Exploring the Hartford, Providence, & Fishkill Railway in the 21st Century
The railroad name from an 1863 freight bill
A train graphic from the 1863 freight bill
Part of a door check from the Boston Bijou Theatre, with an ad for the NY&NE Railroad
Part of an 1893 Freight bill for the railroad
The middle of a 20th century NYNH&H Form 3 Conductor's Cash Fare ticket

When I moved back to Connecticut in 2016, the rail line running from Providence to the Hudson River first imagined by the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill Railway began to fascinate me. I came at this line of many regions from an eastern Connecticut perspective: I would be teaching high school in Manchester, and this was around the time when Connecticut Southern service on the Manchester Line would be ending.  I found out quickly that this line was once part of a much larger vision stretching across three states, a distance of some two hundred miles. The places it once connected are today vaugely connected by the meadering US Highway 6. They have deep mutual roots, but today Providence's Federal Hill and the gentle waves of the Hudson River lapping at the shore at Beacon seem to have little in common. They once were a single train ticket away from one another.

I wanted to write a story about travelling this once great railway in its entirety. But what does that mean? For starters, what is the railway even called? I began with the idea that it was the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill of 1849, but they never made it west of Waterbury. It was under a successor, the New York & New England, that this finally occured in 1881. Where does the line go? As the advertisement above states, under the NY&NE it went to Fishkill Landing (today's Beacon, NY) but below you'll see a 1913 timetable from the successor NYNH&H that has it attached to the Maybrook line and heading towards the bridge at Poughkeepsie, NY. The same timetable shows that few trains went the whole distance, but instead operated over part of the line (ie Poughkeepsie-Hartford, Waterbury-Hartford, and a strange Danbuy-Putnam one. This last one had trains routed along the other NY&NE branch, towards Boston, east of Willimantic. Tickets from the 20th century show that the Central Connecticut stations along the HP&F kept passenger service for a very long time as part of a Waterbury-Boston route.

In short, I had to make some editorial choices. On this page, I'll refer to the line mostly as the HP&F. The exception are the stations west of Waterbury, which I'll typically call the NY&NE. Keeping with the spirit of the "Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill" I'm going to organize my photos as if the mainline runs from Providence Union Station to Beacon, NY, and treat the Hopewell Jct-Poughkeepsie part of the Maybrook line as a related spur like the South Manchester Railroad or the Rockville Branch. I'm also going to add the Dutchess and Columbia between Wicopee Junction and Dutchess Junction in as a branch. There is nothing sacred or even logical about these choices- they're just what makes the most sense to me.

What makes the line so fascinating is the various condition that the line is in. The best way to see the far eastern end is to ride the MBTA Providence Branch and the best way to see the far western end is to ride the MTA Metro-North Hudson Line Branch. In between there is a mix of rail trails, mountain bike trails, active freight rail, out of service lines, a totally abandoned part, and a section that has been converted to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT.) Photos on this site were taken on foot, on bike, on train, on kayak, and on bus. There are three excellent musuems (Connecticut Eastern, Danbury, and Hopewell Junction) and lots of ways to enjoy the line in its current state.

The site is a perpetual work in progress. I make no claims to have seen everything exciting yet, and would welcome suggestions. Across this 200 mile journey, there are many people and organizations deeply involved with their sections of the line that know far more than me. I try to link to these interesting people as much as I can in the body of the site.

To organize my discussion, I plan on using these documents. The first two are a map and timetable, scanned from Connecticut Railroads: An Illustrated History, by Gregg Turner and Melancthon Jacobus. The second two are NYNH&H timetables from March 2, 1913. The last is an NYNH&H timetable on Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones's site that I don't have a copy of. I used that to get the milage between Beacon and Hopewell Junction.

A map of the line, produced by the NY&NE railway
A 19th Century Timetable of the Hartford, Providence, and Fishkill Rwy
Station Stops Between Providence and Willimantic on the line as of March 2, 1913
Station Stops Between Poughkeepsie and Willimantic on the line as of March 2, 1913
To use these 5 documents to organize our exploring, I'll count miles from Providence and convert the Poughkeepsie-Willimantic miles using the older timetable. Note that by 1913 trains were operated separately east and west of Willimantic.

As the timetable lists Providence as mile 0 and works westward, each of the following pages will do the same (ie each picture is west of the preceeding one.)

If a place is listed here, it means we've visited. If it isn't yet linked, it means we haven't had time to organize the photos, process them, and come up with a coherent narrative of what the site currently looks like. It also might mean I don't understand what was happening at the site based on my current knowledge, and would welcome any comments.

If a place isn't listed here it means we haven't visited yet.

