Abandoned Railroads: The Shepaug
Shepaug Railroad station at Bantham
Shepaug Valley Railroad station in Bantham, Connecticut.
From an old post card found in St. Joseph, Michigan!.

Welcome to our Shepaug Railroad WebSite



Here's a preview of some of the exciting projects we have put together for you:


See our feature article: Shepaug Summary .

Some of the other features we have are:
Shepaug Timeline .
How to Find the Shepaug Tunnel .
The Shepaug's Neighbors .
Reference section .
Connecticut Freight Railroads .
Shepaug Abandonments .
Shepaug Stations .
Follow the Shepaug on Google Earth .
Shepaug Valley Railroad Map
LCL freight
The New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad

See some historic photographs of the New Haven Railroad, Steam along the shore line, electrics through Connecticut, passenger runs into Grand Central, and much more.

The Shepaug, Litchfield & Northern

The Shepaug Valley Railroad ran from Bethel through Hawleyville, where it could transfer with the Housatonic, through Washington and Roxbury ending at Litchfield.

It was constructed in 1872 and was 32 miles long. It hauled ice from Bantam Lake and quarried stone from Roxbury that was used to build the Brooklyn Bridge. It also ran two passenger train a day at the turn of the century but the service was terminated in the 1930's. The travel time for the line from Bethel to Litchfield was about two hours.

The Shepaug Line was leased to the New Haven from 1892 to 1947 when the company petitioned to discontinue service on the line and the line was abandoned in 1948.

Shepaug Timeline

In 1872, the Shepaug Valley Railroad begins operation, putting Washington Depot (then known as the Hollow) within a day's travel of New York City. Carrying both passengers and freight, the railroad runs along the river.

Litchfield County became a major exporter of fine cheese to other parts of the nation. Later, as technologies improved, Washington became a center for the production of fresh milk that was shipped to New York on the Shepaug Railroad.

Officially it was the Shepaug, Litchfield and Northern Railroad Company and it became a part (by lease) of the New York, New Haven & Hartford

In 1948, the Shepaug Valley Railroad ceases operation and tracks are removed. Delivery of freight by railroad to the Washington Supply Company is replaced by trucking.

The Shepaug, Litchfield & Northern RR was sometimes called the Great Northern by some of the men who worked on it, because in the fall of the year, they had trouble getting over the road when the leaves were falling.

There were many carloads of stone hauled at one time from the quarries at Roxbury. The stone for the Brooklyn Bridge came from these quarries. In later years, there was a big ice house built at Bantam Lake. As many as 27 carloads of ice a day were hauled during the summer.

At one time, it was intended to extend the Shepaug to Torrington or Winsted, but it was never built beyond Litchfield. Of course, nothing ever happened. In 1892, the N Y, N H & H leased the Hawleyville-Bethel branch to the Shepaug.

2 passenger trains a day each way went between Bethel and Litchfield. A freight train also made a round trip from Danbury, via Bethel, to Litchfield. Then in 1898, the New Haven leased the whole Shepaug.

Beginning in 1905, a thru train ran from Litchfield to New York. This train did a nice business for a few summers but by 1913 the automobile won. Then passenger trains were run into Danbury instead of to Bethel and the branch from Hawleyville was abandoned in 1911.

The last passenger service on the Litchfield Branch, was handled by a gas-rail car until the 30's when the passenger service was abandoned. Freight trains ran up the branch only as required.

By Ken Kinlock at kenkinlock@gmail.com
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CNE Bus Tour Rudberg Research Collection of the Central New England Railway. Dates: 2002-2011.

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Quantity: .75 linear feet.
Abstract: The collection consists of tour guidebooks compiled by Bernard L. Rudberg of photocopies of photographs, maps, correspondence, and documents related to the history of the Central New England Railway, which ran from Maybrook, New York, to Hartford, Connecticut, in the period between 1898 and 1927, at which point it was taken over by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Mr. Rudberg creates the books for the participants of an annual guided bus tour he coordinates, in April or May of each year beginning in 2002, that follows portions of the old railway line, and provides information about the towns on the route, train wrecks that occurred, old carbarns, turntables and roundhouses, and such features as the Poughkeepsie River Bridge.
milk train

Once upon a time, milk trains were important

New York Central Milk Business
Creamery in South Columbia, New York
There were two basic types of milk trains – the very slow all-stops local that picked up milk cans from rural platforms and delivered them to a local creamery, and those that moved consolidated carloads from these creameries to big city bottling plants. Individual cars sometimes moved on lesser trains. These were dedicated trains of purpose-built cars carrying milk. Early on, all milk was shipped in cans, which lead to specialized "can cars" with larger side doors to facilitate loading and unloading (some roads just used baggage cars). In later years, bulk carriers with glass-lined tanks were used. Speed was the key to preventing spoilage, so milk cars were set up for high speed service, featuring the same types of trucks, brakes, communication & steam lines as found on passenger cars.
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How to Find the Shepaug Tunnel

Now that the railroad is gone, the most popular thing about it is the tunnel.

