The Beacon Line in Beacon, NY at its intersection with Churchill St., facing southwest.
|Type||Commuter rail line|
|Status||Out of Service|
|Locale||Dutchess County, New York, Putnam County, New York, Fairfield County, Connecticut and New Haven County, Connecticut|
|Termini||Hudson Line, Beacon, New York
|Closed||1927 (end of passenger service)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Operating speed||5 mph|
Metro-North Railroad's Beacon Line is a non-revenue line connecting the railroad's three revenue lines east of the Hudson River. West to east, they are the Hudson Line, Harlem Line, and the Danbury Branch of the New Haven Line. It was purchased by Metro-North in 1995 from Maybrook Properties, a subsidiary of the Housatonic Railroad, to preserve it for future use, for training, and equipment moves. Maybrook Properties had purchased the line from Conrail after Conrail left the Danbury, Connecticut, freight market.
The Beacon Line consists of parts of two former railroads:
- The Beacon Secondary Track, formerly known as the Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad, which runs from a connection south of Beacon, NY on the Hudson Line at the former Dutchess Junction to Hopewell Junction
- The Maybrook Line, or Maybrook Branch, which runs from Hopewell Junction to Danbury, Connecticut, where it joins the Danbury Branch. The Beacon Line is considered to end at the Danbury Branch; however, the portion in Connecticut is owned by the Housatonic Railroad, although Metro-North may move trains over that portion.
The Maybrook Line was the main east-west freight service of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, which became part of the Penn Central system in 1969, and subsequently Conrail in 1976. Service was originally from Maybrook, New York in Orange County via the Poughkeepse Railroad Bridge through Hopewell Junction, where it connected to the Hudson Line via the Beacon Secondary. It continued to a connection with the Waterbury Branch in Derby, Connecticut. The Housatonic Railroad owns and operates the portion between Danbury and Derby, which is the last remaining portion of the Maybrook which sees active freight use.
The portion west of Hopewell Junction to Maybrook was placed out of service in 1974 when a fire damaged the Poughkeepsie Bridge. Penn Central diverted traffic to the lightly used Beacon Secondary and upgraded it. Freight traffic abruptly halted when Conrail rerouted freight bound for New England to Springfield, MA via the Boston Line, and then south to New Haven, CT. Infrequent freight service continued for a short while but there is currently no freight service on the line.
The refurbished bridge is now a New York State Park, Walkway Over The Hudson. The remainder of the Beacon Line has also been placed out of service in a cost-saving measure.
The Beacon Line's western terminus is a short distance south of the Beacon station. The line heads south parallel to the Hudson Line for a short distance, then turns eastward to cross over the Hudson Line via a bridge.
Between the Hudson and Harlem lines, the Beacon runs a winding route, visible from many highways in Dutchess County. Interstate 84 crosses overhead just east of Exit 12 in Fishkill. U.S. Route 9 and NY 52 have grade crossings with the line, also in Fishkill. In Hopewell Junction, the line has grade crossings with NY 82 and NY 376, before it passes underneath NY 82 for a second time. Motorists on the Taconic State Parkway can see the Beacon Line crossing underneath the highway between the NY 52 exit and the Carpenter Road intersection. The next several miles are mostly rural areas, with the line going around mountains rather than tunneling through them.
In Towners, the Beacon Line crosses the Harlem Line but there is no interlocking between the two lines here. Rather, the Beacon Line turns south, running nearly parallel to the Harlem Line for a few miles as they straddle Ice Pond. A single-track connection runs northeast from the Harlem Line to the Beacon Line in this area.
Continuing south from this junction, the Beacon Line continues nearly parallel to the Harlem for a few more miles, turning eastward in Brewster, New York. Here, the line again passes under I-84, then under Interstate 684, and beneath I-84 again, within a few miles. Despite the line's limited usage, grade crossings are avoided with other roads in Brewster.
