The Trolley in Connecticut

branfordtrolley775

Car 775 at the Shoreline Trolley Museum in Branford, CT was built in 1904. It was ordered by the Fair Haven & Westville and delivered to the Consolidated Railway (who had taken over FH&W in late May 1904). Consolidated Railway became part of the Connecticut Company in June, 1907.

This information contributed by Bill Young, Connecticut Company historian

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THE TROLLEY IN CONNECTICUT

There is a rich heritage remaining of the many trolleys which once ran in Connecticut. Two excellent museums in Connecticut, as well as others outside the state, preserve a good representative sample of the cars.

The Shoreline Trolley Museum in East Haven (sometimes referred to by its old name Branford Trolley Museum) has several cars from the Connecticut Company. Connecticut Company’s yellow cars where the most prevalent in the state. Beginning in 1907, they took over other street railways until peaking at 834 miles of track and 1640 cars in 1924. Branford also has an electric engine from the state’s first electric street railway in Derby. Branford also has a good stock of old New York City equipment. The museum operates their cars to nearby Short Beach.

The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor was founded in 1940. It consists of a three mile round trip street car ride with an educational narrative. The museum owns over 50 pieces of rolling stock most of which are housed within five storage barns. The collection consists of passenger and freight trolley cars, interurban cars, electric and steam locomotives, freight and passenger cars, cranes and service cars. The museum’s 17 acre facility is on Route 140 just a couple of miles from the Warehouse Point exit of Interstate 91. The right-of-way was once a 3.2 mile portion of the Warehouse Point to Rockville branch of the Hartford and Springfield Street Railway Company.

The greatest extent of trackage was in 1913 when 1,118 miles of track carried 2,436 trolley cars. Replacement by internal combustion engine powered busses knocked the count by 1935 to 439 miles with 653 cars. By 1941 Hartford’s last streetcar rolled. When all service ceased in 1948, only 101 cars remained in use. Most of these were in New Haven and had only run sporadically since the Yale-Harvard football game of the previous fall. A Yale-Harvard football game in New Haven traditionally taxed the resources of the Connecticut Company to the utmost. Fans arriving on regular and special New Haven trains had to be transported several miles to the Yale Bowl.

A July 30, 1899 article in the SPRINGFIELD DAILY REPUBLICAN described how one could ALMOST go from New York to Boston on electric lines. The 246 mile route consisted of 194 by trolley and 52 by steam railroad. Connections between Springfield and Boston were better than along the New York/New Haven/Hartford/Springfield route because of the tremendous influence of the New Haven Railroad in the Connecticut Legislature (later, the New Haven acquired most of the electric roads). The total cost was $3.46 – $2.30 of this by electric cars and $1.16 by railroad. The whole trip could be made theoretically in 30 hours of constant riding.

The first break was at Warehouse Point where there was a 4 mile gap not covered by a trolley line until 1902. There were still two impediments to through trolleys – without change of cars – between Hartford and Springfield. First out of Hartford was a covered bridge over the Connecticut River which restricted trolleys to single cars of minimal height. The stone-arch Bulkeley Bridge opened in 1907 and would then take big interurbans. At East Hartford, trolleys could not cross the Highland Division of the New Haven at grade. An underpass was not constructed until 1906.

Going south from Hartford, there was a 4 1/2 mile break between Berlin and Meriden. A trolley ran between Meriden and Wallingford. Another break of 8 miles existed between Wallingford and New Haven. From New Haven the electric road stretched continuously to Stamford, through Bridgeport and Norwalk. The last break before New York was 17 miles between Stamford and New Rochelle. New Rochelle to Third Avenue in New York City took almost 3 hours.

By 1905, all the gaps had been filled in and it was possible to ride by electric car – via several alternate routings – all the way from Boston to New York. One gap between Berlin and Meriden was never filled by a direct trolley line. Instead the trolley traveler went via New Britain, Plainville, Southington and Milldale where he then either went to Meriden or directly to New Haven via Cheshire and Hamden.

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The Connecticut Trolley Museum has just completed their new WebSite
See the NEW Connecticut Trolley Museum WebSite!
They are adding more and more pictures!

There is a lot more to see at the museum than in the past. There are trolley movies. The adjacent Fire Museum is now included in your admission. Like always, you can ride the trolley all day.But don’t just read it here, see their WebSite then take a trip to the museum.
Connecticut Company
An Insider’s View of the Connecticut Trolley Museum

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Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut

Starting with a horse car which can he pushed by members, there are over 100 pieces of rolling stock in the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut. This museum, which includes tracks, wires and buildings, is over 40 years old and sometimes is referred to as the Branford Trolley Museum.

Obviously, not all of the equipment is serviceable, but many man-years of effort have gone into restoration. Some equipment is more modern than other items. For instance, some have air brakes while other pieces have hand brakes. Members qualify to operate different cars. Except for a director, all positions are staffed by volunteers. Most funds come from visitor tickets, members dues and contributions.

