Historical Sketch of the New Haven Railroad
The New York & New Haven started in 1844 and was completed by 1848. It was the nucleus of the New York, New Haven & Hartford. It started westward from New Haven. The young railroad had to make a $5,500 payoff to the Westchester Turnpike Road Company at the New York State border. Next, it obtained a “perpetual easement” and right of entry into New York City. This amounted to one of the best real estate deals ever because it included a share of terminal profits. New Haven commuters reached Grand Central on New York Central tracks (the New York & Harlem was leased to the New York Central in 1873 for 401 years). The New Haven joined the New York Central from a “flying junction” at Woodlawn Cemetery.
The NY & NH was passenger only until 1851. There were already railroads from Bridgeport up the Housatonic Valley and from Devon up the Naugatuck Valley. The Housatonic extended beyond Danbury to the Massachusetts line. Another railroad ran to Pittsfield. The Naugatuck served Waterbury and Winsted. The New Haven competed with steamboats on Long Island Sound.
The Hartford and New Haven went to Springfield in 1844. All its traffic went to steamboats in a deal to keep them off the Connecticut River.
The New Haven (headed by Robert Schuyler – a descendant of General Philip Schuyler of Revolutionary War fame) leased the New Haven and Northampton Railroad which ran parallel to the Hartford & New Haven to Plainville. His threat to build to Springfield forced a merger. He also leased the Shore Line Railway from New London to New Haven. In 1872, there was still no route under single management from Boston to New York City.
The Northampton Branch, usually referred to as the Canal Branch because it was built alongside an old canal, remained a sleepy branch with usually only local freight service until the end of the New Haven. It is now run by the B&M except for several miles washed out a few years ago. It started at the Water Street yard in New Haven and ran right through the city of New Haven in a cut made by the old canal. It ran past the Grove Street Cemetery where Noah Webster, Lyman Beecher, Eli Whitney and Samuel F. B. Morse are buried. Along the line were munitions plants with “A” poles at the entrance to sidings. An “A” pole is similar to a whistle post except that it has the letter “A” instead of a “W”. It means that before entering the siding with a cut of cars the air must be coupled on.
In 1882, the New Haven leased the New Haven, Middletown & Willimantic from New Haven to Boston. This was later called the Boston & New York Airline and had heavy grades and sharp curves. It was necessary because the New London drawbridge was not built until 1889. Still a part of the Northeast Corridor today is the roadway of the Boston & Providence built in 1834. The Neponset River presented a problem to the builders of this early road. Originally the builders had thought they would use a system of inclined planes and winches to cross this valley. Instead they built the Canton Viaduct which is in use today carrying 80 ton F40s instead of 10 ton 4-4-0s.
The shore line is one of the most beautiful scenic routes in the country and has the distinction of having more drawbridges per mile than any other railroad. The New Haven had 19 drawbridges – twelve of which affected New York-Boston trains. The busiest bridge was at Mystic – it was opened 758 times in June 1945. There are three types of bridges: (1) “bascule” such as Cos Cob or Devon; (2) “swing” such as South Norwalk or Mystic; and (3) “verticle lift” such as Cape Cod Canal (which was government owned and had “open” as its normal condition and only closed when a train came).
Southern New England had 203 separate railroads at one time. By 1892 they were grouped into: (1) The New Haven which ran to Providence after leasing the New York, Providence & Boston in 1892. It also leased the Providence & Worcester and the Housatonic on 1892. (2) The Old Colony which ran from Boston to Cape Cod, Fall River, Newport and New Bedford and also had its own steamers to New York. (3) The New York & New England which ran from Hartford to Beacon, NY. (4) The Central New England Railway and the Hartford & Connecticut Western.
Charles S. Mellen became president of the New Haven in 1903. In an effort to thrust real or imagined competition, the New Haven spent the early part of the century buying up New England trolley lines and the coastal steamers from New England into New York City. They also lost a bundle of money on the New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad. The Mellen and J.P. Morgan regime was controlled by the “Corsair Agreements” (a series of meetings which took place on Morgan’s yacht).
