Valley Railroad (Connecticut)

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Valley Railroad
Valley Railroad Company Logo
Reporting markVALE
LocaleMiddlesex County, Connecticut
Dates of operation1971 (1971)–present (present)
PredecessorNew York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Length22.67 miles (36.48 km)
HeadquartersEssex, Connecticut
Websiteessexsteamtrain.com
Route map

Middletown
Maromas
Higganum
Goodspeed
Route 82 (Bridge Rd.)
Parkers Point Road
Chrisholm Marina Road
Ferry Road
Chester
Dock Road
Railroad Ave
Deep River Cove
Deep River
Essex Street
Rattling Valley Road
Dump Road
Old Deep River Road
Dannison Road
Route 154 (Middlesex Tpke.)
Essex
Old Saybrook

The Valley Railroad is a heritage railway based in Connecticut on tracks of the Connecticut Valley Railroad, which was founded in 1868. It operates the Essex Steam Train and the Essex Clipper Dinner Train.

Attractions[edit]

Essex Steam Train and Riverboat[edit]

The Valley Railroad operates the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat. This excursion starts with a 12-mile ride aboard the historic Essex Steam Train from Essex Station with scenic views of the Connecticut River up to Chester. The train reverses direction back to the Deep River Station/Landing. Passengers who have purchased the riverboat tickets can board the Becky Thatcher at this station. The riverboat brings people on a 75-minute trip up the Connecticut River to the East Haddam Swing Bridge and then back to Deep River Landing. The train then retrieves passengers to bring them back to Essex Depot. Trip length is 150 minutes.[1]

Essex Clipper Dinner Train[edit]

The Essex Clipper Dinner Train is a 2.5-hour train ride that departs Essex Depot and offers scenic views of the Connecticut River along the way. The train brings passengers to the northern end of the operable line in Haddam. A seasonal four-course meal is prepared on-board and served in restored 1920s Pullman dining cars.

Day Out With Thomas[edit]

Each spring, Thomas The Tank Engine and Percy The Small Green Engine bring Day Out With Thomas to the Valley Railroad. The Essex Steam Train has participated in this event since the late 1990's and up until recently utilized the Strasburg Railroad's fully steam-powered Thomas replica. However, as the locomotive was only available during the colder, late fall months, and as not to conflict with sales of their North Pole event, the Valley Railroad currently hosts their Day Out with Thomas in the Spring, using a non-powered Thomas which is pushed by one of their own steam locomotives.

North Pole Express[edit]

Each November and December, the North Pole Express brings passengers on an imaginary ride to the North Pole for children and their families. Amenities include on-board entertainment, singing, trackside displays, cookies, hot chocolate, and a gift from Santa.[2]

Santa Special[edit]

The Santa Special is a daytime trip aboard festively-decorated rail cars. It is a shorter ride (60 minutes) without car hosts or refreshments. In 2018, the Santa Special hosted the Elf Academy where passengers learn the skills necessary to become an elf (laughing, singing and dancing) and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.[3]

History[edit]

Remains of a wooden bridge along the former Fenwick Branch south of Old Saybrook, which was abandoned in the early 20th century

Construction[edit]

The vision of a Valley Railroad started in the 1840s when President of the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company, James Clark Walkley traced the 44-mile route by stagecoach with friend Horace Johnson.[4] Walkley and a group of business men obtained a state charter on July 17, 1868, to form the Connecticut Valley Railroad Company and start the process of building a railroad.[4]

During 1868–1869, survey crews worked to map out the line from Hartford, Connecticut to Saybrook Point.

In April 1870, construction of the line began, with ground breaking taking place in Higganum, Connecticut.[5] The plan called for three phases, the "Northern Division" starting in Hartford and continuing to Middletown, the "Middle Division" which continued to what is known today as Goodspeed Landing, and the "South Division" which finished the line to Saybrook Point.[4] The Connecticut River Valley allowed for an easy construction, as no tunnels or major bridges where required. The line was completed during the summer of 1871 with the first ceremonial train run over the 45 miles (72 km) on July 29, 1871, at a steady speed of 22 mph.[4] At $34,000 per mile, the line ended up costing $1,482,903.[4]

Connecticut Valley Railroad[edit]

The first "regular" train started on July 31, 1871.[5] On August 24, 1871 the Connecticut Valley Railroad declared an official opening. The schedules of trains operating along the Valley Railroad called for one mixed train and four passenger trains each way daily (except Sunday) with fifteen stops along the way.

