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Railroad in Southbury, CT

I recently bought a home in Southbury, CT that is next to the Larkin State Bridle Trail. I understand that the trail was at one time a railroad track. I am hoping to learn more about this track, when it was in service, what it carried, and the people who may have worked on the line. Any information or guidance on where to find more information would be greatly appreciated.

Larkin's Bridle Trail That's the Danbury Extension of what was the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill and its sucessors, the New York & New England, the New England and then the NY, NH & H. Its construction out of Waterbury was started in the 1860's and may have been completed to the state line some time in the 1880's. The line was abandoned between Waterbury and Southbury in 1938 and from Hawleyville Jct to Southbury in 1948. Larkin was a wealthy Middlebury Resident and horse lover and had land abutting the NY&NE ROW near South St. in Middlebury. There are others on the Board who have more extensive knowledge of the line than I. Living in the neighborhood, I have hiked, biked, motorcycled and traversed the line in a volkswagen over the years and still enjoy a bike ride.

In Southbury there are still some very nice bridge abutments and piers left. If you go onto River Road where the Pomperaug River flows into the Housatonic there is a nice set of stone bridge abutments over the Pomperaug and there are the bridge piers over the Housatonic. The construction of I-84 destroyed a lot of the ROW from Kettletown Rd near the town dump west, except for a short piece that can still be seen right next to the east side of I-84 just before exit 14. The Southbury Station was up on the top of Depot Hill, up the hill from C.L. Adams, but again I-84 took it out. There was a nice station that was boarded up but in good condition down in Southford on Rt.188 east of Rt 67, just east of the Southford Fire house. I think that there is a rather large garage on the spot. It burned down one Saturday night back in the 1980's. I have seen about 15 or 20 photographs of the railroad in Southbury Library and the Southbury Historial Society at the Bullet Hill School.

The line is still pretty much hike or bikeable from Highland Ave. in Waterbury (The line between Highland Ave and Bristol Street is being encroached by someone developing land to build houses) to the Housatonic River. I haven't been west of the Housatonic in a long time. There are some very nice stone structures still in place that remains as monuments to those who built the line. The line is worth a walk, especially in the early spring when the weather is warm and the leaves are off of the trees and you can see further up the line.

NY&NE Near Southbury

> According to "The Rail Lines of Southern New England" by Ronald Dale Karr (Branch Line Press 1995) the old right of way which you mention was built by the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill and successor New York & New England the Danbury Extension between 1866 and 1881. The NY&NE was a competitor to the ever-strengthening New York, New Haven & Hartford, but was plagued by a largely inferior route including poor access to New York City. The NYNH&H won its battle with the NY&NE by the 1890s, reorganizing it as the New England Railroad in 1895 and taking it over completely in 1898. The line between Hawleyville and Waterbury slipped from favor at this time, largely due to the steep grades, and freight trains were rerouted between these points via Derby Jct. This portion of the line was kept open as a through route through the 1920s, and an retired block operator (controlling the movement of trains) told me of working at Towantic where his "office was a telegraph pole" around 1927 when a derailment had shut down the Derby Jct route. He mentioned the trains being triple-headed by steam locomotives during this re-routing, and a photograph possibly taken at this time has appeared in a couple of publications.

Without the normal passage of through freights the line began to decline, living off of local freight customers and what little passenger traffic existed. The final regular passenger service disappeared in 1932, and in 1937 most of the line east of Southbury was abandoned. The Hawleyville-Southbury portion existed a bit longer but succumbed in 1949. Today a fairly good percentage of the line remains visible during leafless times, especially the bridal trail segment. Once one of the line'e most dramatic features was where it crossed the Housatonic River, slightly upstream from the current I-84 highway bridge and the location can be discovered by persistant exploration.

Hawleyville - Southbury

Both the Hawleyville - Southbury line and the Litchfield Branch were abandoned in June, 1948. Incidentally, there was a large pole line following the Waterbury - Hawleyville Line and this existed for quite some time after the abandonment. I was exploring the area in my car once and came across the pole line and the old right of way, I wondered whether there was any sign of the initals "D" or "M" appeared on any of the poles and sure enough after walking the old ROW for a little bit, found a pole with both initials and the wires were still intact at that location too.

Seems to me that the telephone man at Waterbury told me that the NHRR still maintained that line under contract for Western Union for some time after the line was torn up.


Another --- and important --- item about that line is that it contained one of New Haven's steepest grades, up to Towantic summit. I have never seen a profile map of that route but I have roughly calculated that the climb from the Housatonic Valley up to Towantic could have hit as much as 1.5 or 1.6 %. The severity of that grade is one key reason why the railroad decided to upgrade and double track the longer route from Danbury to Hartford via Derby Jct. in 1908-1911, and allowed the "Straight" route via Towantic to fade into insignificance.

