housatonic). The Winsted area was served by Naugatuck freights into the 1960’s except where there was damage remaining from the 1955 hurricane.
The old New York & New England (NY&NE) ex-New Haven between Hawleyville, CT and Waterbury was still in service near Southbury until 1947. The Shepaug line from Hawleyville to Litchfield was also still in service then.
The old New Haven Naugatuck line (now Guilford) from Waterbury to Torrington now appears to be back in use after a long, hard winter.
One remaining section of the Central New England is the Griffin Line leading north from Hartford. The State of Connecticut and city officials in Hartford and Bloomfield have been looking seriously at a mass transit link between downtown Hartford and Bradley International Airport. Soon, they are going to have to put their money where their mouths are. Detailed engineering plans, environmental assessments, and local recommendations are coming together and a light-rail system is a distinct possibility.
While federal commitment to mass transit is growing, new allocations mean Connecticut will get less money. On the state side, highway and bridge projects are competing for funds.
Estimated cost from Hartford to Griffin Center (Bloomfield/Windsor border) is $173 million. The section from there to the airport is $115 million but will require Windsor voters reversing their earlier decision against the project.
An economic impact study sees between 278 and 550 new jobs a year from this line. Hartford would concentrate on revitalizing old factories near the line and sees benefits from serving a hospital and community college on the line. Bloomfield sees benefits to shopping centers and the New England Trade Port. Bradley Airport is growing and currently difficult to reach by Hartford city residents with no automobile.
The Griffin Line will allow commuting in both directions. Ridership could approach 15,000 per day. The Clean Air Act puts limits on parking subsidies in the downtown area. In addition, imagine the ridership if Hartford gets a football stadium or a Triple A baseball field.
The basis of the New Haven at its greatest extent was:
· The New York & New Haven
· The Old Colony
· The New York & New England (NY&NE)
· The Central New England (CNE)
The New York & New England once stretched from Boston and Providence through Hartford to the Hudson River. Begun in 1833 when the Manchester RR was chartered to build east from Hartford to Manchester (a mill town near Hartford), and on to Bolton. It didn’t get built until some Rhode Island people put in money. It was eventually built to Fishkill Landing (Beacon) and opened in 1855 as far as Waterbury as the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill. It became part of the Boston, Hartford & Erie, which emerged from 1870 bankruptcy as the NY&NE. Then it stretched from Boston to the Hudson River. The New Haven viewed it as a threat and acquired its friendly connections such as the Housatonic. The NH even convinced the New York Central to take over the New York & Northern (basis for Putnam Division). In 1893, the NY&NE entered bankruptcy and was acquired by the New Haven in 1898.
Of particular interest to me was the New Haven’s 4.42 mile line from Vernon to Rockville. At Westway, 1.16 miles from Rockville, another branch went 3.70 miles to Ellington.
From the east, Vernon was on the line from Putnam. Distances were as follows:
· Putnam to Willimantic 24.85 miles
· Willimantic to Andover 8.69 miles
· Andover to Steeles 4.34 miles
· Steeles to Bolton 1.58 miles
· Bolton to Vernon (mm 43.81) 4.35 miles
After Vernon, mileage westbound was as follows:
· Vernon to Manchester 3.49 miles (1.90 mile branch to South Manchester)
· Manchester to Buckland 1.29 miles
· Buckland to Burnside 3.33 miles
· Burnside to East Hartford (SS217) 1.29 miles
· East Hartford to SS214 (2.27 miles)
· SS214 to Hartford 0.62 miles
After the Midland bridge over the Q. River at Putnam was severely damaged in 1955, it was repaired. The through route from Hartford to Boston had declined tremendously in the early ’50s. Through symbol freights AB-2/BA-1 were discontinued in 1953. The two passenger round trips per day were classic one-car “plug runs” that hung on probably because they were an RPO route. All this suggests that the New Haven management welcomed the chance to eliminate the route “automatically” because a blow from nature had conveniently done it for them! Recall that in those days a route elimination required cumbersome filings with the ICC, presenting a business case, holding hearings, etc.
The Central New England was formed in early 1899 as a successor to the bankrupt Philadelphia, Reading England RR. The CNE’s first Employees Timetable (#1) became effective on Sunday, May 28, 1899. At that time the CNE ran one through freight in each direction between Hartford and Maybrook via Canaan, CT. In addition, they also operated two other through freights; one between Hartford and Canaan and another between Canaan and Maybrook. The through Hartford – Maybrook westbound that left it’s point of origin at 10:20am getting to Maybrook at 9:51pm. Stops were made in Simsbury, East Winsted, Canaan and Poughkeepsie for drops and pickups. It’s eastbound counterpart left Maybrook at 3:00pm stopping at Poughkeepsie and Canaan with arrival in Hartford at 2:45am. The shorter haul trains between Hartford and Canaan and between Canaan and Maybrook did more of the local work. At this period in the CNE’s life, all of these trains operated except Sundays. With the exception of minor schedule changes and even some train number changes, things stayed about the same until 1906. By then one through freight still operated between Hartford and Maybrook plus two others; one between Hartford and Millerton and the other between Millerton and Maybrook By 1908 only one through freight remained. Everything else was apparently local service. Both of these trains operated on an overnight basis. This stayed pretty much the same through World War I but then the service between Hartford and Maybrook VIA CANAAN ended abruptly. In 1924 an experiment was made running a freight between Maybrook and Pittsfield via Canaan (OQ2 and QO1). In 1925 the run seems to have been cut back to just serving between Maybrook and Canaan. The next freight train schedule dated in mid-1927 does not show them listed.