The trolley ride begins at Sprague Station and crosses the East Haven River on a wooden trestle. The route then passes a small farm before entering the carbarn area. Here the equipment is stored and restoration work done. Passing a picnic grove. the line next runs through the woods then into an unspoiled tidal marsh. After rounding a curve, the roadbed passes around the base of Beacon Hill. It goes over a short bridge under which an animal-powered railway used to haul stone from a quarry. This stone was loaded on barges headed for Long lsland Sound. Another bridge is at Stony Creek where fiddler crabs are found at low tide. Reaching the end of the line at Short Beach, the crew must change ends” by reversing the power poles, reversing the car seats, and bringing the control handles to the other end. Don’t forget, many of the trolleys have a feature not found in modern day equipment: the ability to him the seats in the cars towards the direction of travel.

Some of the more interesting pieces of equipment I observed in my visits were service cars #1414 and #193. Cars like these are not seen anymore in regular service. I have ridden #4573 a DekaIb Avenue car from Brooklyn (from the BMT). On a recent trip I rode two old New York City subway cars last used in the I 950s. Only one was powered. The other had originally operated on the “El” and was a trailer. It had been a money car going between stations collecting fares from the token booths. One cable car is from 1892 and some other New York City cars ran on Lexington Avenue. New York City was interesting in that it had both 3rd rail and overhead wire.

Trolley lines in the Northeast found convertible cars better than having both open and closed cars because they could be used both summer and winter. A 1911 Ottawa car has a wood stove and must have been great for Canadian winters. Subway cars are higher off the ground while trolleys were designed for street level not rails on ties. 1899 saw the first 8 wheel car. Before that trolleys were usually 4 wheel.

Trolleys played a big part in sports. The “Trolley Dodgers” were a baseball team. New Haven had over 100 open cars quite useful for Yale Bowl games. They could seat 75 people on I5 benches but really 200 people could hang on to a car. Usually, trolley cars hold 45 people. The New Haven trolley fleet made it easier for football fans to reach the game than is possible today. When you consider that the New Haven Railroad ran up to 43 special trains in addition to regular service for YaleHarvard games, the task of moving thousands of people from the railroad station to the football stadium was immense. Harvard fans came from Boston over three routes: along the shore line through Providence, through Putnam and Willimantic (Air Line route). and through Springfield and Hartford. Many private railway cars were included.

Continuing with some of Shore Line’s other equipment, there is an emergency car which had jacks to rerail cars. One Third Ave car (built in 1939) went to Vienna as part of the Marshall Plan and was later returned to the museum. It is being fixed as it leaks in the rain. Newer cars have a dead man’s switch that stops the car if the motorman doesn’t pay attention.

When you have returned from your trolley ride to Short Beach, your car stops at Farm River Road and you can then take a walking tour of the display area and restoration shop. Returning to Sprague Station, you may visit an exhibit room, watch videos and shop in the museum store.

The work barn is heated and has an underground bay. There is a new lathe as well as other modem equipment. The museum in Kennebunkport has more cars, including some experimental cars which were a gift from the U.S. government, but less track than Shore Line.

In the collection is a Chicago North Shore interurban (1000 hp) which dims lights on other cars whenever it runs. One subway car is a New York City Contract R9. The oldest elevated car was built in 1878. It was pulled by steam first and ran on Third Avenue. Another is a Peter Witt car, of which others like it still operate in Toronto.

There is also a snow sweeper from Toronto which originally came from New York, has a big straw brush and ran on the Third Ave line. One Philadelphia trolley bus ran on the Red Line and was built by the Brill Company in 1940. It was re-gauged because it was 5,3″ originally. Unique is Car 500, used by executives of the Connecticut Company. It is a parlor car made of oak and includes a galley and a bathroom. There is also an Atlanta car at the museum.

The museum features the World’s oldest electric engine built in 1887 The New Haven Railroad once had it in a museum then it went to the Danbury Fair (until the fair closed to become a shopping center). It cost $9,000 for the museum to buy. GE engineers fixed it up on their own time and it was dedicated in a ceremony with the Governor present. It is gear driven with only one axle being powered.

The museum is not satisfied to remain static. A recent addition to the museum is a subway platform. There are special events such as “New York Days” featuring rapid transit equipment from New York City. In December, the museum has “Santa Days” October brings a “Halloween Special.” Shore Line even offers trolley charters.

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chicagoelatcera

Shown above is a Chicago “EL” car which ended up at the Connecticut Electric Railway. Way back when I worked on restoring this car (lots of paint and lots of Bondo!). Once I was moving it and the brakes didn’t work so I crashed it into an electric locomotive. Another time I fell off the roof and broke three ribs. Still love that car though! Number 4436 was built by Cincinnatti in 1924.

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Connecticut Trolley Timetables

Best way to really understand where the trolley went in Connecticut and how long it took to get from one place to another is to get hold of an old trolley timetable. On the Internet, they are as “scarce as hen’s teeth”.

