Mile 90: Hartford, Connecticut
A snippet of 4 1890s USGS quadrangles showing the HP&F tracks in the Hartford, CT area

A map pieced together from two plates of the 1909 Hartford Atlas
A 1909 map of Hartford made from plates in the LJ Richards Atlas. Available on the Internet Archive.

Hartford's railroad infrastructre is fascinating in the sense that the 1890s USGS map and 1909 city atlas above still basically show what's on the ground today. The HP&F enters the city on a bridge, passes through the Hartford Yard (where a connection to the CT Valley line lies,) joins the Hartford Line from Springfield, Mass, and finally the Central New England line from Griffins before entering the 1889 Hartford Union Station. The Hartford Yard (today operated by Connecticut Southern) is much smaller than in the past, the CNE only goes to Griffins, and the HP&F trackways south and west of the station have been replaced by Bus Rapid Transit, but this is still a busy transit corridor with lots of passengers and goods getting where they need to go.

The section of the Hartford, Providence, & Fishkill/ New York & New England right of way between Hartford and New Britain was pressed into service as the CTfastrak Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in 2015. At present, this is one of only two places on the entire line (the other being a small portion of the Northeast Corridor) where one can actually ride mass transit on the line, albeit on a bus.

The busway has been controversial among railfans for the loss of railroad miles and among taxpayers for its cost. Personally, I think this op-ed by a UCONN student, Thess Johnson, gets it right. The busway exists, and for whatever trouble went on in building it, it works pretty well. My wife and I recently decided it would be fun to eat at a number of places in Downtown Hartford on a weekend afternoon, and parking in the suburbs and taking the bus in made it very hassle free. I'd rather have a train, but I like having good public transit.

The HP&F right of way is served by CSO freight trains until Hartford Union Station. There is an abandoned bridge on the south side of the station that used to carry trains to and from New Britain; the corresponding bridge on the north side has been removed. Somewhat underwhelmingly, there's no dedicated platform for the CT Fastrak, which makes its stop on Asylum Street at an ordinary city street bus stop just east of the station. This allows the buses to run locally on city streets to a final stop at Travelers/ the Wadsworth Atheneum. Boarding a CTfastrak bus here will have you proceeding west on Asylum, turning left onto the I-84 onramp at Spruce Street, but then taking a special busses only left exit from the on ramp which leads to the old HP&F right of way.

As always, these photos proceed as if you were heading west from Providence towards the Hudson

