Branford Steam Railroad

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Branford Steam Railroad
Branford Steam over CT 80 085.JPG
Bridge over Route 80 in North Branford just outside the quarry
Reporting mark BRFD
Locale North Branford to Stony Creek, Connecticut, U.S.A
Dates of operation 1903–present
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 6.2 miles (10.0 km)[1]
Headquarters North Branford, Connecticut

Branford Steam Railroad (reporting mark BRFD) is an industrial railroad serving the Tilcon Connecticut stone quarry in North Branford, Connecticut in the United States. It exchanges freight with the Providence and Worcester Railroad and with the Buchanan Marine Company.[2][3]


Louis A. Fisk was a politically connected businessman from Branford, Connecticut who had by the 1890s built a trotting park for horses called the Branford Driving Park.[4] To attract more visitors Fisk built a three-mile-long (4.8 km) Damascus Railway that offered connections with the Shore Line Division of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. In 1900 the creation of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission of New York and New Jersey forced the closing of basalt quarries along the Hudson River. This led to an increased demand for stone from Connecticut quarries. Louis Fisk would eventually open a quarry on Totoket Mountain in North Branford.[5][6]

On March 19, 1903, Fisk obtained authorization from the Connecticut General Assembly to incorporate the Branford Steam Railroad in order to take over the property of and succeed the Damascus Railway. At the time the name "Steam Railroad" was used to distinguish the new railroad from the nearby Branford Electric Railway which was a separate streetcar system.[5]

By April 29, 1909, Fisk obtained authority from the General Assembly for the Branford Steam Railroad to lay additional tracks southward to a dock he owned at Juniper Point on Long Island Sound (between the Pine Orchard and Stony Creek neighborhoods of Branford).[5]

In 1914, owners of the property incorporated the New Haven Trap Rock Company and opened the quarry for business under that name. Within a few years members of the New Haven Blakeslee family, who ran the C.W. Blakeslee and Sons construction firm that had originally started in 1844, were running the New Haven Trap Rock Company and Fisk was no longer involved with the quarry. The quarry company was the primary customer of the Branford Steam Railroad. Trap rock from the quarry was used for various construction projects including road paving, building foundations, and railroad ballast.[5] The histories of both companies were closely tied with one another.

At the height of steam operations there were, within the 300 acres (120 ha) quarry complex, a set of four to six small (15-short-ton or 13.6-metric-ton or 13.4-long-ton) 0-4-0T saddletank locomotives moving the stone laden gondola cars around. They supplied steam shovels with empty cars and moved loaded cars to the crusher. In addition there were two heavier (40-short-ton or 36.3-metric-ton or 35.7-long-ton) 0-4-0T saddletank locomotives to move the loads of crushed rock down the 6.2 miles (10.0 km) of railroad either to Juniper Point for loading into barges or to exchange with the New Haven Railroad.

In 1923 the Angelo Tomasso company started working in Connecticut, but was not yet affiliated with the North Branford quarry or the Branford Steam Railroad.[3] In 1935 the New Haven Trap Rock Company merged with the Connecticut Quarries Company, and in February of that year the management reincorporated the company under the New Haven Trap Rock Company name. The merger expanded the scope of quarry activities of the company such that it operated six Connecticut quarries, located in Cheshire, Granby, Middlefield, New Britain, and Rocky Hill, as well as at North Branford. At North Branford, meanwhile, the company removed its quarry trackage and disposed of the smaller 15-short-ton quarry locomotives, but continued shipping stone out of the quarry on the Branford Steam road.[5]

GE 44-short-ton (39.9-metric-ton; 39.3-long-ton) switcher in Duluth, Georgia of the type used on the Branford Steam starting in the 1950s.