The company grossed $34,000 in its first year.[4] It continue d to grow, grossing $250,000/year in 1873.[4]

Financial trouble plagued many early railroads, and the Connecticut Valley defaulted in 1876 on its second mortgage bonds and was placed in receivership.

Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad[edit]

On July 1, 1880, the Hartford and Connecticut Valley Railroad took control with president Samuel Babcock.[4]

Passenger service ended in stages: between Saybrook Point and Fenwick in 1917, between Fenwick and Saybrook Junction in 1922, between Saybrook Junction and Middletown in 1929 or 1930, and Middletown and Hartford in 1933.[6]

Rolling stock[edit]

Steam engines[edit]

Current steam engines[edit]

VRR Engine Number Style Original Build Year In VRR Revenue Service Description Image
40 2-8-2 1920 [7] Yes 40 is mostly used in revenue service on the Essex Steam Train. It was originally built by the America Locomotive Company in Schenectady, NY. The locomotive was purchased by the Valley Railroad in 1977 from Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad.[8] The locomotive ran out of its usable service time at the end of the 2014 operating season and required an extensive rebuild of its boiler during the following year. A lot of the other work on the locomotive had been performed in previous years, such as the rebuilding of the wheels, brakes, and springs of the locomotive two years prior. As a result, the engine emerged from the valley's shop in October, 2015 with all of the required work completed. The locomotive was then put back into service pulling the railroad's popular fall foliage and north pole express trains.
Locomotive #40 with a train at Essex Station
3025 2-8-2 1989 [7][dead link] Yes Members of the Valley Railroad went to Kane, Pennsylvania for the liquidation auction of the Knox and Kane Railroad on October 10 and 11, 2008. They purchased steam locomotive #58, the China Railways SY 2-8-2 type locomotive. The Valley Railroad completely rebuilt the locomotive to resemble a New Haven Railroad J-1 Mikado and renumbered it NH #3025. The new 3025 was completed in November 2011, and was pressed into service immediately pulling the second section of the North Pole Express on November 25, 2011. Along with the 3025, the Valley Railroad purchased a large amount of parts at the same auction.
Locomotive #3025 operating on the Valley Railroad
97 2-8-0 1926 [7] Yes Built by Alco-Cooke in 1926, #65188, for planned sale to Cuba. It was sold and shipped on March 5, 1926 to the Birmingham Southern Railroad as #200. It was sold again to Stephen D Bogen in 1963 and operated as Vermont Railway #97 in 1964. It was transferred to the Valley Railroad of Connecticut as #97 in 1970. Was in revenue service until 2010 when it was put on display awaiting an FRA Form 4 rebuild. 97 successfully completed its rebuild and returned to revenue service in October of 2018.
Locomotive #97 in Essex
2 0-6-0 1941 [7] No On January 9, 2009, The Friends of The Valley Railroad, a volunteer organization working with the railroad to perform track work, equipment maintenance and many other tasks, took possession of Simons Wrecking #2, a Porter 0-6-0 tank engine from the city of Peabody, Massachusetts, which had been part of the famed Steamtown collection. The engine will be cosmetically restored for the time being while donations are raised for the potential to return it to steam.

Previous steam engines[edit]

VRR Engine Number Style Original Build Year Current Number Current Owner Description
1647 2-8-2 1989 142 New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway The Valley Railroad Company, along with the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and the Knox and Kane Railroad, imported brand new steam locomotives from China during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Both the VRR and the K&K imported two SY 2-8-2 type locomotives. Delivered to the United States on the same ship to the eastern seaboard, they each went to their respective railroads. Engine #1647 was delivered to the Valley Railroad and operated numerous on- and off-line trips before being sold to the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway. It was renumbered #142 after an additional SY ordered by the NYS&W was lost when the ship delivering it sunk. Today, it is owned by the New York, Susquehanna, & Western Technical Historical Society and operated on excursions out of Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
103 2-6-2 103 Naugatuck Railroad The Valley Railroad Company obtained this engine from the Empire State Railway Museum and used as the Valley's first steam locomotive. Its last run was in 1975 when it was deemed not powerful enough to pull any of the railroads trains. Ownership was transferred to Railroad Museum of New England in 1987 and it was moved to the museum's Naugatuck Railroad in June 2009, after being on display at Essex since 1975.[9]