Click on the thumbnail for the full resolution image
A 19th Century Seat Check, from the HP&F or one of its successors
A 19th Century Seat Check, from the HP&F or one of its successors.
A postcard advising someone they have a boxcar of potatoes, 1893
A NY&NE issued postcard advising someone they have a boxcar of potatoes waiting for them. Note that the boxcar is at Morgan St. Presumably this means the NYNH&H frieght operations at Morgan Street (12/1893.)
The back of the freight postcard
The back of the freight postcard (12/1893.)
An advertisment for the Highland Express in the October, 1913 timetable
An advertsment for a new "Highland Express" train in the October, 1913 timetable seen above. This is Highland Express/Nutmeg service, and it lasted until Hurricane Diane destroyed an Air Line bridge in 1955. Although at this time the New Haven Railroad was operating the entire HP&F railroad, they were using different parts of it differently. Waterbury to Willimantic service was connected to service north on the Air Line connecting to Franklin and Boston. The two conductor's cash fare tickets below show the HP&F stops between Waterbury and Willimantic as listed with this service, and no other HP&F stops. Courtesy of James Mortimer.
A WWI era contuctors cash fare form 32 ticket
An early 20th century New Haven Railroad conductor's cash form 32 ticket, sold between New York and New Haven. It was not used on this line, but does list station stops along it. The ticket is undated but was with a collection of similarly weathered New Haven tickets with November 26, 1918 penciled on their backs.
A 1930s or later conductor's cash ticket
A mid-20th century conductor's cash form 3 ticket, sold between New Britain and Hartford and thus an artifact linked to this branch. It is undated, but does not list Crescent Beach, Sound View, or South Lymeas local stops along the Shore Line, so based on their dates of abandonment on the Tyler City Station site, this suggests this ticket is from the 1930s or later. Note that compared to the earlier form 32 ticket above, there are more local stops listed between Waterbury and New Britain. This too suggests it was used for servce between Waterbury and Boston, with a switch from the HP&F to the Air Line at Willimantic.
A paper Connecticut Transit all day bus fare as it appeared in 2023.
A paper Connecticut Transit all day bus fare as it appeared in 2023. The QR code has been removed. I bought this for service between Newington Junction and Hartford (and ultimately used it at Flatbush Ave and Kane St, too.)
An Amtrak ticket to Hartford Union Station
An Amtrak ticket to Hartford Union Station (10/2000.)
A freight train, CSO-3, crosses the HP&F bridge between East Hartford and Hartford
A freight train, CSO-3, crosses the HP&F bridge over the Connecticut River from Hartford to East Hartford. This view is looking north from the Riverside Park boat launch, with Hartford on the left and East Hartford on the right. This train won't be on the HP&F tracks for long: at the East Hartford Yard it will switch to the Armory Branch, known currently as the East Windsor Secondary (4/2024.)
A closer view of one of CSO-3's locomotives
A closer view of one of CSO-3's locomotives (4/2024.)
A view of the start of the Connecticut River bridge on the Hartford side
A view of the start of the Connecticut River bridge on the Hartford side. Note the flood control infrastructure that trains must pass through (4/2024.)
A view looking west from the Reverend Moody Overpass
A view looking west from the Reverend Moody Overpass. The Connecticut Southern yard can be seen in the distance. The track seen here and the road (which is Weston Park Road) both curve around the music venue currently known as the Xfinity Theatre and eventually run to the north. Not visible but from recent satellite images still seems to be extant is the HP&F main which should be to the south (left) of the track visible here. Eventually they connect and head east to the bridge as seen above. (4/2024.)
Looking into the Connecticut Southern Yard from Windsor Street
Looking east into the Connecticut Southern Yard from Windsor Street. Identifiable in this photo (and verified using contemporary posts on the Connecticut Southern Facebook page) are Providence and Worcester locomotive PW 4003 (a B40-8 built by GE in 4/1988 for the New York, Susquehanna, and Western,) and New England Central locomotive NECR 3855 (a GP38 built by EMD in 8/1969 for the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio.) Less certainly the partial photo might be of NECR 2151 (a GP38-2 built by EMD in 1/1973 for the Missouri Pacific,) as it was working with 3855 around that time according to photos on the CSOR Facebook group. The engine in back is unidentified (4/2024.)
Looking north at the HP&F tracks over Windsor St on their way to the yard.
Looking north at the HP&F tracks over Windsor St on their way to the yard. The yard is to the right (east) (4/2024.)
A closer view of the overpass carrying the HP&F mainline over Windsor St.
A closer (northward) view of the overpass carrying the HP&F mainline over Windsor St. The 1937 build date is clearly evident, placing this build some 40ish years into the NYNH&H ownership. Note the overpass carrying the tracks to Springfield in the distance (4/2024.)
A view looking south from the Walnut St overpass towards Hartford Union Station
A view looking south from the Walnut St overpass towards Hartford Union Station, whose platform canopies can just be seen in the distance, under the I-84 viaduct directly in front of the State Capitol. The tracks in the foreground are that of the Central New England Railway, and once went to Poughkeepsie (to the right.) The tracks in the background lead to Union Station, although the western track deadends before the Church Street bridge. According to the Wikipedia article on Union Station, the structure of the platforms is currently only strong enough to support one train at a time. It does not cite a source for this, nor have I found another one, but it may explain the reason only one track is available at the formerly 4 track station. (4/2024.)
A view of the roof of Hartford Union Station from atop the I-84 viaduct
A view of the roof of Hartford Union Station from atop the I-84 viaduct. This is the side of the station with the tracks- the canopies for the platforms are just visible (5/2024.)
Track Level at Hartford Union Station, looking north
Track Level at Hartford Union Station, looking north. It looks suspended in time, not appearing much different than when the author regularly used it from 2000-2003 or even the early 1990s. The extant track serves the Springfield line only, and the abandoned platform (which strangely is the one with indoor access) would have also served the Springfield Line. This article in the Hartford Courant explains the situation: there is great uncertainty how Interstate 84 will be rebuilt or retained, and despite the building of the Fastrak busway and the rebuilding of the Hartford Line as a commuter line, CDOT doesn't want to rennovate the platforms here in case new platforms will need to be built due to changes in the highway. Highland Division/HP&F trains would call at the other side of the near platform, which is really an island, discussed further below (12/2023.)
Looking south from the south end of the Hartford Union Station island platform