The New Haven & Derby Railroad was completed in 1871 and abandoned in 1938. The NH&D right-of-way is visible in certain places. I’ve managed to trace out most of it. Now there seems to be more interest in it so I have found some new information. Starting at New Haven, the ROW crossed the West River in back of the garbage mound on a raised embankment – still visible. There is a more or less parallel road heading east from Campbell Ave in West Haven. The ROW heads directly for the VA Hospital where is goes upgrade just to the north of the parallel entrance road. After the VA, it crosses under Rt. 1 (underpass still visible) to the north side. At this point it gets complicated since the streets in that area are very random. Going west – the road enters the Tyler City portion of Orange where the ROW parallels a street. The ROW then skirts a golf course with the tree line and embankment visible. Crossing Rt. 114, the ROW goes to the south of the Greek Orthodox church. The back streets to the west have obliterated the ROW. In that area, the ROW turns to the north & runs up a small valley to Orange Center where is turns due west. At Orange Center the ROW crosses the main north-south route through town with the ROW embankment visible quite well. Near the crossing, someone mounted a set of crossbucks just off of the road. The ROW goes west, crossing some farmland & going into a housing development (built in the late ’50s). Just north of the Merrit Parkway rest area (Milford) on the west side, the old abutment is still there. Turkey Hill road in Orange crosses the ROW in a couple of spots but there is not much to see. After that, the high point is on the Milford-Derby Road. The ROW crosses it on the uphill side and is visible on the west side of the road. The road drops down the hill and makes a curve around the abutment of a bridge over the road/stream. The ROW is on the east side as the road goes up and the ROW descends. After passing a house just next to the ROW, the ROW crosses Milford-Derby Road and heads towards the old Naugatuck RR joining it (in later years) at the old Turkey Brook yard. The NH&D continued to Ansonia where it met the Naugatuck. The NH&D ran on the east side of the Naugatuck River. The old ROW is in one place a street along the river directly below Division St in Derby (and Ansonia). North of there, the Naugatuck River levee has obliterated any trace of the NH&D.
Now that the Housatonic RR is running, let’s see what the New Haven once provided over this same stretch of track. In the 1912 freight schedule there was a train between Bridgeport (on Long Island Sound) and State Line (on the Mass. Turnpike). This train operated over the original Housatonic Route between Hawleyville and Brookfield Jct. and did not have to go in to Danbury as was done in later years. In addition there were four trains that operated in and out of Harlem River to and from Pittsfield with two going through to and returning from North Adams. Over the years this schedule saw many cutbacks. The Berkshire trains to and from Bridgeport did not always use the line from Botsford through Stepney & Trumbull to Bridgeport. In the past few years the former Housatonic RR track was removed from the (former) Bridgeport station to just south of Boston Ave, but the Parkway bridge remains. As far back as 1921 service in and out of Bridgeport serving the Berkshire Line went via Derby Jct. This was an interesting issue back in the 1930s when the State was planning and constructing the Parkway. Apparently the NYNH&H had pretty much ceased active service on that segment of the ex-Housatonic line when Parkway plans were being drafted. Knowing this, and figuring that the NYNH&H would probably abandon the line, the State’s original plans specified that there would be NO overpass built. Apparently the NYNH&H did not agree with this decision, and they battled for the State to build the overpass, and they won out. From what I’ve read, the resulting overpass, which was a costly item for the State to add to the Parkway plan, never once carried a revenue train, as indeed the NYNH&H never did resume operations on that segment! I don’t know if any trackage was ever placed on its deck, but if there was it was apparently never utilized by anything more than RR construction or MOW equipment. Up through the early 1970s, this heavy-duty bridge served as a narrow, one-lane overpass for lightly used Rocky Hill Rd, off White Plains Rd. In the late 70s/early 80s when the State built the massive interchange between the Merrit Parkway and the new CT 25 expressway in this area, Rocky Hill Road was completely severed (actually, whatever it once led to was completely wiped out by the sprawling interchange). However the overpass itself remains to this day, although it is completely cut off from any vehicular/foot access as it is now an “island” in the midst of the new interchange. It serves no functional purpose whatsoever now yet it is still marked by signs indicating “Rocky Hill Rd”. It is interesting that it was not demolished during the CT 25 expressway construction. Perhaps its unique architecture contributed to its preservation! (All Merrit Parkway original over/underpasses were unique designs, and this would have been one of them). As of the Arranged Freight Train Schedule of 1929: two Berkshire trains originated in and terminated in Bridgeport, running via Derby Junction/Shelton. There was a third round trip originating in Bridgeport, classified as an “extra”, which served Trumbull, Newton, and Hawleyville on its way to Danbury and return. It was also listed as handling cars, including milk, to and from the Litchfield Branch and “American Railway Express”.
Customers on today’s Housatonic include: · Kimberly Clark in New Milford.
· Housatonic has a lumber transloading facility in Newtown of rt. 25 (former Lloyds Lumber).
· Stevenson Lumber of Rt. 34 in Stevenson.
· Union Camp in Newtown (cardboard box outfit). Union Camp left Newtown in 1998. Rand-Whitney bought the UC plant and still takes incoming rail shipments (to make cardboard containers like UC did). Can watch this spur being switched from the old Newtown Depot off Church Hill Rd.
· Quality Food Oils in New Milford: spur within yard limits about 300 yards south of Kimberly Clark spur.
· Georgia Pacific distribution center in Newtown: Spur off Botsford siding. Off Rte 25 3-4 miles S of flagpole; Ethan Allen Rd bridge over Maybrook main and siding offers excellent views of NX-11 switching action.
· Pharmco in Brookfield: Spur off Stearns siding. Off Vale Rd, across Berk main from Golf Quest.
