New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
System map
Reporting mark NH
Locale New York, NY to Boston, MA
Dates of operation 1872–1968
Successor Penn Central
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters New Haven, Connecticut

The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (commonly New Haven), (reporting mark NH) was a railroad that operated in the northeast United States from 1872 to 1968 which served the states of Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Its primary connections included Boston and New York.



The profitable early years

General offices of the company, New Haven, about 1905
Train over the Norwalk River (1914 postcard)
Common stock issued in 1967

The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was formed 24 July 1872 through the consolidation of the New York and New Haven Railroad and Hartford and New Haven Railroad. It owned a main line from New York City to Springfield, Massachusetts via New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut, and leased other lines, including the Shore Line Railway to New London. The company went on to lease more lines and systems, eventually forming a virtual monopoly in New England south of the Boston and Albany Railroad.

The first line of the original system to open was the Hartford and New Haven Railroad, opened from Hartford to New Haven, with steamship connections to New York in 1839, and to Springfield, with rail connections to Worcester and Boston, in 1844. The New York and New Haven came later, as it ran parallel to the Long Island Sound coast and required many bridges over rivers. It opened in 1848, using trackage rights over the New York and Harlem Railroad (later part of the New York Central Railroad system) from Woodlawn south to New York. From 1912 Grand Central Terminal served as the New Haven's New York City terminal.

Around the turn of the century, New York investors led by J. P. Morgan gained control, and in 1903 installed Charles S. Mellen as President.[1] Morgan and Mellen achieved a complete monopoly of transportation in southern New England, purchasing other railroads and steamship and trolley lines. More than 100 independent railroads eventually became part of the system before and during these years, reaching 2,131 miles at its 1929 peak. Substantial improvements to the system were made during the Mellen years, including electrification between New York and New Haven. Morgan and Mellen went further and attempted to acquire or neutralize competition from other railroads in New England, including the New York Central's Boston and Albany Railroad, the Rutland Railroad, the Maine Central Railroad, and the Boston and Maine Railroad. But the Morgan-Mellen expansion left the company overextended and financially weak.

In 1914, 21 directors and ex-directors of the railroad were indicted for "conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce by acquiring the control of practically all the transportation facilities of New England."[2]

Financial difficulties

Under the stress of the Great Depression the company slipped into bankruptcy in 1935, remaining in trusteeship until 1947. Common stock was voided and creditors assumed control.

After 1951, both freight and passenger service lost money. Their earlier expansion had left it with a network of low-density branch lines that could not support their maintenance and operating costs. The companies freight business was short-haul, requiring a lot of switching costs that could not be recovered in short-distance rates. They had major commuter train services in New York and Boston (as well as New Haven, Hartford and Providence), but these always lost money, unable to recover their investment providing service just twice a day during rush hour. The death of the New Haven may have been sealed by the opening of the Connecticut Turnpike in 1958 and other interstate highways. With decades of inadequate investment, the New Haven could not compete against the automobile or the trucker.

In 1954, the flashy Patrick B. McGinnis led a proxy fight against incumbent president Frederic C. "Buck" Dumaine Jr., vowing to return more of the company's profit to shareholders. McGinnis won control of the railroad and appointed Arthur V. McGowan, a longtime McGinnis acquaintance, Vice President. McGinnis attempted to accomplish many of his financial goals by deferring maintenance. McGinnis also spent money on a flashy new image for the company: green and gold trim was replaced by black, red-orange and white. McGinnis and McGowan had Chrysler Imperial automobiles custom made so that they could travel along the railroad's tracks to their country estates in Litchfield County, Connecticut. When McGinnis departed, 22 months later, he left the company financially wrecked, a situation exacerbated by widespread hurricane damage in 1955.

In 1959, the New Haven discontinued passenger service on the Old Colony Railroad network in southeastern Massachusetts. Despite this and other cutbacks, the New Haven once again went into bankruptcy on July 2, 1961.


Promenade Street Tower opened in 1909 and controlled the eastern approaches to Providence Union Station. It operated into the Amtrak era, and was closed in 1986.

