Fairfield County Railroad

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Fairfield County Railroad
Locale Fairfield County, Connecticut
Successor D&N (1850)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Danbury, CT

The Fairfield County Railroad was chartered May 1835. Its goal was to give Danbury, Connecticut, a rail link with the outside world. It became the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad by 1850 which in turn did not operate until 1852. This company preceded Danbury and Norwalk Railroad and by 1950 ceased to exist.

Prior to the railroad era routes from Danbury to Norwalk were opened along at least two toll roads. In October 1795 the Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike was opened (which mostly followed present day Route 53) and then in May 1801 the Danbury-Ridgefield Turnpike was opened (it followed the present day U.S. Route 7 and Connecticut Route 35).[1] The turnpikes provided only limited capacity freight and passenger transportation.

One alternative to the turnpikes, a canal, was considered. In 1830, a survey was conducted for a potential canal from the Still River near Danbury to the Saugatuck River to take boats from Danbury to Westport, but a 400-foot drop along the canal route would have required a number of locks, which made the idea too expensive, and a canal would not improve transit time.[2]

The Fairfield County Railroad was formed by Danbury leaders to provide better transportation in a charter granted by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1835,[3] and the company was chartered in May.[2] Instead of steam locomotives, the original idea was to have horses pull cars along the tracks, which would have been an improvement on the unpaved toll roads.[2] At first a route was sought towards Long Island Sound. Professor Alexander C. Twining of Yale University surveyed a route to follow the Saugatuck River to a spot near Compo Point in Westport and another route to a spot near Wilson's Point in South Norwalk. Steamboat landings were envisioned at each spot for connections to New York City.[2][3] Next a line north along the Housatonic River was surveyed. This would bring in the much needed money for the railroad. Due to lack of financing the railroad was not built at first. The Housatonic Railroad offered to connect Danbury if the town would subscribe for a bond of $100.000 in said company. Danbury declined. The Housatonic built northwards along the route that the Fairfield County Railroad had surveyed. The Housatonic started service between Bridgeport and New Milford by February 1840.[4] The Fairfield County Railroad would now only be limited to build south towards Long Island Sound. In 1850 the Charter was renewed, and the company was renamed the Danbury and Norwalk Railroad which started operation in 1852. The line would eventually be known as the Danbury Branch of several successor railroads.

The Norwalk route was chosen over the Westport route for engineering reasons, not because the railroad expected to make money from servicing the communities along the way. Before the railroad was built, an estimate for revenues projected $30,000 in annual income from Danbury but only $2,000 from all the intermediate towns combined.[2]


  1. ^ List of turnpikes in Connecticut
  2. ^ a b c d e Cornwall, L. Peter, "The Danbury & Norwalk Railroad and its impact on Cannondale", pp 105–132, published in Cannondale: A Connecticut Neighborhood (no overall editor named), published by the Wilton Historical Society, 1987
  3. ^ a b "HISTORY OF RAIL LINES IN THE HOUSATONIC VALLEY, CT REGION". Archived from the original on January 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-19. 
  4. ^ Housatonic Railroad