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Trolleys of Connecticut


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The Trolley in Connecticut

Car 775 at the Shoreline Trolley Museum

Car 775 at the Shoreline Trolley Museum in Branford, CT was built in 1904. It was ordered by the Fair Haven & Westville and delivered to the Consolidated Railway (who had taken over FH&W in late May 1904). Consolidated Railway became part of the Connecticut Company in June, 1907.

This information contributed by Bill Young, Connecticut Company historian

Welcome to our "Trolley in Connecticut" WebSite

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Our feature article is
"The Trolley in Connecticut" .

We have other great articles on the Shoreline Trolley Museum , the Shoreline Electric Railway , trolley routes in Connecticut , and the Waterbury & Milldale Tramway .

See KC Jones BLOG about Railroad History

See our section on trolley reference section .


There is a rich heritage remaining of the many trolleys which once ran in Connecticut. Two excellent museums in Connecticut, as well as others outside the state, preserve a good representative sample of the cars.

The Shoreline Trolley Museum in East Haven (sometimes referred to by its old name Branford Trolley Museum) has several cars from the Connecticut Company. Connecticut Company's yellow cars where the most prevalent in the state. Beginning in 1907, they took over other street railways until peaking at 834 miles of track and 1640 cars in 1924. Branford also has an electric engine from the state's first electric street railway in Derby. Branford also has a good stock of old New York City equipment. The museum operates their cars to nearby Short Beach.

The Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor was founded in 1940. It consists of a three mile round trip street car ride with an educational narrative. The museum owns over 50 pieces of rolling stock most of which are housed within five storage barns. The collection consists of passenger and freight trolley cars, interurban cars, electric and steam locomotives, freight and passenger cars, cranes and service cars. The museum's 17 acre facility is on Route 140 just a couple of miles from the Warehouse Point exit of Interstate 91. The right-of-way was once a 3.2 mile portion of the Warehouse Point to Rockville branch of the Hartford and Springfield Street Railway Company.

The greatest extent of trackage was in 1913 when 1,118 miles of track carried 2,436 trolley cars. Replacement by internal combustion engine powered busses knocked the count by 1935 to 439 miles with 653 cars. By 1941 Hartford's last streetcar rolled. When all service ceased in 1948, only 101 cars remained in use. Most of these were in New Haven and had only run sporadically since the Yale-Harvard football game of the previous fall. A Yale-Harvard football game in New Haven traditionally taxed the resources of the Connecticut Company to the utmost. Fans arriving on regular and special New Haven trains had to be transported several miles to the Yale Bowl.

A July 30, 1899 article in the SPRINGFIELD DAILY REPUBLICAN described how one could ALMOST go from New York to Boston on electric lines. The 246 mile route consisted of 194 by trolley and 52 by steam railroad. Connections between Springfield and Boston were better than along the New York/New Haven/Hartford/Springfield route because of the tremendous influence of the New Haven Railroad in the Connecticut Legislature (later, the New Haven acquired most of the electric roads). The total cost was $3.46 - $2.30 of this by electric cars and $1.16 by railroad. The whole trip could be made theoretically in 30 hours of constant riding.

The first break was at Warehouse Point where there was a 4 mile gap not covered by a trolley line until 1902. There were still two impediments to through trolleys – without change of cars - between Hartford and Springfield. First out of Hartford was a covered bridge over the Connecticut River which restricted trolleys to single cars of minimal height. The stone-arch Bulkeley Bridge opened in 1907 and would then take big interurbans. At East Hartford, trolleys could not cross the Highland Division of the New Haven at grade. An underpass was not constructed until 1906.

Going south from Hartford, there was a 4 1/2 mile break between Berlin and Meriden. A trolley ran between Meriden and Wallingford. Another break of 8 miles existed between Wallingford and New Haven. From New Haven the electric road stretched continuously to Stamford, through Bridgeport and Norwalk. The last break before New York was 17 miles between Stamford and New Rochelle. New Rochelle to Third Avenue in New York City took almost 3 hours.

By 1905, all the gaps had been filled in and it was possible to ride by electric car - via several alternate routings - all the way from Boston to New York. One gap between Berlin and Meriden was never filled by a direct trolley line. Instead the trolley traveler went via New Britain, Plainville, Southington and Milldale where he then either went to Meriden or directly to New Haven via Cheshire and Hamden.