Both the museums in Connecticut, BERA and CERA, sell them. as does the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association and Trainbooks Dot Com.

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njtpcc15cera

New Addition to Connecticut Trolley Museum

Connecticut Trolley Museum is pleased to inform you that sometime today (Friday, January 17th), New Jersey Transit PCC Car #15 will be arriving at its new home at the Connecticut Trolley Museum!  This trolley car will be added to the museum’s collection and we are hoping to have it available for public rides for the summer season.  The addition of this trolley will bring our operating fleet up to nine trolley cars of various ages and styles to further enhance our visitors’ experience!

Summarized history of New Jersey Transit PCC Car #15:
Built in 1946    Built by the St. Louis Car Company (order #1653)    Twin City Rapid Transit as trolley #334 from 1946-1953
Public Service of New Jersey as #15 from 1953-1971
New Jersey Transit as #15 from 1971-2001
Trolley #15 was retired from service in 2001, shrink wrapped and mothballed

The unloading crew is hoping to have the trolley unloaded and on our rails this afternoon after which it will be moved to the shop to insure it is safe for operation.

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Connecticut Trolley Museum: The Early Years

The Connecticut Electric Railway Association (CERA), which operates the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor, was founded in 1940 by three members of the Connecticut Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. Henry R. Steig, Richard E. Whittier and Roger Borrup incorporated to preserve something of the then-rapidly-disappearing traction era. The museum trackage operates over a section of the old Hartford & Springfield Street Railway Company. This line covered the 25 miles between Hartford and Springfield with two parallel lines on each side of the Connecticut River. Carbarns were in Warehouse Point and across the river in Windsor Locks. It did not directly serve either namesake city, but instead connected with the street railways in each city. It also had two branches: one to Somers and the other to Rockville. The H&S went into receivership in 1918 and the last car on the Rockville branch was in 1926.

3.25 miles of the Rockville branch is now owned by CERA. About 1.5 miles of the line is tracked. The remainder of the right-of-way traverses several curves, descends a six to eight percent grade, then skirts the bank of the Scantic River before crossing to a terminus near Broad Brook. Along this area is Piney Ridge where the H&S ran a small amusement and picnic park.

In its early years, the organization concentrated on acquiring equipment. Much of this was from Connecticut and was moved from car barns with the help of the Seashore Electric in Kennebunk, Maine. About this time, the last cars left the James Street carhouse in New Haven. The 1950 goal was to build 500 feet of track. To accomplish this, rails were hauled in by jeep and boat trailer. Rail was bought from Warwick Ry. in Rhode Island and delivered to nearby Windsor Locks. Seven poles were set by a pole contractor. Also about this time, the North Road Station was completed. A committee was formed to buy a push car for track work. Members had “rail bonds” that they bought. Each $30 bond funded a 30-foot section of rail.

In the early 1950’s, it was much easier to run trips on local railroads and this became the main fund-raiser for the group.

In 1952, members were requested to bring in scrap metal. Some of it still seems to be on the property!

There was a spirit of cooperation between other New England museums. Seashore Electric in Maine put a heavy truck and trailer in service to move cars. Branford Electric purchased a tower truck from Connecticut Electric. Critical parts were traded. A proposal for the Electric Railroaders’ Association (ERA) to place a four-wheel Brooklyn car on the property was accepted. At this time, the CERA was also affiliated with the ERA as its Connecticut Valley Division but in 1953 voted to withdraw affiliation with ERA and Seashore Electric. It was no longer necessary to belong to them to hold membership in CERA.

The 1953 roster of 31 members included Robert W. Eggleton (still an active member in 1990’s), Roger Borrup (editor of the newsletter), trip chairman Edward G. Kelly, and author Rogers E.M. Whitaker.

One problem was getting electricity to operate trolleys. In 1952, a generator from New Haven gas-electric #9108 was obtained for $750. In 1953, 700 feet of wire was strung. 1954 plans for a power supply were discussed using a power company 4800-volt line and a generator from Seashore Electric in Maine.

Maintenance was always a problem. In 1952, tarpaper roofs were planned for cars 1326, 779, 840 and 65. A 1923 Mack dump truck was obtained to assist in working on the property. Wednesday nights and Sundays were work days. The second Sunday of the month was track laying day. In the 1952 manager’s report, cars 25, 83, 1326, 3001 and 773 were in operating condition. No 10 was maintained to prevent deterioration. In 1953, No. 1326 was freshly painted and the tower car was now usable. Also, cars 169, 840, 65 and 10 were painted. Cars running in service were No. 169 (restored Brooklyn Rapid Transit 4-wheeler) and 1326. Also used were Nos. 25, 3001, 779 and 840. Car operation was by regular crews (the members who put the cars in operation). All equipment was run with a motorman and conductor as well as with the manager or assistant manager on the property. 600 ft. of track were in operation with an extension being built. Two road crossings were completed. 1400 feet of trackage was in place by January 1955. The March 13, 1955 annual meeting featured a work session and a tour of the line. A fund for restoration of 5-Mile Beach 9 bench single truck deck roof open trolley No. 36 reached $22.65. No. 36 was patched up by members who went to New Jersey. It finally arrived at the museum in 1955. An old-time Johnson fare box was purchased to accept donations from the public