Between 1901 and 1917 the Hell Gate Bridge and Harlem line to Penn Station were built. This 977 feet long and 135 feet high architectural landmark was the last link in an all-rail Boston-Washington route. Main line electrification set the pattern for the country. In 1907 wires were energized from Cos Cob to New York City. It was seven years later that electric locomotives first hauled trains right through from New York to New Haven. By 1945, passenger and freight trains operated over 642 miles of electrified track using 128 locomotives and 198 multiple unit suburban cars. Those that operated into Grand Central were required to be able to take power from either 11,000 volt alternating current trolley wire located anywhere from sixteen to twenty-two feet above the rails; or from a 600-volt direct current third rail which might be located on either side of the track or, in some instances, from an overhead third rail above the tracks. The switch from AC to DC or back again was made while trains were in motion.
A 1911 downturn in the economy caused trouble paying the dividend. The railroad made loans to subs to pay their dividends and deferred maintenance which caused wrecks.
In 1913 Morgan died and Mellen was out of office. By 1914 the road was near bankruptcy. It had to dispose of holdings. It was rescued from bankruptcy by the government taking over railroads in 1918-1920.
In the 1920’s local freight was hurt by trucks and local passenger traffic was hurt by the automobile.
During 1928-1931 there was a brief recovery. In 1935 bankruptcy hit finally. The 1938 hurricane washed out tracks and opened the door to air service. The theme of the Company’s advertising by 1946 was “when you’ve got to get there, take the train”. Already, there was an upcry about expenditure of public funds to subsidize air travel. Once in the 1940’s, the phone rang in the stationmasters office at South Station. Someone requested four gentlemen who were supposed to be taking the Merchant’s Limited to New York to be paged and to call East Boston 4100. The clerk recognized the phone number as one of the airlines and asked the caller why they were being paged. The reply was that these men now had reservations on the next flight to New York.
During this time, the O&W, Rutland & Old Colony were also bankrupt. The O&W was in trusteeship until 1937. The New Haven’s Rutland holdings were sold. It was finally torn up in 1964.
In 1938 piggybacks were inaugurated between Boston and Harlem River terminal.
East of New Haven, standard passenger power was Pacifics built by Alco. In 1937, ten streamlined Hudson’s from Baldwin turned out to be the New Haven’s last steam. By 1941, Alco DL109s began dieselization. By the late 1940s, passenger runs were mostly using PAs. The road also bought 10 2400 h.p. “C-Liners” from Fairbanks-Morse. The “Comet” was an articulated diesel lightweight built in 1935 by Goodyear for Boston-Providence service. Modern passenger equipment arrived in 1934 with Pullman’s “American Flyer” coaches.
Electric locomotives in service in 1945 are shown below:
Class No. Built Maximum Tractive Effort Service
EP-1 10 1906-8 19,600 Passenger
EF-1 37 1912-13 50,000 Freight
EF-2 5 1926 50,000 Freight
EF-3 5 1942 90,000 Freight
EF-3A 5 1943 90,000 Freight
EY-2 15 1911 42,000 Switcher
EY-3 2 1926 42,000 Switcher
EY-2B 6 1927 42,000 Switcher
EP-2 27 1928 47,500 Passenger
EP-3 10 1931 68,500 Passenger
EP-4 6 1938 68,500 Passenger
WWII was a boom and the railroad was out of bankruptcy in 1947. The trustees in 1946 were headed by Howard S. Palmer.
In 1948 Frederic C. Dumaine took over assisted by Patrick B. McGinnis. In 1951 he turned over the presidency to his son “Buck” who was good and spent on maintenance. Realizing how difficult it was to make a buck in passengers, he ordered a large fleet of rail diesel cars (RDCs). He also ordered new M.U. cars (“washboard electrics”) to replace cars some of which dated to 1907.
In 1954 Dumaine was ousted by McGinnis. He also took over the B&M, slashed maintenance, and was finally ousted by the George Alpert regime. The electric fleet fell on hard times under McGinnis. Unfortunately, the diesels were also nearing retirement age. He was eager to find light-weight, high speed passenger trains but did not have the cash to do much more than buy samples: a Pullman built/Baldwin powered “Train X:; a Fairbanks-Morse “Talgo”; and a Budd “Hot Rod” RDC.
1956 was the last year with a profit. In 1958 the Connecticut Turnpike opened. Alpert scrapped the electrics and bought FL-9s. He also bought 60 road switchers. By 1961 the railroad was back in reorganization where it remained.