By Ken Kinlock at
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In a surprise move, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi changed his mind about running Line 2 up the Promenade des Anglais and instead went with a plan that provides an 8.6 kilometer "tram/metro" with 3.6 kilometers below ground. It will cost €'450,000,000 and carry 110,000 - 140,000 daily passengers. It will run between Gare de Riquier and new? Gare Multimodal Saint-Augustin.
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Fifty-three years after the closure of the Tramway de Nice et du Littoral, the Tramway de Nice began to serve its Northern and Eastern sections. 2007 saw the completion of Line 1 serving the North-South needs of the city. Line 2 now addresses the East-West needs.

See a presentation on the Nice, France tramway extensions including a movie based on Deputy-Mayor Estrosi's Tramway Line 2 presentation September 26, 2011.

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affiliate_link Shore Line Trolley Museum The Shore Line Trolley Museum

Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut

Starting with a horse car which can he pushed by members, there are over 100 pieces of rolling stock in the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, Connecticut. This museum, which includes tracks, wires and buildings, is over 40 years old and sometimes is referred to as the Branford Trolley Museum.

Obviously, not all of the equipment is serviceable, but many man-years of effort have gone into restoration. Some equipment is more modern than other items. For instance, some have air brakes while other pieces have hand brakes. Members qualify to operate different cars. Except for a director, all positions are staffed by volunteers. Most funds come from visitor tickets, members dues and contributions.

The trolley ride begins at Sprague Station and crosses the East Haven River on a wooden trestle. The route then passes a small farm before entering the carbarn area. Here the equipment is stored and restoration work done. Passing a picnic grove. the line next runs through the woods then into an unspoiled tidal marsh. After rounding a curve, the roadbed passes around the base of Beacon Hill. It goes over a short bridge under which an animal-powered railway used to haul stone from a quarry. This stone was loaded on barges headed for Long lsland Sound. Another bridge is at Stony Creek where fiddler crabs are found at low tide. Reaching the end of the line at Short Beach, the crew must change ends" by reversing the power poles, reversing the car seats, and bringing the control handles to the other end. Don't forget, many of the trolleys have a feature not found in modern day equipment: the ability to him the seats in the cars towards the direction of travel.

Some of the more interesting pieces of equipment I observed in my visits were service cars #1414 and #193. Cars like these are not seen anymore in regular service. I have ridden #4573 a DekaIb Avenue car from Brooklyn (from the BMT). On a recent trip I rode two old New York City subway cars last used in the I 950s. Only one was powered. The other had originally operated on the "El" and was a trailer. It had been a money car going between stations collecting fares from the token booths. One cable car is from 1892 and some other New York City cars ran on Lexington Avenue. New York City was interesting in that it had both 3rd rail and overhead wire.

Trolley lines in the Northeast found convertible cars better than having both open and closed cars because they could be used both summer and winter. A 1911 Ottawa car has a wood stove and must have been great for Canadian winters. Subway cars are higher off the ground while trolleys were designed for street level not rails on ties. 1899 saw the first 8 wheel car. Before that trolleys were usually 4 wheel.

Trolleys played a big part in sports. The "Trolley Dodgers" were a baseball team. New Haven had over 100 open cars quite useful for Yale Bowl games. They could seat 75 people on I5 benches but really 200 people could hang on to a car. Usually, trolley cars hold 45 people. The New Haven trolley fleet made it easier for football fans to reach the game than is possible today. When you consider that the New Haven Railroad ran up to 43 special trains in addition to regular service for YaleHarvard games, the task of moving thousands of people from the railroad station to the football stadium was immense. Harvard fans came from Boston over three routes: along the shore line through Providence, through Putnam and Willimantic (Air Line route). and through Springfield and Hartford. Many private railway cars were included.

Continuing with some of Shore Line's other equipment, there is an emergency car which had jacks to rerail cars. One Third Ave car (built in 1939) went to Vienna as part of the Marshall Plan and was later returned to the museum. It is being fixed as it leaks in the rain. Newer cars have a dead man's switch that stops the car if the motorman doesn't pay attention.

