Valley Railroad (Connecticut)

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Valley Railroad
Valley Railroad 40 at Deep River in December 2018
HeadquartersEssex, Connecticut
Reporting markVALE
LocaleMiddlesex County, Connecticut
Dates of operation1971 (1971)–present (present)
PredecessorNew York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
Penn Central Transportation Company
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Length21.67 miles (34.87 km)
Route map

Providence & Worcester RR
to Hartford
21.67 mi
34.87 km
18.16 mi
29.23 km
16.90 mi
27.2 km
Walkley Hill
15.48 mi
24.91 km
14.80 mi
23.82 km
14.00 mi
22.53 km
12.27 mi
19.75 km
Connecticut Highway 82.svg
Route 82
Bridge Rd.
11.50 mi
18.51 km
10.40 mi
16.74 km
Parkers Point
9.65 mi
15.53 km
North Chester
9.26 mi
14.9 km
8.57 mi
13.79 km
7.58 mi
12.2 km
Deep River
Connecticut Highway 154 wide.svg
Route 154
Middlesex Tpke.
3.97 mi
6.39 km
EssexBus interchange
Connecticut Highway 153 wide.svg
Route 153
Plains Rd.
0.00 mi
0 km
Old SaybrookAmtrakShore Line EastBus interchange

The Valley Railroad, operating under the name Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, is a heritage railroad based in Connecticut on tracks of the Connecticut Valley Railroad, which was founded in 1868. The company began operations in 1971 between Deep River and Essex, and has since reopened additional parts of the former Connecticut Valley Railroad line. It operates the Essex Steam Train and the Essex Clipper Dinner Train.


Remains of a wooden bridge along the former Fenwick Branch south of Old Saybrook, which was abandoned in the early 20th century


The vision of a Valley Railroad started in the 1840s when President of the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company, James Clark Walkley traced the 44-mile route by stagecoach with friend Horace Johnson.[1] Walkley and a group of business men obtained a state charter on July 17, 1868, to form the Connecticut Valley Railroad Company and start the process of building a railroad.[1]

During 1868–1869, survey crews worked to map out the line from Hartford, Connecticut, to Saybrook Point.

In April 1870, construction of the line began, with ground breaking taking place in Higganum, Connecticut.[2] The plan called for three phases, the "Northern Division" starting in Hartford and continuing to Middletown, the "Middle Division" which continued to what is known today as Goodspeed Landing, and the "South Division" which finished the line to Saybrook Point.[1] The Connecticut River Valley allowed for an easy construction, as no tunnels or major bridges were required. The line was completed during the summer of 1871 with the first ceremonial train run over the 45 miles (72 km) on July 29, 1871, at a steady speed of 22 mph.[1] At $34,000 per mile, the line ended up costing $1,482,903.[1]

Connecticut Valley Railroad[edit]

The first "regular" train started on July 31, 1871.[2] On August 24, 1871, the Connecticut Valley Railroad declared an official opening. The schedules of trains operating along the Valley Railroad called for one mixed train and four passenger trains each way daily (except Sunday) with fifteen stops along the way.

The company grossed $34,000 in its first year.[1] It continued to grow, grossing $250,000/year in 1873.[1]

Financial trouble plagued many early railroads, and the Connecticut Valley defaulted in 1876 on its second mortgage bonds and was placed in receivership.

Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad[edit]

On July 1, 1880, the Hartford and Connecticut Valley Railroad took control with president Samuel Babcock.[1]

Passenger service ended in stages: between Saybrook Point and Fenwick in 1917, between Fenwick and Saybrook Junction in 1922, between Saybrook Junction and Middletown in 1929 or 1930, and Middletown and Hartford in 1933.[3]

Valley Railroad Company (Present Day Company)[edit]

The Valley Line was abandoned on March 1968, by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad several months before merging into Penn Central. Penn Central had the Valley Line put up for abandonment. The Valley Line was saved by the Connecticut Valley Railroad Association (CVRA, later becoming Railroad Museum of New England) due to concerns of the abandoned branch line being torn up by the Penn Central. The Connecticut Valley Railroad Association, the Empire State Railway Museum, and private investors created today's for-profit Valley Railroad, obtaining a charter from the Connecticut State Legislature. The State of Connecticut took ownership of the line from the Penn Central, and designated the Valley line as a linear State Park. It reopened on July 29, 1971, with ESRM's 103 being the first locomotive to run on the current Valley Railroad with a train running between Essex and Deep River, 100 years to the day of the first train on the original line. The train was later expanded to Chester in the late 1970s and expanded as north as Haddam in later years.

