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Connecticut Short Line Railroads

Published: April 25, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Branford Steam Railroad

(reporting mark, BRFD):  This independent, industrial road has been in service since 1903 and currently serves a stone quarry at North Branford, Connecticut, operating just over 6 miles and interchanging with the Providence & Worcester.  Despite its name, the road discontinued steam power in 1960.  Today, it operates an SW1001 switcher and a few GP38-2's.

Central New England Railroad

(reporting mark, CNZR):  This small short line has been in service since 1995 operating over 8.5 miles of the old Central New England Railway between Hartford and Bloomfield (acquired in 1999) as well as utilizing ex-New Haven trackage from East Windsor Hill to State Line (13.5 miles).  The road interchanges with the Connecticut Southern.

Connecticut Southern Railroad

(reporting mark, CSO):  This short line traces its history back to 1996 when it acquired former New Haven trackage from Conrail that year.  In 2000 it was purchased by RailAmerica whose assets were taken over by the G&W in 2012. 

Today, the road operates about 42 miles of track hauling such freight as steel beams, construction debris, lumber, malt liquors and pulpboard.

Housatonic Railroad

(reporting mark, HRRC):  The historic Housatonic Railroad has been around since its chartering in 1840.  It eventually grew into a rather substantial system serving western Connecticut, and southwestern Massachusetts. 

It was long part of New Haven's Berkshire Division since first leased in 1892 but "regained" its independence more than 90 years later when Conrail sold sections of the original to a new Housatonic Railroad in 1983. 

Today, the short line operates much of the original route between New Haven and Pittsfield with a western extension to Newburgh, New York. 

It remains independently owned moving a wide variety of freight.  Additionally, there has been of initiating commuter rail service and the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum hosts excursions on a section of the property.

Naugatuck Railroad

(reporting mark, NAUG):  This short line began service in 1996 between Waterbury and Torrington along the former New Haven's Naugatuck Line that once reached Winsted. By the Penn Central era it was referred to as the Torrington Secondary and only reached as far north as Torrington.  

The Naugatuck Railroad is a division of the Railroad Museum of New England, operating as a common-carrier short line with interchange provided at Highland Junction (Waterbury) with CSX Transportation (formerly the Pan Am Railway).

New England Central Railroad

(reporting mark, NECR): The New England Central has been in service since 1995 when it acquired the assets of the historic Central Vermont Railway, sold by Canadian National that year to RailTex Corporation which subsequently renamed the property. 

This company was acquired by RailAmerica in 2000 which was purchased by G&W in 2012.  Today, the Class II, regional operates 394 miles and handles nearly 40,000 carloads annually.

Its freight is highly diversified including lumber, panels & plywood, poles, newsprint, printing paper, compressed gas, chemicals, fuel oils, road salt, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, fabricated metals, resins, TOFC/COFC, finished vehicles, feed mill ingredients, machinery and equipment, recyclables, ash, construction debris, foodstuffs and non-metallic minerals.

Pan Am Railways

(reporting mark, PAR), Defunct:  Pan Am was the renamed Guilford Transportation system.  These large regional served much of New England since 1981 when it began acquiring such classic system as Maine Central, Boston & Maine, Portland Terminal, and Springfield Terminal. 

In 2006 it changed its name to Pan Am Railways.  At its peak it operated roughly 1,700 miles with primary traffic including grain, coal, sand/aggregates, food products, lumber, paper/pulpwood, chemicals and plastics, petroleum, processed minerals, metals, scrap metal, automobiles, and intermodal.  It was acquired by CSX Transportation on November 30, 2020.

Providence & Worcester Railroad

(reporting mark, PW):  The P&W is another historic system spun-off following the Penn Central collapse.  It began in 1847, opening its original line between Worcester and Millville, Massachusetts in September that year; a month later it was completed to Providence on October 20th.

After nearly 50 years of independence the much large New Haven system leased the railroad for 99 years on July 1, 1892.  After the PC bankruptcy the road regained its independence in early 1973.  Today, it serves more than 140 customers and moves nearly 35,000 carloads annually as a Class II, regional.

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