The 1955 trolley operating schedule began Easter Sunday. With temperatures below 40 degrees, the generator was reluctant to turn over. By May, the schedule was in turmoil and the General Manager resigned. The remainder of the summer featured “infrequent operations” Saturday and Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings. Each active member had a trolley car to maintain or some project to keep busy on. The power generating plant was not too dependable and did not always start at a flip of a switch. The organization made a $200 deposit on a motor-generator set to convert 4800 AC to 600 DC. Summer operations mostly used No. 840 (15-bench Jones open car). A box car and flat car were moved to the museum for $663.04.

1955 saw a new divisional setup for Connecticut Electric. There was a North Road Division consisting of everything west from Woods carhouse and a Woods Division consisting of all property to the south side of Winkler Road crossing. Robert Eggleton was manager of North Road and Roger Borrup manager of Woods Division. This move was done to allow development of property including 40 acres in which the museum had an indirect interest through the East Windsor Land and Park Association. Plans included a new road, third trolley barn/shop, 1910-1920 style village and 3,000 foot spur. A Woods Division ‘Work Day’ was called to lay crossing on September 25 over the new Prospect Hill exit road. The Woods carhouse was under construction. It was a 90-foot pole barn designed to hold 4 double truck cars on two tracks. In 1955, No. 65 operated under its own power for the first time since it left Hartford in 1941. By the end of 1955, the museum consisted of 11 cars and 1,400 feet of track.

The Trip Committee operated as an independent organization in financial matters and allocated its funds to the museum as it saw fit. A motor-generator set was purchased from Trip Committee profits. It came from Seashore Electric Railway which had obtained it from the Uncanoonuc Incline Railway in Goffstown, New Hampshire. This two-mile trolley had purchased the set sometime before 1920. It was built by General Electric in Schenectady. Seashore couldn’t use it because its local electric company could not provide power. The hope was to finance building a substation in 1956. 4800-volt AC power would be stepped down to 2200 volts through a transformer then fed to the AC motors which in turn drove the DC generators. Two units run in parallel to furnish 126 amperes, or 100 horsepower, at 550 volts DC.

In 1956, discussions were held on ‘less cars, more track’. The opinion was that the museum would be in better shape to have 5 or 6 first class cars rather than an ever-growing collection of rolling stock with little hope of ever putting it in proper condition. No. 16 (Springfield combination car) and No. 12 (snow plow) arrived on the property. Work was completed on a second carhouse siding. Steam engine No. 3 (0-4-0) saddle-tank former Hartford Electric Light) made a run on museum tracks. In 1957, grading for parking lot was done and a 400-foot siding completed. Aluminum siding was put on three sides of Woods carbarn complete and work on doors begun. Also, the current Operating Superintendent, William E. Wood, was accepted as a member

The Association published a “Transportation Bulletin” which reported noteworthy events. For instance, on November 16, 1956 the Hartford & Connecticut Western Railroad was officially dissolved. The first train in 1871 went 67 miles to Millerton, NY with stops at Bloomfield, Simsbury, New Hartford, Winsted, Norfolk and Canaan. It was merged into the New Haven in 1927 and most of the trackage was taken up piecemeal from 1935 to 1939, although some segments are still in use. Because of the Great Flood of 1955, trackage from Pine Meadow to a feed and grain dealer in New Hartford was abandoned. Also, in 1957, Connecticut Co. freight motors 2022 & 2023 were still working in East Hartford. They covered 8 1/2 miles of street rail between East Hartford and Glastonbury. This line served Pratt & Whitney, J.B. Williams (a soap maker) and five other businesses.

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The Trolley in Fairfield County

There was a Connecticut Co. trolley line servicing Norwalk.

The route came from Stamford to Norwalk via Rt. 1 Stamford to Darien, then a circuitous routing down through Rowayton (entering the long-vanished Roton Point amusement park). If you know where to look you can trace some of that route through Rowayton, some of which was on private ROW. One of the streets in Rowayton is built on the ROW and is called “Old Trolley Way.” It then went up into South Norwalk, up West Ave, to Wall St., across Wall St. all the way to East Ave. I think it was on East Avenue (where there were abandoned rails) for only a very short distance before turning onto Rt 1 to continue toward Westport and Bridgeport.

The route between Stamford and Norwalk ended service in Nov. 1933.

Abandoned trolley rails continued to peek up through the rails on various Connecticut streets until very recent times. Who knows, maybe some remain down there even now? Lots of us remember them underneath the Washington Blvd. underpass in Stamford until it was reconstructed not all that long ago.

There were evidently two principal north-south trolley lines in the center of Norwalk: RR station to Main & Wall via West Ave., and RR station to Main & Wall via East Ave (I guess the latter route would have to have crossed the Washington St. drawbridge).

