Rail Freight In Connecticut: The Service Providers

The Branford Steam Railroad

    is an industrial railroad serving the Tilcon Connecticut, Inc. stone quarry and provides service between its trap rock quarry in North Branford and its barge loading facility on Long Island Sound in the Stony Creek section of Branford. The railroad has an interchange with P&W on the shoreline in Branford, and loads ballast trains for Amtrak. Most of the carloads of stone products are destined for Tilcon/Buchanan Marine barges that ultimately deliver the stone products to Long Island, New York, although significant amounts are shipped by rail to metropolitan New York City. Tilcon also supplies its asphalt and concrete plants in Connecticut from the North Branford quarry.

    Central New England Railroad (CNZR)

is a short line railroad that operates in Connecticut over the Department’s Griffin Industrial Track between Hartford and Windsor (8.7 miles), and over the Department’s Armory Branch Line between South Windsor and the Massachusetts State Line in Enfield (13.5 miles). It interchanges with the Connecticut Southern Railroad (CSO) and Pan Am Southern Railroad (PAS) in Hartford. On the Griffin Line, trains run twice a day, five to six days per week totaling over 2,000 rail cars a year and on the Armory branch, it moves 125 cars a year for a total combined equivalent of 17,000 truck trips removed from local roads and highways. The company’s major customers include Home Depot USA, Hartford Lumber, Crop Production Services, and Blakeslee Wood Pellets. Primary rail commodities include lumber, chemicals, fertilizer, and wood pellets. The two branch lines are maintained at FRA Class 1 and Class 2 standards, and CNZR desires to replace the lighter rail sections dating back to the late 1800’s and increase crosstie replacement. The major impediment to the revival of this route is the removal of track in East Longmeadow and Springfield during the 1990’s, and the selling off portions of the right-of-way for parking areas. The State of Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) would likely be involved in discussions regarding future restoration of rail service on the former track bed of the Armory Branch.

CSX Transportation (CSX)

    operates over a 21,000 route-mile rail network. CSX serves 23 states, the District of Columbia, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It serves every major population center east of the Mississippi River, including the New York, Philadelphia, and Boston markets in the northeast and mid-Atlantic; the southeast markets of Atlanta, Miami, Memphis, and New Orleans; and the Midwestern cities of St. Louis and Chicago. It also serves 70 ocean, river, and lake ports along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

    In Connecticut, CSX operates nearly 70 miles of railroad and maintains 11 public and private grade crossings. In 2009, CSX handled more than 9,500 carloads of freight and employed seven people in Connecticut. Products shipped include lumber, municipal and construction waste, plywood, limestone, and wood pulp. In Connecticut in 2009, the company invested more than $1.3 million in the network and in partnership with state and local economic development agencies, businesses invested $1.75 million in new or expanded rail-served facilities on CSX Transportation or its connecting regional and short lines. CSX has a TRANSFLO terminal in North Haven that provides transloading (transfers of freight between railcars and trucks), materials management, and logistics services.

    Housatonic Railroad Company (HRRC)

is a regional short line that operates in the western part of Connecticut along the Berkshire Line (50.0 miles), and to Derby/Shelton via its Maybrook Line (33.5 miles) and in western Massachusetts. The Department owns the northern 36.4 miles of the Berkshire Line between Boardman’s Bridge in New Milford and the Massachusetts State line. HRRC owns the southern 13.6 miles of the Berkshire Line between Boardman’s Bridge and Brookfield, as well as the Maybrook Line to Derby. HRRC interchanges with CSX in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and has the potential to interchange with CSX in Beacon, New York. The HRRC has an opportunity to interchange with Pan Am Southern Railway in Derby, should the potential for this particular routing present itself.

HRRC operates trains between Pittsfield and Canaan on Monday through Friday, and between Canaan and New Milford on Sunday through Thursday. It operates a local switching operation in the New Milford-Danbury-Newtown area on Monday through Friday. There are switching yards in N. Canaan, New Milford, Danbury, and Hawleyville/Newtown, along with and an engine and railcar maintenance facility in Canaan.