Freight outlook for Connecticut (in 2010)
In Waterbury, The Republican has only received a few cars of newsprint this year. Understand that trucking costs are about the same as rail, and the declining demand for newsprint hasn’t helped. The newspaper also sometimes deals with rail issues in a negative way under their current editorial policy. Hubbard Hall (IIRC) receives several tank cars a month, somewhere in the south end of Waterbury. Albert Bros. scrap is the only other near regular customer, and when the scrap prices tanked last winter they didn’t do anything either. The yard tracks across from the station are unused. The spur down the hill to the transload area is unused, overgrown, and blocked with debris.
Plainville: Amerigas had 6 cars at the rack. Some more propane in the yard along with 2 covered hoppers and 2 center spines. For about a week engine MEC 353 apparently sat dead at Plainville, so no service anywhere on PAS (Pan Am) in Connecticut for that week. Another local finally came down with engine MEC 351. Amerigas, Forestville Lumber, and a scrap yard all south of the diamond, on the Canal Line.
PAS has begun to get somewhat regular inbound steel shipments to Clark Steel, which is located in the former New Departure plant in Bristol. Hopefully this weekly or less service won’t end this traffic. Firestone roofing products also receives tank cars there.
Tilcon stone loading facility, between Plainville and New Britain, intact but unused.
New Britain’s Stanley Works is a shadow of its former self. Very little manufacturing there. A spin off company from Stanley – Cold Metal Products – used to receive coiled steel, probably mainly for Stanley, but they closed several years ago so any raw material needed now comes in by truck. Only other activity in New Britain is at the Whiting St. Yard, where ties and sometimes logs are transloaded to/from Perma-treat in Durham. As this is Pan Am owned, all or at least most of this traffic is company service non revenue.
Over at the P&W at Middletown: Primary Steel and a brick supply business are on the Berlin Branch.
Over in Portland, a construction & demolition debris site generates traffic.
The only bright spot was Berlin where we could see covered hoppers north and the old Middletown line that seemed to have traffic for New Britan Steel
Railroads of Connecticut
|Excursion and Tourist Railroad/Museum|
|Excursion and Tourist Railroad/Museum|
|Excursion and Tourist Railroad/Museum|
|Excursion and Tourist Railroad/Museum|
|Excursion and Tourist Railroad/Museum|
|Excursion and Tourist Railroad/Museum|
The Maybrook Line was a line of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad which connected with its Waterbury Branch in Derby, Connecticut, and its Maybrook Yard in Maybrook, New York, where it interchanged with other carriers.
If one looks at the most popular Pages on our WebSite, over half directly reference the Maybrook Line. Lot’s of folks have an interest in it. The “Maybrook Line” was important to New England before the advent of Penn Central and before the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned. This piece of the railroad carried freight from Maybrook Yard, across the Poughkeepsie Bridge to Hopewell Junction where it joined a line from Beacon. The railroad then went to Brewster, then Danbury, and finally to Cedar Hill Yard in New Haven.
WHY and How To Fix The “MAYBROOK LINE”?
Container port/intermodal facility/rail bridge
The construction of a railroad bridge between New Hamburg and Marlboro is likely the least expensive place to build a Hudson River crossing between Manhattan and Albany. The stone for ramps, sand and gravel for concrete and a steel beam assembly and storage area would be right on sight. All materials and equipment could be transported by barge or boat. The bridge itself would have only four or five piers (the most costly part to build) since the Hudson River is about the same width as it is in Poughkeepsie.
The Hudson River component connects Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties to the world economy (finished goods, spare parts, components parts, raw materials, food stuffs) and the railroad and interstate road components connect these NY counties to the rest of North America (US, Mexico, Canada).
With the container port/intermodal facility/rail bridge, the flow in and out of raw materials, spare parts, partially finished goods, foodstuffs and components will allow for new industries and businesses to locate near this facility and add to the tax base of these three NY counties: Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties.
Although the Dutchess County Airport is a tiny regional airport with a 5,000 foot runway, it has some big potential. The airport land extends a mile Northeast of the present runway end at New Hackensack Road and borders on the former New Haven Maybrook Line/Dutchess Rail Trail. As the NY Air National Guard gets crowded out by international air traffic at Stewart International Airport their operation could be moved over to Dutchess Airport without disrupting the lives of the guard members and their families through forced relocation.
Beacon itself is exploding with “developer” activity, and it needs a trolley or light rail for the city only to transform back into a pedestrian oriented city.