· Banta Direct Marketing in Mill Plain (Danbury): Spur off Maybook main underneath Rte 6/202 bridge; very little traffic.
In today’s times, the CENTRAL NEW ENGLAND RR is owned/operated by A.J. Belliveau RR Construction (Newington, CT). There are now two separate branchlines operated. The first is between East Windsor and Scantic, CT. Stationed on the line are RS1 0670 (ex-CCR 0670, G&W, NH), 25T 0825 (in NH orange/green) and RS1 30. All three are operable. The 30, which was previously was thought to be a parts source, has been rehabbed by using various components of ex-M&E RS1 15. CNZR GP9 905 (ex-MBTA, SEMTA, PC, NH) is stored out of service in Hartford. The other branch CNZR operates is the old Griffiths Branch between Hartford and Bloomfield/Windsor. Long out of service, the state and CNZR got Home Depot to locate a huge distribution warehouse near end of track. Based on this line is CNZR 1922 (Ex-MBTA, BN, NP, still in T paint).
Demise of Freight Business on the New Haven
The New Haven Railroad sponsored a series of advertisements that were run in a variety of national magazines, Fortune was one of them but there were others, around 1945/1946. These advertisements were targeted towards companies looking to expand inside New England. Each advertisement presented a different section of the map of New England, for example eastern Massachusetts and the tag-line “Good Companies Settle in Our Territory” or something like that. On each map was placed the logos of major corporations operating in that location. These advertisements are interesting in large part because virtually none of the companies presented, and there were a lot of them, remain in business in New England today.
During the forties and early fifties, seven per cent of industry in Ct. was tied to the war effort. After the war Winchesters, Remington Arms, Marlins and their outside suppliers started the drain on the economy of Ct. and the Nw Haven as they cut back on their productivity.
Companies going out of business occurred all over the NH’s rail area, dooming the freight business that was around during the war years and a little after. Businesses going overseas didn’t help either.
The American Brass Company plant in Torrington was preparing to start aluminum production just before the flood of 1955. But the flood destroyed the new furnaces. When American Brass began to recover from the flood, it decided not to rebuild the aluminum production section of the plant. Aluminum production apparently used a lot of electricity and the cost of electricity in Connecticut had risen so high it made the operation unprofitable.
The New Haven Railroad lost a large source of freight when the brass industry closed up in the Naugatuck Valley. This was not due to taxes or labor costs. It was failure to innovate. The brass industry lost a lot of their market when plastics replaced the brass during the 1960’s. The brass companies refused to switch over to plastic production and went under.
I heard a story that an engineer who did a presentation on injection plastics in front of Chase Brass Company upper management in Waterbury, CT during the late 1960’s. When he told the execs that brass would soon be replaced by plastic the execs laughed at him and threw him out of the office. Within ten years Chase was no more.
The 1955 flood also devastated the New Haven, and industry in the valley. Many factories never recovered.
Look at Bridgeport and the loss of the heavy machine industry; Bridgeport and Bullard milling machines and the gun industry. In Danbury there was Eagle pencil and Pitney Bowes postal machines. The cotton mill industry in Fall River. The hatting industry in Danbury. Manufacturing of many things in the US has died over decades as companies search for cheaper labor — first in the South and now offshore.
The old New Haven to Northhampton line was started in 1846, when the New Haven & Northampton Canal Co. was authorized to build a railroad to replace the canal.
In 1848, the NH&N was leased to the NY&NH (before the NY&NH bought the NH&H to create the NY,NH & H0) who operated it until 1869, then the NH&N ran it until 1887, when the NH bought it, they ran passenger trains until 1929, but until 1969, when the PC got it it was mostly intact (The New Hartford to Collinsville branch was abandoned in 1958, the Shelburne Junction to South Deerfield was gone by 1923, and the rest of the line -South Deerfield toNorthampton – in 1943 and the Willamsburg to Florence in 1962 was abandoned, but the main line was in use). In 1969 PC abandoned the Collinsville to Farmington branch, along with the Florence – Easthampton branch and the main line from Easthampton to Northampton. In 1976, the USRA took out the middle section from Simsbury to Westfield saying it wasn’t needed, the state of Connecticut subsidized the operations from Avon to Simsbury (there was a few customers in Simsbury). In 1981, Connecticut stopped subsidizing freight operations from Avon north to Simsbury, then the B&M (who in my opinion should not RUN a model train layout, let alone a real railroad, acquired the New Haven to Avon line – with the Westfield to Easthampton line taken over by Pioneer Valley. In 1987 New Haven to Cheshire was abandoned (low clearences , so modern boxcars couldn’t go under them), then in 1991 B&M got rid of the Plainville to Avon track. In 1996, B&M got rid of Cheshire to Southington line – and the rest of the line is mostly out of service. Most of the line is now trails. Plainville is the hub of the PAR (nee B&M) operations in Connecticut.
Canal Line Southern end in the 1980’s. Between Cheshire and Hamden.
PULLMANS ON A HILL
The late Jim Bradley of Stonington purchased some Pullmans which were part of a 14 car order by the New Haven in 1930. The cars were destined for the “Yankee Clipper” which was an all-parlor Boston-New York express. The first car he purchased in 1962 was the “Stag Hound” – a parlor/buffet/lounge. Over the years it had become a commuter club car and had finally been gutted and sat ready for scrap in the Boston coach yard. The second car he purchased was “Great Republic”. Originally, he wanted the “Sovereign of the Seas” but the New Haven mixed up requests.