HRRC handles approximately 6,000 railcars a year of commodities that include lumber, limestone, pulp, paper, and waste. This is the equivalent of approximately 24,000 truckloads. In addition to serving several large industrial customers and smaller shippers, Housatonic also moves a considerable volume of the traffic through its bulk transfer facility located at the intersection of I-84 and Route 25 in Newtown. The Newtown facility has the capacity to load/unload cars within its lumber terminal and on its bulk track with total capacity of approximately 30 car spots as well as additional capacity for car staging.

Naugatuck Railroad Company (NAUG)

    is a common-carrier short line railroad that operates over the Department’s Torrington Branch between Waterbury and Torrington (19.5 miles). It is primarily a historic tourist passenger railroad, operating out of Thomaston, providing sightseeing tours along the Naugatuck River. The regular operating season runs from May to October, and trains operate on Tuesday and Sunday. Additionally, independent charter tours are available throughout the year.

    The NAUG formerly moved regular shipments of lubricating oils to Waterville (section of Waterbury), and recent (September 2011) indications point to an early resumption of this traffic. NAUG handled a series of special overweight and over-dimension transformer shipments for CL&P, to Watertown and Torrington. Along the NAUG line in Watertown, a major Construction and Demolition (“C&D”) transload facility has completed the permitting process, being authorized to handle up to 2500 tons of outbound C&D daily. The preliminary site work for this facility has commenced as of September 1, 2011.

    In addition, the railroad has been the location for filming portions of several major motion pictures in the past few years. It has a maintenance shop in Thomaston and has the capacity to perform contract maintenance for other railroads and rail car fleets.

    Pan Am Southern Pan Am Southern Railway (PAS)

(Spring 2009) is a freight railroad jointly owned by Pan Am Southern (PAR) and Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). Under the PAS operating structure, the Springfield Terminal Railway provides all rail services for the joint venture. PAS operates on 105.7 miles of track in Connecticut over the Waterbury Branch (24.9 miles + 17.2), the Waterbury Industrial Track and Watertown Branch, the Canal Branch (3.4 miles), and the Springfield Line (59.2 miles). To service its Connecticut operations, PAS operates trains between East Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Plainville via Amtrak’s Springfield Line to Berlin, and then over PAS track to Plainville.

Norfolk Southern Railway

    is a subsidiary of Norfolk Southern Corporation, and operates approximately 21,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Colombia. Norfolk Southern services every major container port in the East and is North America’s largest rail carrier of metals and automotive products.

    Pan Am Railways (PAR) is the Northeast’s largest regional railroad. With operations in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and Canada, PAR interchanges traffic with fifteen railroads throughout its network.

    PAS has general-purpose rail yards in Waterbury, Plainville, and New Britain. PAS has centralized its’ Connecticut operations out of the Plainville yard, which serves as the logistical support center for track and signal maintenance forces, as well as a location for light mechanical repairs to railcars and locomotives.

    PAS transports carloads of propane, lumber and construction materials, steel, plastics, chemicals, stone, paper, and scrap. PAS is experiencing increased car loadings from several recent local business expansions and new industrial facilities. Perma-Treat Company, a railroad crosstie manufacturer owned by Pan Am Railways, loads several hundred carloads per year of new railroad crossties out of New Britain yard, shipping primarily to northern New England and Atlantic Canada.

    Tilcon’s quarry in New Britain/Plainville is connected to the rail line, but is not presently shipping by rail. The Canal Branch in Plainville and Southington has three active clients: J.W. Green ships outbound scrap metals, Forestville Lumber receives carloads of both plywood and dimensional (structural) lumber, and a new Amerigas Distribution Center receives significant inbound shipments of propane in tank cars for final distribution by truck. Another new rail customer is Clark Western, a manufacturer of steel building studs who receives carloads of steel coils. Clark Western modified and updated a portion of the former New Departure building in Bristol. Firestone’s Roofing Products Division occupies a large section of the New Departure plant that receives significant inbound shipments of liquid raw materials and chemicals for manufacturing. In Waterbury, Albert Bros. Scrap Metals ships several hundred carloads of outbound scrap steel. The Waterbury Republican-American newspaper receives occasional carloads of newsprint.