To get there from Interstate 84, take Exit 9. Turn off the ramp onto Route 25 North and go north for 3.6 miles. In Brookfield, turn right onto Route 133 and go north for 7.2 miles through Bridgewater to a T-intersection. Turn right onto Route 67 toward Roxbury. After 4.2 miles, turn left onto Route 199 and go north to Washington. Spring Hill Road, the reservation entrance, is on the left at 3.6 miles.

Click HERE for detailed directions on how to find the tunnel (and what else you can see nearby).
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The Shepaug's Neighbors

Danbury Branch

In 1835 a rail charter was granted by the Connecticut Legislature to an enterprise known as the "Fairfield County Railroad." The charter was established only to build a railroad between Danbury and Long Island Sound. Professor Alexander C. Twining of Yale University surveyed for a rail route in 1835 and recommended a route that is similar to the route the Danbury Branch travels today.

Renamed the "Danbury & Norwalk Railroad", work began quickly on the new 23 mile line. In 1852, the D&N started operations and trains would make two round trips daily for passenger service. The Line did well financially in the first few years, especially for passenger service. The D&N sought an advantage in freight traffic by building a rail and ferry connection at Wilson's Point in South Norwalk in 1882. That extension made the railroad an attractive business partner for other rail lines including the Housatonic Railroad and the New York, New Haven & Hartford. In 1886 a deal was struck between the D&N and the Housatonic Railroad, the Housatonic Railroad arranged a 99 year lease with the D&N. The key places for the interchanges were Danbury and Hawleyville in Newtown. Freight traffic was able to bypass Danbury, passing through Hawleyville and then into Brookfield. The New Haven then leased the Housatonic Railroad in 1892 after threatening to build a line parallel to the Housatonic's New Haven-Derby line. The New Haven vastly improved itÍs rail infrastructure. The company electrified it's lines along the shore to Stamford by 1907, but did not electrify the Danbury Branch until 1925.

The New Haven fell on hard times during the Depression. It had also made poor business decisions such as acquiring many unprofitable short lines railroads in it's quest to dominate rail service. The Danbury Branch did well during WWII when fuel was rationed, but the New Haven never fully recovered financially from Depression when it declared bankruptcy. The company "de-electrified" the Danbury Branch in 1961.

Housatonic Railroad

In 1837 construction of the first 35 mile segment of track began. By 1840, trains were traveling between Bridgeport, via Newtown and Brookfield, northerly on to New Milford along the banks of the Housatonic River. The Housatonic Railroad reached the Massachusetts state line via the Berkshire Line in 1843. Promoters of the Housatonic Railroad (including P.T. Barnum) initially envisioned two roles for their new line: (1) serve the iron, marble, granite and lime industries and second, to form a water-rail route between Albany and New York City. Although the fledgling railroad experienced some financial problems early on, by the beginning of the 1850's the business was steadily growing. In 1892, the line was acquired by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. It was in this period that the Housatonic's north-south route from Danbury to Pittsfield, Mass. became known as the Berkshire Line. Although the railroad served adjacent industries and provided freight interchange, the Berkshire soon became best known as a passenger line that brought New Yorkers up to their country retreats.

Maybrook Line

The Maybrook Line running east-west thru the Greater Danbury Region was first envisioned by the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad as part of a rail line intended to link Waterbury, CT westerly to the Hudson River in New York State. This line was to supply important freight to New England, such as coal from Pennsylvania. It was to provide direct freight competition to the New York, New Haven & Hartford running roughly parallel to the south. The Maybrook Line was actually completed by the New York & New England R.R. in 1891 to link with ferries that took rail cars across the Hudson River in Fishkill, NY. By 1895 the New Haven controlled the NY&NE and the track that became the Maybrook Line from Danbury to Derby. The Maybrook Line was absorbed into the New Haven and at approximately this time the Poughkeepsie Bridge had been built, making the Maybrook a much more strategic thru route than in the past. Passenger service to Newtown and other Maybrook Line stations ceased in 1931 as the route became a freight only railroad. Penn Central acquired the assets of the New Haven in 1968, including the Maybrook Line, and ran freight service on it until 1974 when the Poughkeepsie bridge burned.