In 1962, Bradley’s new acquisitions were delivered to Stonington – a small Connecticut coastal town right on the Rhode Island border. He then continued shopping. Boston held many old heavyweight parlors that had been rebuilt as suburban coaches. He selected two that seemed in better condition: “Philinda” – built in 1914 as a 30 seat/one drawing room parlor; and “Forest Hills” – built in 1927 as a 36-seat parlor. Flip-over plush seats had replaced parlor seats but they were still fancier than standard commuter coaches.
Next Bradley combed the scrap line at Cedar Hill in New Haven and found the “Breslin Tower” – a sleeper built in 1925 as a 10 section/1 bedroom/1 drawing room car. Originally it was named “Point Blank” but had been rebuilt in 1935 to an 8 section/1 drawing room/3 bedroom car. The car that was most visible from AMTRAK trains was acquired next – The “Fox Point” – a 1916 observation car used on the “Merchants Limited”. After World War II it had been used as a mobile classroom. These cars made Bradley’s backyard by 1964.
He tried to purchase other cars but the bureaucratic shuffle won and he lost them. However he did buy one non-New Haven car. The Narragansett Pier Railroad, a Rhode Island shortline, attempted to enter the excursion business. They owned an 1891 wooden car which Bradley picked up. Later he sold it to the Old Colony & Newport.
The six Pullman heavyweights have stood on the hill in Stonington over twenty years. Bradley spent much time and effort restoring the interior of the cars. He had to also care for the exteriors as the sea air rusts them easily. He had to repaint every three or four years with Pullman green.
Long Island Sound boaters, as well as AMTRAK travelers, could spot the Pullmans. Bradley always welcomed visitors.
When the cars originally went to Stonington, the railroad left them on a siding in Mystic and they moved over the road to Bradley’s property. The process was reversed thirty years later at a far greater cost…$15,000 each. A 120 ton German crane along with riggers and movers performed the five-mile move to the Mystic railhead. It was the biggest thing in Mystic since Hollywood made “Mystic Pizza” a few years ago.
Preparation for the move began in February, 1991. All the mechanical components, including wheels, couplers and brake equipment, were inspected, and repaired or replaced, if necessary. Four sets of rebuilt air brake valves were installed. Four complete coupler and draft gear units were replaced. New hand-brake mechanisms were installed to meet Amtrak and Providence & Worcester (P&W) standards. Seven wheel sets were changed. At the same time, a 200-foot long access road was built.
The “Great Republic” was moved in April, 1991 by the Providence & Worcester to Old Saybrook. There the Valley Railroad’s steamer #1647 pulled the former “Yankee Clipper” parlor to a new home in Essex. It was the car’s first move behind steam since 1948. Restoration has began and hopefully will be done in time to use on their “Santa Claus” train. The “Great Republic” begins the fourth phase of life: beginning on a New Haven limited, then moving to secondary service, followed by being a static display, and now excursion service.
The remaining four cars were not moved until the end of July, 1991. The “Breslin Tower” was the last of the five cars moved and was also the heaviest. They departed Mystic along the old New Haven Shore Line behind Amtrak CF-7 #581. At New London and Saybrook, the cars were checked for problems while passengers awaiting an eastbound Amtrak train watched in wonder. At New Haven, they stood at the platform for a Metro-North inspection almost as if waiting for the New Haven electric that would have continued them on their westward journey thirty years or more ago.
Seeing them in the recently-restored New Haven station, I couldn’t help but to reflect on the vast changes in Connecticut railroading while these cars sat in a Rip Van Winkle sleep. The New Haven Railroad disappeared, to be replaced first by Penn Central then by Amtrak, Conrail and Metro-North. Other New Haven trackage went to P&W, B&M and some short lines. Some became tourist trackage such as the Valley Railroad in Essex. Unfortunately, much was abandoned and torn up. The New Haven’s electric locomotive fleet is no more. Instead, AMTRAK uses electrics not even on the drawing boards in 1962. Metro-North uses mostly MU cars (again, of a type only dreamed of in 1962) with a limited use of hybrid electric FL9’s (one of the few 1962 items still in use). No railroad brass sit in the old New Haven General Office on Meadow Street. Instead operations are directed from Philadelphia, Washington, or New York. On the plus side, the New Haven station and the entire line to New York are in much better shape now and ridership is up and still climbing. By the way, in 1962 about the only exposure I had ever had to the New Haven Railroad was seeing the “Yankee trains” they pulled into Grand Central.
Leaving New Haven, the special train ran under wires to Devon, the intersection with the Waterbury line. At Devon, #581 shoved them on the west leg of the “wye” to a siding. The following day, Guilford locomotive #353 pulled them back onto the main line to run around them, and then pulled them back onto the siding on the north leg of the “wye” to allow the southbound Waterbury train to clear. Appropriately, power for this train was a repainted ex-NH FL-9 #2019. As the special headed north for Waterbury, someone mounted a “drumhead” which read “The Naugatuck”. While these cars probably were never used on this line, “The Naugatuck” was a name train which did run on this line. At Waterbury, idler cars consisting of a B&M caboose and two ex-NH flat cars were inserted between the Pullmans. The train then moved over the Highland Line and through the Terryville Tunnel to the New Departure plant spur off the Terryville Loop Track. The curvature of the loop necessitated the idler cars. The cars are being stored there behind fences until the new museum property in Willimantic is ready for them.
ALL of the Jim Bradley cars have been saved. NONE SCRAPPED. The GREAT REPUBLIC is at the Valley RR in Essex CT. The STAG HOUND, FOREST HILLS, PHILINDA and BRESLIN TOWER are in the custody of the RAILROAD MUSEUM OF NEW ENGLAND, based around Waterbury CT. Originally, the FOX POINT was slated to be scrapped on site, as restoration was deemed unfeasible. Eventually, a local resident stepped in , aqquired this car, and is currently restoring it (or planning its’ restoration).
