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The branches of the New Haven Line, in pictures Train Photos

Yesterday I featured the only outstanding New Haven Line branch station on our Tuesday Tour, Springdale. Now that the branches are complete, I thought it might be nice to post one of my favorite images from each station in a single gallery. It gives you a quick idea of what each branch is like, and a glimpse into the life of a commuter from each station. The locales photographed vary from outstanding examples of historical stations and well-known landmarks, to bare-bones, concrete platforms that are just barely stations. Each branch terminates at a historically-important station, though only one of the three is being used in its original capacity as a passenger station.

The photographs below were taken on eight separate days, ranging from early March to mid-October.

The New Canaan Branch:

The New Canaan branch is the shortest of the three (8.2 miles), and the closest to Grand Central. It is also the only branch that is currently electrified. The branch first came into being when chartered as the New Canaan Railroad in 1866. By 1890 it had become a part of the The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.

The awesome: New Canaan station may be the nicest station of all three branches (one could argue that Waterbury is more iconic, however it is no longer in use by the railroad, whereas New Canaan is).
Most underwhelming: Everything other than New Canaan.

 
 
 
 
 

The Danbury Branch:

Of the three New Haven Line branches, the Danbury Branch has the most stations, with a total of seven. Though the line continues further north, Metro-North service terminates at Danbury. The original Danbury station still exists, though it is not used by Metro-North. Service first began here in 1852, and the rail line was known as the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. In the late 1800′s the line was leased to the Housatonic Railroad, and later the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. By 1925 the track was electrified, but due to a poor economic situation, it was de-electrified in 1961.

The awesome: Danbury’s original station, yard, and turntable, now occupied the Danbury Railway Museum. Bethel’s old station is now a bike shop (I never got a photo of it). Cannondale’s old station is also lovely.
Most underwhelming: Without a doubt, Merritt 7. It is the only New Haven Line station without the typical Metro-North station sign, and is probably the most bare-bones station listed here.


 

 
 
 
 
 

The Waterbury Branch:

The Waterbury branch is Metro-North’s easternmost branch, and it diverges from the main line just east of Stratford. Although service terminates in Waterbury, the tracks do continue further north, and are used by the Railroad Museum of New England. Waterbury is located 87.5 miles from Grand Central – making it the furthest from the city in rail miles. The branch was originally chartered in 1845 as the Naugatuck Railroad (named after the river the tracks run alongside), and construction was completed by 1849. It was merged with the The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1906. Today, the branch has a reputation of serving both commuters and many sketchy people.

The awesome: Waterbury’s historical station (no longer used by the railroad) is one of, if not the most iconic structures in the city. The Naugatuck Historical Society is housed in their old station, which is also nice. You can get cool photos of the railroad bridge in Ansonia.
Most underwhelming: Beacon Falls and Ansonia. Oh, and don’t leave your car or any other valuables at Waterbury.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Do you have a favorite?

If I had to pick the branch that I liked the best, I’d have a difficult time of it. New Canaan is certainly my favorite station, but the rest of the branch is relatively boring. The Danbury branch has the adorably-cute Cannondale, and the old station which is now a museum. The sketchy people of the Waterbury branch make me weary of choosing it as my favorite, despite the fact that I like that little railroad bridge over the Naugatuck river. It is, however, undeniable that Waterbury has the most recognizable old station – though it is debatable whether people actually realize it was once a train station. We can settle this right now, with a poll. Vote for your favorite branch here:
[poll id="2"]

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Comments
  • 4 to zilch Danbury! I’ve ridden the NC (and yes, I agree about the building and the city) and the Danbury their entire lengths. Lived in Danbury a short time (after evacuating the city in 1996).

    Never been on the Waterbury; no desire. Waterbury actually has the most potential if it were to run towards Hartford rather than Bridgeport. But the genius’ in CT would rather have a busway boondoggle.

    If they ever extend the Danbury to New Milford, it will be a slam dunk great branch. I don’t think for a minute it will go beyond NM, at least in the immediate future, unless they do some weekend excursion service up to Great B.

    • Discussion of passenger lines being extended is the stuff that fuels heated arguments on your site (like when service on the Harlem is going to be restored back up to Chatham. Right.)! There have been a few articles in the past few years about getting passenger service back from Pittsfield down into Danbury, but I think the likelihood of that is pretty low. New Milford is certainly possible though, and it would add another nice, historical station to the branch.

      Someone did finally give a vote to Waterbury, though. That is really the area of CT I am most familiar with (I grew up in a small town, the only redeeming quality was that it was right next to the highway, about equidistant between Waterbury and Danbury)… but there is still a little part of it that is a remarkably depressing area. So many old and abandoned factories that have just been sitting there (one of which my grandfather worked at, though it was later a victim of arson).

      • Yeah, it’s always an interesting time over at our site. Can you imagine? P.s. Chatham would be ideal, but would never happen. New Milford is much more realistic. Cute town; I dated a voodoo woman who shall remain nameless up there once.

