We enjoyed reading a May 23 letter to the editor, “History and Safety on the Railroad,” in the New York Times by our railroad friend, supporter and donor J.W. (Jack) Swanberg, where he explains that historically the railroads in the United States have had to build their own stations and right-of-way without any kind of public support, unlike public roads and the airline industry. Jack certainly writes from his own personal knowledge of railroad history, as the author of New Haven Power, a history of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad’s engines and other motive power, and numerous articles in railroad magazines on a myriad of railroad history topics.
Are you traveling during the holidays? Wouldn’t it be great to take a cross-country train trip riding in this fancy parlor car?
This parlor car, owned by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, would be so luxurious you would never want to get to your destination.
Was train travel from New Haven, Connecticut, to New York City faster 100 years ago than it is today? Here are two pages from the public timetable of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad from September 1914:
How does that compare to today?
December 31, 1968, is known as the last day of the almost 100 year reign of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad as the predominant railroad system in southern New England. Formed in 1872 from the merger of the New York & New Haven Railroad and the Hartford & New Haven Railroad, the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, better known as the New Haven Railroad, proceeded to amass virtually every other railroad line in the region. In its time the company had more of its share of trials — train wrecks, hostile takeovers, bankruptcies and scandals — but always endured, if not flourished. In 1961 the company was taken over by a board of trustees who prepared it for its end by abandoning branch lines and selling off much of its property, and on January 1, 1969, what was once a glorious engine of innovation and the driver of the New England’s industrial success in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was added, begrudgingly, to the new Penn Central Company.
Above is a letter written on December 31, 1968, to employees of the New Haven Railroad, thanking them for their service. Below is a letter written January 1, 1969, to those same employees who now answered to Penn Central.
More information about the New Haven Railroad can be found in the finding aid to the company’s corporate records at http://doddcenter.uconn.edu/asc/findaids/NHRR/MSS19910009.html and at the Railroad History Archive site at http://railroads.uconn.edu/
In the early 1950s the New Haven Railroad phased out use of its steam fleet in favor of its electric and diesel locomotives. Shown here is a menu and photographs taken on an excursion trip from Boston’s South Station to New Haven, Connecticut, through the route of the old New York & New England Railroad with stops in Willimantic and New London, Connecticut. The photographs were taken by Seth P. Holcombe and Ralph E. Wadleigh, both of whose photographs we hold in the Railroad History Archive.
Many of our researchers have successfully accessed the online New Haven Railroad Valuation Maps, from the UConn Libraries’ Digital Mosaic site at http:/images.lib.uconn.edu/. Although we have heard from many how useful it is to have the maps accessible to off-site researchers, we’ve also heard that the vagaries of ContentDM, the database system where the maps sit, don’t help them follow the railroad line from point to point. The maps, which are each one mile footprints of the railroad tracks as they follow the complicated New Haven Railroad system as it was in 1915, have always been rather isolated from, and unlinked to, each other.
Happily, that glitch is now overcome, thanks to the the magnificent efforts of the Map and Geographic Information Center, better known as MAGIC, an important special library within the UConn Libraries system. MAGIC, headed by Geographic Information Systems Librarian Michael Howser, has created a map index that now allows researchers to follow the railroad lines on a map and click at any point to bring up the 1915 valuation map.
You will find the index at http://magic.lib.uconn.edu/mash_up/nynhhrr_index.html
Isn’t this great?! One could even say that this is truly, well, magical. Tools like this make viewing the maps so much easier. You will see, though, that as of this moment you can search only the Connecticut railroad valuation maps. MAGIC has plans to, in time, complete the index, to encompass all of the maps that are currently in the Digital Mosaic, which include Massachusetts, Rhode Island and eastern New York. Something else I want to point out is that the index makes it obvious that there are gaps in the system, that there are sections where, although the railroad ran between some points, there are no maps that covered these areas. The fault of this lies in the fact that our original set of valuation maps was never absolutely complete, and that is reflected in the online maps.
I want to extend my most sincere thanks to Michael Howser and his staff, particularly Geography PhD student Jie Lin, who made this index a reality. You’ve made a lot of railroad researchers VERY happy!
Laura Smith, Curator for Business, Railroad and Labor Collections