Danbury Branch - History


The Danbury and Norwalk Railroad began operating its line from Norwalk north to Danbury, on February 22, 1852. In July 1872 a branch from the main line at Bethel northeast to Hawleyville opened. At Hawleyville, the branch connected to the Housatonic Railroad, continuing north into Massachusetts. Also at Hawleyville connections with the Shepaug Railroad to Litchfield were possible.

On May 1, 1874 that connection was supplemented by the New York, Housatonic and Northern Railroad, running from Danbury northeast to the Housatonic. In 1881 the New York and New England Railroad was completed, giving another connection at Danbury and at Hawleyville.

A short branch from Branchville on the main line west to Ridgefield opened July 1, 1870. In July 1882 an extension was built in Norwalk to docks at Wilson Point. The Housatonic Railroad leased the D&N on July 21, 1887, and on July 1, 1892 the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad leased the Housatonic.

The Danbury Line operated electric-powered trains beginning in 1925. Steel posts that once carried the overhead catenary system can still be seen along the line. The catenary system on the Danbury Line was removed in 1961 when diesel-powered locomotives resumed service on the line.

The NYNH&H merged into Penn Central in 1969. On January 1, 1971, the State of Connecticut leased the Danbury Branch from Penn Central. From 1976 until 1983 freight and passenger service on the line was provided by the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) under a contract with Connecticut. In 1983 the newly formed Metro-North Commuter Railroad took over operation of passenger service along the line. Conrail continued to provide freight service on the line until 1993. The Providence and Worcester Railroad now provides freight service along the Danbury Branch.

Upon renovation of the Merritt 7 Station, Metro-North ceased stops at Kent Road on January 16, 1994, and instead provided service via shuttle bus to Meritt 7 for local employers. By the time of closing, less than 15 people used Kent Road station daily.

The Switchtower Museum in South Norwalk describes to visitors how railroad employees would switch the tracks for trains continuing on the Danbury branch line, then switch them back for trains traveling along the New Haven main line.

The Danbury Railway Museum is located in the former Union Station of the D&N and NY&NE in Danbury. It lies just north of the current Danbury Metro-North passenger station. At the museum are examples of rolling stock retired from service as well as an indoor display of model trains.

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