"In the field" railroad history adventures...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Larkin Bridal Trail

The former New York & New England Railroad ROW through Southbury, CT is now the Larkin Bridal Trail. This is a great trail!

The Ride

After a railroad-history-filled morning riding the trolleys trails of Woodbury and Middlebury, topped off with a delicious lunch washed down with a double IPA - I was still aching to do more railroad-history-related bike riding.

Next stop was the Larkin Trail.  I took a look at the entrance on Rt 63 across from the Hop Brook Park and didn't see the ROW so I went to the Allerton Farms entrance instead. In order to satisfy my curiosity, I biked back to Rt 63 and saw that the ROW did end there - but it was cut off up high. Apparently as Rt 63 was modernized, it removed a lot of the embankment.

Well the ride was a blast - the Trail is very scenic and you ride thru quite a few rock cuts. The eastern section is nicer to ride because it is now mostly single track. The far western end of the trail feels like basically just a wide dirt road.
Allerton Farms entrance looking west
The other way takes you back to Rt 63
Beautiful tree canopy and super picturesque ROW
Man - I love riding thru rock cuts
Abutment - Remnants of the RR Bridge here
(South Street) 
Ah - rock cut...
Ooo yeah... another rock cut
Thru marshland near the airport
A picturesque spot - note collapsed structure on right

Power Lines crossing

End of the (official) trail
Yep I t looks like it keeps gong 
Parking at the end of the (official) trail
I headed from back here...
There is even a roller for mountain bikers
Of course I had to do it!
Highlights of the Trail
Two Minute Riding Video


This trail’s railroad history began in 1881 with completion of the New York & New England Railroad (NY&NE) between western Connecticut and New York. Following NY&NE bankruptcy in 1894, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (NYNH&H) took over the line until 1939.
Southbury, CT- 1892
New York & New England Railroad
The line was abandoned between Waterbury and Southbury in 1939 and from Hawleyville Junction to Southbury in 1948. The line between Hawleyville and Waterbury had one the region’s steepest grades up to Towantic summit. The severity of that grade is the key reason why the NYNH&H decided to upgrade and double track the alternative longer route from Danbury to Hartford via Derby Jct. in 1908-1911 and allowed this shorter route via Towantic to fade into insignificance.

The Southbury Station was up on the top of Depot Hill. It was razed during the construction of Interstate 84.
Southbury Passenger Station
Source: TylerCity Station
The final regular passenger service disappeared in 1932, and by 1937 most of the line east of Southbury was abandoned. The Hawleyville-Southbury portion existed a bit longer but was abandoned in 1948.

The Bridle Trail
The ROW was purchased by a Dr. Charles L. Larkin when the NYNH&H pulled out in 1939, and converted to a bridle path. Larkin was a wealthy Middlebury resident and horse lover and had land abutting the NY&NE ROW near South St. in Middlebury. He gifted it to the state in 1943 for a bridle trail.

The Woodbury Trolley

A trolley line from Waterbury to Woodbury was completed in 1908 and an amusement park was built on the Lake Quassapaug (formerly known as Quassapaug Pond) as a way to get workers and their families to ride streetcars and railways on weekends. Steady patronage due to the trolley connection helped transform the Quassy Amusement Park into a full-fledged summer resort.

Initially known as the Woodbury and Waterbury Street Railway it soon became part of the Waterbury and Pomperaug Valley Street Railway and was subsequently absorbed by the massive Connecticut Company - the primary electric street railway company in Connecticut. The line was abandoned in the 1930s when visitors began driving their cars to the resort.
Source: Central and Northwestern Connecticut Interurbans
A couple of sections of the trolley right of way (ROW) still remain and are "bike friendly." The Middlebury Greenway is a developed "official trail" but the section passing by the Woodbury Reservoir and following the South Brook is undeveloped.

Woodbury Trolley (Backwoods by the Reservoir)

I started at Old Sherman Hill Road and road south towards the Reservoir. It was all downhill and strangely much steeper on the section going north into Woodbury.
It's all downhill going west...
There's a small spot to park on Old Sherman Hill Road

-The Ride-
Old Sherman Hill Road
(pay no attention to the orange signs :-) )
The view up Trolley Bed Road at the start
I rode up to Route 64 first before I hit the woods...
It's a picturesque ride
Definitely glad I was on the mountain bike and not the road bike!
The classic embankment shot
At the end
Some spots were pretty overgrown!
I am found of embankment photos :-)
A bridge
All uphill going back but doable!
Panorama of the Woodbury Reservoir
Another Bridge
It took 20 minutes one way (going down) - probably 12-15 minutes if you wanted to bomb it. Going back - add at least another 5 minutes because its all uphill.

Middlebury Greenway

I next drove over the Middlebury to ride the Greenway. This follows the path of the old trolley ROW and has been fully paved, etc. It would have been better obviously on the road bike but the heavier bike and lots of hills made it more interesting for me.

-The Ride-
I started out from the FireHouse
There are a few historical signs along the way
The first climb goes through a beautiful rock cut
Oops - The official place to start!
This place is now a pizza joint!
Great info!
End of the line
(Mighty boring!)
Short One-Handed Video of the Trail

Sure it was somewhat boring compared to riding single track or a rutted abandoned ROWs in the woods but it was nice to see the Town feature the trolley line and the hilly up and downs made it fun.


I grabbed lunch--which included a double IPA!--at this spot: Maggie Mcfly’s. It was wonderful and headed a bit south to Ride the Larking Bridle Trail.

Next > 

Further Info

Middlebury Greenway (TrailLink)
Quassy: One of the Last of the Old-Time Trolley Parks
Trolley Parks: Survivors of an earlier era
(In 1919, more than 1,000 parks speckled the U.S.; now, there are 11)
Woodbury Trolley Trail (Bike Explorations)
Northeast U.S. Interurbans 
(Maps and Details on the Interurbans Systems in New York and New England)