New Haven & Derby

The railroad from Derby to New Haven was completed in 1871. It was a short line, 13 miles, but proved to be strategically valuable to rail companies such as the Housatonic Railroad. to the west. With it, the Housatonic would be able to parallel New Haven Line along the Connecticut shore. The Housatonic Railroad acquired the New Haven & Derby railroad in 1889. The Botsford extension opened in 1888 allowed a thru rail trip from New Haven, CT all the way to Pittsfield, MA.

Ridgefield Branch

The Ridgefield Branch was constructed in 1869 and 1870 as a westerly spur in Ridgefield off of the Danbury Branch. The line made its' connection with the Danbury branch at the Branchville Station. The Ridgefield Branch was never electrified and finally abandoned in 1964. It is now a walking trail.

REFERENCE SECTION

Roxbury industry:
American Silver Steel Company
Washington's Shepaug Greenway
3.3 miles of old railroad
Steep Rock Association
Berkshire Hiking.com
List of Connecticut Railroads
Lure of the Litchfield Hills
About Washington, Connecticut
More about railroad stations in Connecticut
Short Lines
All about short lines we have not covered elsewhere. Some in Connecticut, others in New York.
Weathertopia.com www.dictionary.ms
Quay construction May 2006 Saint-Jerome, Quebec

Bicycle in Quebec and bike trails along railroads

Bike Trails Along Railroads

Throughout the United States and Canada, there are numerous bicycle trails that either run alongside existing railroads or run on the abandoned right-of-way of a railroad.

In Québec, the longest one, the "P'tit Train du Nord" runs for 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Saint-Jérôme to Mount-Laurier on an abandoned Canadian Pacific route.

South of Saint-Jérôme, this route continues to Blainville alongside what will become a busy rail commuter line. Photo above shows its route past the new intermodal terminal at Saint-Jérôme.

In Central New York State, a great trail runs on the former Troy & Schenectady branch of the New York Central Railroad.

Further downstate, abandoned portions of the New York Central's Putnam Division and Harlem Division are now bike trails.

Part of the Wallkill Valley branch of the West Shore is a bike trail.

Cape Cod has a scenic trail on what was once the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.

Along Lake Ontario shore, a portion of the old Rome, Watertown & Ogdensburg Railroad is a trail now.

This is only a small sample. There are LOTS MORE!

Photo Copyright © 2006 Ken Kinlock
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Connecticut Freight Railroads

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Tell Me About the Shepaug

Litchfield Tunnel

I would like to visit the town of Litchfield, having heard a lot about the place but never having gone there. Is the old Shepaug RR tunnel there walkable? How does one get to it?

. First, the Shepaug tunnel is nowhere near the town of Litchfield so don't go there!!!

Go to the village of Washington Depot (at junction of CT Rtes. 47 and 109), and take the road that runs south from town along the Shepaug River. After a couple of miles the road will cross the river and turn to a dirt road. It's not a bad dirt road --- you don't need an off road vehicle.

Continue about another mile, maybe a bit more, and you will see the old RR ROW alongside you, on your left, and I believe there is a sign pointing to where you can walk to the tunnel.

This is a reservation maintained as part of the
Steep Rock Reservation and it is legal to walk there. It is claimed to be safe to walk through the tunnel, but personally I wouldn't walk through any tunnel.
Cedar Hill Yard Driving north from New Haven, Cedar Hill yard cannot be overlooked. Its still used, but not to the extent it was 50 year ago. Imagine, over 9,000 cars handled on one day! Cedar Hill was built between 1910 and 1920. Cedar Hill became in the 1920's the keystone of the whole New Haven Railroad freight operation. It seems to have started out as a more local facility, then grown into that larger role. Or was the idea of making it the center part of the original intention?
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Shepaug Stations

Station Miles
from
Hawleyville
Hawleyville 0
Roxbury 18
Judd's Bridge 22
Washington 24
Morris 32
Bantam 33
Litchfield 38
Litchfield, Connecticut
Washington Connecticut railroad station

Picture of train station in Washington, Connecticut on the Shepaug Line.


From our postcard collection.
There are many train stations in Connecticut. Some have been rebuilt. Some are no longer used and have been converted to other uses. Some have restaurants in them or close by.

More Connecticut Train Stations

We have found even more on Connecticut's railroad stations! Click Here or on any of the pictures to see lots more (previously unpublished) information and pictures of Connecticuts train stations.
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Canaan Station

Canaan Station in the 1940's



Lee Beaujon collection

Sadly, the right half of this historic building burned. It was torched by teenagers. They were caught and now there is a restoration program underway.

At Canaan, the Central New England Railway crossed the Housatonic Railroad.

Both became part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.
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