Shore Line East and Old Saybrook

In keeping with last week’s theme of exploring Connecticut, today we take a quick visit to the southern coast of the state to check out Shore Line East. As part of the important Northeast Corridor, many of the stations along the line have a long history with the old New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. Though some of the railroad historical buildings are still around (like the freight house, now restaurant in Old Saybrook), most of the Shore Line East stations are of relatively new construction (the exceptions being New Haven, which we’ve visited before, and New London, which deserves its own post at some point in the future).

Shore Line East is operated by Amtrak, so you’ll often catch CDOT locomotives in the old New Haven Railroad scheme, Amtrak locomotives, or a horrible mixture of both (hey boss, I put our sticker on the front, and painted over the Amtrak logo!). The service itself is fairly young – Shore Line East trains began running in May of 1990 – and the line was only supposed to be temporary while construction was being done on Interstate 95. Due to its popularity, however, Shore Line East became permanent.

   
  
 
 
Some views of the smaller stations on Shore Line East – Branford, Madison, Guilford, and Clinton.

Of the newer Shore Line East stations, Old Saybrook is probably the nicest, and a pretty good place for capturing trains. Besides the Shore Line East trains, about eighteen Amtrak trains stop here daily (which is actually more than Hartford, which we visited last week). Three tracks run through Old Saybrook, and the station consists of a side platform, an island platform, and an overpass connecting the two. Because it was started as a temporary operation, little money was spent on Shore Line East stations. However, once the service became permanent, proper stations were constructed, the first being Old Saybrook in 2002. Branford, Guilford, and Clinton were opened in 2005, and Madison in 2008.

Most Shore Line East trains terminate at Old Saybrook, though a few do go on to New London. The bane of Connecticut’s railroads are definitely the many movable bridges found along the shore line. Some are over a hundred years old, and cause slowdowns and nightmares for Metro-North. In Shore Line East’s case, the challenge to operating more service to New London is that trains must cross several movable bridges, bridges that the Connecticut Marine Trades Association fights to keep open for boats, as opposed to closed for trains. While some have big plans for the service (like connecting it to Rhode Island), it is these local issues that will have to be addressed first (not raiding the state’s Special Transportation Fund is another…).

  
 
  
 
  
   
 
   
 
  

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Cannondale

After spending the majority of Sunday taking photos at New Haven Line stations, I have to admit that some of the stations are pretty cute. In fact, I want to take some of them home with me (and not this one). If one day you head over to Cannondale station, and you find that the building is missing, well, it might be in my backyard. In all seriousness, the station is quite adorable. Unfortunately it is currently empty and unoccupied – the small cafe that was inside shut down at the end of 2009. CDOT was looking to have a new tenant by summertime of 2010, but obviously that has not panned out.

Cannondale is one of the small stations located on the Danbury Branch, in the Cannondale section of Wilton. The station is located approximately 50 miles away from Grand Central. Cannondale’s claim-to-fame is having a company named after it – the Cannondale Bicycle Corporation. Their original logo featured the station and the tracks.


Photo credit to Scott who owns the bike.

On weekdays, Cannondale has around eleven trains total that head to Grand Central. In most instances riders have to change at either South Norwalk or Stamford, but there are three commuter express trains that head direct to Grand Central in the early-morning peak period.

That is pretty much all I can think of to say about Cannondale right now – I’ll be back again next week with another New Haven Line station to look at. As of right now I’ve been to roughly half of all the NH Line stations, including all of the Danbury and Waterbury branches. By the time I finish I might never want to look at a train station again :P

 
 
  
 
  
 
  
 
   
 

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Photos & Bar Car News: NY Times Reporter “Ignored the facts in favor of a sexier story”

The other day the New York Times had an article about the supposed demise of the Bar Car on the New Haven Line. It has been widely reported in the blogosphere, even on Gothamist and the Huffington Post. Interestingly, Jim Cameron, the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman, sent out an email alert saying it isn’t so. In fact he goes so far as to say that the New York Times’ reporter “ignored the facts in favor of a sexier story” when writing the original story. Below is the transcript of the email:

Fellow commuters…
“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.
This old newsroom mantra apparently was the rule when the NY Times yesterday ignored the facts and presented the headline… One for the Road? Bar Cars May Face a Last Call

Though three members of the CT Rail Commuter Council worked with reporter Michael Grynbaum to get the story right, he ignored the facts in favor of a sexier story. The reporter implied that when the new M8 cars arrive, the 8 existing bar cars would be replaced. Not so! The 8 bar cars we have all have undergone recent rehab’s and can run for 10 – 15 more years. He also implied that “the recession” might force a rethinking of plans to order new bar cars.

The Commuter Council, meeting last night, was reassured by both Metro-North and CT DOT that there are no plans to eliminate bar cars on Connecticut trains. CDOT also told the Council they would share design concepts with us for new M8 bar cars, currently under bid from Kawasaki. The issue of continued if not improved bar car service has been a priority of the Commuter Council for the 25 years of its existence. We will continue that advocacy… and seek a correction from the NY Times for its sloppy reporting.

“Cheers”!

Jim Cameron, Chairman
CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council

Some time ago my friend Despina took a ride in the Bar Car and sent me some photos she said I should post. I figured now would be a good time to do so. Unfortunately, she rode in the Bar Car in the morning, so it wasn’t open. This led to a discussion as to whether we thought people would purchase things from the Bar Car in the morning, if it were open. And we weren’t directly referring to alcohol, though I am sure a few people out there would certainly consume it on the way to work. They could serve coffee and croissants and other breakfast type things.


Riding in the Bar Car is on my list of things to do before I die. But since the Bar Car will still be around for a while longer, I guess I don’t have to worry too much.

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