Seasonally, trains connect with a steam riverboat at Deep River, which offers rides along the Connecticut River.[4]

Rolling stock[edit]

Steam locomotives[edit]

VRR # Image Style Built Builder Status Notes
2 0-6-0T 1941[5] Porter Display Original U.S. Navy No. 14, then Simons Wrecking No. 2; later part of Steamtown National Historic Site. Acquired from the city of Peabody, Massachusetts, in 2009; cosmetically restored. Owned by the Friends of the Valley Railroad.
3 0-4-0F 1930 H.K. Porter Display Built as Connecticut Coke Company No. 3, it was the last steam locomotive to operate in regular freight service in Connecticut. After storage by the Valley Railroad in the 1990s, it was cosmetically restored and put on static display at Tanger Outlets in Westbrook, Connecticut.[6] Owned by the Friends of the Valley Railroad.
40 2-8-2 1920[5] ALCO Operational Built as Portland, Astoria and Pacific No. 101, but never used there; transferred to Minarets and Western Railroad in 1921, later to Southern Pacific, then to the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad. Purchased by the Valley Railroad in 1977.[7]
97 2-8-0 1923[5] ALCO Operational Built as No. 65188 for planned sale to Cuba, but sold in 1926 as Birmingham Southeastern Railroad No. 200. It was sold again to a private owner in 1963, and operated on Vermont Railway No. 97 in 1964 and 65. No. 97 operated excursion trips over the New Haven Railroad in 1966, 1967, and 1968. It was moved to the Valley Railroad as No. 97 in 1970. No. 97 was sold by the private owner's estate to Valley Railroad in 2005. It was in revenue service from 1973 to 2010, and returned to service in 2018. No. 97's current tender is from Central Vermont Consolidation 404, the original tender is stored out of service in Essex.
3025 2-8-2 1989[5] Tangshan Operational Built as Knox and Kane Railroad No. 58; acquired by the Valley Railroad in 2008. Rebuilt to resemble a New Haven Railroad J-1, it entered service in 2011.


VRR # Image Style Built Builder Notes
10 0-4-0T 1934 Baldwin Built as Standard Steel Works No. 10; on display with the Valley Railroad 1971–1997. It was sold to the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum, then to the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum in 2008.[8]
103 2-6-2 1925 Baldwin Acquired from the Empire State Railway Museum as the Valley Railroad's first steam locomotive. Not used after 1975 due to limited power, it was sold to the Railroad Museum of New England in 1987 and it was moved to the museum's Naugatuck Railroad in June 2009.[9]
1246 4-6-2 1946 Montreal Steamtown sold the locomotive at an auction in 1988 to the Railroad Museum of New England.[10]
1647 2-8-2 1989 Tangshan The Valley Railroad purchased the locomotive new; it was later sold to the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway to replace a never-delivered locomotive.

Diesel engines[edit]

Current diesel engines[edit]

VRR # Image Style Built Status Description
0900 80-ton 1947 Out of service Used in occasional switching and work trains. Currently out of service, on display. Originally used at the General Electric plant in Schenectedy, New York. It was later sold to the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum and to the Valley Railroad in 1991.
0901 80-ton 1940 Operational Used for the Essex Clipper Dinner Train as well as for switching and work trains. Purchased from U.S. Navy at San Diego by Pfizer in the 1960s and used at their Groton, Connecticut plant before being donated to the FVRR. After being donated to the FVRR, the FVRR sold the locomotive to the Valley Railroad. L
0902 80-ton 1953 Operational Used for the Essex Clipper Dinner Train as well as for switching and work trains. Originally used by the U.S. Air Force, acquired by the VRR in 2014. Renumbered from #1606 to #0902 in May 2017.
0903 80-ton 1940s Out of service Acquired by the VRR in 2016.
7145 80-ton 1942 Display Used as a parts donor.

Previous diesel engines[edit]

VRR # Image Style Built Current owner Description
15 RS-1 1944 Central New England Railroad Morristown and Erie 15 was built by ALCO-GE in 1944 as United States Navy 6. It was later sold to the Morristown and Erie Railroad as their 15 and it came to Valley Railroad property in 1987. The diesel engine was damaged by freezing coolant, and the locomotive was traded to Central New England Railroad. It currently sits in the Central New England Railroad yard in Scantic, Connecticut, with the hood being the remainder of the locomotive left.
240 RS-1 1945 Scrapped 240 was built by ALCO-GE in April 1945, model RS-1, #73569 for the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railroad as 240. A private owner from New Jersey moved it to the Valley Railroad property in 1985, where the diesel engine suffered freeze damage. It was later sold and moved to the Tioga Central Railroad in 1994. 240 was scrapped at Wellsboro in 2014.
0800 44-ton 1950 Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum Built in December 1950 by General Electric as Long Island Railroad 400 for use in the Morris Park Shops and this was the only GE 44-ton switcher to be owned by the Long Island. It was sold to a scrap dealer in 1963 and was sold to the Black River and Western Railroad as 400 in 1965. It was sold the same private owner as #97, and moved to the Valley Railroad in 1969 as 400 and later renumbered 0800 to be used on the work trains, dinner trains, and other purposes. It was leased by General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut, for several months in 1973 while their own 44-ton switcher was being restored. 0800 was sent to the CERM in October 1996.[11]