It also refers to a “Broad River-Newtown Ave.” line. Doesn’t East Ave. become Newtown Ave. someplace?

Then there was the Norwalk-Westport-Fairfield-Bridgeport line which probably started on East Ave.

There were other lines too, such as Main Ave.-Winnipauk. Winnipauk is the area of town just south of where the Merritt Parkway crosses Main Ave. today.

Those lines were “converted to bus” in Nov. 1933, except for the line to Bridgeport which lasted till 1935.

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The Shore Line Electric Railway

The majority of the Shore Line Electric Railway’s mileage was leased or purchased. Some came from the New London division of The Connecticut Co. while other property came from the Norwich & Westerly, the Groton & Stonington and the New London & East Lyme.

The Connecticut Co. was wholly owned by the New Haven Railroad. Part of its New London division ran over the New Haven from Taft’s to Central Village. This division was isolated from the rest of the company except through connections in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It was over 100 miles long and provided city service in New London and Norwich as well as connecting these cities with Willimantic, Central Village and Putnam.

The oldest company in the group was the Pawcatuck Valley Street Railway Company built in 1894 between Westerly, Rhode Island and Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The East Lyme Street Railway organized in 1903. The Groton & Stonington Street Railway Company opened in 1904. The Norwich and Westerly Railway Company opened in 1905. The Norwich & Westerly leased then acquired the Pawcatuck Valley in 1911. The Groton & Stonington was leased to the Norwich & Westerly. After building an extension to Weekapaug, it was a 60 mile system with about half on private right-of-way.

The Shore Line was organized in 1905 and opened between. Ivoryton (near Saybrook) to Guilford in 1910. The main financial backer was Morton F. Plant. A connection was made with The Connecticut Co. at Stony Creek. A more direct connection into New Haven opened in 1911 with trackage rights letting Shoreline cars run into the city’s railroad station. The section from Ivoryton north to Deep River opened in 1912. 1913 saw a connection with the New London & East Lyme Street Railway. The last track to go down was Deep River to Chester in 1914.

The Shore Line was a 1200-volt system utilizing much private right-of-way and having single catenary overhead wire. Center entrance interurban cars operated out of a barn in Saybrook.

The Shore Line linked up with other eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island properties by leasing the New London division of the Connecticut Company in 1913. In the same year in leased the New London & East Lyme Street Railway and gained control of the stock of the Norwich & Westerly Traction Company. The resulting system had over 250 miles of track, operated about 200 cars over both intercity and local lines. It operated everything from single truck cars to multiple unit trains. The headquarters were in Norwich with divisional headquarters in the car barns of the various constituent properties. Twenty separate routes were operated:

New Haven RR station to Chester
Stony Creek to Guilford
Saybrook to Flanders Corner
Niantic to New London
Two city loops in New London
New London – Norwich – Willimantic
Groton to Westerly, R.I.
Mystic to Old Mystic
Ashaway – Westerly – Watch Hill, R.I.
Two city loops in Norwich
Norwich to Yantic
Central Village to Moosup
East Killingly to North Grosvenordale
Putnam to Central Village
Willimantic to South Coventry

Unfortunately, the system only went for three years before going into receivership. It had to struggle with rising wages, increased fares, and wartime costs. The leases and mergers brought together the cars of various companies. Some effort was made to start a numbering system but there were strange things like three number 20’s, three number 24’s and two of many others. Brewster green was adopted as the company color and a repainting program initiated which never got finished.

An extensive freight service was in place on the system with freight houses at New London, Pawcatuck and other cities. Freight was interchanged at several points with the New Haven and carload service was operated for several industries. Passenger cars were used for package service at the rate of one passenger fare for each 15 pounds.

Everything was great except the Shore Line system didn’t make money. In 1919, it owed Morton F. Plant $231,000 and the Connecticut Company $370,217. Some of the events leading to receivership were: a 1917 collision in North Branford killing 19 and injuring 35; a 1918 power house outage; a 1919 collision at Oswegatchie; and a 1919 strike. Once in receivership, the Shore Line was broken up piece by piece. The New London division was turned back to the Connecticut Co. Various companies were formed to take over and operate portions of the system. Most successful was the Groton & Stonington. Less successful operations were in Westerly, Lyme and Norwich.

Part of the original Shore Line was purchased after four years of idleness by the Sperry Engineering Company, the original builders. The New Haven & Shore Line Railway Company was incorporated in 1923. Four Brill semi-convertible cars were purchased from the receiver and five new one-man cars were ordered from Wason. In addition, a new line was opened into Hammonassett State Park and four open cars obtained from the Hartford & Springfield Street Railway Co. The company also operated busses and extended to New London as well as opening up new territory. It gradually cut back rail service, first Guilford to Saybrook then New Haven to Guilford in 1929.