Miles from Providence Union Station (1898)
Name of Explored Site
Features to See
Best Means of Seeing
All distances here are approximate- they come from timetables half a century apart, bike GPS, and Google Maps. In some places they don't line up.
0-0.5
Providence Station is north of the former Providence Union Station, so the former right of way has been redeveloped
0
Providence Union Station

on foot
0.5-2.6
This section is part of active Northeast Corridor (Amtrak, MBTA, Providence and Worcester)
1.1
Atwell Ave
Northeast Corridor
on a train
1.9
Dike Street Station
Northeast Corridor, remains of Weybosset Mill
on a train, also on foot
about 2.4-2.7
Abandoned section (milage numbers are fuzzy here, but there's about 0.3-0.4 miles abandoned trackway)
about 2.6-21.6
Washington Secondary Rail Trail Paved in decent condition, tree roots have caused bumps
2.6
Arlington
abandoned roadbed north of Depot Ave, Beginning of Washington Secondary trail, old spur
on foot or bike
3.3
West Arlington

on foot or bike
4
Cranston

on foot or bike
4.8
Knightsville

on foot or bike
5.6
Meshanticut

on foot or bike
7.2
Oak Lawn

on foot or bike
8.4
West Pontiac

on foot or bike
9
Natick

on foot or bike
11
River Point
Bradford Soap Plant and Trestle over South Pawtuxet River, Old Caboose, paved path
on foot or bike
11.6
Arctic
Interesting mills, river views, stone walls
on foot or bike
12.1
Centreville
Interesting mill, millstones, stone walls
on foot or bike
13.0
Quidnick
Bridge remains, trestle
on foot or bike
13.4
Anthony
Anthony Mill, old bridges, extant rail sidings
on foot or bike
14.4
Washington Extant rail siding, switching equipment

18.1
Coventry Center
Coventry Center Station, Route 102 bridge, paved path
on foot or bike
21.6
Summit
Rough, moguled roadbed, flooded roadbead
21.6-26.2
Future secton of Washington Secondary. Currently right of way is clear, but in poor condition
24.1
Greene
Rough, moguled roadbed, new trestle over Buck's Horn Brook, Greene Station Site, Greene Station.
on foot or mountain bike
26.2
RI/CT State Line
26.2-33
Moosup Valley State Park Rail Trail. Some sections paved and others dirt, improvements ongoing in 2023
27
Oneco
Roadbed in varying condition, from flooded to rough moguled to new graded to paved. There is a new bridge over Providence road that uses the old abutments, including one with a stone culvert. The junction of the former spur to the Oneco Quarry is easy to find and walkable to huge abutments for a bridge across the Moosup river.
on foot or bike
29
Sterling
viaduct with culvert, milepost, new improvements
on foot or bike
33
Moosup
Paved rail trail, old eastern bridge open to the public. Route obliterated in the village, some of old western bridge still extant. The line is totally abandoned west of the western bridge until a significant way past Route 12.
on foot
33-35
This section appears totally abandoned and is under the control of CT DOT.
35-58.5
Active Rail -Providence and Worcester's Willimantic Line. Milepost zero is at Plainfield
35
Plainfield
The line is totally abandoned from Moosup to the Rawson Quarry. Past this is the start of active Providence and Worcester Trackage. Site of Plainfield Junction Depot
car
38
Packerville
RR crossing, Butts Bridge Rd Overpass
car
40
Canterbury
Aspinook Pond/Quinebaug River, trestle, station site
car and kayak
45
Versailles
Stone Arch Bridge, Station Site and abandoned paper mill spur
car
48
Baltic
station foundations, Rte 97 crossing
car
51.5
Scotland
Station site, bridge over Merrick Brook
car
55
South Windham
Station site and siding
car
58.5
Willimantic
Amtrak Platform, Willimantic River Bridge, Connecticut Eastern Rwy Museum, Columbia Jct Roundhouse, Versailles Operator's Shanty, Willimantic River Bridge
museum guest
58.5-59.8
Active Rail (New England Central) and Museum trackage (Eastern Connecticut Railroad Museum.)
59.8-60.2
Active Rail (New England Central)
60.2-81
Hop River State Park Trail - high quality dirt
64
Hop River
Ruined Eastern Hop River Bridge (Bridge 2.53) many telegraph poles, mile markers, Route 6 overpass, Extant Hop River Station
foot or bike
67
Andover
Modern tunnel, vintage trestle, christmas tree farm, replacement bridge over highway
foot or bike
73.5
Bolton
dramatically steep cuts, tunnel under highway
foot or bike
78
Vernon
junction with Rockville Branch, 1849 road tunnel, remains of turntable and water tower, excellent curation of artifacts
foot or bike
spur
Rockville Branch
well maintained rail trail