At the insistence of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the New Haven was merged into Penn Central on December 31, 1968, ending rail operations by the corporation. Penn Central was bankrupt by 1970 and the New Haven corporate entity remained in existence throughout the 1970s as the Trustee of the Estate pursued just payment from Penn Central for the New Haven's assets.

A substantial portion of the former New Haven main line between New York and Boston was transferred to Amtrak in 1976 and now forms a major portion of the electrified Northeast Corridor, hosting high-speed Acela Express and regional rail service. The main line between New Rochelle and New Haven is owned by the state of Connecticut within its borders and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority within New York borders, and is served by Metro-North and Shore Line East, which runs to New London, Connecticut. The MBTA's Providence/Stoughton Line provides commuter service from Providence to South Station in Boston.

On August 28, 1980, American Financial Enterprises, Inc., acquired the assets of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company when the plan for reorganization was approved by the court and the company was reorganized. This brought to an end the 108-year corporate history of the storied railroad, and the end to the 19-year saga of its second bankruptcy reorganization. American Financial Enterprises would become the largest single stockholder of Penn Central Company shares by the mid-1990s, controlling 32% of the stock of the company.

Freight operations on former New Haven lines passed to Conrail with its government-overseen creation on April 1, 1976. During the subsequent 23 years, Conrail withdrew from much of that territory, abandoning some track and handing other lines over to the Providence & Worcester, Bay Colony, Boston & Maine, Connecticut Central, Pioneer Valley, Housatonic, and Connecticut Southern railroads. Those lines still operated by Conrail in 1999 became part of CSX Transportation as the result of yet another merger.

The state of Connecticut frequently alludes to the New Haven in its modern transportation projects; many Metro-North Railroad engines are painted in McGinnis-era livery, while the familiar "NH" logo has appeared on everything from station signs to passenger cars.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has painted its diesel commuter rail locomotives used on the non-electrified Danbury and Waterbury Metro North branches, as well as its Shore Line East operation, in the "McGinnis Scheme", composed of white, black, and orange-red stripes with the iconic NH logo. All of these lines were formerly owned by the New Haven Railroad.

The Valley Railroad, a preservation line based in Essex, Connecticut that runs both steam and diesel traction, has painted the authentic script-lettering insignia of the original "New York, New Haven and Hartford" railroad on the tenders of their resident steam locomotives, 2-8-0 Consolidation type Number 97, and 2-8-2 Mikado type number 40. There is a third steam locomotive in restoration to running order, a Chinese SY class Mikado, formerly known as the 1658, it is being renumbered and relettered to New Haven 3025, and is to be based on a New Haven Mikado.


May 18, 2008 approaching Spuyten Duyvil

Air Line

Envisioned as a direct route from New York to Boston, the New Haven, Middletown and Willimantic Railroad opened in 1873 as part of the Boston, Hartford and Erie Railroad system, running from New Haven northeast via Middletown to the BH&E at Willimantic. The BH&E went bankrupt that same year, becoming the New York and New England Railroad, but the NHM&W stayed separate, failing in 1875. It was reorganized as the Boston and New York Air-Line Railroad and was operated by the New Haven from 1879, being leased on October 1, 1882. Part of this line, the NY&NE Blackstone division to Franklin, MA via Norwood and Walpole still survives as the Franklin Branch of the MBTA/MBCR.

In CT, part of the line from New Haven (Air Line Jct) to Middletown and Portland, CT survives as part of the Providence & Worcester RR. In Willimantic, CT, the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum has reconstructed the original roundhouse and restored the turntable pit (with a replacement for the original turntable,) as well as some original NY&NE RR and NH RR buildings. In between East Hampton, CT, a community formerly served by the line, and the Massachusetts state line, most of the abandoned rail corridor has been converted as as a hiking/biking/horse rail trail known as the Airline Trail State Park.

Central New England

The Central New England Railway was the New Haven's final acquisition in 1904. It included the Poughkeepsie Bridge, the southernmost fixed crossing of the Hudson River when it was built in 1888. Its main line stretched east to Hartford and Springfield. The first section opened in 1871 as the Connecticut Western Railroad, going through several reorganizations before its final state.