When you have returned from your trolley ride to Short Beach, your car stops at Farm River Road and you can then take a walking tour of the display area and restoration shop. Returning to Sprague Station, you may visit an exhibit room, watch videos and shop in the museum store.

The work barn is heated and has an underground bay. There is a new lathe as well as other modem equipment. The museum in Kennebunkport has more cars, including some experimental cars which were a gift from the U.S. government, but less track than Shore Line.

In the collection is a Chicago North Shore interurban (1000 hp) which dims lights on other cars whenever it runs. One subway car is a New York City Contract R9. The oldest elevated car was built in 1878. It was pulled by steam first and ran on Third Avenue. Another is a Peter Witt car, of which others like it still operate in Toronto.

There is also a snow sweeper from Toronto which originally came from New York, has a big straw brush and ran on the Third Ave line. One Philadelphia trolley bus ran on the Red Line and was built by the Brill Company in 1940. It was re-gauged because it was 5,3" originally. Unique is Car 500, used by executives of the Connecticut Company. It is a parlor car made of oak and includes a galley and a bathroom. There is also an Atlanta car at the museum.

The museum features the World's oldest electric engine built in 1887 The New Haven Railroad once had it in a museum then it went to the Danbury Fair (until the fair closed to become a shopping center). It cost $9,000 for the museum to buy. GE engineers fixed it up on their own time and it was dedicated in a ceremony with the Governor present. It is gear driven with only one axle being powered.

The museum is not satisfied to remain static. A recent addition to the museum is a subway platform. There are special events such as "New York Days" featuring rapid transit equipment from New York City. In December, the museum has "Santa Days" October brings a "Halloween Special." Shore Line even offers trolley charters.

By Ken Kinlock at
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Connecticut Trolley Timetables

Best way to really understand where the trolley went in Connecticut and how long it took to get from one place to another is to get hold of an old trolley timetable. On the Internet, they are as "scarce as hen's teeth".

We have a great list of trolley routes, but only have a timetable for the Shoreline Electric Railway

Both the museums in Connecticut, BERA and CERA, sell them. as does the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association and Trainbooks Dot Com.

Our HAND TOOL WebSite is intended in aiding you to locate HAND TOOL suppliers. You may search by product or by manufacturer. We add both products and manufacturers, so keep checking back.

In addition we are a full service MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operational Supplies) supplier. If you are in the construction or farming business, we are your source.

The Trolley in Fairfield County

There was a Connecticut Co. trolley line servicing Norwalk.

The route came from Stamford to Norwalk via Rt. 1 Stamford to Darien, then a circuitous routing down through Rowayton (entering the long-vanished Roton Point amusement park). If you know where to look you can trace some of that route through Rowayton, some of which was on private ROW. One of the streets in Rowayton is built on the ROW and is called "Old Trolley Way." It then went up into South Norwalk, up West Ave, to Wall St., across Wall St. all the way to East Ave. I think it was on East Avenue (where there were abandoned rails) for only a very short distance before turning onto Rt 1 to continue toward Westport and Bridgeport.

The route between Stamford and Norwalk ended service in Nov. 1933.

Abandoned trolley rails continued to peek up through the rails on various Connecticut streets until very recent times. Who knows, maybe some remain down there even now? Lots of us remember them underneath the Washington Blvd. underpass in Stamford until it was reconstructed not all that long ago.

There were evidently two principal north-south trolley lines in the center of Norwalk: RR station to Main & Wall via West Ave., and RR station to Main & Wall via East Ave (I guess the latter route would have to have crossed the Washington St. drawbridge).

It also refers to a "Broad River-Newtown Ave." line. Doesn't East Ave. become Newtown Ave. someplace?

Then there was the Norwalk-Westport-Fairfield-Bridgeport line which probably started on East Ave.

There were other lines too, such as Main Ave.-Winnipauk. Winnipauk is the area of town just south of where the Merritt Parkway crosses Main Ave. today.

Those lines were "converted to bus" in Nov. 1933, except for the line to Bridgeport which lasted till 1935.
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The Shore Line Electric Railway

The majority of the Shore Line Electric Railway's mileage was leased or purchased. Some came from the New London division of The Connecticut Co. while other property came from the Norwich & Westerly, the Groton & Stonington and the New London & East Lyme.