Re: Hawleyville-Waterbury

In your post you refer to the "Danbury - Derby - Hartford route" My Connecticut geography is becoming a faded memory since I became a Floridian in '86 Do you mean; A) Danbury to Derby, thence to Waterbury, then over to Hartford? B) Danbury - Derby - New Haven, then up to Hartford ? I was under the impression that the Derby Junction was a wye only?? One leg to Waterbury and the other leg to Maybrook line ?? Please educate.

Re: Hawleyville-Waterbury

My dad worked at Southbury station in the 40's.

Derby Junction

Although Maybrook is history, you can still go three directions at Derby Junction: 1. To Devon and connect with the main line via a wye to go east to New Haven or west to Bridgeport and beyond. 2. NHRR east but actually north to Waterbury and Hartford. New Britain to Hartford is history but the line to Berlin is still in use and at Berlin, you can go north to Hartford. 3. West to Danbury, Hopewell Junction and Beacon but the line between Hopewell Junction and Maybrook Terminal is history. I don't think the leg of the wye at Derby Junction connecting the Waterbury to the old Maybrook Line is still in use although I am not too positive about that one. I used it once years ago to turn a set of light engines.

Poles along the NY&NE

Thanks for solving a mystery that has been with me since the middle 1950's. The NY&NE ROW wasn't too far from my house in Naugatuck. We would hunt, plunk and fish at several locations aloong the ROW from Hop Brook West. I do remember poles with 2 sets of cross arms with insulators intact and wires strung. One summer's day walking on the NY&NE one of the fellows, my friend Danny, commented that someone shot out several of "those glass things on the pole" and that the next day "some guys were checking the wires and yelled at us" He also commented that he had seen somebody checking the wires almost on a weekly basis. During that summer I do remember a telephone co. style truck parked well into the ROW off of King St. a dirt road that crossed the ROW. I don't recall the markings on the truck. The wires were gone and the poles cut down and left on the ground, where they fell with some of the insulators still on the cross arms. Yes, I did take a couple for posterity and still have them. There are poles still on the ground and I will look for those galvanised "D" or "M". Correct me if I am wrong (or maybe it was another railroad) didn't the dispatcher's wire have a white insulator and the message wire have a dark insulator? Hank Bunell (God rest his soul) would have known both about the insulator colors and the WU lease.


I, too have had a life-long interest in old fashioned pole lines. Not all these pole lines were always owned by the railroads. Some belonged to Southern New England Telephone and either followed railroads, rural highways or sometimes took off on their own across country.

I can distinctly remember there was one such multi-arm pole line in North Wilton near where we used to live. It started on the west side of U.S. Route 7 and ran west along what was then a rural road. After the road came to an end, the pole line continued west through the hills on its own. I have no idea where it went.

I was only six years old when I last saw this, so my memory is a bit fuzzy. We were in the area when I was 12 and 13 years old in the mid 1960's, but the pole line in question was long gone by that time. Sadly, there is pathetic little information available on the web, in books or otherwise that documents and details these unique pieces of Americana that once graced our rural landscape.

I was/am interested in the idea of writing a book with photos on the subject but quickly ran into trouble. I couldn't find many photos or even and info on the subject.

There are people out there who collect insulators and have even started insulator collector clubs, but these folks are more glass collectors than anything else. I have not found them to be very interested in the actual telephone/telegraph lines themselves.

Just recently, Weaver came out with a set of "O" gauge poles that are the FIRST truly prototypical models of such pole lines. Even many of the HO models on the market are not correct.

Does anyone else have any interest or information on the subject?

Since this threatens to deviate from the strict subject of the New Haven Railroad, perhaps you could contact me off list at:

NY and NE RR station

The following site has old pictures of some of the stations on this line:

It is the UCONN website.

Danbury Extension

A lot of the maps I have for west of Waterbury list the Boston, Hartford and Erie as aquiring much of the right of way. Let's not forget that incarnation.

I have seen at least one early picture of a J-2 Mikado stationed at Sandy Hook at the bottom of the grade for pusher service. I have always suspected that this is the kind of service they were bought for. I would imagine that the three delivered in CNE paint would have covered pusher service out of hopewell junction with two on duty and one for servicing. The others in NH paint may have operated out of Waterbury and Oak Point. Waterbury could have supplied pushers for the Towantic grade and Highland Jct to Terryville; the Oak point J-2's would have been to push freights over Hellgate Bridge.

I would also think that the Danbury Extension would have been in fairly regular use as a through route up until the time that the Maybrook Line was double tracked. And perhaps even through the end of WWI in light of the capacity crunch. And maybe it retained a respectable amount of service through the 20's, but I am sure the Depression killed it.