Heading east from Brewster, the line runs almost parallel with I-84 and U.S. routes 6 and 202, which overlap here as they cross the border into Connecticut. A short distance east, Routes 6 and 202 cross over the railroad, with the railroad now between the 6/202 concurrency and I-84. Further east, the line runs past the Danbury Fair Mall, before turning north and then east to the Danbury station on the Danbury Branch. The Beacon Line enters the Danbury Station from the northwest and the Danbury Branch comes in from the southeast. Running a train between the Danbury Branch and the Beacon Line requires a reverse move.
Current and future use
The Beacon Line was purchased by Metro-North so it could keep the right-of-way intact for possible future use. It also serves as a route to move trains between Metro-North's various service and maintenance facilities, without the need to move trains all the way down to New York City, the only other place all three east-of-Hudson lines are connected.
However, the high cost of maintaining a rail line, especially one that does not generate revenue, is a chief reason the Beacon Line is not used very often. Steep grades over Stormville Mountain are an additional deterrent, especially if longer trains were to be moved.
Many have advocated reactivating the line for passenger service. Although no such service is currently contemplated, it was one of the reasons for the purchase of the line. One current use of the line is as the Dutchess Rail Trail. The portion of the line which was the former Maybrook Line was double-tracked; the Beacon Secondary Track was single-tracked. Dutchess County is currently attempting to acquire Right-of-way along the Beacon secondary to continue Phase III of the rail-trail project.
On Monday morning, March 7, 2011, when heavy downpours washed out part of the right-of-way on the Danbury Branch just south of Bethel, 5 locomotives and 25 rail cars were stranded in Danbury Yard. Because these trains were needed for passenger service and the repairs were expected to last at least two weeks, the MTA decided to move the equipment over the Beacon Line to the Harlem Line just north of Brewster, where the trains were moved south to the Mott Haven Wye, where they were sent back up the New Haven Line to Stamford for passenger service. Multiple cars were coupled, with the trains operating at restricted speed.
Metro-North added fiber-optics along the Beacon Line in 2007 as well as signal bungalows at many grade crossings. The current setup gives Metro-North a more advanced communications network stretching from Beacon to Dykemans. Currently Metro-North is constructing a facility along the line in Stormville to train MTA Police dogs, and train cars will be dropped off from time to time on a siding that is to be constructed.
There is no current passenger service on the Beacon Line. The station stops listed (from west to east) are according to railroad timetable and serve as "control points". They may or may not conform to historical stops nor planned locations for any future service. Passenger service ceased in 1927.
- Glenham, NY
- Fishkill, NY
- Hopewell (Hopewell Junction, NY)
- Appalachian Trail
- Holmes, NY
- Dykemans, NY
- Danbury, CT (same as on the Danbury Branch)
Former passenger stations on current portions of the Beacon Line include:
- Stormville, NY
- Green Haven, NY
- Poughquag, NY
- West Pawling, NY
- Whaley Lake, NY
- Holmes, NY
- West Patterson, NY
- Towners, NY
- Dykemans, NY
- Brewster, NY
- Mill Plain, CT
- Danbury, CT
Hopewell Junction is not listed as an abandoned station as though it was a Maybrook Line station, its location placed it on the now-abandoned stretch from Hopewell Junction to Poughkeepsie. Throughout the entire Beacon Line all platforms were low level, with one track, non electrified.
- Lombardi, Kate Stone (February 5, 1995). "Metro-North Buys A Line for Future". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- Lombardi, Kate Stone (February 5, 1995). "The Maybrook Line And Its Rise and Fall". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- Pierce Haviland's Beacon Line page
- map of Metro North trackage
- Scherer, Ron. "Railroads try to prevent a 9/11 on the tracks; Some train passengers face airport-style bag screening, an effort that could go nationwide.(USA)".
- "Panel to discuss $1.5 million in bonds for Phase III of rail trail". Poughkeepsie Journal. August 4, 2009.
- Namako, Tom (November 10, 2009). "MTA Dogging It - Upstate". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-07-02.
- Historic Patterson web-site The Railroads in Patterson - Part 3: The Maybrook Line is Replaced by Bus Service
- Patterson, NY historical web-site
- http://www.stationreporter.net/beacon.htm Metro-North: Beacon Line
- Photo Essay of 2004 Beacon Line Trip
- Advocacy Site for the Beacon Line to be used by the City of Beacon