Other activities include: Solidization of rail links in Connecticut to handle increased traffic; a possible HYPERLINK for improved service along the Beacon Line and in/out of New York City
Now you are going to ask. What does the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority have to do with the “BEACON LINE”? IT OWNS IT! Must realize that NYCMTA is a “regional” organization. With all that went on with Penn-Central and CONRAIL somebody had to own it!
Hartford to State Line Track Chart
Too much of this is GONE! We wil have to re-route the Revised Maybrook Line to make it work!
Railroads in Monroe Connecticut
It was one hundred fifty years ago in 1840 that the Housatonic Railroad began passenger and freight service to Monroe, Connecticut. This early line ran from Bridgeport (on Long Island Sound) to New Milford (above Danbury in Litchfield County). The iron foundries and marble, granite, lime and clay deposits represented the freight potential. In perspective, steam trains had only been alive in the country for ten years and the industrial revolution hadn’t really hit yet. Trains from Bridgeport to Leavonworth’s Mills in the Stepney section of Monroe only took 25 minutes. Ironically, until a new road opened ten years ago, motorists couldn’t better this time.
The Housatonic Railroad Company was chartered in 1836 and began selling stock in 1837. The original idea was to build a canal but this didn’t sell well. The estimated cost of the railroad was $1,000,000 and it was supposed to go to the Massachusetts border. Bridgeport was incorporated as a city so that it could purchase Housatonic Railroad stock through the sale of bonds.Trains from Bridgeport went through Trumbull along the Pequonnock River Valley then into Monroe. A bridge across the Merritt Parkway is still up although trains haven’t run on it in many years. After the railroad tracks were abandoned, it carried Rocky Hill Road until a recent reconstruction. To put my personal relationship with this area in perspective, “Duck Pond” on my property in Monroe empties into the Pequonnock. Sections of the old roadbed are still visible although the Northbrook Condominiums and other recent developments have covered some up. At one spot on Pepper Street in Monroe, two old rails can be seen protruding from the pavement, still stamped “NYNH&H RR”. The last Stepney railroad station is now used as a garage. There was a major wreck in Monroe that claimed several lives in 1865. A park was built at Parlor Rock near the north end of Trumbull in order to try and increase weekend passengers. There was also a summer resort in Monroe called The Garders which even had its own station platform.
The road continued from Stepney to Botsford where it joined what is now the CONRAIL line from Derby and Shelton past the Stevenson Dam and into Danbury. A large watertank can still be observed at this junction however the Botsford station burned several years ago. A tunnel was dug at Hawleyville to build the original Housatonic. Later, when the ceiling of the tunnel proved too low for newer model steam engines, it was blasted out.
This 28-mile segment of what once was called the “Maybrook Line” (between New Haven and Maybrook, NY) was out of service until recently because of a flooded-out bridge between Derby Junction (on the Waterbury Line) and Shelton. The bridge was only recently replaced, thanks to some government aid. After leaving Shelton, the line climbs for eight miles to Stevenson Dam, a power plant on the Housatonic. Five more miles of scenic track brings the line into Botsford. It is then four miles to Newtown and another four to Hawleyville. Except for light manufacturing and lumber yards, not much industry is served by the railroad. Twenty five miles from Derby Junction is Berkshire Junction where the line to Pittsfield branches off. Remaining active north of here is CONRAIL’s New Milford Secondary (6 miles). Three miles west of Berkshire Junction is Danbury. As well as a freight yard, Danbury is the end of the line and FL-9 “resting spot” for Metro-North’s Danbury Branch.The line through the Stevenson section of Monroe is still very active as an east-west freight link. The “Maybrook Line” was important to New England before the advent of Penn Central and before the Poughkeepsie Bridge burned. This connection was built in 1889 by the Housatonic, which had acquired the New Haven and Derby Railroad. It was part of a bigger plan to route traffic around New York City and eventually led the New Haven to acquire that railroad to protect its interests. In 1891, the Housatonic was merged into the New England Railroad which was then leased to the New Haven in 1892. By 1898, it was officially a part of the New Haven and known as the Berkshire Division. Passenger service on this line ceased over 60 years ago. Beginning in 1989, the annual Shelton Day features an excursion on this line with its spectacular views of the Housatonic River and the Stevenson Dam. In 1990 Metro-North operated two round trips Shelton to Danbury and one Danbury to Shelton. Equipment was FL-9’s with New Haven paint scheme and a long string of Bombardier coaches. Shelton featured a huge street fair while Danbury had a farmer’s market (plus a big old rail yard to explore!). With the return to mass transportation, it has been suggested that a Danbury – New Haven commuter train might be possible.The Berkshire Division between Bridgeport and Stepney lasted until just before World War II. A five-mile section between Stepney and Botsford made it until the 1960’s. On the Bridgeport end, remains of the line connect to the elevated main line via a narrow trestle on Housatonic Avenue. What does remain here forms just a small part of many miles of rusted industrial trackage. Most is out of service as most of Bridgeport’s numerous factories are empty. Even in the 1950’s, employee timetables listed numerous restrictions on engine sizes on much of the track in the Bridgeport area. The line eventually ran as far north as Pittsfield (154 miles from Grand Central).Recently, a small railroad using the Housatonic name began running between Canaan and New Milford. It hopes to extend to Pittsfield. 