Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Our tribute to National Train Day is a bit delayed, but you can be sure the trains at the Essex Steam Train in Essex, Connecticut run on time. Take on ride on this historic excursion train from Essex Station to Deep River Station (where you can then take the Becky Thatcher riverboat up to Haddam and back.)
The train trip is 12 miles round trip, and is fun, educational, and glorious way to watch the seasons change in New England, chugging through some of the prettiest countryside along the Connecticut River.
This is a view that’s been enjoyed by generations of New Englanders, as far back as the first run in July of 1871. This little branch line of track has seen it all.
It had been a link in those days between the state capitol of Hartford, and the shore village of Old Saybrook. In the 1880s the Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad joined as a branch of the New Haven railroad.
In the 1950s when the automobile had a lot of new highways to explore, the number of passengers on the old railroad dwindled, trains ran less often. By the early 1960s, only a couple freight trains per week used the struggling railroad line. The last train ran in 1968.
Then, as it so often happens, a group of heroes, otherwise known as volunteers, worked to keep the new owners, Penn Central, from tearing up the rails of the abandoned railroad. The Penn Central leased the branch to the State of Connecticut in 1969, and the following year, the Valley Railroad Company was authorized to use over 22 miles of track for freight and passenger service. The Essex to Deep River steam train run was born.
Come ride this beautiful train excursion yourself and see what life was like on before the interstate, when small towns and villages were linked by a local railroad. For more information on the Essex Steam Train and the Valley Railroad Company, have a look at this website.