• Berkshire Division, Bridgeport

  • Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England
Pertaining to all railroading subjects, past and present, in New England

Moderators: MEC407, NHN503

  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?
  by TomNelligan
Late 1930s for the Housatonic RR "mainline" north of Bridgeport, although it lasted long enough in a dormant state that when the eastern end of the Merritt Parkway was opened in 1940, the railroad got an overpass (still standing) that reportedly never saw a train. The Stepney-Botsford segment lasted until 1963 and the Stepney station still exists. A mile or so of track north from Bridgeport station remained in use into the Penn Central era to reach a couple local customers. I remember seeing NH Alco switchers working the line in the 1960s via the track on the back side of the old Bridgeport station, while train-watching after riding the RDC down from Ansonia as a teenager. My mother used to warn me to watch out for what she referred to as "characters" there (although thankfully I never ran into any!). Bridgeport wasn't quite as depressed or dangerous in those days.
  by Statkowski
The old Housatonic main was also used as a pocket track for motive power on the engine change for The Naugatuck (through service between Winsted and Grand Central Terminal, hence the wire being up for a hundred feet or so on the line).
  by Otto Vondrak
Thanks for the info, very interesting stuff. Didn't know that pocket at Bridgeport station was actually once a branch/mainline. Whereabout is the overpass on the Merritt? I'll keep a lookout for it.

  by Ridgefielder
The overpass is right by the CT Rte 25 interchange in Trumbull. When you're heading east on the Merritt it is just past the two overpasses that bring 25 over the parkway. I'm looking at the state highway map right now, btw, and see something indicated as a trail (but named) running from just north of the Merritt to Botsford by way of Stepney: seems likely that it's on the old ROW.
  by BM6569
I had similar questions about the line and they have been answered in this thread. Glad I found it.

Interestingly, I have a copy of the 1966 Hagstrom's Atlas of Fairfield County, CT. It shows the line ending at Lake St and you can't follow it any father after that. The Map designates it as the Berkshire Division of the HY,NH&H RR.

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?

I can post a picture of the map(s) if anyone wants to see it.

  by Noel Weaver
I covered a day switcher in Bridgeport as a fireman once in the early 60's and we went up the line that remained in Bridgeport for a mile or two north of the station. We had no work at the end of the track but the crew went up there just to show it to me, great bunch of guys. At one time there was a fair amount of work up that spur.

Noel Weaver
  by TomNelligan
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.

The station in Stepney is still standing, BTW.
  by Seeknay
The line from Rte. 111/Church Hill Rd. intersection in Trumbull center all the way up to Newtown is a rail trail.
The Trumbull portion From Rte. 111 to Old Mine park has seen recent upgrades with new bridges and cinder and is great for biking, running and walking the dog. From Old Mine Park in Trumbull to Great Hollow Park (Monroe) saw a lot of upgrades last year (2008) but is still somewhat un-developed, but definetley passable. This is the portion where just south of Purdy Hill Rd. you can see the old Stepney Train Station. From Great Hollow Park to Cutlers Farm Rd in Newtown is possibly my favorite part of the trail. Cinders for subbase, very popular for walking and biking and many elements from the railroad past exist. Whistle posts, old ties and spare rail carries alongside the trail. From Cutlers Farm Rd. the trail continues north to a terminus for a condo development where you take a short detour through some local streets until you meander your way back onto the rail trail. Once you resume the trail north it continues to Pepper St. in Newtown. This is really the end of the trail. Upon crossing Pepper st. the trail becomes very narrow and room for only one person. About 1/4 mile north of Pepper st. alongside the lefthand side of the trail is where the original rails and ties still exist. They continue for quite a bit all the way up to Swamp rd. where multiple siding still exist along with switches which eventually tie into the active line used by the Housitonic RR for service to Interstate lumber, Georgia Pacfic lumber, the lumber dist. facility in brookfield and so on.
I have biked from Trumbull to Newton on many occasions. It's a great workout, good scenery for RR buffs. The rails in the woods by Swamp rd. Are dated in the 1800's. I want to say 1886 but I'm not 100%. Lots of cool stuff. I recc. any RR buff to check out this trail!
  by coltsfoot
I will not dispute anything posted prior.

Most the line is now a bike trail minus anything rail interesting.(except in Newtown)

I think the section around Merritt Parkway on south section was last used for construction material to build the parkway.

Some old maps show the tracks to a quarry in the area and not as far north as the Parkway.

As to usage of the bridge tales say it was never used but---your guess ?? A bridge nobody ever took a train over ?

There was a North Bridgeport Station that nobody yet has seen a picture.

If I have a question would be Boston Avenue. The storage place on the ROW ?? Still inactive after many years.

As a kid I used to visit somebody in Monroe (they used the postal address of 'pepper crossing')

I have faint memories of the line down to Trumbull. At least it was an old ROW minus any bike trail stuff.

I recall Monroe 'south'. A good portion of tracks were no longer attached to the rotting ties.

Yes. I remember the day the scrap crew came around.

The whole route was somehow preserved as a walking trail. I don't know how but the salvage company was Everyready Machinery in Bridgeport.

Now ?? A paved trail minus railroad anything ? There used to be concrete posts that supported signal lights but gone...(etc)
  by Jeff Smith
Sorry for "bumping" this old thread, but I recently came across this web-page. This is one of the lines that has always intrigued me, as I had a friend in Monroe years ago who wished there was a way to avoid traffic on 25 and the Merritt:

http://www.kinglyheirs.com/NewYorkState ... lfan1.html

There's other great stuff on this page as well, concerning both the Housy and Naugy. The page seems to be a bit dated (still referring to ConRail in spots), but does reference the not so distant past of the formerly OOS bridge near Derby being put back in service.
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.
  by RAY
Back in the mid-40's, my ever-adventuresome dad and I (I was probably around 7 or 8 at the time) drove over the Merritt Pkwy in his '41 Chrysler on the never-used-as-a-railroad-bridge just as something of a lark ..... there were not any "no trespassing" signs as I recall; the right-of-way itself was not "paved" as such but rather covered with what appeared to be railroad cinders .... once we got north of the bridge my dad worked his way down to White Plains Road in Trumbull (we had accessed the trackless, but cinder-covered roadbed alongside Beardsley Park in Bridgeport). Over the years one would occasionally see an automobile crossing this bridge as we frequently drove under it on the Merritt Pkwy.
  by Jeff Smith
Interesting article, and a DVD documentary is on sale concerning this division: Acorn Online
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
  by Jeff Smith
More on the Berk: http://trumbull.patch.com/articles/trum ... -the-world
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.
  by Jeff Smith
Great series of articles: http://trumbull.patch.com/articles/trum ... misfortune
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.