Connecticut Valley

The New Haven obtained a majority of stock of the Hartford and Connecticut Valley Railroad in 1882, running from Hartford south and southeast to the Shore Line Railway in Old Saybrook via Middletown. That line had originally opened in 1871 as the Connecticut Valley Railroad and continued north to Springfield, Massachusetts via the Connecticut Central Railroad, later part of the New York and New England Railroad system. In 1880 the company was succeeded by the Hartford and Connecticut Valley.

Harlem River

South Bronx

The Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad was the New Haven's first lease after its merger. It was chartered in 1866, leased by the New Haven on October 1, 1873, and opened later that year, running from the New Haven at New Rochelle, New York south into what later became The Bronx, New York City. It was originally a branch line, but in 1916 the New York Connecting Railroad and its Hell Gate Bridge opened, turning the Harlem River Branch into a major through route.


The Housatonic Railroad, chartered 1836 and opened 1842 (with branches opening later), had a line from the New Haven in Bridgeport north, passing east of Danbury to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts (later the Boston and Albany Railroad in Pittsfield). The Housatonic leased the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad (opened 1852), running from Danbury (to which the Housatonic had a branch) south to Norwalk on the New Haven, in 1887, and it leased the New Haven and Derby Railroad (opened 1871-1888), a branch to New Haven, in 1889. On July 1, 1892, the New Haven leased the Housatonic, giving the New Haven all the north-south lines in western Connecticut.

Meriden, Waterbury and Connecticut River

The Middletown, Meriden and Waterbury Railroad was the final name of the line from Waterbury, Connecticut east to Cromwell, on the Connecticut River north of Middletown. The New York and New England Railroad leased the line (then the Meriden, Waterbury and Connecticut River Railroad) in 1892 (connecting in Waterbury), but the MW&CR went bankrupt soon after, and was reorganized as the MM&W in October 1898 and immediately leased to the New Haven on November 1, 1898. This line was the first in the area to be abandoned, only running interurban streetcar service in its final days. The MW&C had been formed in 1888 as a consolidation of the Meriden and Cromwell Railroad (opened 1885) and Meriden and Waterbury Railroad (opened 1888).


The New Haven leased the Naugatuck Railroad on April 1, 1887, obtaining a line from Naugatuck Junction on the New York-New Haven line near Stratford north via Waterbury, reaching the Central New England Railway at Winsted. The line, organized in 1848, had opened in 1849.

New Canaan

The Stamford and New Canaan Railroad was a branch from the New Haven in Stamford north to New Canaan. It was chartered in 1866 as the New Canaan Railroad, opened in 1868, reorganized and renamed in 1883, and leased by the New Haven on October 1, 1884.

New Haven and Northampton

The New Haven and Northampton Company, built next to the former Farmington Canal, ran from New Haven north to Northampton, Massachusetts and beyond to the Fitchburg Railroad's Troy and Greenfield Railroad. The New York and New Haven Railroad leased the first few sections soon after they opened, obtaining the line to Plainville in 1848 and the extension to Granby plus several branches in 1850. In 1869 the leases expired, and the railroad was independent until April 1, 1887, when the New Haven leased the whole line.

New York and New England

The New England Railroad was the final link in a long chain of reorganizations of a network usually known by its prior name, the New York and New England Railroad. It stretched mainly east-west across central Connecticut, connecting to the Hudson River on the west and to Providence and Boston on the east. The New Haven leased the company on July 1, 1898. The first sections opened in 1849 as parts of the Norfolk County Railroad and Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Railroad, and construction progressed very slowly. (See: Air Line above.)

New York Connecting

The New York Connecting Railroad was incorporated in 1892, opening in 1916 as a connection between the New Haven's Harlem River and Port Chester Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad's Pennsylvania Tunnel and Terminal Railroad to Penn Station and the tunnels under the Hudson River. It was owned half-and-half by the New Haven and Pennsylvania.

