Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Darien

Welcome to Darien, a lovely Connecticut town filled with famous people, aspiring politicians, and people that make a whole lot more money than I do. In fact, Darien is considered part of Connecticut’s “Gold Coast” – a moniker I had not even heard of prior to today. Along with other railroad towns I’ve featured – like New Canaan and Greenwich – Darien is certainly one of the more wealthy destinations along the New Haven Line. The story is still the same – the railroad enabled people to move out of the city and establish suburban communities in Westchester and southern Connecticut. But really, who wouldn’t want to be able to work in the city during the week, and hang out at the yacht club on the weekend?


Postcard view of Darien

Darien station is one of two stations in the town of Darien, the other being Noroton Heights, which is one stop to the west. The station is slightly less than 38 miles from the city, and it takes you just under an hour to get to Grand Central. Stamford, on the other hand, is a short, approximately five mile, jaunt that takes a bit less than ten minutes.

The historic station building that still stands was built at some point in the 1800’s, and was restored in 2002. As with other stations we’ve seen on the line, building plans were often reused as a cost cutting measure. Darien’s station bears a strong resemblance to Westport, and is practically a twin to Southport‘s west-bound station


Photo of Darien from the lovely TylerCityStation

It was at Darien that I think I realized the true nature of my terrorist photographer tendencies. Metro North published a nice little “System Safety / Security Pocket Guide” for employees. Inside it lists various suspicious behaviors that should be reported straight away. One of which says, “Taking photos in areas of little interest to the public.” I don’t know about you, but I am not sure if light fixtures are of real interest to the public. In fact, I think I took more photos of light fixtures than I did of the 100+ year old Darien station. Thankfully it wasn’t a hot day – sweating is another suspicious behavior.

Below you will find all of the suspicious photos I snapped at Darien – which is the second-to-last station to be featured on our tour of the New Haven Line. Next Tuesday will be our final station stop – Stamford.

  
  
 
   
  
   
  
 
   
 

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The branches of the New Haven Line, in pictures

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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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: Talmadge Hill

Welcome to Talmadge Hill – the station just south of New Canaan on that eponymous branch of the New Haven Line. Although New Canaan station is quite charming, the remainder of the stations on the branch are fairly regular and unremarkable, and this station is no different. Talmadge Hill is small – the platform accommodates four train cars – and it straddles the space between Talmadge Hill Road and the Merritt Parkway. The majority of the platform is of typical concrete – however the north end on the Merritt Parkway side is a metal grate, which was added on later. From this side of the platform you can get a pretty good view of the Merritt, and the steady stream of automobiles that pass under the railroad tracks. Because of the station’s placement between these two roads, lengthening the platform any further would be extremely difficult. Trains picking up passengers at the station extend out into the road at the grade crossing, temporarily halting traffic on Talmadge Hill Road.


Photo of Talmadge Hill in 1954

Although I mentioned most of the New Canaan branch stations are unremarkable in comparison with New Canaan itself, Talmadge Hill provides a stark contrast. Where New Canaan is beautiful, historical, and most obviously cared for, Talmadge Hill is apparently not. There is a bit of graffiti on the station name signs, and the platform has stencil-lettered tags that say “Authorised Graffiti Area” in black paint. Even the underside of the platform has been tagged and painted over – though you’d never see it from a train. Clearly Talmadge Hill isn’t the worst station in the Metro-North system, but it certainly isn’t the best.

 
   
 
   
 
  
 
   
 
   

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Tuesday Tour of the New Haven Line: New Canaan

 

If it isn’t obvious, I’ve been to a lot of train stations. My current count of Metro-North stations that I’ve photographed stands at 83. I’ve chronicled my various issues here – cops in Melrose, a rent-a-cop in Bridgeport, and I’ve even had people yell at me that they didn’t want me pointing a camera in their direction (sorry, honey, but I’m trying to take a picture of that train, not you). However, this past weekend when I visited New Canaan I had a little bit of a different experience. I think this is the first time that I’ve ever seen a person excited that I was taking a photos of their station. I saw an older man, and when he saw me with the camera, he said, “it is a nice day for it, it is a very iconic station.” I think he was actually proud of his station, and that I was taking photos there. That is a first.

Though when it comes to train stations, the citizens of New Canaan do have a lot to be proud of. Their station, originally built in 1868, is one of the oldest surviving (and currently in-use) stations in the state of Connecticut. There has been plenty of work on it since – and it has even been jacked up and moved in order to accommodate a high-level train platform. The platform itself is a bit deceiving, as entering from the parking lot it appears to be low-level. However, the station and parking lot is raised above the tracks, which is why the station had to be jacked up during its restoration. Most recently, there was an expansion of the tracks, so the new M8 trains could run on the branch line.

  
  
Undated photos of New Canaan station from the Library of Congress. They were most likely taken in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, and before the station was raised.

Somewhere along the way, New Canaan station, terminus of Metro-North’s New Canaan branch, and 41 miles from Grand Central Terminal, became a haven wealthy commuters to the city. Not surprisingly, the railroad played a significant part in the growth of New Canaan, as it made New York City easily accessible – in a little bit over an hour. Today’s New Canaan Branch started out as the New Canaan Railroad, which ran its first train on July 4th, 1868, from Stamford to New Canaan. In the 1880’s the line was leased to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, and by 1890 had merged with them.


1913 view of the station


1945 view of New Canaan station

I will not lie – I very much enjoyed visiting New Canaan station, and New Canaan itself. I had been told that the area was quite wealthy, and en route to the station saw houses (mansions?!) with six car garages. But despite the station being one of the oldest around, it certainly didn’t look ancient. On the contrary, it was beautiful and well taken care of. And to my delight, it is even open on weekends (as you’ve seen from my many tour stops, this is usually not the case, and I’m trying to get photos through the windows). Though the ticket windows may no longer be in use, it is lovely to see how they once looked in a station many, many times older than I am (I’m even younger than Metro-North – and @MetroNorthTweet has worked for Metro-North longer than I’ve been alive!).

 
  
   
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
 
  
 
 
  
 

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