Final operation of the New London division of the Connecticut Company was in and around Norwich in 1936. The New Haven & Shore Line acquired the Groton & Stonington Traction Company and made a success of its bus operations.

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Waterbury and Milldale Tramway Company
The Waterbury & Milldale Tramway took a long time being organized and built but only ran for twenty years. Starting in 1899, the Connecticut legislature said no to its backers each year until 1907. The company was finally organized in 1910 but actual construction didn’t begin until 1912. Even then, the company had to get an extension of its franchise.

Finally in 1913, 3.6 miles were built from a connection with Connecticut Company tracks in East Main Street to Byam Road. Grading was done as far as a crossing of the Meriden Road at Hitchcocks Lakes. 4000 feet of line from East Main Street to Mill Pond School was finally opened to traffic November 19, 1913. The next section to be opened was from the school to the Cheshire town line.

In 1914, The Green Line formally asked the Railroad Commission for permission to construct the rest of its line from Byam Road to a junction with the Connecticut Company’s Southington-Meriden line at Milldale.

It only took six years before fiscal difficulties hit the line. Fare structures were attacked before the Public Utilities Commission by several citizens and the City of Waterbury. They felt that the 10-cent fare for each zone was unfair and that there should only be one zone in the city. The company defended itself, citing a cost of 30 cents to Milldale compared to 38 cents via the Connecticut Company’s route through Cheshire from Waterbury.

The Green Line limped along with ever-declining revenues for another 14 years. 1927 saw trackage down Southington Mountain from Hitchcock Lakes to Milldale being abandoned. When the Connecticut Company announced abandonment of its East Main Street line to Cheshire, the end was there. The Green Line sold its franchise to the Cooke Street Bus Line and ran its last car on October 29, 1933.

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dhhoppercera

This former Delaware & Hudson hopper car (number 2782) is now at the Connecticut Electric Railway. The author painted it in the early 1990’s.

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Trolley Routes in Connecticut

Some of the trolley Routes in Connecticut we cover in detail are:
Berkshire Street Railway
Connecticut Company – Torrington Division
Connecticut Company – New London Division
Connecticut Company – Hartford Division
The Groton and Stonington Street Railway
The Middletown – Berlin Electrification (lines between Cromwell, Middletown, Berlin and Meriden)
Vernon – Rockville electrification
Trolley service in Waterbury, CT, and the Derby route to New Haven
The Fair Haven & Westville Railroad
Connecticut Company – Norwalk Division
East Hartford and Glastonbury Street Railway

The New Haven Railroad’s trolley acquisition started first in Connecticut. The New Haven trolley lines were acquired from Fairhaven & Westfield Railroad in 1904, followed by Greenwich trolley lines bought from the Greenwich Tramway Company, and Hartford trolley lines acquired from the Hartford Street Railway Company, as well as lines operating in other towns, including New London Norwich, and Montville. Within a year and a half, almost all traction properties in Connecticut had been acquired, and were organized under a subsidiary corporation called the Connecticut Company.

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This old car is now at the Connecticut Electric Railway. Before going to Montréal, it worked in Springfield, Mass. Number 2056 is a steel lightweight built by Wason in 1927 and acquired in 1959

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ponemahatniskayuna

Ponemah Mills Electric in Niskayuna, NY

Engine # 1386, the “Black Maria” (pronounced “Mariah”), was the first double truck direct-electric steeple cab freight locomotive ever produced by General Electric Company.

In 1893, the General Electric Company, itself only a year old, had completed it.s first electric locomotive, which was a small, slow speed, four wheeled machine that was intended for switching service. It was deemed a success and the company accepted an order to build a second locomotive, to be larger, faster and suitable for regular railway freight service. The contract was with Cayadutta Electric Railway Company of Gloversville, NY, for the price of $14,500. After the contract was signed and the locomotive was being built, Cayadutta elected to buy two larger locomotives, but requested a release from the original contract (which it received). The locomotive was sold the following year in 1895 to the Taftville Cotton Mill (later renamed Ponemah Mills) in Taftville CT.

The mill owned one and a half miles of railroad plus sidings, which connected to the Norwich & Worcester, under lease to the New York & New England Railroad from 1895 to 1898. The line was used to bring freight into and out of the mill, as well as several small factories along the way. Being a progressive company, the mill was one of the earliest to use electric power. With the Norwich electric street railway near by, it seemed natural to have an electric locomotive and railway.

The locomotive was described in ELECTRICAL WORLD of September 8, 1894, as being a thirty-five ton, 500 volt D.C. machine with four motors designed to perform the ordinary work of a steam locomotive of similar capacity, where excess speeds are not requisite, up to thirty miles per hour. It has a pair of independent trucks, each having four wheels. Each pair of wheels is driven by it.s own specially designed motor of the single reduction spur gear type, mounted upon the axle as in ordinary street car practice.

