This blog highlights some of my adventures with the focus on railroad history. Originally intended as a blog of my rail trail rides, it now also includes hikes, railroad trips and even stop-and-go car trips if they are railroad history related...

Monday, May 3, 2021

Hartford Area Trolleys

As this map indicates, the Hartford area had quite a few trolley lines in the heyday of electric streetcars. Initially separate entities, most eventually merged into one single company.

1 -Hartford, Manchester and Rockville Tramway 
2 - East Hartford and Glastonbury Street Railway

Consolidation Details

Around 1904, Consolidated Railway acquired these lines:
1893-1904 - Hartford Street Railway Co.
1893-1904  - East Hartford and Glastonbury Street Railway 
1894 -1904 - Hartford, Manchester and Rockville Tramway 
1897 -1904 - Hartford and Middletown Street Railway

In 1907, the Consolidated Railway was merged as part of  the New Haven RR and renamed Connecticut Company. The Connecticut Company became the primary electric street railway company in all of  Connecticut, operating both city and rural trolleys and freight service. As mentioned, it was controlled by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. 

"The Connecticut Company, which by 1907 was controlled by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, operated most of the trolleys and buses in Connecticut, with fourteen divisions and, at its peak in the 1910s, a roster of over 2200 cars and nearly 800 miles of track that either ran in or connected twelve major Connecticut cities.  Ridership started to drop in the 1920s and systems were abandoned by the 1930s.  The last trolley ran on September 25, 1948, in New Haven, as the post-war boom of personal ownership of the automobile became widespread." Source: UConn Library 

As highways improved and automobiles become more prevalent throughout the country, abandonments of the trolley/streetcars lines progressed steadily through the 1920s and 1930s, with only city and suburban lines remaining after 1937. By 1941, the Hartford Division was completely converted to buses.

Manchester Trolley

Laurel Park

In the late 1800s, in many populated areas across the country, trolley companies but amusement parks to increase ridership and the weekends, The owners of the Hartford, Manchester, and Rockville Tramway Company created Laurel Park on the Manchester-East Hartford border in 1895.

The Hockanum River was damned creating a lake for boating. The Park had a carousel as well as a bandstand and pavilion for Saturday night dances. Sunday concerts were held in a gazebo. The park also had a wooden observatory tower, a refreshment stand and even a zoo. The amusement park lasted until 1923 and the lake was drained in 1962.

Further Info

East Hartford and Glastonbury Street Railway
In 1880 trolley service came to Glastonbury. Glastonbury families would ride the trolley into Hartford, and the town’s factories were largely assisted by the trolley line that shipped goods out. In 1892, an electric trolley ran from East Hartford to Hubbard Brook near the town’s center.

Hartford and West Hartford

 Hartford, Manchester and Rockville Tramway Company

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Cheney Rail Trail

It was a beautiful day on Saturday and I finally had time to go for a bike ride replete with railroad history exploration. The Cheney Rail Trail in Manchester was a short privately-owned spur to the Cheney Silk Factory complex (Historical detail below) 

I started from the site of the old Manchester Trail Station  - see previous posting.

Once on the trail, on the right are the railroad tracks and remnants of a trestle for the second set of tracks.

Trail on left - Track on right
Pier remnants
There were two tracks here
The official start was a block south of where I started!

 The Bike Ride 
(Short Video)

Former Cheney Silk Factory

The Factory buildings have been converted into loft apartments - very nice!

Ah - maybe this is a spot for a Native American Flute concert :-)

Historical Details

South Manchester Railroad (also known as the Cheney Railroad) was a short-line railroad, operating in Manchester, Connecticut. It was in operation from 1869 to the 1980s. The two-mile-long railroad was the only line in the United States to be owned by a family rather than a company. It was used as a method to send silk products from their mill in Manchester to the other mill, based in Hartford. Some of the workers also used the rail as a way to get to the mills for a low fare, but most lived in houses located on the property.


In 2005, one mile of the railroad was purchased by the Manchester Land Conservation Trust and converted into a Rail Trail.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Manchester Train Station (Remnants)

Ever on the lookout for traces of vanished railroad history. I checked out the very sparse remnants of the former Manchester CT Railroad Station.

Looking West

Looking East

It doesn't look like this has seen a train in a long time!

Historic Photos of the Station

Depot Square

Note: Tracks on the left are the South Manchester Cheney Railroad


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

East Hampton, CT Railroad Station

I was traveling through East Hampton, CT and discovered the old railroad station.  The weather was a bit cloudy and gray so the pictures aren't optimal. Nevertheless it was cool finding it!

This photo is from a Google Street View
I rode the Airline Trail a couple of years ago and started the ride from East Hampton. The photo below came from the kiosk in town.

Railroad History

The first railroad through the town was the New Haven, Middletown and Willimantic Railroad. It ran from New Haven to Willimantic, forming part of a more or less direct route between Boston and New York City and was was completed in 1873. The Panic of 1873 and the high expenses of construction bankrupted the line and forced its reorganization as the Boston and New York Air-Line Railroad in 1875. After a few years of attempted competition, it was leased by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1879. 

Passenger service was discontinued in 1927 and the rails were abandoned entirely in 1965. East Hampton to Willimantic was opened as a trail in 1986.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Noroton Heights Train Station

What a surprise right nearby but never seen yet!  

The former Noroton Heights railroad station was looking mighty fine despite the cloudy weather. It's now a youth center and the ugly  (pitiful!) Metro North replacement is just a bit further west. Love the caboose!


Historical Details

When high-level platforms were being constructed along the line in the early 70s, the Noroton Heights station was repurposed to became the home of Darien EMS Post 53, and served as their headquarters for 16 years. After Post 53 relocated to a new building across the tracks, the old depot was set to be demolished. Fortunately, it was saved from that fate when a youth center acquired it in 1989. The Depot is a drug-free gathering spot for young people. The Depot >


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Schenectady Train Station

While briefly upstate on family business, I grabbed the opportunity to visit the new Schenectady Train Station. Nice job Amtrak!
Some great history tidbits in the back
Stairwell to the train tracks

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Trolley Bridge - Dionondahowa Falls

The Hudson Valley Railway was an extensive interurban electric railway system that was in existence from 1901 to 1925. (see map). There was a branch from Schuylerville to Greenwich that has been often overlooked. A few scattered remnants remain and old maps and postcards help reveal its history.

Especially impressive was the high spindly bridge that passed over the Dionondahowa Falls near Middle Falls, NY. Dionondahowa is a Native American Algonquin word meaning "She opens the door for them".  Source: Aboriginal place names of New York

Hudson Valley Railway Trolley Map

1 - Piers of the Trolley Bridge across the Battenkill at Clarks Mills are still standing 

2 - Any remnants of the trolley bridge further upriver at Dionondahowa Falls have long disappeared
Dionondahowa Falls - Yesteryear and Today