36 miles of railroad between Pittsfield and the Connecticut border was recently sold to it by the state of Massachusetts. 2 miles in Connecticut is being purchased by that state and will be operated by the railroad. The new Housatonic Railroad is operated by John H. Hanlon, Jr. of Sheffield, Mass. who hopes to link CONRAIL at Pittsfield with New York City. Previously, Pittsfield to Canaan was operated by Guilford. Part of the line will be operated as a tourist venture by the Berkshire Scenic Railway of Lee, Massachusetts.
Bar Cars on the New Haven Railroad
The name was “V:XI-GBC” for the departure time which was 5:11. This was NOT a private club car, it was a bar car open to everybody and it began to give the pubic the impression of a private club car because the daily riders took upon themselves the appearance of an association. The New Haven Railroad operated a number of private commuter club cars during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Most of these private commuter club cars operated out of Grand Central Terminal
Many of the private commuter clubs were organized along business lines.
As of April 30, 1950 the following club car (commuter) assignments were in effect:
5102 trans 349 and 348 Stamford – GCT and return
5103 trains 271 and 300 Stamford – GCT and return
5104 trains 271 and 300 Stamford – GCT and return
5105 trains 331 and 332 New Canaan – GCT and return
5106 trains 678 and 675 Greenbush – Boston and return
8251 trains 369 and 374 Bridgeport – GCT and return
Note that as of that time club cars 5001 and 5101 set aside.
The best-known bar car V XI-GBC a.k.a. Five Eleven Gentlemen’s Bar Car
Bought this picture many years ago at the Springfield MA train show.
See Penney Vanderbilt’s Blog for more about railroad bar cars.
When the government stepped in with modern “Cosmopolitan” cars (1970’s). At that time, someone sent us an article that had a proposal for bar cars. After 30+ years we seem to have lost the source, but will reprint it below anyway.
Pushers waiting at Hopewell Junction in 1947
Photo by the late Austin McEntee
Two New Haven class L1, 2-10-2 “ Santa Fe “ pusher steam engines are waiting in the Hopewell Junction yard for the next eastbound freight train on the Maybrook Line. This type of engine was assigned to Hopewell pusher service in 1918 and lasted until they were replaced by diesels in the late 1940’s. The New Haven RR owned 50 of these massive engines and they were used mostly on the Maybrook Line. In 1947 these two were near the end of their service. By 1949 all but one had been scrapped. The last one was #3246 scrapped in December 1950.
Santa Fe engines were designed for heavy freight service. Tractive effort was rated at 77,800 pounds. They were not very fast but they could pull a long string of cars. 25 to 40 MPH was normal but they could go faster if required. This was the ideal engine for the Maybrook Line. They could haul heavy tonnage at their most efficient speed and not have to worry about faster passenger trains. These were the steam engines most often seen crossing the big RR bridge in Poughkeepsie during WW II.
Connecticut Central Railroad: The Lyman Viaduct (named for David Lyman) crosses over the Dickenson Creek in Colchester, and is 1,000 feet long and 137 feet high (courtesy of the East Hampton Public Library Historical Collection)
Railroads in Middletown, Connecticut
Last December I drove over to Middletown, Connecticut (home of Wesleyan University) to explore. Driving into town, I passed under a railroad trestle still adorned with an ad for Penn Central’s Boston and New York passenger service. Ironically, passenger service has not been a part of Middletown for many years. The Willimantic route was important many years ago but not recently. I noticed lots of tracks in the area but did not see any trains until I finally found the headquarters, yards, etc of the Connecticut Central Railroad
“We’re here to run a business,” said Russ St. John, general manager of the only operating Connecticut-based short-line railroad company. “We’re not playing choo-choo trains.” He was recently interviewed by the Hartford COURANT (March 21, 1988) concerning the Spring 1987 takeover of a 12-mile stretch of track known as the Middletown cluster after CONRAIL abandoned the track and sold it to the state. This track was ex-Penn Central and before that ex-New Haven. They also operate 4 miles of the former New Haven “Valley Line” to serve local customers. CONRAIL could not make enough money from the handful of businesses on the maze of spur tracks connecting Middlefield to Portland.