79
Talcottville
well maintained rail trail, structure remains, remains of 2nd track
foot or bike
81-86
Out of Service Tracks (Connecticut Southern)
81
Manchester
Ruined Platforms, current head of Out of Service Manchester Branch, junction with South Manchester Railway, abandoned track
foot or bike
spur
South Manchester Railway
High quality dirt hiking path, currently all the way to Center Street
foot or bike
83
Buckland
Buckland Depot
car
86
Burnside
School Street Crossing (end of OOS segment) car
86-89.5
Active Rail (Connecticut Southern)
88
East Hartford
 Junction with Amory Branch, Small Yard
car
89.5-90
Active Rail (Amtrak, CTRail Hartford Line)
90
Hartford
Union Station
foot
90-99
CTfastrak Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
92
Parkville

bus, foot
93
Charter Oak

bus, foot
94
Elmwood
Elmwood Fastrak Station
bus
95
Newington
Newington Depot, Newington Junction Fastrak Station
bus
99
New Britain
Downtown New Britain Fastrak Station, Active Rail
bus
99-122
Active Rail (Pan-Am Southern- operated by Berkshire & Eastern)
104
Plainville
Diamond with the Canal Road, Plainville Yard, active rail
car
106
Forestville
Forestville Depot, active rail
car
108
Bristol
Main Street Bridge, station site, active rail
car
112
Terryville
tunnel route, active rail
foot
spur
Terryville (loop station)
Original Station on spur (which was former mainline)
car
115
Tolles
station site, bridge abutments, active rail
car
120
East Waterville
station site, road bridge, large viaduct and culvert, active rail
car
122
Waterbury
Waterbury Union Station, interesting bridges
train, car
122-126
Abandoned. Rails are intact in many places in Waterbury but most bridges have been removed.
126-136.3
Larkin State Park Trail (State Bridlepath) - high quality dirt rail trail
127
Allerton Farms
remains of huge trestle, Hop Brook viaduct, small culvert, interesting viaducts and cuts
foot, bike, horse
129
Bradley's
bridge abutment, viaduct
foot, bike, horse
131
Towantic
lakes, rock cuts
foot, bike, horse
134
Oxford/Southford
well maintained rail trail, viaduct, amazing stone arch over Eightmile Brook
foot, bike, horse
136.3-147
Abandoned. Some impressive architecture remains, like the abutments over the Pomperaug and Housatonic Rivers
137
Southbury
very little, on or near the I-84 right of way
car
139
South Britain
very little at station site, on or near the I-84 right or way, replica station (offsite), bridge abutments over Pomperaug River
car
141
Sandy Hook
abandoned right of way, remains of trestle over Lake Zoar, bridge abutment
car
144
North Newtown
bridge abutment
car
147
Hawleyville
tunnels
foot
147-159
Active Rail (Housatonic Railroad)
153
Danbury
Danbury Union Station, Danbury Railway Museum
museum guest
157.5
Mill Plain
depot moved to Danbury Railway Museum
on foot and museum guest
159
CT/NY State Line
159-188
Out of Service Tracks- abandonment in progress (Metro North Beacon Line) & Empire State Trail With Rail.
169
Towners
"crooked" bridge over Metro North Harlem line, wildlife refuge, station site, stone culvert, remains of Maybrook Line
foot or bike
188
Hopewell Junction
split of Metro North Beacon Line and Empire State Trail, depot, NYNH&H tower, museum, caboose
car, foot, bike, museum guest
spur
Maybrook Line to Poughkeepsie
Poughkeepsie Bridge, now open as "Walkway over the Hudson"
foot or bike
188-201
Out of Service Tracks- abandonment in progress (Metro North Beacon Line.)
194
Fishkill Village
Old Main St Crossing, Route 9 Crossing, station site
car
198
Matteawan
former station
car
199
Wicopee Junction
NY&NE tracks (critically endangered) D&C right of way
foot
spur
former D&C line to Dutchess Jct
ruins of Tioronda Bridge, station site
foot, train
201
Beacon (Fishkill Landing)
park at former docks, abandoned rail, junction with Metro North Hudson Line at RIVER switch
train, foot, kayak

Important Links:

USGS Historical Maps
Google Maps
Google Earth
Edward Ozog's Rhode Island Rail Lines Site
MBTA Providence Line
Washington Secondary
Tyler City Station- catalog of all Connecticut train stations
Moosup Valley State Park Trail
Providence & Worcester Railroad
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Hop River State Park Rail Trail
Vernon Rail Trail
Connecticut Southern Railroad
CTFastrak Busway
Berkshire & Eastern (Pan Am Southern) Railroad
Larkin Bridlepath State Park Trail
Housatonic Railroad
Joe Brennan's Danbury Railroads
Danbury Railway Museum
Empire State Trail
Hopewell Junction Museum
Penney Vanderbilt and KC Jones All About Railroads
Dutchess County Aerial Photos
--
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(c) 2016-2024 Timothy M Dowd. Last Modified @ 21:38 EDT on 2024-03-31
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