Update on the Bradley Collection as of January 15, 2006:
The Great Republic went to the Valley Railroad and is in service.
The Fox Point went to a private individual and is located on farm in Plainfield.
Going through the Naugatuck Valley in Connecticut, railroad activity is minimal.
Limited passenger and freight service runs between Devon, on Long Island Sound, and Waterbury. At Waterbury, it is still easy to see that a real rail center once existed there: grass-overgrown, rusted tracks under huge bridge supports for the Interstate highways passing overhead. A dead-end branch runs north to Torrington and a single track runs eastward to Hartford.
In 1900, three passenger and four freight trains left Winsted daily. Now, even the tracks are all torn up. The Naugatuck line ran to Devon, near Bridgeport. The old Central New England ran from Hartford to Canaan and into Dutchess County of New York State. The New Haven had acquired the CNE in 1904 primarily for its 43-mile section from Hopewell Junction to Maybrook which included the Poughkeepsie Bridge. The rest of the 202-mile long road fell into decline as freight went from Hopewell Junction to Cedar Hill in New Haven via Danbury. Except for the Griffin line near Hartford, and some other small pieces, the rest was abandoned in the late 1930’s. On the Naugatuck, trains from Winsted even ran into New York City. In pre-electrification days, they took on water at Waterbury, Ansonia and Darien and carried five or six bags of coke to use as an attempt to reduce smoke in the Grand Central tunnel.
Typical Naugatuck Valley trains took nine main line minutes from Bridgeport to the junction at Devon. The next eight miles to Derby were double tracked and shared with Maybrook freights hauled in steam days by powerful 2-10-2 Sante Fe’s and later by ALCO FA’s. Derby Junction to Waterbury was never fast as the tracks followed the river and crossed the highway repeatedly. Waterbury to Winsted had the worst curves on the line.
Devon to Waterbury was 28 miles. At Waterbury, a branch reached Watertown (5 miles); the Highland line ran 31 miles to Hartford; and the Naugatuck line continued 18 miles to Torrington and an additional 9 miles to Winsted.
Into the 1950’s, there was even a named train on the route: the “Naugatuck” left Winsted at 6 am for the 116-mile trip to New York City. At 4:05 in the afternoon it left New York but only went as far as Waterbury (87 miles). A typical 1946 consist was an Rail Post Office and six coaches hauled by an I-1 or I-2 Pacific. Power was changed to/from electric at Bridgeport.
Waterbury was once known as the “Brass Center of the World”. Companies such as American Brass, Waterbury Brass, Scovill Manufacturing, Chase Metal Works, and Waterbury Farrel Foundry made the city a draw for European immigrants and turned it into a rail center second only to Boston in New England. 1908 saw the completion of Bank Street Junction tower and Highland Junction tower at the west (compass south) end and east (compass north) end respectively of a remodeled rail yard. 1909 was the completion of the New Haven Railroad’s impressive new Waterbury railroad station with its 245 foot clock tower. It is a replica of the Mangia Tower in Siena, Italy. The new track complex was the merger of what at one point was four separate railroads:
· Watertown and Waterbury Railroad (1870).
· Naugatuck Railroad (1849) (Winsted to Devon).
· New York & New England Railroad (1854-Hartford to Waterbury)1881-Waterbury to Brewster).
· Meriden, Waterbury and Connecticut River (1888).
Highland Junction, with 43 working levers, consisted of four mainline tracks connected by sets of crossovers. It controlled the Watertown branch, the Winsted main and the double track to Hartford. Bank Street Junction, with 58 working levers, controlled the Meriden branch, the double track line to Devon, and the line to Danbury via Southbury and Hawleyville.
In between these towers were a high-grade (through) yard and a low-grade yard (freight house, etc.). South of Bank Street was a 20-stall roundhouse. The Meriden line (later called the Dublin Street branch when it was shortened) crossed over the Naugatuck line on a long bridge.
In addition to New Haven trackage, much industry was served by street car lines. In 1912, Baldwin Locomotive Works, in conjunction with Westinghouse Electric, built two 45-ton steeple cab electrics for the Connecticut Company to haul and switch railroad cars around Waterbury.
Waterbury was important in both World Wars, but went into decline with the introduction of brass substitutes. Even earlier, the Meriden line was abandoned (except a short spur to Dublin Street). In 1937, ex-NY&NE trackage between Waterbury and Southbury was cut. The Watertown line became freight-only in 1924 although it was only torn up a few years ago. World War II slowed up the decay process but as steam power gave way to diesel, further declines were in order. Highland Junction was closed when the line to Hartford was single tracked and manual blocked. Now the tracks end at Torrington, Devon to Waterbury is single-track, and passenger service only goes to Waterbury.
When the New Haven Railroad saw that paved highways and automobiles were replacing the branch line local as the only way in and out of town, they began to explore alternatives. The usual locomotive and three car passenger train was beginning to lose a lot of business. Sometimes traffic fell to less than the capacity of a single coach. As an additional problem, the Mogul ten-wheelers and American-type locomotives assigned to these schedules were in need of replacement. Since most of these passenger runs were very short, efficient assignment of locomotives had never been a fact.
In the winter of 1921-22, two gasoline rail cars went into service. They were built by Mack and were only 34 feet long and powered by a four-cylinder, 60 h.p. truck engine. Both lasted until 1939.
By 1930, 36 units were in service, running an average of 2,760 miles per day. Many of these were 73-foot gas-electrics, and a few carried practically as many passengers as a conventional coach did. They were sometimes referred to as “poverty trains”. Some cars merely shuttled back and forth between the same two points while others ranged over a number of lines in a single day. Many of the routes in the Naugatuck region of the NYNH&H saw these units.