New York, Providence and Boston

The New York, Providence and Boston Railroad was a continuation of the Shore Line Railway past New London to Providence, Rhode Island. The line was incorporated in 1832 and opened in 1837. The New Haven leased it in 1892, merging it into itself on February 13, 1893.

New York, Westchester & Boston

The New York, Westchester and Boston Railway Company was a subsidiary of the New Haven that began regular operation in 1912. It operated a heavy multi-track electric railroad between Harlem River terminal in the Bronx and White Plains, New York, along with a branch to Port Chester, New York, part of which paralleled the NH mainline from Larchmont. Built to the highest standards of construction, the railroad was a constant money-loser and served an under-developed population. Operations ceased on December 31, 1937, and the railroad was dismantled for scrap during early World War II.

The "Westchester" still survives today in the Bronx, as the southern portion of the line, running from Dyre Avenue to East 180th Street, was purchased by the City of New York to offer subway riders in this residential area a direct link to Manhattan. Because the IRT subway cars used on this line are narrower than standard railroad cars, platforms on the IRT Dyre Avenue Line had to be modified to use the smaller subway cars. The 5 service runs express via Lexington Ave (except late nights), or riders can change at East 180th street for the 2 service, which runs down Broadway on the west side of Manhattan. Formerly, Westchester riders would either change at 180th street and walk over a causeway from the railroad station to the IRT elevated structure or continue to Harlem River Station to different elevated or subway lines. Not having the direct routes to midtown Manhattan that the competing New York Central and New Haven commuter lines had was a major reason for the Westchester's demise.

Old Colony

The New Haven leased the massive Old Colony Railroad system on March 1, 1893, spanning all of southeastern Massachusetts and completing the route to Boston via the Old Colony's Boston and Providence Railroad. The original mainline opened in 1845; the Boston and Providence (leased 1888) opened in 1835 with the completion of the Canton Viaduct.

Providence and Worcester

The Providence and Worcester Railroad was also leased on July 1, 1892, running from Providence, Rhode Island northwest to Worcester, Massachusetts. It was incorporated in 1844 and opened in 1847.

Unlike any of the New Haven's other constituents, the Providence & Worcester was never fully merged. When New Haven successor Penn Central proposed abandonment of the Providence & Worcester main line during the early 1970s, P&W successfully sued for its independence. P&W subsequently expanded its operations by taking over many former New Haven lines unwanted by Conrail.

Shepaug, Litchfield and Northern

The New Haven also leased the Shepaug, Litchfield and Northern Railroad on July 1, 1898, running north from Danbury, Connecticut to a dead end at Litchfield. It was chartered in 1868 and opened in 1872 as the Shepaug Valley Railroad, becoming the Shepaug Railroad in 1873 and the SL&N in 1887.


Passenger trains

The New Haven introduced ideas in passenger rail, including early use of restaurant and parlor cars in the steam era, and more during the transition to diesel. Among other innovations or experiments, the New Haven was an American pioneer in many areas; in streamliners with the Comet, in the use of DMUs in the USA with both Budd's regular RDCs and the all-RDC Roger Williams trainset, in the use of rail-adapted buses, in the use of lightweight trains such as the Train X-equipped Dan'l Webster, and in experimentation with Talgo-type (passive tilt) equipment on the John Quincy Adams train.

Perhaps its most audacious experiment was the United Aircraft Turbo Train, which with passive tilt, turbine engines and light weight attempted to revolutionize medium distance railway travel in the USA. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Turbo Train holds the USA railway speed record of 170 mph, set in 1968. The New Haven never operated the Turbo in revenue service, as the bankrupt railroad was purchased by Penn Central, who, along with successor Amtrak, actually got to operate the train.