Looking south from the south end of the Hartford Union Station island platform. This view shows clearly the 4 trackways that once served the station. Only the near track on the left now serves Hartford Line trains. The two trackways on the right end fairly soon after the bridge at the fencing: these would have served Highland Division/HP&F trains.This is the space now occupied by the CTFastrak busway, discussed below (12/2023.)
Looking east at the south end of the platform
Looking east at the south end of the platform from a similar vantage point from the photo above. We see the south end of the abandoned side platform and its stairs down to Asylum St. If one looks hard, they can see the two bars hanging down over the staircase that once supported a platform nameboard (12/2023.)
A similar view from a train on the surviving track in 2001 or 2002
A similar view from a train on the surviving track in 2001 or 2002. Note that at this time, the platform sign was still in place.
Detail on the sign from 2001 or 2002
Detail on the sign from 2001 or 2002. Just to the left of the visible part was the Amtrak "Pointless Arrow" logo
Looking north along the empty HP&F/Highland Division trackways at Hartford Union station from the same place on the platform as the above photos.
Looking north along the empty HP&F/Highland Division trackways at Hartford Union station from the same place on the platform as the above photos (12/2023.)
Looking south from the island platform at Hartford at the empty Highland Division/HP&F trackway and bridge
Looking south from the island platform at Hartford at the empty Highland Division/HP&F trackway and bridge over Asylum St. Note that on the staircase there is a sign pointing the way to the CTFastrak stop. Since this bus rapid transit (BRT) system will occupy the HP&F right of way all the way to New Britain, we will board the bus at the end of this page. First there are more pictures of the 1889 station itself (12/2023.)
The landing partway down the external staircase from the island platform
The landing partway down the external staircase from the island platform. Note the brickwork and the traffic on Asylum St (12/2023.)
The stairs up to the island platform from street level on Asylum St
The stairs up to the island platform from street level on Asylum St (12/2023.)
Looking west on Asylum Street under Union Station. The bridgework holding up the HP&F/Highland Division trackway is in the foreground
Looking west on Asylum Street under Union Station. The bridgework holding up the HP&F/Highland Division trackway is in the foreground (12/2303.)
Looking south along Union Place with the station to the right
Looking south along Union Place with the station to the right. Note the state capitol in the distance (12/2023.)
Here we can see the south end of the abandoned side platform
Here we can see the south end of the abandoned side platform from street level. The stairs seen in the platform level photos are easy to see here (12/2023.)
Looking north at the corner of Asylum St and Union Place
Looking north at the corner of Asylum St and Union Place. This gives one of the best available overall views of the Richardsonian station (12/2023.)
Looking north in the main waiting room at HFD.
The waiting room at Hartford, looking north. Some sort of festival is going on. The tracks and busses are to the left and Union Place is to the right. Note that there's two staircases running along the western wall. These lead to the abandoned side platform that once served the Springfield line (12/2023.)
Inside Union Station, looking south.
Inside Union Station, looking south (12/2023.)
A view of the west side of the station, looking north from near the corner of Asylum and Spruce Streets
A view of the west side of the station, looking north from near the corner of Asylum and Spruce Streets. Immediately behind the tile mural above the bus bays is the abandoned HP&F/Highland division trackways. The top of the island platform canopy is visible, as is the roof of the station (12/2023.)
A similar location in 1991 or 1992, taken from the raised vantage point of a school bus
A similar location in 1991 or 1992, taken from the raised vantage point of a school bus. It clearly shows the train platform behind the tile mural. Taken by either the author or his brother Rob on an elementary school trip with 110 film.
Detail of mural, canopy, and roofline
Detail of mural, canopy, and roofline. Taken a bit further north on Spruce Street from a school bus in 1991-1992. Taken by either the author or his brother Rob on an elementary school trip with 110 film.
Looking up the entrance ramp to the busway and I-84 at Asylum St/Spruce St  (Exit 48A)
Looking up the entrance ramp to the busway and I-84 at Asylum St/Spruce St  (Exit 48A.) The bridge with the Haymond sign on it is the unused HP&F/Highland division bridge. In the distance, a white sign can be seen that says "Buses Only." This is the entrance to the CTfastrak Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line that now occupies the HP&F right-of-way to New Britain (12/2023.)
Looking south down the rail viaduct on the eastern side of Union Station into Bushnell Park
Looking south down the rail viaduct on the eastern side of Union Station into Bushnell Park. An Amtrak Metroliner (Budd, 1967-1970) cab car in Hartford Line service is just visible past the Hartford Healthcare sign (12/2023.)
Northbound Hartford Union Station CTFastrak stop, Asylum St
Northbound Hartford Union Station CTFastrak stop, Asylum St. The Bus Rapid Transit system ends just before Union Station, so Fastrak buses provide local service in Downtown Hartford and make a stop nearby, but not inside, Union Station (which has many bays for intercity bus service.) (12/2023.)
A northbound CTFastrak bus on Route 101 making a stop at Asylum St/Union Station
A northbound CTFastrak bus on Route 101 making a stop at Asylum St/Union Station (1/2024.)
Southbound CT Fastrak bus stop on Asylum St, Hartford
Southbound CT Fastrak bus stop on Asylum St, Hartford (12/2023.)
Riding a southbound (New Britain bound) CTFastrak bus past Union Station
Riding a southbound (New Britain bound) CTFastrak bus past Union Station (12/2023.)
Fastrak busses enter the HP&F right of way by making a left turn onto the Asylum St/Spruce St entrance ramp to I-84 (Exit 48A)
Fastrak busses enter the HP&F right of way by making a left turn onto the Asylum St/Spruce St entrance ramp to I-84 (Exit 48A.) Note the intercity Peter Pan bus approaching on Asylum Ave, bound for Union Station (1/2024.)
Riding a southbound (New Britain bound) CTFastrak bus past Union Station
Riding a southbound (New Britain bound) CTFastrak bus past Union Station (12/2023.)
Looking up the Asylum St I-84 entrance ramp
Looking up the Asylum St I-84 entrance ramp. Northbound CTFastrak buses coming off the HP&F right of way merge just after the light pole at the end of the fence line and approach the camera. The southbound entrance to the HP&F right of way is ahead and marked "Buses Only" (1/2024.)
The entrance to the CTFastrak Bus Rapid Transit section of the HP&F
The southbound entrance to the CTFastrak Bus Rapid Transit section of the HP&F (1/2024.)

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(c) 2016-2024 Timothy M Dowd. Last Modified @ 19:43 EDT on 2024-05-05
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