In 1956 the company purchased two GE center cab diesels to handle the duty of pulling stone from the North Branford crusher.[5] Although the steam locomotives were retained for a few years after that to perform yard switching duties the era of steam on the Branford Steam Railroad was nearing an end. In January 1960 the company's third diesel, No. 5, a 44-short-ton (39.9-metric-ton; 39.3-long-ton) switcher that was originally New York, New Haven and Hartford No. 0813, was purchased.[5]

Just as steam locomotives gave way to diesels on the line in the 1950s so too did the rolling stock change as the side-dump gondola cars gave way to triple-bay hopper cars lettered for the New Haven Trap Rock Company. Whereas the steam locomotives had been lettered for the same company (e.g. steam locomotive No. 43 carried the words "N.H. Trap Rock Co." on her saddle tank), some of the new diesels ironically carried the lettering of "The Branford Steam Railroad" despite the fact that it no longer was a steam railroad.[5]

In the late 1960s or early 1970s the New Haven Trap Rock Company was sold to the Ashland Paving and Construction division of Ashland Inc. then of Ashland, Kentucky. By the time of the sale the North Branford quarry was considered the world's largest single-face trap rock quarry with a frontage of 1.25 miles (2.01 km) and was Connecticut's largest supplier of crushed stone.[7]

Thomas Tilling Ltd. purchased the construction group of Ashland in 1979. Tomasso became known as Tilcon Tomasso, a division of Tilcon Warren, Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Tilling Ltd. In 1984 Tilcon Inc. was acquired by the British Tyre and Rubber Company. The company's name was changed to Tilcon Connecticut in 1990.[7] In 1996 Tilcon Connecticut was sold to CRH plc of Dublin, Ireland. [7]


The Branford Steam Railroad continues to operate today carrying quarried stone to exchange with the Providence and Worcester Railroad as well as to Buchanan Marine barges at Juniper Point. Fisk's prescience in choosing a name to distinguish his freight railroad from the Branford Electric Railway seems almost humorous today in that the organization that operates the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven calls itself the Branford Electric Railway Association. The BERA continues to operate the Branford Electric Railway line and has done so since 1945. Hence the need to distinguish the two similarly named organizations and railway lines continue.

The New Haven Trap Rock Company Steam Engine No. 43 that used to operate on the Branford Steam Railroad is now held at Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was donated to the Steamtown organization (then of Vermont) in 1962 and was moved to Scranton with the collection. Besides No, 43 another locomotive was also saved No.38 built by H.K. Porter in 1912 for C.W. Blakelee and Sons. For there operation known as New Haven Trap Rock, in Branford, Ct The engine was sold in 1962 to the Edaville corp, at North Walpole, NH which became part of the Steamtown Collection. The engine stayed with the Steamtown collection until 1988, at that time the museum moved out of Vermont to its new home of Scranton, Pa. On October 29th, 1988 the National Park service held and Auction to get rid of access equipment in Scranton, Pa. The day of the 29th the engine when to the Auction block, with other pieces of equipment. The engine was sold and ended up at a Truck stop for display, in Branford, Ct, since that time, the locomotive was sold again in 2017, to a private individual, that is now restoring the locomotive back to operation.

Notes and references[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the National Park Service website

  1. ^ The length of the line is claimed to be 6.2 miles (10.0 km) at the Steamtown web article, but Turner and Jacobus claim that it is 9 miles (14 km) long in: Turner, Gregg M.; Jacobus, Melancthon W. (1986). Connecticut Railroads ...An Illustrated History. Hartford, Connecticut: The Connecticut Historical Society. p. 299. ISBN 0-940748-89-4. 
  2. ^ Commissioner Richard Carpenter. "Rail Freight In Connecticut Today (ConnDOT)". Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  3. ^ a b "Tilcon Connecticut". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  4. ^ Fisk's middle initial was mentioned in an article about the Connecticut Democratic Party delegation to the 1904 national convention: "CONNECTICUT DELEGATION A UNIT FOR PARKER, The New York Times, May 7, 1904" (PDF). 1904-05-07. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h National Park Service, Steamtown, Scrantion, Pennsylvania. "Steamtown NHS: Special History Study". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  6. ^ "Donovan's Reef". Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-20. 
  7. ^ a b c "Tilcon Connecticut". Retrieved 2008-04-20. 

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