The cab rests on the trucks in a manner somewhat similar to that in which the ordinary passenger car is mounted, an ample margin for wear and strength being provided. The cab itself is constructed of sheet iron and windows in it are arranged as to give an almost unobstructed view from on position in all directions. The design of the cab was to give plenty of available floor space without making the top of the cab long enough to obstruct the sight. The form of the cab also makes a symmetrically shaped locomotive, which would become known as the “Steeple Cab” type locomotive – with hundreds built in the years to come.

The electrical equipment comprises, besides the motors, a series-parallel controller, control resistors, circuit breakers, and an air compressor, which provides the air for the brakes and whistle. In addition, there are the bell, headlights, and sand boxes. It.s overall dimensions are 24 ft. long over draw bar, 11 ft. 2in. high, and 7ft. 4 in. wide. Wheels are 40 inches in diameter, with a single truck wheelbase of 6 feet. The draw bar pull was stated to be 14,000 pounds. The motor resistors, circuit breakers, and air compressor and its tank are all mounted inside the cab. The single brake cylinder is centrally mounted underneath.

The locomotive was originally supplied with a large wooden pilot on each end, draw bar couplers, two large headlights, a forty-pound brass bell, and whistle. It also had two trolley poles. In later years, the pilots were replaced with footboards, and knuckle couplers were added. The two headlights and one of the trolley poles were removed sometime during its seventy years of service at the mill. Those were the only changes the locomotive saw on it.s outside. The nickname .Black Maria., was given to the locomotive by the property owners of Taftville, whose front yards it rode through for many a year.

The locomotive went into service in May 1895. It was in .trouble free. service for many years, with only major renovation being to update the motors in 1911. The change was due to a revision in the Mill’s power supply. Its last trip hauling freight was August 3, 1964, bring a load of starch to the mill. Its last operation under power was August 11, 1964, when it drove itself onto a flatbed trailer for a trip to the .American Museum of Electricity. in Niskayuna, NY.

Engine # 1386 rode the highways of Connecticut into New York and was off-loaded at the G.S.A. depot in Scotia, NY, near the General Electric Facility in Schenectady, NY (the .Electric City.). It stayed within the confines of the G.E. property from October 1964 until October 19, 1965. On October 19, 1965, with the help of the New York Central Alco switcher, the locomotive was moved from the G.S.A., along the freight sidings of Schenectady and up into Niskayuna. The locomotive was parked, along with two interurban cars from the Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee Railroad (numbers 162 and 710), on a section of track of the NYC Troy-Schenectady branch where the American Museum of Electricity had secured property. The Museum had acquired several acres of land and right-of-way along the Mohawk River in an area known to this day as .Lock-7.. The plan was to develop a .working. museum with a loop track and erect storage and maintenance facilities at the site.

Unfortunately, the plans for the museum did not come to fruition. The locomotive sat on the siding, along with the two interurban cars, for six years. In the spring of 1971, several of the locomotive.s .guardians. discovered that it and the interurban cars had been vandalized for copper. Several sections of copper bus bar and the compressor drive motor had been removed, in addition to a section of the locomotive’s brass handrail and it.s original whistle.

It was decided by the American Museum of Electricity to dispose of the equipment. The locomotive was offered as a donation to the Connecticut Electric Railway Association, in view of the fact that they had been found to have sort of a prior claim to it. The Association had approached the Ponemah Mills about acquiring the locomotive well before the American Museum of Electricity, and they had received a verbal commitment from the Mill.s former management. The Mill.s later management in New York City was unaware of that agreement.

With the help of Joseph D. Thompson, the Connecticut Electric Railway received the donation of Engine # 1386, and for $400.00, purchased the Ponemah Mill.s line material and Locomotive “C” (now renumbered S-193). The line material and Locomotive “C” were donated to the American Museum of Electricity by Ponemah Mills when they closed their electric train service in 1964.

On October 21, 1971, Engine # 1386 was lifted off the siding tracks and onto a flatbed truck by the donated services of the Albany Crane Co. (courtesy of Robert White, a National Railway Historic Society member). With great care and many eyes watching, the locomotive rode down similar roads it was on six years prior, and arrived at the Connecticut Electric Railway’s property the same day.

History by Edward J. Paprocki, October 2000.
Amended by William E. Wood, April 2001.
Bibliography:

Mr. Ben Anthony of the .Museum of Erie GE History., in Erie, PA for an article he supplied entitled .Archetype of Steeple Cabs, The Ponemah Mills Electric Locomotive. by Joseph D. Thompson. The article appeared in the National Railway Historical Society Bulletin number 6 in 1965.

Mr. William F. Heim for his photographs and copies of correspondences with GE in regards to Engine # 1386.

Street Railway Journal – May 1895 article on “Power Source & Engine”.

Trains Magazine – Volume 19, October 1959 – pages 24 & 25 “Meet The Black Maria” by B. Thomas Walsh, and Volume 26, February 1966 – page 10 picture “Move To Niskayuna, NY”.

The N.R.H.S. bulletin, Volume 37, number 15 – page 17 picture “Loading The Black Maria Off The Siding At Niskayuna, NY For Trip To C.E.R”.