The Connecticut Co. was wholly owned by the New Haven Railroad. Part of its New London division ran over the New Haven from Taft's to Central Village. This division was isolated from the rest of the company except through connections in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. It was over 100 miles long and provided city service in New London and Norwich as well as connecting these cities with Willimantic, Central Village and Putnam.

The oldest company in the group was the Pawcatuck Valley Street Railway Company built in 1894 between Westerly, Rhode Island and Watch Hill, Rhode Island. The East Lyme Street Railway organized in 1903. The Groton & Stonington Street Railway Company opened in 1904. The Norwich and Westerly Railway Company opened in 1905. The Norwich & Westerly leased then acquired the Pawcatuck Valley in 1911. The Groton & Stonington was leased to the Norwich & Westerly. After building an extension to Weekapaug, it was a 60 mile system with about half on private right-of-way.

The Shore Line was organized in 1905 and opened between. Ivoryton (near Saybrook) to Guilford in 1910. The main financial backer was Morton F. Plant. A connection was made with The Connecticut Co. at Stony Creek. A more direct connection into New Haven opened in 1911 with trackage rights letting Shoreline cars run into the city's railroad station. The section from Ivoryton north to Deep River opened in 1912. 1913 saw a connection with the New London & East Lyme Street Railway. The last track to go down was Deep River to Chester in 1914.

The Shore Line was a 1200-volt system utilizing much private right-of-way and having single catenary overhead wire. Center entrance interurban cars operated out of a barn in Saybrook.

The Shore Line linked up with other eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island properties by leasing the New London division of the Connecticut Company in 1913. In the same year in leased the New London & East Lyme Street Railway and gained control of the stock of the Norwich & Westerly Traction Company. The resulting system had over 250 miles of track, operated about 200 cars over both intercity and local lines. It operated everything from single truck cars to multiple unit trains. The headquarters were in Norwich with divisional headquarters in the car barns of the various constituent properties. Twenty separate routes were operated:

New Haven RR station to Chester
Stony Creek to Guilford
Saybrook to Flanders Corner
Niantic to New London
Two city loops in New London
New London - Norwich - Willimantic
Groton to Westerly, R.I.
Mystic to Old Mystic
Ashaway - Westerly - Watch Hill, R.I.
Two city loops in Norwich
Norwich to Yantic
Central Village to Moosup
East Killingly to North Grosvenordale
Putnam to Central Village
Willimantic to South Coventry

Unfortunately, the system only went for three years before going into receivership. It had to struggle with rising wages, increased fares, and wartime costs. The leases and mergers brought together the cars of various companies. Some effort was made to start a numbering system but there were strange things like three number 20's, three number 24's and two of many others. Brewster green was adopted as the company color and a repainting program initiated which never got finished.

An extensive freight service was in place on the system with freight houses at New London, Pawcatuck and other cities. Freight was interchanged at several points with the New Haven and carload service was operated for several industries. Passenger cars were used for package service at the rate of one passenger fare for each 15 pounds.

Everything was great except the Shore Line system didn't make money. In 1919, it owed Morton F. Plant $231,000 and the Connecticut Company $370,217. Some of the events leading to receivership were: a 1917 collision in North Branford killing 19 and injuring 35; a 1918 power house outage; a 1919 collision at Oswegatchie; and a 1919 strike. Once in receivership, the Shore Line was broken up piece by piece. The New London division was turned back to the Connecticut Co. Various companies were formed to take over and operate portions of the system. Most successful was the Groton & Stonington. Less successful operations were in Westerly, Lyme and Norwich.

Part of the original Shore Line was purchased after four years of idleness by the Sperry Engineering Company, the original builders. The New Haven & Shore Line Railway Company was incorporated in 1923. Four Brill semi-convertible cars were purchased from the receiver and five new one-man cars were ordered from Wason. In addition, a new line was opened into Hammonassett State Park and four open cars obtained from the Hartford & Springfield Street Railway Co. The company also operated busses and extended to New London as well as opening up new territory. It gradually cut back rail service, first Guilford to Saybrook then New Haven to Guilford in 1929.

Final operation of the New London division of the Connecticut Company was in and around Norwich in 1936. The New Haven & Shore Line acquired the Groton & Stonington Traction Company and made a success of its bus operations.

