Category Archives: Connecticut

Amtrak’s Berlin, CT. Station Burns Down

A historic train station in Berlin was closed on Wednesday following an early morning fire.
According to officials, the fire began shortly before 4 a.m. on Wednesday.
The train station, located at 51 Depot Rd., was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived. Roughly 50 firefighters responded. They said they had to deal with some significant flames and frigid temperatures during the fight.

The station, which was scheduled for renovation, has been closed since March and commuters who were using a platform outside to board trains.


Old Station!

Amtrak said the station has been around since 1900. It appeared to have significant damage.
“I think the building might be a total loss,” Lewandowski said. “I think all that’s left now is the outside walls.”
A new station is being built across the tracks. It is unclear if the new station was damaged in any way.

Connecticut’s WALK BRIDGE: Save It, Replace It or Reuse Parts?

A lot of more than just local interest in the “WALK BRIDGE” in Norwalk, Connecticut. The Metro-North Railroad Walk Bridge in Norwalk, Conn. Some Norwalk officials are calling for the Connecticut Department of Transportation to replace the Walk Bridge with an ‘iconic’ structure and some residents will likely miss the existing 120-year-old bridge. The Norwalk Preservation Trust states that the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and if the state must replace the bridge it should fully fund a Norwalk Historical Society Museum exhibit on the bridge and railroad.

This bridge carries not only dozens of Metro-North commuter trains, but also vital to AMTRAKs NorthEast Corridor between Boston and Washington, DC.

As the state gears up to replace the Walk Bridge, sentimentality is growing among local people over the iconic structure that has marked Norwalk’s skyline for 120 years.
“The loss of the existing bridge, its catenaries and high towers, as well as its brownstone structural elements would forever change the character of the area,” wrote the Norwalk Preservation Trust in its response to the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s report on the project. “We respectfully request that the repair and retention of the existing bridge be given further study in the hopes that demolition can be avoided.”

If the railroad bridge and its “associated elements must be demolished,” the NPT wants the DOT take a number of mitigation measures such as leaving the historic granite or brownstone abutments in place, or reusing them as part of the new bridge.

When built in 1896, the bridge was both state-of-the-art and also the last of its breed.
“In its wide proportions and heavy steel construction, the Norwalk bridge exemplifies the railroad swing bridge at its height of development: after the mid- 1890s, nearly all movable bridges were bascules of one type or another,” reads a portion of the nomination report that landed the bridge on the register.

Dick Carpenter of East Norwalk, author of “A Railroad Atlas of the United States in 1946,” said the Walk Bridge is the only four-track swing bridge that he knows of on a major rail line in the nation. That and its age are its distinguishing characteristics, he said

DOT, after considering more than 70 design concepts, ruled out repairing the existing bridge or replacing it with a fixed-bridge. The state’s preferred replacement is a 240-foot vertical lift bridge that would cost $425 million to $460 million to build. Work is slated to start in mid-2018.

“We are aware of numerous other century old bridges across the country that have been repaired and maintained and are expected to last for another century and beyond, such as the Williamsburg Bridge in New York,”

Metro-North Orders Many New M8 Rail Cars

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board has approved an order for at least 60, and up to a total of 94, additional new M8 rail cars for the Metro-North Railroad’s New Haven Line, officials announced.

The cars, the first of which are expected to enter service in three years, will allow the railroad to lengthen rush hour trains, retire its last 36 older M2 cars, increase safety, and have flexibility to increase train service in the years ahead to meet ridership increases. The cars will supplement the 405 M8 cars already in use on the New Haven Line and New Canaan Branch.

“The approval of these additional railcars will improve service for commuters throughout the region on the nation’s busiest commuter rail line,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy in a statement. “For decades, we as a state and nation have failed to make investments in transportation a top priority – and we have witnessed the results with failing roadways and aging public transportation systems. But today we are taking a new approach. Through actions like today’s, we are showing the public that investments in infrastructure must be made to continue the level of service the public, and our economy, have come to depend on. If we want to remain competitive, giving our residents and businesses the best chance to prosper, we must continue to make desperately needed investments across our entire transportation infrastructure.”