    PAS connects at Waterbury to the Naugatuck Railroad, which receives inbound shipments of oversize and over-weight electrical transformers for Connecticut Light & Power. Hubbard Hall Chemical in Waterbury receives inbound chemicals in tank cars. Occasional carloads of wood stove pellet fuel are shipped to a distributor at Beacon Falls. Kerite Co. in Seymour manufactures and ships oversized underwater cable that is too large and too heavy to ship by truck.

    A Construction & Demolition (C&D) transfer facility in Waterbury is completing a sidetrack for loading several outbound carloads of material each day. This facility alone will require PAS to increase the frequency of service to Waterbury. Additionally, a second large C&D facility along the Naugatuck Railroad’s Torrington Branch is in the final stages of permitting. This project would drastically increase outbound car loadings in the Waterbury area.

    Presently, PAS runs a round trip from East Deerfield, Massachusetts to Plainville once per week. East Deerfield is PAS’ primary connection to the North American rail network. On alternate days, PAS runs out of Plainville to Southington, New Britain, Bristol, or Waterbury, as demand warrants. New customers coming on line in the Waterbury area will likely require a second locomotive and second train crew to be assigned to PAS’ Connecticut operations.

    The Providence and Worcester Railroad Company (P&W)

is a regional FRA designated Class 2 railroad operating in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Long Island, and as far south as the New York area. In Connecticut, P&W operates over 238.5 miles of track, consisting of 67.9 miles of its own lines, 85.5 miles of line over which it has operating rights and provide service, and 85.1 miles of track over that it operates through trains only. It operates on track it owns in the eastern part of the state, including the Plainfield Secondary Line (53.2 miles) and part of the Willimantic Secondary Line (10.8 miles). It has rights to move trains over the NHL (46.8 miles), over the southerly 4.8 miles of the Middletown Secondary, and over the Maybrook Line from Derby to Danbury (33.5 miles). P&W recently reconstructed the line between Middletown and Hartford (13.6 miles) on the state-owned right-of-way. P&W has exclusive operating rights over the Wethersfield Secondary. The Willimantic Branch line has recently been reconstructed from the Versailles yard to the Willimantic yard for restoration of local and through freight service. P&W plans to upgrade the Branch to permit 40 M.P.H. operations.

P&W has classification yards in Plainfield and Willimantic, and operates an intermodal facility in Worcester, Massachusetts, where it interchanges with CSX Transportation (CSX). It interchanges with Pan Am Railways (PAR) in Gardner, Massachusetts, and the New England Central Railroad (NECR) at Willimantic. The connections at Willimantic and New London provide access to the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway. P&W interchanges with the Connecticut Southern Railroad in North Haven and Hartford, and with the New York and Atlantic Railway in Fresh Pond, Long Island, New York.

P&W serves many industrial facilities and supports a large number of rail and industrial jobs in Connecticut. Among its dozens of clients, P&W serves the Frito-Lay production facility in Killingly, a chemical and bulk plastic transfer facility in Plainfield, several rock quarries and gravel pits, a construction and demolition debris facility in Portland, and metal transfer facilities in New Haven and Middletown. It has a maintenance-of-way equipment repair facility in Plainfield; along with a fully equipped spray-paint facility for locomotives and rolling stock.

P&W operates trains between Plainfield and North Haven and between North Haven and Middletown on Monday through Friday, with trains to Danbury as needed. P&W also operates trains between Plainfield and Groton and between Plainfield and Putnam on Monday through Friday, and to Willimantic nightly for the newly re-activated interchange with New England Central Railroad.

In 2010, the company transported nearly 35,000 carloads of freight that included a mix of chemicals, plastics, and minerals, and nearly 24,000 intermodal shipments, some of which originate or terminate in Connecticut, and estimates it diverts more than 100,000 truck trips from Connecticut’s highway system annually.

RailAmerica, Inc. is a holding company that owns and/or operates 13,200 miles of track on 43 separate railroads in 28 different states and 3 Canadian provinces. RailAmerica, Inc. has two subsidiaries that operate in Connecticut: Connecticut Southern Railroad (CSO), and the New England Central Railroad (NECR).

