Railroad Museum of New England
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|Railroad Museum of New England|
|Built by||Naugatuck Railroad|
|Original gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operated by||Naugatuck Railroad|
|Length||4.6 mi (7.4 km)|
|Preserved gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Railroad Museum of New England operates the Naugatuck Railroad between Waterville and Thomaston, Connecticut. The Railroad Museum of New England name and trademark was adopted in 1987, as a result of reassessing the Connecticut Valley Railroad Museum's goals and visions (CVRM had been founded in the mid-1960s). Home to one of the largest collections of preserved historic railroad equipment in New England, RMNE and its predecessor organizations have been active since the 1960s.
The CVRM (and predecessor organization - the Connecticut Valley Railroad Association [CVRA]) was responsible for organizing steam train excursions within Connecticut during the late 1960s and was instrumental in opening the Valley Railroad in Essex, Connecticut in 1971. The volunteers of the non-profit CVRA established a relationship with the for-profit Valley Railroad allowing for a permanent home for the organization's growing collection. In exchange, volunteers contributed to the upkeep and operation of the Valley Railroad's trains.
Through the 1980s, more pieces were added to the collection, restored, and occasionally operated on the Valley Railroad. By the end of the decade, it was clear CVRA would need to find its own home if they were to continue their mission of preservation and grow their collection.
Search for a permanent home (1993-1996)
The volunteers wanted to remain in Connecticut if possible, as it provided a central location for most of the active members. Once Conrail sold off its local freight operations to the Housatonic Railroad in 1993, they abandoned the former New Haven freight yard in Danbury, Connecticut. The complex included a turntable and former roundhouse site, active rail connections, and frequent passenger service provided by Metro-North Railroad's Danbury Branch. The site was turned down as there was no guarantee the museum would be able to operate regular excursions, which they saw as critical to their survival. Instead, the Danbury Railway Museum was established there in 1994.
Another location considered was the site of the former New Haven Columbia Junction roundhouse and freight yard in Willimantic, Connecticut. While the site offered plenty of room, almost nothing of the original facility remained other than a few derelict foundations. The active rail of the New England Central Railroad ran along the site, but there was no way the museum would be able to secure permission to operate excursions. Instead, the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum was established there in 1995.
The Naugatuck Railroad reborn (1996-present)
In early 1995, the RMNE was offered the opportunity to develop the ex-New Haven line from Waterbury to Torrington line, owned by Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT). RMNE chartered a "new" Naugatuck Railroad Company in June 1995 (150 years to the month after the original Naugatuck Railroad charter in 1845) and worked with CDOT Rail Operations to get the new railroad into operation during the 1996 season.
Efforts came to fruition in September 1996 when the current Naugatuck Railroad commenced a tourist scenic train over the 19.6 miles (31.5 km) of the Naugatuck Railroad's right-of-way that had opened for service in September 1849.
The railroad is headquartered at Thomaston station, built in 1881 and last used by passengers in 1958. Abandoned for many years, it was set fire by vandals in 1993. With a grant from a local bank, the roof was replaced in 1996. Volunteers have been steadily repairing and restoring the building to its mid-century appearance.
Tourist excursions are run several days a week between May and December from the historic Thomaston Station. Thomaston Station was built in 1881. The 75-minute trip runs between Thomaston Dam and Waterville, covering about 18 miles (29 km) total. Occasional passenger shuttles operate from East Litchfield to Torrington.
Special event trains are run during fall and winter months. The railroad participated in the Day out with Thomas program during the 2003 to 2009 seasons.
RMNE has an extensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock of New England heritage, with over 80 pieces of full-sized railroad equipment. The New Haven, Boston & Maine, Maine Central, Rutland, and Bangor & Aroostook railroads are represented. Numerous smaller items, from signals to railroad corporate records, are also part of RMNE's artifact holdings.
Volunteers operate the trains and maintain the locomotives and other rolling stock. The museum at one time operated a program called "Engineer for an Hour", which for a fee allows members of the public over 18 years of age to operate a locomotive under the guidance of a qualified engineer. This program was suspended in 2013.
The following is a partial roster of the historic railroad equipment preserved by RMNE.
- New Haven Alco RS-3 No. 529
- New Haven EMD FL9 No. 2005
- New Haven EMD FL9 No. 2049
- New Haven EMD FL9 No. 2059
- New Haven Alco FA No. 0401
- New Haven GE U25B No. 2525
- Naugatuck Railroad GE U23B No. 2203
- Boston & Maine Railroad EMD SW-1 No. 1109
- Boston & Maine EMD GP9 No. 1732
- Maine Central Railroad Alco RS-3 No. 557
- Pennsylvania Railroad Alco RS-3 No. 8912
- RMNE GE 25-ton No. 25
- Canadian Pacific Railway 4-6-2 No. 1246
- Sumter & Choctaw 2-6-2 No. 103
- "RMNE About Us page". Retrieved 2008-03-11.