|Locale||Norwalk, CT to Danbury, CT|
Danbury / New Milford (proposed)
|Stations||8 (+4 proposed)|
|Operator(s)||Metro-North (passenger 1983 – present)
PW (freight 1993 – present)
Housatonic (freight 1983 – present)
|Character||Commuter rail / Branch line|
|Rolling stock||Diesel led trains in push-pull formation|
|Line length||23.9 mi (38.46 km)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
Metro-North Railroad's Danbury Branch is a diesel branch of the New Haven Line from downtown Norwalk, Connecticut north to Danbury. It opened in 1852 as the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad. Until the early 1970s the branch originally had passenger service from Danbury to Canaan, Connecticut, to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Metro-North took over operation of the line from Conrail in 1983.
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.
Long distance passenger service operated on the line. The Berkshire ran on the line from Grand Central, to Danbury, to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The NYNH&H merged into Penn Central in 1969. On January 1, 1971, the State of Connecticut leased the Danbury Branch from Penn Central. The last passenger train from Danbury north to Pittsfield, Massachusetts ran in April 1971, the day before Amtrak assumed passenger operations. 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.
In connection with the planned redevelopment of the Gilbert and Bennet Company wire factory as a dense and walkable residential neighborhood, the reopening of the Georgetown station between the Cannondale and Branchville stations has been approved.
$30 million has been set aside from the economic stimulus package of 2009 to improve stations and install a new signal system along the line. Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell held a press conference with local politicians at the Cannondale station on July 28, 2009 to announce that construction was scheduled to start in autumn 2009. It is still ongoing as of 2012.
|Fairfield||Norwalk||41.0||South Norwalk||New Haven Line (Main Line)
Norwalk Transit District: 10, 11, 12, Evening Shuttle, Sunday Shuttle, Norwalk Commuter Connection - Hospital-Virgin Atlantic, Merritt 7, Westport Road
|Danbury Branch splits|
|Served the former Norwalk Fairgrounds|
|45.0||Merritt 7||Norwalk Transit District: Route 7 Link|
|Served former PerkinElmer headquarters (1976-1994); Replaced former South Wilton Newport and Danbury station (see below).|
|Appeared as "Kent", "Kent Road", or "Norwalk Mills" in some schedules.|
|Being considered for reopening|
|Ridgefield||54.0||Branchville||Norwalk Transit District: Route 7 Link; Site of former D&N Ridgefield Branch (1870-1964)|
|Redding||58.7||Redding||Sometimes called "West Redding Station"|
|Bethel||62.2||Bethel||Housatonic Area Regional Transit: 5; Southern terminus of Hawleyville Branch (1872-1911); Replaced former 1899-built NHRR Depot, now a local bicycle shop.|
|Danbury||64.9||Danbury||Housatonic Area Regional Transit: 2, 7; Replaced former Danbury Union Station, now the Danbury Railway Museum.|
|Being considered for reopening|
|Litchfield||New Milford||New Milford
|Future northern terminus of Danbury Branch, may reuse New Milford Housatonic Railroad Station|
Main line stops for the Danbury Branch on the New Haven Line (AM:2 trains southbound, PM:2 train northbound)
All peak trains and some off-peak run to Stamford on weekdays
- Continues southwest to Grand Central Terminal northeast to Union Station New Haven on the New Haven Line
Unlike the New Haven Line or New Canaan Branch, the Danbury branch is not electrified and uses diesel locomotives in push-pull operation. Usually, the diesels push the trains towards Grand Central Station, and pull towards Danbury. All of the rolling stock cars are Shoreliner series cars, powered by GE Genesis or Brookville BL20-GH locomotives.
- Connecticut Rail Commuter Council is the official advocate for train commuters, bringing station problems to the attention of officials.
- Ronald Dale Karr (1995). The Rail Lines of Southern New England, A Handbook of Railroad History. Branch Line Press. ISBN 0-942147-02-2.
- "Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials Danbury Branch History". Retrieved 2008-03-03.
- "PRR CHRONOLOGY 1971, June 2005 Edition". Retrieved 2008-03-03.
- "Trains Will End Stops at Kent Road Sunday". The Wilton Bulletin (Wilton, Connecticut). 12 January 1994. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Danbury Branch Electrification Feasibility Study". Retrieved 2007-01-06.
- Prevost, Lisa (January 30, 2005). "A Mill Town Writes Its Next Chapter". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-03.
- O'Connor, Kara (July 29, 2009). "Rell unveils $30M Danbury rail project". The Hour 138 (210). p. A1.
- L. Peter Cornwall (1987). In The Shore Line's Shadow, The six Lives of the Danbury & Norwalk Railroad, pp. 132. Littleton, MA: Flying Yankee Enterprises. ISBN 978-0-9615574-4-7
- http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Construction-under-way-on-Danbury-rail-line-442497.php (Construction Underway on Danbury Rail Line)
- http://www.newstimes.com/local/article/Improved-scheduling-in-future-for-Danbury-line-442502.php (Improved Scheduling in future for Danbury Rail Line)
- Danbury BRanch Study - Website of the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) for the Danbury Branch Phase II Study Website.
- Railroad History Database
- Philip C. Blakeslee, A Brief History Lines West Of The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Co. (1953)