        When they were doing Wassaic, wasn’t there some discussion on going all the way up to Millerton? I wonder how Wassaic is doing now with the 2000 extension, i.e. have property values gone up, is it helping economically, etc. Outside of all the Western Conn and Mass folks who drive down there for their super commutes.

        • Bob:

          I doubt the 2000 extension has done much for Wassaic since both new stations are pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Nobody can “walk to train” at either station. The real benefit is that people don’t have to go quite as far on 22, and don’t have to go into the middle of Dover Plains (or down to Wingdale) to catch the train anymore, and of course it added a couple of additional parking lots.

          • It may have done some minor improvement… as I know Wassaic is trying to get a trail from the station down to the center of the village. I’m not sure how far that actually is, but it would probably be a nice addition, and connected to the rail trail that heads north to Millerton.

            Jeff, I think it was your site actually, where people were discussing an angry farmer in Wassaic that has Metro-North on speed-dial to complain about noisy trains.

            As for Millerton, when I was there last, the few shop owners I chatted with seem to be convinced that one day Metro-North would extend again and up to their village. Perhaps just wishful thinking on their parts, however. For some reason I thought that too many people complained last time around, when the extension was debated.

            • From what I understand, the trail is popular. I don’t believe it’s official a rail-to-trail program or land-banked. I suppose you could, if the old ROW is wide enough, not encroached on via adverse possession, and publicly owned, add a single-track and fence it off with appropriate pedestrian crossings. Millerton to me, from what I read, seems like the logical end.

              From what I understand, Wassaic isn’t considered a “branch” by MNRR; it’s just the Upper Harlem line.

    • From the days I’ve visited, the trail definitely did seem popular, but more from the Millerton end. Most of those people probably drive to the village and then have their fun from there. I’d be curious to know how many people actually take the train up to Wassaic and use the trail from there.

      I haven’t walked the entire portion of it, but there are a few parts near Millerton where they had to blast through rock for the original ROW, so I’m not sure how possible getting a track in there would be. And if they even attempted it, I’d love to see what our friend Dutch has to say about that.

      In terms of Metro-North, they don’t exactly know what to call it. Technically it isn’t a branch, but for ease of discussion it is often referred to as one. Just as they can’t seem to decide whether the “Upper Harlem” is everything north of White Plains, or everything north of Southeast.

  • I voted for Danbury as it was my first taste of Metro North ever.

    I was railfanning in Waterbury a couple of weeks ago and I was sitting in my car waiting for the arrival time of the train to get closer (it was like 30 degrees and quite breezy & I had no gloves) and some girl beat on the window of my car and asked me when the next train to Bridgeport was. I told her, because I actually knew – and apparently that wasn’t a good enough answer because she then demanded I drive her to Bridgeport, and then got extremely indignant when I told her “No, go away.” I suppose if I were fearless and enterprising, I could have charged her $10, which is about quadruple the Waterbury to Bridgeport fare :P

    Either way it skeeved me out, and sadly, when I got up on the platform to take pics/video of the train coming in, she was off in the bus shelter-esque thing tweaking out. A typical ghetto Waterbury experience – ranking up there with the woman who nearly plowed into my car at the mall and then started screamng at me and trying to pick a fight afterwards when she saw me walking in the parking lot. It’s sad that that sort of thing is what Waterbury has been known for as of late.

  • Steve:

    You might want to fix this… I’m not sure if 1925 was the year the Danbury branch was electrified, but I’ll buy you dinner if it was 1825 :-)

    Housatonic Railroad, and later the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. By 1825 the track was electrified, but due to a poor economic situation, it was de-electrified in 1961.

  • Mark:

    Never ridden the Waterbury line so that’s out of the running for me. However, my job after getting out of the Army back in the 90s was in NYC and I was living at my Father’s in New Canaan so I rode the New Canaan Branch line for almost 4 years and was a regular rider on the 6:11 PM bar car (those were the days!). Subsequently I moved north to Newtown and took a job during the summer of 2008 in Norwalk and with the price of gas at over $4 a gallon I started taking the train to work. While love riding the train, the commute was brutal because I had to catch the building station shuttle which was tied with the Bridgeport time table which meant I was waiting around a bit and my commute was approximately 2 hours each way. Hmmm, so in terms of the fondest memories, I am going to have to go with the NC branch.

  • Bob:

    I gave Waterbury a vote. If you ignore the people and crime threat, the line actually has some redeeming qualities. As suggested, the old Waterbury station is impressive. When I rode in autumn, there were parts of the line that were actually very pretty as it meandered along the river and through the hills. The up-close look at old decaying factories is kind of cool, as is some of the flood-control stuff. Finally there’s tons of old railroad stuff to look for, old yards being reclaimed by nature, hints from when it was double-tracked.

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