Re: Danbury Extension

It's really too bad the line did not survive until WWII. Imagine the traffic over it if it had! I wonder how many FA1's it would've taken to get a decent sized train over the Towantic summit...Daydreaming again..

Pole Lines

I don't think the insulators were any different but we are going back a long time here so my memory may not be quite correct. I do remember Hank very well, when the round house in Waterbury was shut down, he gave me the old telephone that we had on the desk. The only parts he kept were the selectors, he said he did not have enough of them and would need to use them somewhere. He was one really nice person. I remember him saying that he still had to take care of the line going west out of Waterbury as I mentioned earlier. I suspect that when the NHRR went to bell system lines in 1963 or 1964, Hank's job went with the change, maybe he had rights to work some place else.

Springfield, Hartford and Waterbury were the first three major terminals to be changed over from railroad telephones to bell system telephones. The rest of the railroad followed a couple of years later.

Wye at Derby Junction

The wye at Derby Junction toward Waterbury is still there.It was actually used a couple years ago to park flat cars with parts for the new Merritt Parkway bridge over the Housatonic River on the wye's tracks.

Pomperaug Valley NY&NE 1886

Pomperaug Valley. Distance from Boston 164.2 miles; from Hartford 46.9 miles; from Newburgh 64.4 miles. 2 trains each way daily, except Sundays. Population Southbury 1,740. A short distance back from the Housatonic at Bennet's Bridge, the railway crosses the Pomperaug, or Woodbury River, and near this point is the station. The surrounding region presents an exceedingly attractive valley, exhibiting much diversity to those in search of the beautiful. It affords a variegated prospect of wood, farm and valley, through which the Pomperaug River flows. From this station Southbury is reached by stage. It is a handsomely shaded settlement, devoted to the manufacture of ploughs, wollen goods and paper. Name changed to Southbury in 1910.

Union City NY&NE 1886

Union City. Distance from Boston 153 miles; from Hartford 35.7 miles; from Newburgh 74.8 miles. 1 train each way daily, except Sundays. Population included in that of Naugatuck. This station is romantically situated in the midst of a wood beside the Hop Brook, which flows 115 feet below the cars as they pass over a trestle nearly 600 feet long. The manufacture of machinery and malleable iron goods, cutlery and thimbles constitute the princepal interest. From this point the road winds around embankments, affording beautiful views of the distant villages, and in the summer season the region abounds with grass, corn and tobacco. Beyond the Hop Brook ravine are several heavy rock cuttings, one of which is 600 feet long.

Towantic NY&NE 1886

Towantic. Distance from Boston 157.9 miles; from Hartford 40.6 miles; from Newburgh 70.7 miles. 1 train each way daily except Sundays. Population 150. This station is on the summit of the dividing ridge on the line, in an entirely agricultural region, presenting no features of general interest. Singular as it may seem, Towantic, the highest point on the line gave the contractors more trouble, in some respects, than any other portion of the road because of the extensive swamp, which severly tested the skill of the engineers. Load after load of rock and gravel were poured into it and swallowed up without any perceptible effect, and it was found necessary to construct some 600 feet of the road-bed through the swamp on piles. Quite a distance beyond Towantic trestle is a filling of heavy rocks, taken from an immense rock cut near by, and a curious incident occurred during the progress of work. Three men were sinking a drill in the flinty rock at a point 25 feet below the summit of the ledge; one man held the drill while his companions administered powerful blows with sledges. The drill had penetrated almost to the required depth, when the hammer of one of the drivers fell upon it. The steel seemed to drop a few inches, then shot out of the hole, followed by a powerful stream of water, which rose to a height of 50 feet, continuing to discharge hundreds of gallons a minute, which necessitated plugging the hole, as it interfered with the work. Original station destroyed by fire in 1894. Repalaced by a station of a differant style of any on the NY&NE.

Southford NY&NE 1886

Southford. Distance form Boston 161.2 miles; from Hartford 43.9 miles; from Newburgh 67.4 miles. 2 trains each way daily, except Sundays. Population 76. East of the station is a large horseshoe curve made on a filling. The village is small, and was formerly on the Southford and Seymour stage line, being the terminus of a division, and the hotel where horses were changed, has been known in recent years by the expressive name of "Slap Jack Tavern." West of the station, and before reaching the next, the railway winds around a precipitous hill-side on an artificial terrace 150 feet above the surface of the Housatonic River which flows at the base. The highway bridge over the river near this point in known as "Bennet's." Station built 1881, named changed to Oxford in 1910, destroyed by fire in 1987.

Pomperaug Valley NY&NE 1886

Next station west of Southford is Pomperaug Valley, as noted above! Strange that in the same time period Union City and Towantic only had 1 train each way daily, but Southford and Pomperaug Valley had 2.

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