Special thank you to Mr. William E. Wood, VP New England Region of the National Railway Historical Society, for sharing his archives, photographs, and history notes on Engine # 1386.

Lastly, a major thank you to Mr. Joseph D. Thompson for being the primary .Guardian and Savior. of Engine # 1386. Mr. Thompson work hard to protect, save and bring the locomotive to the Connecticut Electric Railway Association’s Museum in Connecticut.

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CONNECTICUT ELECTRIC RAILWAY EQUIPMENT ROSTER


As of 1950

No. Length Type Builder Year built Year received History
10 30′ wooden combine Wason 1901 1947 Springfield Elec.
65 33′ wooden, closed Wason 1906 1941 Connecticut Co
663 15 bench open Brill 1902 1948 Connecticut Co. (355)
779 30′ wooden, closed Jewett 1904 1948 Connecticut Co.
840 15′ bench open Jones 1905 1948 Connecticut Co.
1326 30′ wooden closed Bradley 1910 1948 Connecticut Co.
3001 DT Birney Wason 1922 1948 Connecticut Co.
0206 Wooden service car Company 1902 1949 Connecticut Co.
0309 30′ wooden, closed Brill 1902 1949 Connecticut Co.

In 1968, Winkler Road crossing was completed. Bert Johanson, a motorman-conductor and still a current member, designed an advertising brochure. A new gift shop was located in a remodeled Wickford coach. The association operated a steam excursion from Hartford to New Haven and Derby Junction, returning by way of Waterbury and New Britain. Commercial power was soon to replace the generating unit. The museum hired labor to build an 800-foot extension to Newbury Road. There was an open house for employees of the Connecticut Company and the New Haven Railroad. Springfield Terminal plow 12 was being restored. Long Island M-U #4153 was acquired. It is a 65′ car built in Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona Shops in 1930.

The 1970 Winterfest attracted 40,000 riders. New equipment acquired that year included Boston Elevated #5777 built in 1920 by Osgood Bradley of Worcester and a 1920 tank car, UTLX 75701, donated by Union Tank Car Co.

1971 saw the acquisition of a “fireless cooker” built by Porter in 1934 and donated by Stanley Works in New Britain.

In 1972, CERA and the Connecticut Antique Fire Apparatus Association held a joint meet. 3163 passengers rode trolleys and viewed 65 autos and 17 fire engines. Two North Shore cars were acquired: #162, built by Brill in 1915, and #710, built by Cincinnati in 1924. Additionally, an electric locomotive was acquired. It was built by GE in 1894 for the Taftville Mill (later Ponemah Mills) and had been used in switching for nearly 70 years.

**********

CERA Steam Department

At several points in it’s existance, the Connecticut Electric Railway has had a “steam department”. It was active in the early 1990’s and also much earlier in its history.

The late Steve Bogen of the Empire State Railway Museum owned locomotive 97. As the ESRM had run their “Middletown & Orange” tourist railroad operation for its final season in 1966, they were looking for a new home and had been for a year or so prior to that, and it was during this time they looked at the Lakeville line, but NIMBIES eventually defeated the proposal and the track was removed. Steve had operated #97 on the Vermont Ry around 1965-6 a few times a year but decided to relocate the loco to Hartford as plans began to create a tourist railroad closer to major population, and run it over the New Haven RR on occasional excursions. He arranged for the steam department of the Connecticut Electric Railway Association ( E Windsor CT) to maintain the loco, and the Conn. Valley Chapter NRHS to run the trips. The steam dept. broke away from CERA to form the Connecticut Valley Railroad Association (which eventually evolved into today’s RMNE). After failing to establish an operation on the Lakeville line, the lower end of the Valley branch and the Collinsville branch were considered. During this time the CVRA operated trips from Hartford in October 1966 and June 1967. In May 1968, the 97 was run as part of an excursion from Hartford to Danbury and was based there through the end of 1968, running a pair of trips to Canaan. Following the end of 1968, the Penn Central takeover effectively ended the CVRA’s main line trips and the organization concentrated on establishing the Valley Railroad in Essex.

An interesting note – a few of the CVRA’s trips were co-sponsored with the Connecticut Railroad Historical Association and the Empire State Railway Museum. All 3 organizations exist today in various but different forms, the RMNE running the Naugatuck RR, the CRHA owning the Canaan Station, and the ESRM aligned with the Catskill Mountain operation of the former Ulster & Delaware branch of the N Y Central.

Lakeville would have been interesting for a tourist railroad. Lakeville lumber was the westernmost, also taking tank cars of gas, with a feed dealer in Salisbury. The New Haven RR gave preferential rates to ship on the branch and kept it from being torn up an extra year because it was to be used as a tourist RR. The bridge just east of the station in Lakeville was pulled in 1950.

Imagine today if the line still existed and there were tourist trains running on it between Canaan and Lakeville, Conn. The village of Lakeville is a very pretty and popular tourist spot.

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