The order consists of a base order of 60 cars and an option for an additional 34 cars. The base order is expected to include the retrofit of 10 existing M8 cars into café cars.

Added Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, “We appreciate this vote of confidence in our rail investment strategy. Connecticut commuters can look forward to the extremely high reliability of these cars and increased service on the New Haven Line. I want to thank the MTA Board for this prompt action on our request.”

From an MTA press release:

The M8 cars have improved customer satisfaction levels and have achieved very high mechanical reliability, far in excess of expectations. Additionally, the new M8 are designed to be enabled with Positive Train Control from the time they enter service. Through September, the cars are averaging 460,277 miles between mechanical breakdowns, the best rate for New Haven Line cars in decades and 53% above the railroad’s goal for the cars.

The M8 cars are the most technologically sophisticated in Metro-North’s fleet. They have third rail shoes that can receive 700- to 750-volt direct current to power the trains between Pelham and Grand Central Terminal, and the capability to run under two types of alternating current from overhead wire, known as catenary. The New Haven Line and its New Canaan Branch use 60 cycle, 12.5 kilovolt power. The cars can also operate at the higher, 60 cycle, 25 kilovolt power, which is used on the Shore Line East route east of New Haven.

Three hundred eighty of the current cars are in permanently coupled pairs; each pair’s “A” car has 110 seats and each “B” car has 101 seats plus a handicapped-accessible, airline-style vacuum toilet and space for wheelchair seating or bicycles to be stored on wall-mounted hooks.

Each row of seats is outfitted with electrical outlets, grab bars, coat hooks and overhead luggage racks. The color scheme is a vibrant red, the historical color of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, a predecessor to Metro-North. Outside, customers see prominent electronic destination signs and hear public address announcements from external speakers. Single leaf doors provide high reliability and less susceptibility to snow intrusion.

The existing M8 cars, like the rest of Metro-North’s fleet, are being upgraded to enable them to operate with enhanced Positive Train Control, a safety system designed to reduce the risk of human error contributing to derailments or collisions caused when a train travels too fast into a curve, onto tracks already occupied by another train, or through a misaligned switch. The existing cars are also being retrofitted to include security cameras in engineers’ cabs and in the customer areas of the trains. The new M8 cars will not need to be retrofitted, they will come enabled with cameras and Positive Train Control equipment when they are delivered to the railroad.

The M8 coach cars for use on the New Haven Line are funded 65 percent by the State of Connecticut and 35 percent by the MTA Capital Program. M8 café cars are funded entirely by the State of Connecticut.

Work to build the M8 cars was initiated in August 2006, when the MTA and Connecticut placed an initial base order for 300 cars with Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc. The first eight M8 cars entered service on March 1, 2011.

Since the initial order for the cars, New Haven Line ridership growth has been at or above the high end of expectations, and the railroad has responded with significant service increases every year since 2012. The M8 car fleet size has grown to meet increasing ridership and service levels. The initial contract contained two options for additional cars. The first contract, for 42 cars, and the second, for 38, were both exercised early in 2011. Then in July of that year, the MTA and Connecticut Department of Transportation agreed to amend their contract with Kawasaki to order an additional 25 M8 cars configured not as permanently coupled pairs, but as unpowered single cars, bringing the railroad to today’s total of 405 cars. Today’s announcement reflects a second amendment to the contract, and will bring the total number of M8 cars in existence to 465, or up to 499 if the option is exercised.

The M8 cars are manufactured in Lincoln, Nebraska; final testing takes place in New York and Connecticut.

Connecticut leaders hop on board New England Central Railroad upgrades

Top Connecticut lawmakers and leaders joined transportation officials in Willimantic, for the groundbreaking of a grant to upgrade New England railroad infrastructure.

Congressman Joe Courtney, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Senator Chris Murphy, joined Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker and officials from the New England Central Railroad (NECR), a subsidiary of Darien-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc., for a groundbreaking in Willimantic to highlight the U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant awarded to upgrade rail infrastructure to accommodate modern freight rail carloads up to 286,000 lbs.