The Besler steam car was used on the Naugatuck beginning in 1936. It was a fuel-fired, boiler-operated two-car unit developed by the Besler brothers. Named the “Blue Goose”, it only ran a couple of years. Two passenger cars were converted, unfortunately they were heavyweights and overwhelmed Besler’s plans. To provide a modernistic appearance, the clere stories of each car, as well as the front end of the combination.
Near the end of passenger service, the railroads tried to cut costs by switching from steam trains to gasoline powered rail buses. The rail buses ran from Pine Plains to Beacon and from Copake through Pine Plains to Poughkeepsie every day. Some old timers may remember riding the “Galloping Goose” to high school in Beacon or Poughkeepsie.
The rail buses had 60 to 120 horsepower motors and manual transmissions similar to trucks.
Even the rail buses were discontinued in September 1933. After retirement some of the rail buses were sold to the Cuban Railways.
New Haven RR Mack Rail Bus
Photo from the Martin Wheeler – William P. Fahey collection.
More on the freight business in the New Haven area:
Industries with sidings included M.I.F. in Branford who made iron fittings and had a little mobile steam crane that lasted into the late 1950’s-early 1960’s. Others were Atlantic Wire, Osborn Grain, New Haven Trap Rock (Branford Steam Railroad with own steam and diesel locomotives), Dodds Granite Quarry in Stony Creek (NHRR Employees timetable still called it Norcross but ownership had changed; it had its own steam locomotives). Guilford had Knowles & Lombard (coal). In East River there was De Forest & Hotchkiss Co.(lumber). Madison had a pit track for coal. Waterford had Millstone Quarry (granite).
East Haven sidings were serviced by switchers out of the West Bound Departure yard. Water Street switchers took care of the switching downtown, West Haven and the Canal. Belle Dock switchers took care of all inside the Dock, River St. et al. These switchers were not Locals but yard switchers doing yard work.
Highland Line and New Britain Secondary
The New Haven’s Highland Line between Hartford and Waterbury was important for both passenger and freight right up to the end of the New Haven. The line almost paralled the Springfield line between Hartford and Waterbury (about 11 miles). There was a short connection between Berlin and New Britain (2.46 miles). Then the Highland Line cut Westward to Waterbury.
Mile markers between New Britain and Hartford shown below:
New Britain 53.93
Under Conrail, the Highland Line between New Britain and Hartford became the New Britain Secondary. It is gone now and the rest of the Highland Line is accessed by use of the connection from the Springfield Line.
To my knowledge the B&M/Guilford never used Conrail’s stretch of the New Britain Secondary between Hartford and New Britain. To my knowledge, the line’s use as a through route between Hartford and New Britain ended in the early 1980s (approximately) when the State of Connecticut did an inspection of the two bridges that carry Interstate-84 over the New Britain Secondary and found that one or more steel beams had started to shift off the concrete abutments or piers. The state saw this as a serious situation and built a temporary pier using large concrete blocks under one or both bridges to support the bridge(s) until the state could make permenant repairs. Of course the temporary bridge supports were placed in the middle of the New Britain Secondary stopping any trains from passing. This obstruction forced Conrail to serve the last customer or two on the New Britain Secondary by running its local on Amtrak’s Springfield Line from Hartford to Newington were the train crossed over to the New Britain Secondary and backed the train up some two or three miles to serve the customers. This operation lasted about a year or so when the siding to the last remaining customer was extended and connected to the Amtrak’s Springfield line, thus ending all service on the New Britain Secondary line.
In 1987, Conrail listed the following customers on the line:
Hartford Lumber – Actually located in on the Griffin Line very close to where the Griffin Line connected to the New Britain Secondary.
Heublin – The company produced liquor at the plant and received up to four tank cars at a time. Heublin was the last company that was served by the New Britain Secondary. It was also the company that had its siding disconnected from the New Britain Secondary, extended and connected to Amtrak’s Springfield Line. The plant was closed and demolished in the late 1990s.
Industrial Safety Supply – Received box cars on rare occassions.
Sears – This was the local distribution center. Received box cars of merchandise.
H. P. Hood Inc. – A milk plant. Although they are listed on these 1987 maps, they had stopped using rail service many years before and the siding had long since been disconnected from the New Britain Secondary and torn up.
In the early to mid 90’s in New Britain, the grade crossings at Stanley, East Main, Smalley, and East (Jnct of Allen) Streets had the rail removed and paved over for smooth traffic flow.
One other industry that was in between the Stanley/East Main crossings was a coal dealer, but that was out of service for a since the late 70’s, however Conrail used that section to store empty ballast cars there in the 80’s.
The rails are gone, so they want to build a busway now!
See where it goes.
The line between East Hartford and Springfield via East Windsor was called the Armory Branch as it served the neightborhood where the venerable Springfield Armory was located. The line was built by the Springfield & New London (Springfield to the CT state line) and the original Connecticut Central (state line to East Hartford). It was leased briefly by the Connecticut Valley RR in 1876, then was independent until 1880 when it was taken over by the New York & New England. It was operated by the New Haven from 1898 until 1968, losing its last passenger trains in 1931. In 1969 the Penn Central took over, phasing out service between East Windsor and Hazardville by 1972. This track was later abandoned but left in place. The remaining portions were taken over by Conrail in 1976. In 1982 the Boston & Maine took over the Hazardville – Springfield portion, operating this until the Guilford era strikes dried up business by 1984. The track remained in place for a few years afterward, but the former Springfield & New London was removed as Massachusetts failed to purchase and “rail-bank” (allow abandoned track to remain in place) it. The former Connecticut Central was railbanked by Connecticut to the South Windsor area. Operating rights on this portion were later taken over by the Central New England RR, and the line is slowly being restored to operating condition. Meanwhile, the portion of line from East Hartford to South Windsor was sold by Conrail to the Connecticut Southern c. 1996.
