by Otto Vondrak
I have seen the track that used to swing off at old Bridgeport station labeled "Berkshire Division," heading up towards Trumbull. When was this track abandoned?
Moderators: MEC407, NHN503
BM6569 wrote:It also shows the line coming south from Botsford and ending in Stepney just past Purdy Hill Rd. Were there any customers on that part of the line in the mid 1960's?The line between Botsford and Stepney was active until the early 1960s but was abandoned in 1963, so your 1966 map was a little out of date.
It was one hundred fifty years ago in 1840 that the Housatonic Railroad began passenger and freight service to Monroe, Connecticut. This early line ran from Bridgeport (on Long Island Sound) to New Milford (above Danbury in Litchfield County). The iron foundries and marble, granite, lime and clay deposits represented the freight potential. In perspective, steam trains had only been alive in the country for ten years and the industrial revolution hadn't really hit yet. Trains from Bridgeport to Leavonworth's Mills in the Stepney section of Monroe only took 25 minutes. Ironically, until a new road opened ten years ago, motorists couldn't better this time.
The Housatonic Railroad Company was chartered in 1836 and began selling stock in 1837. The original idea was to build a canal but this didn't sell well. The estimated cost of the railroad was $1,000,000 and it was supposed to go to the Massachusetts border. Bridgeport was incorporated as a city so that it could purchase Housatonic Railroad stock through the sale of bonds.Trains from Bridgeport went through Trumbull along the Pequonnock River Valley then into Monroe. A bridge across the Merritt Parkway is still up although trains haven't run on it in many years. After the railroad tracks were abandoned, it carried Rocky Hill Road until a recent reconstruction. To put my personal relationship with this area in perspective, "Duck Pond" on my property in Monroe empties into the Pequonnock. Sections of the old roadbed are still visible although the Northbrook Condominiums and other recent developments have covered some up. At one spot on Pepper Street in Monroe, two old rails can be seen protruding from the pavement, still stamped "NYNH&H RR". The last Stepney railroad station is now used as a garage. There was a major wreck in Monroe that claimed several lives in 1865. A park was built at Parlor Rock near the north end of Trumbull in order to try and increase weekend passengers. There was also a summer resort in Monroe called The Garders which even had its own station platform.
The road continued from Stepney to Botsford where it joined what is now the CONRAIL line from Derby and Shelton past the Stevenson Dam and into Danbury. A large watertank can still be observed at this junction however the Botsford station burned several years ago. A tunnel was dug at Hawleyville to build the original Housatonic. Later, when the ceiling of the tunnel proved too low for newer model steam engines, it was blasted out.
DelBianco began with the first train station, the Bridgeport station, and worked her way along the Housatonic railroad as a room full of local residents, many of them once involved with the railroad, listened intently.
DelBianco’s documentary, Rails to Trails: A Journey Back in Time is available for those who want to learn more about the history of the railroad line. The DVD costs $12 and may be obtained by e-mailing DelBianco at
The first train began to run in February 1840 between Bridgeport and northern Fairfield County and the system stopped in 1931, following a cinematic history of scandals and the collapse of the New York, New Haven Railroad and the Great Depression. But its destruction was not mere accident; it was not personal, only business.
It featured both freight service and passenger trains and included the stops of Bridgeport, North Bridgeport (Lyons), Trumbull Church, Long Hill, Stepney, Pepper Crossing, Botsford and New Milford. The first train departed in the early years of promise at 6 a.m. from New Milford and arrived in Bridgeport in time for the first steamboat which at that time went directly to Manhattan.
The track that comprised the section of the line between Trumbull and Stepney has an eerie feel to it. You wonder what the trees growing out of the swamps and projecting from unique rock formations would tell you if they could.
All that remains of the infrastructure are the shape of where the "road" went, paved over drainage systems and the occasional metal hook driven into stone. You can also see a little of the original village constructed in the 19th century with a narrow street behind where the station was along with the old town hall.