Approximately fifty people joined together along the NECR main line to recognize the importance of this project for the economy of Connecticut. Attendees were a diverse mix of local industry managers and governmental officials, local and regional economic development officials, and representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration. After several speeches by attending officials, the group watched as a NECR freight train broke through a ceremonial banner across the main line.

“The federal TIGER funding I helped secure for proved critical in the effort to leverage matching funds from private industry in order to get this project underway,” said Courtney. “After the rail line upgrades are completed, it will greatly expand the freight capacity of the eastern Connecticut rail network. That is an enormous increase from the current capacity and will allow the Port of New London to greatly expand the amount of freight cargo that can be shipped in and sent out by rail across the region. This development is bound to expand industry and create new jobs across eastern Connecticut as shipping expands. I want to thank the U.S. Department of Transportation, ConnDOT and the New England Central Rail for their continuing commitment to getting this done. “

“This substantial TIGER investment will bring the New England Central Railroad into the 21st century— creating new jobs and increasing shipping capacities from Vermont to New London,” said Blumenthal. “These critical upgrades will bring enormous benefits to local economies in Connecticut, all while reducing transportation costs, increasing rail safety, and allowing companies to grow. I will continue to fight for federal resources that will help support and improve Connecticut’s transportation system.”

“Today is a great day for Eastern Connecticut. Our previous freight rail system was ineffective and cumbersome,” said Murphy. “This public-private funding partnership made possible by the TIGER grant I was proud to help secure will make necessary upgrades to our rail infrastructure, opening doors to new economic growth-and most importantly, new jobs.”

New England Central Railroad President David Ebbrecht said: “The TIGER VII grant will make a significant improvement in freight transportation in Connecticut. It will make movement of goods to and from the Port of New London and the numerous communities along the line more efficient and help Connecticut industry better compete in national and world markets. The New England Central Railroad greatly appreciates all of the support provided for this grant by elected federal and state officials led by Congressman Joe Courtney, Connecticut DOT under the direction of Commissioner James Redeker, U.S. Department of Transportation and all of the communities and customers served by the railroad in the state.”

Blumenthal Slams Idea Of Amtrak Bypass Through Old Lyme

Describing the idea as “half-baked” and “harebrained,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal this week made clear that he is opposed to rerouting Amtrak’s coastal Connecticut tracks through Old Lyme.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing, Blumenthal told Amtrak Vice President Stephen Gardner that he supports long-term improvements to Amtrak’s heavily used but aging Northeast Corridor.

However, running train tracks through the center of historic villages near Connecticut’s shoreline doesn’t make sense, Blumenthal said.

The Federal Railroad Administration is in the midst of studying how to bring faster service to the 457-mile route between Washington, D.C., and New York City. The route links business hubs along the East Coast, and transportation planners say it will become even more critical to the nation’s economy as highway congestion — particularly along I-95 — worsens in the next two decades.

The proposal that Blumenthal opposes is actually among the least disruptive ideas that the FRA is considering. The more radical alternatives appear impractically expensive; one would require a new tunnel under Long Island Sound from Long Island to Milford, and another would create an all-new railbed cutting diagonally across Connecticut from Danbury through Waterbury and Storrs to Massachusetts.

Unofficial cost estimates for such massive projects range up to $165 billion, a figure that more transportation officials privately concede is entirely unrealistic in an environment where President Barack Obama’s $10 billion national high-speed rail initiative drew political fire several years ago.

By comparison, the Old Lyme proposal would relocate a 60-mile stretch of coastline tracks east of Old Saybrook to a slightly more inland route. The goal is to bypass a notoriously curving and bending route that Amtrak believes is susceptible to future flooding.

But even without the staggering engineering and cost implications of the other alternatives, the Old Lyme proposal is deeply controversial within Connecticut. Residents and community groups are opposing the idea because it would run tracks through the center of historic villages, business districts and the Connecticut River estuary.

“Unfortunately, some of the ideas the FRA has proposed are frankly half-baked, harebrained notions that will never come to fruition — including rerouting Amtrak straight through the community of Old Lyme … and other shoreline communities where there is strong, understandable and well-merited opposition,” Blumenthal told Gardner at a Senate subcommittee hearing this week.