Connecticut Southern Railroad (CSO) is a subsidiary of RailAmerica Inc., operating on CSX from West Springfield to Springfield, Massachusetts, and on Amtrak from Springfield to North Haven (53 Miles). CSO owns and operates the Manchester Secondary Line (9.6 miles), the Windsor Branch Line (6.8 miles), the Wethersfield Branch Line (3 miles) and the Suffield Branch Line (4.4 miles). CSO also operates on the spur track to Bradley Airport that the State of Connecticut owns (2.4 miles) and operates trains between Springfield and Hartford and between North Haven and Hartford on Monday through Saturday, and out of Hartford daily. CSO interchanges traffic with CSX Transportation at their West Springfield, Massachusetts yard. CSO also moves traffic for CSX between West Springfield, Massachusetts, and North Haven under a haulage arrangement.

The major commodities carried are construction and demolition debris (C&D), road salt, lumber, steel, grain, paper, chemicals, cullet, pulp and consumer goods. It estimates it diverts more than 80,000 truck trips per year. It has switching yards in Hartford (30 acres) and East Hartford (10 acres). CSO provides the only physical interchange access to the Central New England (CNZR) isolated state-owned branch lines – the Griffin Industrial and the Armory Branch. The CSO also has an interchange with the Providence & Worcester Railroad at Hartford via the Wethersfield Branch that is currently inactive.

CSO has two major projects that are under active development. A paving stone manufacturer is interested in constructing a sidetrack in North Haven (off the Amtrak mainline), and a major C&D transfer station is under construction in Berlin (off the Amtrak mainline).

The CSO’s route to Bradley International Airport connects with the New Haven-Springfield Amtrak mainline at Windsor Locks. This route could be upgraded for direct passenger rail access to the airport and should be included in studies involving future rail and intermodal passenger options for Bradley. This route also serves the Connecticut National Guard’s Camp Hartell facility.

The CSO’s customers are in need of 286,000 pound freight rail capacity. This is the current North American standard, in place since 1995, according to the Association of American Railroads. Currently Amtrak’s New Haven-Springfield line is not rated for 286K weight limits, with a limit of 263,000 pounds gross on rail weight. The major impediment to upgrading this route to 286K standards is Amtrak’s Connecticut River bridge near the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. Amtrak has done a study of this bridge and what is needed for its upgrade but lacks funding. South of the CSO’s Hartford yard, Amtrak’s Hartford Viaduct structure is also restricted to 263,000 lbs. and requires upgrade. CSX’s route through Springfield, Massachusetts, which is CSO’s connecting interchange partner, is currently rated for 286K over heavier loads. Thus, if the Amtrak route were upgraded, immediate connection is available for the movement of 286K cars into and out of Connecticut. The majority of CSO’s customers are in need of the higher weight standard, including C&D, road salt, feed ingredients, and cullet. Significant traffic growth for Connecticut and the region can be achieved with the completion of this heavy haul corridor. Without upgrading to modern 286K weight standards, Connecticut will become an “island” that no longer conforms to the equipment and shipping standards of the North American rail network, thus directly affecting Connecticut businesses by limiting their shipping access and competitive options.

The Connecticut Resources Authority (CRRA) at Hartford generates high volumes of ash that could be transported by rail. The facility once had freight rail infrastructure in place. The CRRA could have the rail freight infrastructure restored and convert its existing truck shipments to rail, thus eliminating truck trips along Connecticut’s urban highway system.

New England Central Railroad (NECR) is a subsidiary of RailAmerica, Incorporated and operates on its own line between New London and Stafford (55.8 miles) and on to East Alburg, Vermont, and a distance of 326 miles, where it connects with the Canadian National Railway. It also interchanges with CSX at Palmer, Massachusetts, Pan Am Southern at Millers Falls, Massachusetts and Canadian Pacific via Bellows Falls, Vermont. The NECR is unique in that it offers Connecticut businesses access to all four Class I railroads. It also interchanges with the Providence & Worcester Railroad at Willimantic and New London. NECR transports more than 19,000 carloads annually in Connecticut, consisting of paper, plastics, lumber, copper, wood products, corrugated paper, coal, ethanol, and fly ash.