Passenger cars[edit]

Name / number Image Type Built Builder Description
Great Republic Parlor car[5] 1930 Pullman Used on the regular steam train excursions. Originally used on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad's "Yankee Clipper" between New York City and Boston. Sold in 1962 to James Bradley of Stonington, Connecticut. It was acquired by the Valley Railroad in 1991 and placed into revenue service in 1994. It has 34 individual swivel seats.
Meriden Dining/parlor car 1924 Pullman Used on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. It was originally built by the Pullman Company as parlor car "Plymouth" and used in service on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. The car was restored by the Valley Railroad and has a current capacity of 50 seats.[12]
Wallingford Dining/parlor car 1927 Pullman Used on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. It was originally built by the Pullman Company as a parlor car, and used in service on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Later rebuilt by Pullman as "Wayfarer" and eventually was used by a shortline railroad in Arkansas Reader Railroad, then sold to Valley Railroad in 1975. First used by VRR as a first class car on the Steam Train but was switch to its current configuration in 1994.[12]
Goodspeed Parlor car 1927 Pullman Da Costa, the original name used by Pullman, was purchased from a tourist railroad in Ohio in 1988 by the Valley Railroad in hopes to use it one day. Used for storage until a 2013 restoration. In service on the Essex Clipper Dinner Train. The car was renamed Goodspeed in 2016.
Middletown Parlor/dining/observation car 1924 Pullman Restored in 2015. Originally built as Baltimore and Ohio "Capitol Road", later modernized and sold to the Chicago and North Western Railroad as their 400 and used by company executives.
Toreador Parlor car 1913 Pullman Former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Navarro; not in active use. The car was rebuilt by Pullman in 1932 to its unique center-door configuration, the only Pullman car with that arrangement.[5]
Lindsay Canadian Car & Foundry 1923
400 HEP power car 1920 American Car & Foundry Ex-PRR B-60 class Baggage 9284, ex-PC 7564, renumbered to 400 in 2018 and rebuilt as HEP power car for 400 series coaches.[5]
401 Coach 1952 Canadian Car & Foundry[13] 82 foot commuter coach, ex Adirondack Scenic #7401, Canadian Pacific #815. Acquired 2015. Entered service, November 2018.
402 Coach 1952 Canadian Car & Foundry 82-foot coach, ex-Adirondack Scenic #7402, Canadian Pacific #824. Acquired 2015; entered service Nov 2018.
403 Coach 1952 Canadian Car & Foundry 82-foot coach, ex-Adirondack Scenic #7403, Canadian Pacific #828. Acquired 2015; entered service November 2018.
404 Parlor car 1952 Canadian Car & Foundry 82-foot coach, ex-Adirondack Scenic #7404, Canadian Pacific #829. Acquired 2015; entered service in November 2018, as a first class parlor car.
500 Food service 1914 Pullman Stationary food service car, ex-DL&W, acquired in 1972.
501 Coach 1915 Pullman[5] 74-seat coach, ex-DL&W, acquired in 1972.
502 n Coach 1914 Pullman[5] 74-seat coach, ex-DL&W, acquired in 1972.
503 Coach 1914 Pullman[5] 74-seat coach, ex-DL&W, acquired in 1972.
600 (Riverview) Open car/parlor/dining car 1917 Pullman Open/dining/parlor car, ex-LVRC #1004, acquired in 1995.[5]
601 Coach 1917 Pullman[5] 74-seat coach, ex-LVRC #1001, acquired in 1995.
602 Coach 1917 Pullman[5] 74-seat coach, ex-LVRC #1002, acquired in 1995.
603 Coach 1920 Pullman[5] 74-seat coach, ex-LVRC #1003, acquired in 1995
1000 (Putnam) Coach 1924 Bethlehem Steel[5] 76-seat coach, ex-VALE 155, ex-CC&H 155, ex-CNJ, acquired in 1990.
1001 Coach 1925 Bethlehem Steel[5] 76-seat coach, ex-VALE 1101, ex-CNJ, in CVRR service since 1971.
1002 Coach 1924 Bethlehem Steel[5] 76-seat coach, ex-VALE 1000, exx-CNJ, acquired around 1990. Formerly named "Colonel Clarence S. Wadsworth".
3659 Heavyweight Coach, former SOU. Purchased from the Age of Steam Roundhouse in 2019; not yet in revenue service.
4979 Heavyweight Coach, former CN. Purchased from the Age of Steam Roundhouse in 2019; not yet in revenue service.
5010 Heavyweight Coach, former CN. Purchased from the Age of Steam Roundhouse in 2019; not yet in revenue service.
Colonial Hearth Kitchen car 1953 St. Louis A U.S. Army Kitchen car until 1986 when the Valley Railroad acquired the car, formerly named the Westerly.