Other notable passenger trains the New Haven operated included:[citation needed]

  • Bankers (New York - Springfield)
  • Bay State (New York - Boston)
  • Berkshire (New York - Pittsfield)
  • Bostonian (New York - Boston)
  • Colonial (Washington - Boston)
  • Commander (New York - Boston)
  • Day Cape Codder (New York - Hyannis/Woods Hole) (summer only)
  • Day White Mountains (New York - Berlin, New Hampshire, via the Boston & Maine Railroad)
  • East Wind (Washington - Portland, Maine, via the Pennsylvania RR and Boston & Maine RR) (summer only)[3]
  • Federal (Washington - Boston, overnight)
  • Forty-Second Street (New York - Boston)
  • Gilt Edge (New York - Boston)
  • Hell Gate Express (New York (Penn Station) - Boston)
  • Merchants Limited (New York - Boston)
  • Montrealer (Washington - Montreal in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Canadian National, Central Vermont Railway and B&M)
  • Murray Hill (New York - Boston)
  • Narragansett (New York - Boston)
  • Nathan Hale (New York - Springfield)
  • Naugatuck (New York - Winsted)
  • Neptune (New York - Hyannis/Woods Hole) (summer only)
  • New Yorker (New York - Boston)
  • Night Cape Codder (New York - Hyannis/Woods Hole, overnight) (summer only)
  • Owl (New York - Boston, overnight)
  • Patriot (Washington - Boston)
  • Pilgrim (Philadelphia - Boston)
  • Puritan (New York - Boston)
  • Quaker (Philadelphia - Boston)
  • Senator (Washington - Boston)
  • Shoreliner (New York - Boston)
  • State of Maine (New York - Portland, Maine - Bangor via the Boston & Maine Railroad and Maine Central Railroad)[3]
  • Washingtonian (Montreal - Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Railroad, Canadian National, Central Vermont Railway and B&M)
  • William Penn (Philadelphia - Boston)
  • Yankee Clipper (New York - Boston)

Note: "New York" refers to Grand Central Terminal unless otherwise indicated.

Commuter trains

Yale Bowl trains

Beginning November 21, 1914, the railroad operated special trains to bring football fans to and from the new Yale Bowl stadium in New Haven. Passengers rode extra trains from Springfield, Boston, and especially New York to the New Haven Union Station, where they transferred to trolleys for the two-mile ride to the Bowl.[4] On November 21, 1922, for example, such trains carried more than 50,000 passengers.[5] "There is nothing which can be compared with the New Haven's football movement except a record of one of the mass-movements incidental to the European war," one observer wrote in 1916.[6]

Freight trains

Presidents of the NYNH&H Railroad

Name From To Term Notes
William D. Bishop 7/24/1872 2/1879 6y/6m
George H. Watrous 2/1879 3/1887 8y/1m
Charles P. Clark 3/1887 11/1899 12y/8m
John M. Hall 11/1899 10/31/1903 4y
Charles S. Mellen 10/31/1903 9/1/1913 9y/8m Also Chairman
Howard Elliott 9/1/1913 10/22/1913 1m/22d Also Chairman
James H. Hustis 10/22/1913 8/15/1914 9m/25d
Howard Elliott 8/15/1914 5/1/1917 2y/8m Also Chairman
Edward J. Pearson 5/1/1917 3/21/1918 10m Also Chairman
Edward G. Buckland 3/21/1918 2/29/1920 1y/11m Also Chairman
Edward J. Pearson 2/29/1920 11/27/1928 8y/8m Also Chairman
Edward G. Buckland 1/3/1929 3/1/1929 2m Also Chairman
John J. Pelley 3/1/1929 11/1/1934 5y/8m
Howard S. Palmer 11/1/1934 8/12/1948 13y/9m Longest term
Frederic C. Dumaine, Sr. 8/12/1948 8/31/1948 20d Also Chairman, Shortest term
Laurence F. Whittemore 8/31/1948 12/21/1949 1y/3m
Frederic C. Dumaine, Sr. 12/21/1949 5/27/1951 1y/5m Also Chairman
Frederic C. "Buck" Dumaine Jr. 5/27/1951 4/1/1954 2y/10m Also Chairman
Patrick B. McGinnis 4/1/1954 1/18/1956 1y/9m
George Alpert 1/18/1956 7/7/1961 5y/5m Also Chairman

After declaring bankruptcy on July 7, 1961, the New Haven was thereafter governed by court-appointed trustees.

See also



Further reading

External links

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