Freight has consisted of many things over the years -coal, oil, LPG, steel, feed, manufactured goods, lumber, fertilizer, chemicals, paper, machinery and brick.
Well over a century ago, the Farmington Canal was converted to a railroad. The Farmington Canal was the longest canal ever built in New England. An 1846 charter was granted and the new road was opened between New Haven and Plainville in 1848. Much grading had been accomplished in constructing the canal so the towpath basically became the roadbed for the railroad. The road was named the New Haven & Northampton, but has always been called the Canal Line. The road’s first terminal in New Haven was between Temple Street and Hillhouse Avenue. Upon completion, the Canal Line was leased to the New York & New Haven for twenty years. The directors decided to extend beyond Plainville and reach the Western Railroad in Massachusetts. The Hartford & New Haven blocked its connection with the Western Railroad. In 1850 it went to Farmington, Simsbury, Granby and Tariffville. It made a Massachusetts connection at Westfield in 1855. It reached Northampton in 1856. A line from Northampton to Williamsburg was completed in 1868. That portion of the line from Williamsburg to Florence was abandoned in 1962.
The Canal Line and the New York & New Haven were surveyed by Alexander C. Twining. Twining, a Yale professor, was one of the leading contemporary engineers in the country. He originally intended to become a minister, but found engineering more interesting and continued his studies at West Point.
The right of way through part of New Haven for both the NY & New Haven and the NH & Northampton was in the bed of the Farmington Canal parallel with State Street. There was a freight house near Water Street. When the New York & New Haven was opened in 1848, a Union Station at Chapel Street was designed by Henry Austin (1804-1891). He also designed New Haven’s City Hall, Yale’s Dwight Chapel and the Grove Street Cemetery gate. While architecturally splendid from the outside, it was a difficult station to use because passengers had to descend into a smoky cut. One young boy asked his father when they arrived in the station “are we in Hell?” His father replied “no, just New Haven”.
As previously mentioned, the Hartford & New Haven viewed with alarm the projected extension of the Canal Railroad which paralleled it. Originally, the Hartford road had terminated at a steamboat landing to which it transferred its passengers for the final leg to New York City. The New York & New Haven agreed to oppose the extension of the Canal Railroad. In return the Hartford & New Haven made transfer from rail to steamboats difficult and thus encouraged transfer to the New York & New Haven. The NY & New Haven merged with the Hartford & New Haven in 1872 by mutual exchange of stock.
An outstanding source of early information on all three of these railroads is “The First 20 Years of Railroads in Connecticut” by Sidney Withington. This book was funded by the Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut and published by Yale University Press in 1935.
Chester W. Chapin was the president of the Western Railroad which later became the Boston & Albany. His successor was William Bliss. Before the New Haven bridged the Thames at New London to create the “Shore Line Route” between Boston and New York, the “Springfield Route” was especially important. This traffic was key to the B&A. Knowing they would eventually loose this, Chapin & Bliss tried to lease the New Haven. When this failed, they tried to lease the New Haven & Northampton. This would have given the B&A not only an entrance into New Haven, but by construction of only a comparatively few miles of railroad, a connection between Waterbury and the friendly Harlem at White Plains could be established. New Haven & Northampton stock shot up overnight and James R. Sheffield, its principal owner, sold it to the New Haven. The large profits that he realized upon this transaction went to establish the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale.
As well as several junctions with other New Haven lines, the Canal Line intersected some interurbans. Typical of these was the Meridan, Cheshire & Waterbury. This line was built as a steam road in 1888, later electrified, fell under New Haven ownership (like many Connecticut interurbans), and was abandoned in 1924.
In 1968, the Boston & Maine assumed 18 miles of track between Westfield and Florence, Mass. The New Haven had applied for abandonment of the line north of Easthampton, and was running to Florence only once or twice a week. The B&M had taken over the Turner’s Falls branch in 1947.
The northern segment of the Canal Line, which at one point ran as far as Turner’s Falls, is either gone or part of the Pioneer Valley. Formed in 1982 when CONRAIL shed its “dogs”, the Pioneer Valley is part of the Pinsley group of short lines. This line is headquartered in Westfield where it interchanges with CONRAIL. The PVRR operates the old Canal Line as far north as Easthampton. It also operates the ex New Haven branch to Holyoke where it interchanges with the B&M. The line to Easthampton usually operates once a week while the Holyoke line runs daily. The only active customer on the Easthampton line is the W.R. Grace plant that manufactures Zonolite insulation. Westfield and Holyoke have several busy customers. In addition, Holyoke operates a tourist line utilizing old Lackawanna commuter cars.
The 14-mile segment from New Haven through Hamden to Cheshire has been idle for years. Environmentalists have been fighting to preserve the right-of-way as a public walking or bike trail. The Interstate Commerce Commission exempted the corridor from normal abandonment procedures and waived an environmental impact statement because they felt there would be no adverse environmental effects. So far, the Boston & Maine has signed 35 contracts with private parties who want to buy portions of the line.
In 1987 the Boston & Maine Railroad told the Interstate Commerce Commission that it might apply to abandon the remaining part of the line which runs through Cheshire, Southington, Plainville, Farmington, and Avon. In February 1988, Vinay V. Mudholkar, a vice president of Guilford Transportation Industries Inc. of North Billerica, Mass., which owns the B&M, announced plans to withdraw the abandonment. This would be contingent on reaching agreement with RW Technology Inc. of Cheshire to greatly increase traffic on the line.