Diesel engines[edit]

VRR Engine Number Style Original Build Year In VRR Revenue Service Description
0900 80-ton 1947 No Used in occasional switching and work trains. Currently out of service, on display. Originally used at the General Electric plant in Schenectedy, New York.
0901 80-ton 1940 Yes Used for the Essex Clipper Dinner Train as well as for switching and work trains. Purchased from U.S. Navy at San Diego by Pfizer in 1960s and used at their Groton, Connecticut plant before being donated to the FVRR.
0902 80-ton 1953 Yes Used for the Essex Clipper Dinner Train as well as for switching and work trains. Originally used by the U.S. Air Force, acquired by the VRR in 2014. Renumbered from #1606 to #0902 in May 2017.
0903 80-ton 1940s No Acquired by the VRR in 2016. In service.

Dining and first class cars[edit]

VRR Car Name Style Original Build Year In VRR Revenue Service Description
Great Republic Pullman Parlor Car [7] 1930 Yes Used on the regular steam train excursions. It was built by the Pullman Company and used on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad's "Yankee Clipper" between New York City and Boston. It was acquired by the Valley Railroad in 1991 and placed into revenue service in 1994. It has 34 individual swivel seats.
Meriden Pullman Dining/Parlor Car 1924 Yes Used on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. It was originally build by the Pullman Company and used in service on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The car was restored by the Valley Railroad and has a current capacity of 50 seats.[10]
Wallingford Pullman Dining/Parlor Car 1927 Yes Used on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. It was originally built by the Pullman Company and used in service on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. First used by VRR as a first class car on the Steam Train but was switch to its current configuration in 1994.[10]
Goodspeed 28 Seat Pullman Parlor Car 1927 Yes Dacosta, the original name used by Pullman, was purchased from a tourist railroad in Ohio in 1988 by the Valley Railroad in hopes to use it one day. It stayed as storage rolling stock until August 2013 when a complete restoration of the car started. Through man hours of Valley employees and FVRR volunteers restoration completed just in time for the North Pole Express 2013 season. In service on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. The car was renamed Goodspeed in 2016.
Middletown Parlor/observation car 1924 Yes Through man hours of Valley employees and FVRR volunteers, restoration completed just in time for the North Pole Express 2015 season. Originally built as Baltimore & Ohio "Capitol Road", later modernized and sold to the Chicago & North Western as their 400 and used by company executives.

Passenger cars[edit]

VRR #/Name Builder Original Build Year In VRR Revenue Service Description
400 ACF 1920 Yes Ex-PRR Baggage 9284, ex-PC 7564, renumbered to 400 in 2018 and rebuilt as HEP power car for 400 series coaches.[11]
401 Canadian Car & Foundry[12] 1952 Yes 82 foot commuter coach, ex Adirondack Scenic #7401, Canadian Pacific #815. Acquired 2015. Entered service, Nov 2018
402 Canadian Car & Foundry 1952 Yes 82-foot coach, ex-Adirondack Scenic #7402, Canadian Pacific #824. Acquired 2015; entered service Nov 2018.
403 Canadian Car & Foundry 1952 Yes 82-foot coach, ex-Adirondack Scenic #7403, Canadian Pacific #828. Acquired 2015; entered service Nov 2018.
404 Canadian Car & Foundry 1952 Yes 82-foot coach, ex-Adirondack Scenic #7404, Canadian Pacific #829. Acquired 2015; entered service Nov. 2018
500 (Trackside Cafe) Pullman 1914 Yes Stationary food service car, ex-DL&W
501 Pullman [7] 1915 Yes 74-seat coach, ex-DL&W
502 Pullman [7] 1914 Yes 74-seat coach, ex-DL&W
503 Pullman [7] 1914 Yes 74-seat coach, ex-DL&W
600 (Riverview) [7] Pullman 1917 Yes Open car, ex-LVRC #1004, acquired 1995
601 Pullman [7] 1917 Yes 74-seat coach, ex-LVRC #1001, acquired 1995
602 Pullman [7] 1917 Yes 74-seat coach, ex-LVRC #1002, acquired 1995
603 Pullman [7] 1920 Yes 74-seat coach, ex-LVRC #1003, acquired 1995
1000 (Putnam) Bethlehem Steel [7] 1924 Yes 76-seat coach, ex-VALE 155, exx-CC&H 155, exxx-CNJ, acquired 1990
1001 Bethlehem Steel [7] 1925 Yes 76-seat coach, ex-VALE 1101, exx-CNJ, in VRR service since 1971
1002 Bethlehem Steel [7] 1924 Yes 76-seat coach, ex-VALE 1000, exx-CNJ

