The rebirth of a train station: Canaan

When I announced at the beginning of this month that April would be Harlem Railroad Month, I failed to mention that not only was it the New York & Harlem Railroad’s 180th birthday, but this blog’s second birthday. April 10th was the official day, and I let it pass without much thought… but I must say now, Happy Birthday IRideTheHarlemLine!

Back when I first started the blog I think I was a little bit more shy than I am now. Despite any way I might present myself on the internet, I really can be quite shy at times. When people first started recognizing me on the train I think it freaked me out a little bit. But now, I think I’ve been taking it more in stride. I enjoy talking with people, and love to hear their stories about trains. Through talking with various people about trains, I’ve come across two comments that are almost always mentioned to me: Why are you interested in this, and especially history – when nobody in your generation really cares about it! The other one thought I hear a lot is a bit more simple: you’re a girl that likes trains!?

The comment about me being female, well I can’t really say anything about that. But about the history, well, that I can agree. Lots of people in my generation really could care less about history. There are times when I think I really baffle librarians, because they ask me what school I go to, and for what project I need these rail-related books. But having a lack of interest in the past is a significantly different thing than being destructive to history. I, sadly, can display to you a complete disregard of history, and the utter stupidity of some of my generation in one single photograph:

That is Canaan Union Station in Canaan, Connecticut. Until the station was devastated by fire, it was the oldest continually operating station in the United States, built in 1872. In 2001, however, four young boys wandered away from their homes late at night and started the fire. Two of the boys were charged as juveniles and their names were not released. The other two, not much younger than me at the time, were charged as adults and served a few months jail time. All it took were four young boys and a cigarette lighter to destroy a beautiful historical monument…


1953 photo of Canaan Station from Life


Old postcard view of the station

I must admit, that first photograph makes me quite depressed. Thankfully there still are people out there that do in fact care about history (perhaps if you are reading this, you are one of them), and about this station. When I had made a mental list of train stations I wanted to visit in Connecticut, I left off Canaan. And it isn’t that I didn’t know about it – I had seen the photos of the fire! For some reason, in my head I believed that the station would be torn down and eventually forgotten. The happy thing I’ve discovered was that I was completely wrong… which I didn’t find out until I, in a random fluke, just happened to pass by it while in the car with my friend. Though the majority of the station was consumed by the fire, a portion of it did survive, and the remainder was being rebuilt. Although I don’t remember the station before (though my parents tell me that they had taken me there when I was a child), I am pleased that this station is being reborn, and will become beautiful once more…

 
  
 
   
  
   
  
 
  
   
  

If you’re interested in learning more about the station, seeing additional photos of the fire and the rebuilding process, please visit the Connecticut Railroad Historical Association’s site for Canaan Union Station.

10 thoughts on “The rebirth of a train station: Canaan

  1. Beautiful. I know it’s just a hobby but what you’re doing is important work.
    Stupid that people think that girls don’t like trains. It’s amazing how many people get trapped into their own little thinking boxes sometimes.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Very cool! That’s an incredible restoration job they did – nice to see at least some people still care about history.

    I’m still trying to get over the Metropolitan Water Board flooding a third of my town including the Boston & Maine rail line and the Sawyer’s Mills area and single-handedly ruining the industrial and agricultural future of the entire town so the people of Boston could have clean water. So what if it happened 114 years ago?

    PS: Happy belated birthday, IRideTheHarlemLine!

  3. Came accross your blog and the bit here on the Canaan Station Restoration. Canaan has an annual event called RR days that goes on over a two week period. This year as in last year the Housatonic RR. will be running passenger excursions in conjuntion with Berkshire Scenic Railway between Canaan station and Great Barrington, Mass. It is a scenic ride of about 15 miles over the old NH. Berkshire line in vintage coaches supplied by Berkshire Scenic Railway. The trains run on Sat., Sunday July 9-10, 16-17, 2011. Our model RR. club (Torrington Model RRs.) will have small operating layouts in the station. Proceeds from the train rides help fund the station rebuild. Its well worth the trip for those who like trains and want to ride on some rare milage.

    See: http://www.canaanchamber.com

    John

    PS. You have a great site with many interesting topics. Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi John, thanks for the message! I’ll definitely have to check that out. I think I am busy on that first weekend, but I will certainly try to get there for the 2nd. Thanks so much for posting!

  4. Magnificent commentary. I wish there were more young people like you. I worked for 6 railroads in my day; (one of which is a streetcar company): 2 have vanished, 2 were merged into a larger railroad, and 2 survive.

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