Stephen W. Dunn, transportation planning coordinator for the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency – which is coordinating an effort by businesses and officials from the five towns to save the line – said the Cheshire plant could use more than 2000 rail cars each year. RW is a rubber recycling firm. Companies will ship resin into the plant which will be mixed with rubber from old tires and then shipped by tank cars all over the country. Another company expects to ship machinery via the railroad. About 550 rail cars travel the line each year now according to Dunn.
Mudholkar stated that the rail line would have to be upgraded to be saved. Guilford estimated it would cost $549,000 to rebuild the tracks on the southern part of the line. The northern section of the line – through Plainville, Farmington and Avon – would cost about $400,000 to upgrade.
Shippers along the line say they need the railroad, and they say the Canal Line could be profitable. Town officials say the railroad could help attract business. Dunn said that if the line is abandoned, there would be economic effects totaling $1.46 million. He said the resulting increase in truck traffic would cause $969,000 in damage to highways each year. Most of the balance of the economic cost of closing the railroad would consist of higher shipping fees to Businesses, Dunn said.
Mudholkar said that if Farmington Ready Mix Inc. – a Farmington cement-mixing plant with the potential to receive 2000 rail cars of gravel a year – starts using rail shipment, railroad officials would reconsider plans to abandon the northern section of the line.
Ronald K. Dahle, president of Farmington Ready Mix, said he would rather receive material by rail than by truck because it is quieter and more efficient to unload a rail car than a truck.
The line north of Avon to Massachusetts is abandoned. Much of the track is still intact however it is greatly deteriorated. Grade crossings are paved over and stations have been converted to other uses (like the “One Way Fare” restaurant in Simsbury).
Access to the southern portion of the line is via the old New Haven Highland Line at Plainville and is currently operated by Springfield Terminal as traffic requires. Most of the old B&M and New Haven crews have retired.
More on the Canal Line
Normally in the mid to late 1960’s, the Lower Canal job worked out of Plainville. Earlier in the 1960’s, the job worked out of Water Street in New Haven. Normal power was an RS-3 although sometimes you might see a 640 class on it too. One round trip per day was the norm. When the job worked out of New Haven, sometimes it would go north of Plainville to Simsbury or up the branch to Unionville and Collinsville. One reason the job was moved to Plainville was the situation in New Haven, more and more cars could not go through the “Canal Cut” and many engines were restricted there too. In addition, the track through that area was none too good. In later years, a switcher out of Water Street would go up through the cut to work Winchester at night. I believe some of the cars had to be brought down from Plainville at that time. A Budd Car trip up the Canal in May of 1968, required separate payment for a track patrol over this portion of the line on the day of the trip prior to leaving New Haven. North of Plainville, it was a different story, the track was better maintained and there was still a through freight NY-2 and YN-1 which ran right up to and past the end of the New Haven Railroad. Speeds were higher and there were no crossings that had to be protected by the train crew.
There were a few freight customers in Cheshire that I recall. At the W. Main crossing there were sidings that served Ball & Socket Mfg. (mfr. of brass buttons and fittings) and Copeland Chemical (mfr. of asphalt sealants). Cheshire Lumber was served as well. Further north as the line paralleled Peck Lane in the Johnson Avenue area, Bozzuto’s, a grocery distributor was served by the line. The siding at Jarvis Street, was used by the Cheshire Reformatory. The Ye Old Body Shop on West Main used to be the Cheshire station.
The lower canal or Winchesters, had G.O. Lumber, G.O. Steel, Tops, Register, Winchesters, Ross Darwin, Chargar, Safety Car, Pine Swamp, N.E. Iron, Whitney Blake, Hi Test, Leonards Concrete, High Standard.
Canal Line pictures above: left is end near Cheshire; right top Milldale; right bottom MM17
Anaconda in the Naugatuck Valley
Anaconda was once a New Haven big time customer in the Naugatuck Valley. Ansonia, Waterbury and Torrington. Big shipper both inbound and outbound.
Inbound scrap, big receiver of coal especially in Torrington for their powerhouse, materials etc. Outbound brass products for everywhere, piping, tubing, brass goods, rods, plates, rolls you name it, they made it and most of it was shipped by rail. When the brass industry in the Naugatuck Valley went down, the railroad went down with it. As for switching, they had two fireless steam switchers in Waterbury which later on were replaced with a trackmobile. The local did their switching in Torrington and in Derby, the New Haven Railroad had a round the clock switcher which did the switching in Ansonia.
At one time, American Brass (Anaconda) made all of their own electricity in Torrington and I can still remember the power house whistle, it could be heard for many miles. They had a huge pile of coal outside the powerhouse and a crane with a clam on it to move the coal around and inside to be burned, very fascinating to observe from the old Prospect Street bridge in Torrington. When this place was going good, coal came up on the local every day seven days a week. Many of the buildings in Torrington are gone but the last I knew, part of the old rod mill could still be seen from High Street and the fine old stone office building can be seen from Water Street just past the railroad crossing going away from downtown. Want to see more, take a ride on the Naugy between Waterbury and Bridgeport. At Waterbury, some of the old buildings along Freight Street still survive and also the old south plant near South Main Street and Washington Street.
Riding the Naugy through Ansonia just north of the station, the railroad goes right through the old plants with buildings on both sides of the track. Very sad sights, just imagine what was around there years ago. At one time, Waterbury originated and received more freight than any other terminal in New England outside of Boston. They used to have a poster in the waiting room of the old big station stating that fact. At one time, the New Haven Railroad was very proud of their operations in Waterbury.