By Ken Kinlock at
Waterbury and Milldale Tramway Company
The Waterbury & Milldale Tramway took a long time being organized and built but only ran for twenty years. Starting in 1899, the Connecticut legislature said no to its backers each year until 1907. The company was finally organized in 1910 but actual construction didn't begin until 1912. Even then, the company had to get an extension of its franchise.

Finally in 1913, 3.6 miles were built from a connection with Connecticut Company tracks in East Main Street to Byam Road. Grading was done as far as a crossing of the Meriden Road at Hitchcocks Lakes. 4000 feet of line from East Main Street to Mill Pond School was finally opened to traffic November 19, 1913. The next section to be opened was from the school to the Cheshire town line.

In 1914, The Green Line formally asked the Railroad Commission for permission to construct the rest of its line from Byam Road to a junction with the Connecticut Company's Southington-Meriden line at Milldale.

It only took six years before fiscal difficulties hit the line. Fare structures were attacked before the Public Utilities Commission by several citizens and the City of Waterbury. They felt that the 10-cent fare for each zone was unfair and that there should only be one zone in the city. The company defended itself, citing a cost of 30 cents to Milldale compared to 38 cents via the Connecticut Company's route through Cheshire from Waterbury.

The Green Line limped along with ever-declining revenues for another 14 years. 1927 saw trackage down Southington Mountain from Hitchcock Lakes to Milldale being abandoned. When the Connecticut Company announced abandonment of its East Main Street line to Cheshire, the end was there. The Green Line sold its franchise to the Cooke Street Bus Line and ran its last car on October 29, 1933.

This former Delaware & Hudson hopper car (number 2782) is now at the Connecticut Electric Railway. The author painted it in the early 1990's.

Delaware & Hudson hopper car (number 2782)
Trolley Routes in Connecticut

Some of the trolley Routes in Connecticut we cover in detail are:
Berkshire Street Railway
Connecticut Company - Torrington Division
Connecticut Company - New London Division
Connecticut Company - Hartford Division
The Groton and Stonington Street Railway
The Middletown - Berlin Electrification (lines between Cromwell, Middletown, Berlin and Meriden)
Vernon - Rockville electrification
Trolley service in Waterbury, CT, and the Derby route to New Haven
The Fair Haven & Westville Railroad
Connecticut Company - Norwalk Division
East Hartford and Glastonbury Street Railway

The New Haven Railroad's trolley acquisition started first in Connecticut. The New Haven trolley lines were acquired from Fairhaven & Westfield Railroad in 1904, followed by Greenwich trolley lines bought from the Greenwich Tramway Company, and Hartford trolley lines acquired from the Hartford Street Railway Company, as well as lines operating in other towns, including New London Norwich, and Montville. Within a year and a half, almost all traction properties in Connecticut had been acquired, and were organized under a subsidiary corporation called the Connecticut Company.
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Connecticut Trolley Museum Connecticut Electric Railway Association
Montreal car 1326 at Connecticut Electric Railway

Connecticut Electric Railway (Connecticut Trolley Museum). Located in East Windsor, Connecticut (sometimes referred to as Warehouse Point Trolley Museum). An unofficial site. Click on picture to visit site.

"The Shore Line Trolley Museum" was published in April 1991
in the CALLBOARD of the Mohawk and Hudson Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

"The Shore Line Electric Railway" was published in January 1990

"Waterbury & Milldale Tramway Co." was published in April 1991


The Trolley in New England

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The Trolley

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Tramway de Nice: New for 2007

The Tramway de Nice was designed to serve most of the population of Nice, France, as the vity of over 900,000 people is situated along a seaside, the line does not have to traverse it. Instead it was drawn as a U shape, passing through the centre.

The tramcars of the Tramway de Nice are unique and have been specially designed to blend in with the Niçois architecture. A standard 5 car 1435 mm (4 ft 8½ in) standard gauge tram measures 35 m but extra carriages may be added, bringing the length to 45 m. The tram is 2.65 m wide and may carry 200 passengers at 18 km/h compared to 11 km/h by bus.

Are the trams noisy?
No. Noise created is maximum 70 decibels at 40km/h. This is much quieter than any large vehicle such as a bus.

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Tramway de Nice
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