Kitchen car[edit]

VRR Car Name Style Original Build Year In VRR Revenue Service Description
Colonial Hearth U.S. Army Kitchen Car 1953 Yes A U.S. Army Kitchen car until 1986 when the Valley Railroad acquired the car.[10]

Facilities[edit]

Track[edit]

The Valley Railroad Company leases, from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the track running from Old Saybrook up through Essex, Deep River, Chester, Haddam, and Middletown, totaling 22.67 miles (36.48 km). The trackbed is gravel ballast, with track made of conventional wood crossties, with steel rails fastened to the ties. A major project funded by the Company in 2015 put all mainline track from Essex (MP 4) to North Chester (MP 9.80) in stone ballast. The track connects with Amtrak's Northeast Corridor track near the Old Saybrook Station to the south. Presently, 14.25 miles of the line are restored for train service, with the remaining last seeing service in 1968. The rail corridor between Haddam and Middletown, which has been cleared of brush and receives property maintenance and surveillance from hi-rail vehicles, and is undergoing full restoration as time and funding permit.

The Valley Railroad Company has several grade crossings along its tracks. They vary in their nature, ranging from small caution signs at Private Crossings to flashing lights, bells, and gates and stop signs at public crossings. The busiest public grade crossings are located at Route 153 in Essex, Route 154 in Essex, and Route 82 (just before the East Haddam swing bridge) in Haddam.

Stations[edit]

The railroad's main station in Essex.

The main station, where tickets are sold and all rolling stock is kept, is located in Essex; specifically, the village of Centerbrook. The main entrance and parking access is located off Route 154; there is a rear entrance (not for public use) on Route 153. There is a station building (used as offices for the riverboat operation) at Deep River Landing in Deep River, and a small station (used by the Railroad's track department) in Chester—it was originally the station at Quinnipiac, Connecticut. Goodspeed station, located off Route 82 in Haddam, houses an antique shop and is not affiliated with the railroad. Across the tracks from the station is the Goodspeed Yard Office. This building was the original Chester passenger station, located on Dock Road in Chester, but sold off and removed in 1874 when it was found that the railroad grade was too steep at that location for starting and stopping trains. Donated by the Zanardi family in 1993, it was retrieved by volunteers of the Friends of the Valley Railroad and moved by flatcar to its present location. It is believed that this structure is the sole remaining passenger station from the 1871 opening of the railroad.

On July 18, 2009, the Friends of the Valley Railroad built a passenger shelter in Chester on the site of the original Hadlyme station. The new building is a reproduction of the South Britain station, which was on the now abandoned Danbury Extension of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill. The original station on this site served passengers of the town of Hadlyme, across the Connecticut River. Passengers use today's station to go to Gillette Castle State Park via the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, the second-oldest continuously-operated ferry route in the United States.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat". Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  2. ^ "The North Pole Express at the Essex Steam Train". Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company.
  3. ^ "The Santa Special at the Essex Steam Train". Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Essex Steam Train Is Remnant Of Connecticut Valley Railroad". Hartford, Connecticut: The Hartford Courant. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park". Hartford, Connecticut: Connecticut DEEP. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (2017). The Rail Lines of Southern New England (2 ed.). Branch Line Press. pp. 111–115. ISBN 9780942147124.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Essex Steam Train Rolling Stock Jan 2014" (PDF). Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 8, 2014. Retrieved March 8, 2016.
  8. ^ "Essex Steam Train Locomotive History" (PDF). Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 8, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  9. ^ "News From The Naugy". Naugatuck Railroad Blog. 2007-10-11. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c "The Essex Clipper Dinner Train". Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  11. ^ (PDF) http://essexsteamtrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/VRR-Formatted-Roster-June-2016.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Angus, Fred (May 2005). "Farewell to the 800s" (PDF). Canadian Rail. No. 506. The Canadian Railroad Historical Association. Retrieved September 12, 2018.

"The History of the Valley Railroad Company". essexsteamtrain.com. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved October 1, 2012.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°21′06″N 72°24′22″W / 41.351652°N 72.405986°W / 41.351652; -72.405986