The Valley Railroad Company leases, from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the track running from Old Saybrook up through Essex, Deep River, Chester, Haddam, and Middletown, totaling 21.67 miles (34.87 km). The trackbed is gravel ballast, with track made of conventional wood crossties, with steel rails fastened to the ties. A major project funded by the company in 2015 put all mainline track from Essex (MP 4) to North Chester (MP 9.80) in stone ballast. The track connects with Amtrak's Northeast Corridor track near the Old Saybrook Station to the south. Presently, 14.25 miles of the line are restored for train service, with the remaining last seeing service in 1968. The rail corridor between Haddam and Middletown, which has been cleared of brush and receives property maintenance and surveillance from hi-rail vehicles, and is undergoing full restoration as time and funding permit.

The Valley Railroad Company has several grade crossings along its tracks. They vary in their nature, ranging from small caution signs at Private Crossings to flashing lights, bells, and gates and stop signs at public crossings. The busiest public grade crossings are located at Route 153 in Essex, Route 154 in Essex, and Route 82 (just before the East Haddam swing bridge) in Haddam.


The railroad's main station in Essex.

The main station, where tickets are sold and all rolling stock is kept, is located in Essex; specifically, the village of Centerbrook. The main entrance and parking access is located off Route 154; there is a rear entrance (not for public use) on Route 153. There is a station building (used as offices for the riverboat operation) at Deep River Landing in Deep River, and a small station (used by the Railroad's track department) in Chester—it was originally the station at Quinnipiac, Connecticut. Goodspeed station, located off Route 82 in Haddam, houses an antique shop and is not affiliated with the railroad. Across the tracks from the station is the Goodspeed Yard Office. This building was the original Chester passenger station, located on Dock Road in Chester, but sold off and removed in 1874 when it was found that the railroad grade was too steep at that location for starting and stopping trains. Donated by the Zanardi family in 1993, it was retrieved by volunteers of the Friends of the Valley Railroad and moved by flatcar to its present location. It is believed that this structure is the sole remaining passenger station from the 1871 opening of the railroad.

On July 18, 2009, the Friends of the Valley Railroad built a passenger shelter in Chester on the site of the original Hadlyme station. The new building is a reproduction of the South Britain station, which was on the now abandoned Danbury Extension of the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill. The original station on this site served passengers of the town of Hadlyme, across the Connecticut River. Passengers use today's station to go to Gillette Castle State Park via the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, the second-oldest continuously-operated ferry route in the United States.

In popular culture[edit]

The Valley Railroad makes an appearance in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with 2-8-0 97 appearing in some scenes of the film. It again appears several times in the Hallmark 2021 production 'Next Stop, Christmas.'

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Essex Steam Train Is Remnant Of Connecticut Valley Railroad". Hartford, Connecticut: The Hartford Courant. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park". Hartford, Connecticut: Connecticut DEEP. Retrieved August 2, 2014.
  3. ^ Karr, Ronald Dale (2017). The Rail Lines of Southern New England (2 ed.). Branch Line Press. pp. 111–115. ISBN 9780942147124.
  4. ^ "Essex Steam Train & Riverboat". Experience Essex, CT. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Essex Steam Train & River Boat: Roster of Equipment" (PDF). The Valley Railroad Company. June 2016.
  6. ^ "Connecticut Coke Company 3". Steam Locomotive Information. June 10, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  7. ^ "Essex Steam Train Locomotive History" (PDF). Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 8, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  8. ^ "Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-4-0 steam locomotive 10". Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. August 22, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "News From The Naugy". Naugatuck Railroad Blog. October 11, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  10. ^ "News From The Naugy". Naugatuck Railroad Blog. October 12, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2022.
  11. ^ "GE 44-ton Locomotive". Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum. Retrieved July 16, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "The Essex Clipper Dinner Train". Essex, Connecticut: The Valley Railroad Company. Archived from the original on July 2, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  13. ^ Angus, Fred (May 2005). "Farewell to the 800s" (PDF). Canadian Rail. No. 506. The Canadian Railroad Historical Association. Retrieved September 12, 2018.

External links[edit]