Sarge wrote:I followed along Florida Rd up to where I discovered The Ridgfield Rail Trail! I must assume this is the original ROW of the Ridgefield branch of a branch (although Danbury was the Berkshire "division" back then, right?). Okay, it seems a bit out of the way going towards Ridgefield than 102/Branchville Rd, but perhaps the grade/terrain was more suitable for rail.
Here's my first question: did the branch follow along Florida Rd, or did it follow what appears to be a clearing in the trees to where the Enterprise Rent A Car is today and join the Danbury branch there?
The rail trail is indeed the old ROW for the Ridgefield Branch. Sometime after they pulled the rails, most of the ROW was sold to Connecticut Light & Power, who built a high-voltage line along it from near where it joins Prospect Street in Ridgefield to where the tracks once crossed Florida Road. About 10 years ago now, the town and Northeast Utilities (the parent of CL&P) got together and built a trail along the grade as well. It's a very pleasant walk, actually-- the surface is crushed bluestone, and because of the powerlines overhead the trees and brush are kept well back from the trail, which makes it easier to imagine what it was like when the line was in service. There are few physical remnants aside from the grade, though—some old ties dumped down the embankments, a couple of telegraph poles in a swamp, a W post near the Cooper Hill Road crossing, and that’s about it.
The clearing in the trees, though, is the power line ROW. The railroad crossed Florida Road, ran parallel to the east for a couple hundred yards, then crossed again to parallel the road to the west for maybe a half mile. Several hundred yards short of the Branchville station, it crossed Florida Road a third time, ran behind the buildings along lower Branchville Road, crossed US 7 at an angle, then crossed the Norwalk River. Here http://historical.mytopo.com/getImage.a ... g&state=CT
is the 1951 USGS map showing the route. Looking at the topo should also illustrate why the line took an indirect route as compared to Route 102. (In fact, I think I remember reading that this was the steepest grade on the entire NYNH&H).
In terms of passenger service—well, the New Haven suspended that in favor of a bus as long ago as the mid-1920’s, so I think that gives you some idea of its viability even in the days of Model T’s and dirt roads. Also the ROW is encroached upon by an elementary school and a house at the Branchville end, and has Sunset Lane built on top of it at the Ridgefield Center end. FWIW it’s always been my understanding that the line was built as something of a spoiler by the Danbury & Norwalk, to prevent the people of Ridgefield agitating for direct rail service from the south via, say, the New Canaan branch.