Gardner replied that Amtrak isn’t in charge of the FRA long-term study, but said any alternative would have to undergo extensive environmental review with community input before advancing.

“I realize you have a process — you also have customers, and if your customers are telling you they don’t want that route, I would hope you would follow or at least heed and respect your customers’ views,” Blumenthal said.

The FRA has said that any alarm about its long-term alternatives is needless, since it’s only in the early stages of study. The agency has said it isn’t close to designing detailed plans for any of the alternatives.

Walk Bridge Failure Causes Railroad Delays

A mechanical failure left the Walk Bridge in Norwalk stuck open for hours and caused major delays for trains moving through the area, according to Metro-North and Amtrak.

Norwalk police say the drawbridge was stuck in an open position around 3 p.m. causing significant delays on Metro-North’s New Haven Line and slowing Amtrak trains between New York and New Haven. As of 5 p.m. the railroads had restored limited service, but significant delays of up to 90 minutes continued.

Around 10:30 p.m. Metro-North reported that train service had resumed to three of the four tracks over the Walk Bridge and delays were only expected to be around 20 minutes. Sunday service is expected to run on schedule.

This is not the first time a failure of the Walk Bridge caused issues for riders. In 2014 Gov. Dannel Malloy called a “crisis summit” after multiple service disruptions left commuters delayed for hours. After that, experts began formulating solutions to repair and eventually replace the bridge.

Jenkins Curve in Bridgeport in 1966.

A pair of EF-4s heads west around Jenkins Curve in Bridgeport in 1966. Next stop. . .LIRR’s Bay Ridge Yard.

Model by Rick Abramson

Summer, 1966.  The Long Island Rail Road was busy reballasting a lot of track.  All the ballast originated at the New Haven Traprock quarry in Branford, handed off to the New Haven from the Branford Steam Railroad at Pine Orchard.  Shipped in 125-car lots, the trains consisted of New Haven’s 70-ton quad-hoppers filled to the max (meaning halfway).  These were “DO NOT STOP” trains, with the dispatcher closely monitoring their movement all the way.  I suspect that at least one passenger job may have been inconvenienced by these trains.

At S.S. 4 we were given a heads-up when they were crossing over at Pelham Bay, and the dispatcher called both S.S. 4 and S.S. 3 to make sure the train had a clear, unobstructed shot for Hell Gate Bridge.  And we had to call back, confirming that the signals were cleared off.  Then she came rolling through at 45 m.p.h.  You could feel how heavy the train was, but the two EF-4s made it appear easy.

Once she cleared off the model board, a sigh of relief followed, preceded, of course, by an OS to the West End dispatcher.

I don’t think you could do such a thing nowadays.  But, that’s progress, I think.

Question on New Haven wreck cranes?

The big New Haven Railroad cranes were built by Industrial Brownhoist. They were actually locomotive cranes (ie self-propelled). They were all black; cabs, and the “car” the cabs were mounted on. The 3 cranes were D-100: located at  New Haven, D-101: located at Providence, D-102: located at Oak Point.

Any movement of the 230-ton crane under its own power would generally be for the immediate area only.  When towed to and from wherever, its maximum speed was 25 m.p.h.

Keep in mind that these big cranes had numerous restrictions on where they could not operate.

Extracted from Time Table No. 6, effective 2.01 A.M., Sunday, October 26, 1958:

Maximum Speed for Particular Equipment
All derricks – 25 M.P.H.
Additional restrictions for Derricks D100, D101 and D102 are as follows:

  • When in transit, smokestack and auxiliary cab light must be removed.
  • One car to be placed between derrick and engine handling train.
  • Oak Point – Must not be operated beyond shore line at float bridges.
  • South Mt. Vernon – Must not be operated through third rail shoe rake-off blocks 940 feet west of S.S. 20.  If required to go beyond this point, rake-off blocks must be removed temporarily.
  • New Rochelle Yard – Must not operate on yard lead track across Cedar Street Bridge No. 5.05, 1970 feet east of New Rochelle station.
  • Port Chester – Must not exceed 10 M.P.H. at Bridge 13.75, King Street, first underpass east of passenger station.
  • Stamford – Must not exceed 10 M.P.H. at Bridge 20.86, Greenwich Avenue, first underpass entering Stamford from the west.
  • Bridgeport – Must not exceed 10 M.P.H. between Burr Road, S.S. 55, and East Bridgeport, S.S. 63.  Must not operate on Old Botsford Main north of Congress St., Bridge No. 0.26 first underpass north of passenger station.
  • Branchville and Ridgefield – Must not be operated.
  • Must not be operated between (Dike St.) Olneyville and Pascoag; East Providence and Bristol; River Point and Arkwright (Woonsocket – Winter St. yard and Slatersville and Hamlet Branch); Groton Old Main; Norwich C.V. connection.  Must not exceed 10 M.P.H. between Norwood Central and Valley Falls, and over Shaws Cove drawbridge.
  • Must not be operated between:
  •     Boston and Back Bay
  •     Boston Terminal and South Bay Jct.
  •     South Bay Jct. and Braintree
  •     Neponset and Milton
  •     Braintree and West Quincy
  •     Matfield and West Bridgewater
  •     Westdale and East Bridgewater
  •     Forest Hills and West Roxbury
  •     Readville and Dedham
  •     Weir Jct. and Dean Street
  •     New Bedford and Watuppa
  •     Franklin Jct. and Milford
  •     Medway and Woodside
  •     Lancaster Branch
  •     Framingham – Prison Branch
  • Must not exceed 10 M.P.H. between Canton Jct. and Canton, Buzzards Bay and Woods Hole, Braintree Highlands and Randolph.

Cranes D-100 to D 102 weighed more than an I-5 4-6-4 Hudson —  In working order with coal and water they weighed 379,000 lbs. vs 365,300 lbs for an I-5 in working order without a tender.  The weight on each I-5 driver was 64,300 lbs.only slightly more than the 63,400 lbs on each axle of the front crane truck.  Is there any wonder there were restrictions.

Readers might be interested to know that the New Haven used the terms Derrick and Crane interchangeably.  For example, in the Mechanical Department diagrams D-100 to D-102 are called 230 Ton Capacity Steam Locomotive Cranes while the 150 Ton Capacity D-3 to D-6 diesel powered units are called Wrecking Derricks even though all have similar booms and operated similarly (D-3 was not self-propelled).  There was also the H series (H-47 to H-57) which stoood for Hoist (built by American Hoist and Derrick Co.) which were labeled Loco Cranes.  Webster’s dictionary isn’t much help in identifying the difference between Derrick and Crane but Webster says Derrick originated with the name of an 18th century English hangman — derrick is an obsolete term for hangman or gallows.

And a Crane is a wading bird with long legs.”
 – So does that mean a “Loco Crane” is one that has mental health issues?

Ansonia Copper & Brass Factory Coming Down!

Pictured above is a Metro North Railroad “Brooksville” locomotive (in New Haven Railroad paint) running on the Waterbury Branch through the abandoned Ansonia Copper and Brass (formerly Anaconda American Brass) — consisting of six rusting buildings spanning 43-acres of Naugatuck Riverfront property and divided by an active rail line.

Read the full story in the Connecticut Post.

Naugatuck Clean-up Pilot A Great Success

THOMASTON, CT –  Volunteers from the Railroad Museum Of New England (RMNE), the Naugatuck River Revival Group (NRRG), O&G Industries, and the Boy Scouts completely exceeded all expectations on Saturday by removing enough tires to fill two 30 yard dumpsters from an area less than 3 miles long between the Naugatuck River and CT Route 8 in Thomaston and Watertown. More than 20 people devoted their Saturday to clean up the environment and pull tires both big and small.
Volunteers rode the train to Jericho Bridge. There they pulled the tires from the riverbank and brush and rolled them next to the Naugatuck Railroad mainline. From there a tie crane lifted them into a dump car. The train dumped the tires at Thomaston Station where a bucket loader lifted them into dumpsters. For the trial run, two teams started at Jericho Bridge, one on each side of the mainline and worked their way south and one team started at Frost Bridge Road and worked their way north. After lunch, volunteers returned to work south of Frost Bridge Road and pulled out more tires.

See full article