Connecticut Central is not expected to make a profit in its first year of operation, but it has done better than president Jim Goodwin and its parent company, Valley Railroad, thought it would. They hoped the railroad would haul 850 cars but it is anticipated that they will hit 950.
Short lines serve as capillaries for major railroads that do not have the time to switch and deliver to businesses at the end of their lines. CONRAIL brings loaded cars as far as Middlefield (18 miles northeast of New Haven), where Connecticut Central picks them up, delivers them to clients along the cluster and returns cars to CONRAIL.
Loads of lumber from Northwest forests; white logs from Louisiana and Georgia; potash from Canada; and phosphates from Florida rumble past farms, through towns and across the Connecticut River swing bridge to fertilizer, lumber and paper companies in Portland and Cromwell. On the Middletown side of the bridge, a trailer marked with the Connecticut Central logo – a huge yellow “C” engulfing a blue outline of the state – serves as company headquarters. This is right off Connecticut Route 9 which is the major route between the coast at Saybrook and Hartford.
Personal service and a small operating budget keep most short lines running with at least a modest profit. There are about 400 short lines in the United States, 200 of them created since 1980. The new ones were created because of easing of federal regulations on abandonments. Entrepreneurs stepped in to replace the big lines.
Goodwin is a 37-year old Latin teacher on leave from Old Saybrook High School. There are five “workers” on the Connecticut Central, all of whom suffer from “iron horse fever”. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make a project like this one work.
The Connecticut Central leased an Alco S4 from Seaview Transportation. They purchased a SW1200 from Moxahala Valley but have traded it for another Alco. Too bad they can’t buy a steam locomotive (from China?) to run.
When the Penn Central went bankrupt, the state of Connecticut began a program to acquire abandoned roadbed such as from Middletown to Willimantic. This was known as the “Air Line”. The Connecticut Department of Parks & Forests acquired the Middletown-Old Saybrook “Valley Line” paralleling the Connecticut River and leased it to the Valley Railroad to operate steam tourist trains. Valley operates about twenty miles south of Middletown. Now Valley is expanding.
Harbor Park, alongside the river in Middletown, is an outstanding vantage point to watch action on the old swing bridge. There is a pleasant restaurant in the park which provides a good view of the bridge as well as the many small boats running on the river. The bridge is usually kept open. Preparing the bridge for a train to run over to Portland and back takes a few minutes. Workers walk across the bridge to check it. Don’t worry about missing the train – it goes no faster than 5 mph!
Railroad From Norwalk, Connecticut to Pittsfield, Massachusetts
There was an 1835 charter to the Fairfield County Railroad to build from Danbury to some point on Long Is land Sound. Earlier, Danbury had discarded the idea of a canal because of the large number of locks required. Professor Alexander C. Twining of Yale was hired to survey the route. After many delays and a name change, the Danbury & Norwalk RR was completed in 1852. The backers of the railroad were aware of the great possibilities if the road could be extended north to connect with the Western Railroad through the Berkshires. However, the Housatonic Railroad, with backing from Bridgeport, was able to secure financing where the Danbury group, led by Eli Hoyt, was not. After this setback, the charter languished until 1849. The revival was successful because Norwalk wanted to outdo Stamford which was pushing for a route through New Canaan and Ridgefield to Danbury.
Starting from the New Haven’s South Norwalk station, the Danbury & Norwalk ran up the Norwalk River then along the little harbor on land conveyed to it by Norwalk. A dock was built to facilitate interchange with steamboats. The road cut through solid stone at Isaac’s Hill and up an easy grade to Winnepauk. A station was established where the Merritt Parkway runs today. The right of way then crossed the river again and followed a series of curves into Wilton. From there, it followed the Norwalk River (now becoming a stream) through Cannon’s, Georgetown and Ridgefield (now Branchville). There the real climb began until Topstone was reached, just over 15 miles from Norwalk and 450 feet above sea level. The road then cut over to Bethel and then turned into Danbury.