The NECR directly services the Port of New London, Connecticut and provides access to the Port of Montreal via the Canadian National Railway (CN). The NECR is interested in working with the State of Connecticut and their selected port operator to grow rail freight business at New London.

The NECR is currently cleared for Phase I modified double-stack container movements (one domestic and one international container stacked), after a coordinated effort by the NECR, State of Vermont, and USDOT to remove clearance obstacles. The route needs to be cleared for Phase II containers. CN currently markets its container service to New England customers via this route, utilizing P&W’s Worcester, Massachusetts terminal that is reached via the Willimantic NECR-P&W interchange connection. Increased rail freight business can be achieved by opening up the route to Phase II container capacity. This route is listed as a high priority in the Massachusetts and Vermont State Rail Plans as a continuous corridor. The clearance project has also allowed the movement of modern tri-level auto carriers moving via this route.

Customers served in Connecticut include Freeport-McMoran Copper at Norwich; Kof Koff feed ingredients at Franklin, and AES Thames power plant at Thamesville. The Willimantic interchange with the P&W has been a source of growth for Connecticut and regional New England businesses and is in need of upgrade. The route is also a growing through route for freight moving to and from the NECR’s four Class I railroad connections, such as ethanol, road salt, finished autos, and coal.

In 2012, the NECR will complete its High Speed Rail project in Vermont and New Hampshire. As part of that project, all bridge and track structures will be upgraded to handle the modern 286,000 pound gross weight railcar. A small portion on the north end of Vermont and all of Massachusetts and Connecticut remain in need of similar upgrades to create New England’s first heavy haul 286,000 K multi-state corridor. 286,000 pound upgrades to the NECR corridor are listed as high priorities in the Massachusetts and Vermont State Rail Plans, thus forming a continuous corridor. Significant traffic growth for Connecticut and the region can be achieved with the completion of this heavy haul corridor. Without upgrading to modern 286,000 K weight standards, Connecticut will become an “island” that no longer conforms to the equipment and shipping standards of the North American rail network, thus directly effecting Connecticut businesses by limiting their shipping access and competitive options.

Communities along the NECR in Connecticut and Massachusetts have become interested in reestablishing rail passenger service along the line. This group, the Central Corridor Line Coalition, is actively working together to explore the opportunities that passenger rail service could provide. The Central Corridor Line links Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor at New London with the Mohegan Sun Casino at Uncasville, the University of Connecticut at Storrs/Mansfield, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Amtrak’s Vermonter service at Brattleboro, Vermont. In addition, a casino is likely to be built in the Palmer, Massachusetts area within the next three years. The service could be provided by a private rail operator under contract with the Corridor.

Valley Railroad Company (VRR) is a tourist railroad that operates between Old Saybrook and Haddam along the right-of-way owned by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The company began operations on July 29, 1971. It has authority to operate up to the southern end of the P&W’s Laurel Branch in Middletown.

From May through the Christmas season, the VRR runs up to five round trips per day, three to seven days per week, on various segments of the line from Old Saybrook to the current end of usable track at Mile Post 12.75 in Haddam. During some special events up to 40 trips per day may operate. Many patrons additionally make a riverboat connection with company facilities in Deep River. There are additional excursion services provided on a smaller scale during the winter and early spring months. The company’s positive economic impact on the lower Connecticut River valley community is significant, regularly drawing 140,000 visitors per year, with almost half being from out-of-state.

Most public highway/rail grade crossings have been upgraded rail weighing 107 pounds per yard or heavier, and many are in very good condition. Most private crossings are smaller rail, with several being 100-year-old 74 pound rails. Twelve of the fourteen public crossings are equipped with active warning devices. Most of these systems were designed, constructed, and funded by the VRR, and are maintained to FRA standards at the Company’s expense.

There is no “brrreeeport” in Connecticut, but there are plenty of towns that are served by freight railroads. Search them out!


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