The lakes in this region would generate good ice traffic. The 24-mile road had eight way stations and three flag stops. It had 46 public crossings and the heaviest grade was 1.3%. The line usually ran six days a week except in the summer; milk trains ran on Sunday so the milk wouldn’t spoil.
In 1891 the Eastern States Line operated over this road. It was a through service between Boston and New York, with a car ferry crossing from South Norwalk to the Long Island Railroad.
Beginning in 1836, the Housatonic came into being to connect Long Island Sound and the Western Railroad being built between Boston and Albany. This road terminated in Bridgeport because that city contributed $150,000 to the new company. Its charter provided for an alternate route not adopted — through Danbury and Ridgefield to connect with a possible railroad in Westchester County. The Housatonic opened between Bridgeport and New Milford in 1840 and was completed to West Stockbridge in 1842 via the Berkshire Railroad in Massachusetts. At West Stockbridge, the West Stockbridge Railroad connected to the Western Railroad. This completed a rail route from Bridgeport to Albany. In 1849, a connection to Pittsfield was made over the Stockbridge & Pittsfield Railroad from Van Deusenville.
The Hartford, Providence & Fishkill was to be the major rail route between Providence and the Hudson River. There was a ferry at Fishkill (now Beacon) which was important before the Poughkeepsie Bridge was built. It ran through Danbury and by 1873 became the NY & New England. A line composed of several small railroads ran from Hartford to Winsted, Norfolk, Canaan, Lakeville, and Boston Corner to Rhinecliff and on to Fishkill. It interchanged with the Housatonic at Canaan.
In 1864, some Boston businessmen developed a plan to link their city with the west by connecting with the Erie. They would consolidate small properties into the Boston, Hartford & Erie and go as far as the Hudson where car floats and ferries would carry traffic to the Erie which already reached Buffalo. Some New York investors got the idea to tie into this system with their New York & Boston Railroad Company. The nucleus of the Putnam Division of the New York Central grew out of this failure. The westernmost segment of the BH&E’s proposed main line was the Dutchess & Columbia. By 1869, the Dutchess & Columbia extended from the ferry at Beacon to Hopewell Junction.
Currently, Metro-North operates commuter rail service between Danbury and Norwalk (and on into New York City). New Haven’s (Penn Central’s to be exact) Berkshire service died with the inception of Amtrak. Fortunately for the rest of Connecticut, this was about the only passenger run that was lost other than an RDC from New London to Worcester, Mass. Operation by Penn Central of the commuter service deteriorated from the almost unbelievable nadir set by the New Haven in its worst moments, largely because of deferred maintenance and equipment shortages. In 1969, Connecticut and New York agreed to acquire, operate and improve commuter service.
Connecticut’s acquisition of the 24-mile Danbury branch was followed by an increase in service to seven round trips daily on a timetable more suited to suburban travelers than the old Pittsfield schedules. Much of the increase was by better utilizing RDC’s and their two-man crews. Two FL9-led trains ran through to New York while the RDC’s shuttled to a South Norwalk connection.
The lime was electrified in the 1920’s but the catenary was torn down in 1963 for the scrap value of the copper. The poles were not removed and the State of Connecticut keeps threatening to re-electrify the branch.
The Housatonic Railroad would like to restore service between Danbury and Pittsfield and possibly to North Adams. Currently, it operates weekend tourist traffic south from Canaan and would like to develop freight service and reinstitute a New York City connection. This route is currently severed three miles north of New Milford by a paved-over grade crossing at Boardman’s Bridge. This roadblock is being eliminated in order to utilize the line’s excellent oversize freight capability to move the old generators out of the Cos Cob power plant.
Housatonic Railroad owner John Hanlon is trying to get a federal grant to renovate 37 miles of track between Canaan and New Milford. The money would be used to replace ties, realign tracks and repair crossings. The line is in surprisingly good shape because of the excellent rebuilding lob by the New Haven earlier in the century. His plan is that eventually the entire 74-mile stretch of track between Danbury and Pittsfield could be renovated to allow daily service. With Litchfield County growing rapidly, he feels there is a place for a highway alternative.
A Berkshire County, Massachusetts, advisory group feels the best approach would be state ownership. The line could be renovated and leased to a short line operator.