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Connecticut Interurban and Streetcar History

Published: June 1, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Like most New England states, Connecticut's electrified railroads were largely streetcar systems in nature and not true interurbans.  The largest was the Connecticut Company, a subsidiary of the New York, New Haven & Hartford formed in 1907 to consolidate all of the state's streetcar systems under a single management.

In their book, "The Electrified Interurban Railways In America," authors Dr. George Hilton and Dr. John Due note that Connecticut Company's primary route connected New Haven to Stamford with branches from Stratford to Waterbury and two lines linking New Haven and Hartford (via New Britain and Meriden).

The system was slowly abandoned after the Great Depression, beginning with the Stamford-Norwalk segment in 1933.  Intercity service ended by 1937 although local streetcar service continued until after World War II.

Bristol Traction Company

The Bristol Traction Company began operations to serve the Lake Compounce amusement park near Bristol. It originally began as the Bristol-Plainview Tramway but changed its name to Bristol Traction in 1927. The service was abandoned in 1935.

Danbury & Bethel Street Railway

The Danbury & Bethel Street Railway began operations in 1887 serving its namesake cities on a 15-mile system. The line ran into financial trouble as early as 1914 and was discontinued altogether in favor of buses by December of 1926.

Shore Line Electric Railway

The Shore Line Electric Railway was constructed to compete with the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad between New Haven and points in eastern Connecticut.

It began service in 1910 originally connecting Saybrook and Stony Creek. Later, the company opened lines serving North Branford, Deep River, and Chester.

After this time the interurban mostly grew through acquisitions; such as the East Lyme Street Railway and Norwich & Westerly Traction Company. At its peak the company operated more than 250 miles of trackage.

Unfortunately, the line was brought down by two vicious collisions that occurred during June and July, 1919. Strikes and resentment towards the company resulted in its bankruptcy by that October. Interestingly, this was not the end of the story.

The railroad reorganized and changed its name to the New Haven & Shore Line Railway in 1923 again resuming operations. However, it also ended in failure and was converted to buses in 1929.

Hartford Street Railway

The Hartford Street Railway was a merger in 1893 of two horse-drawn operations the Hartford & Wethersfield Horse Railroad and East Hartford & Glastonbury Horse Railroad.

Soon after it was converted to electric streetcars and was subsequently sold to the Consolidated Railway in 1904, which became the Connecticut Company in 1907. The Connecticut Company, a subsidiary of the NYNH&H, controlled or owned most interurban operations in the state.

The company remained in operation all of the way up until 1976 when it became Connecticut Transit, a state funded and operated commuter agency.

Hartford Suburban

The Hartford Suburban system was a small interurban operation serving Hartford and was shortlived becoming part of the Connecticut Company in 1894.

Hartford, Manchester & Rockville Tramway Company

The Hartford, Manchester & Rockville Tramway Company was a subsidiary of the South Manchester Light Power & Tramway Company, both of which were incorporated in 1894. The interurban connected its namesake cities and became part of the Connecticut Company in 1907.

Meriden, Southington & Compounce Tramway

The Meriden, Southington & Compounce Tramway was an interurban railroad operation serving Meriden and began operations in 1898.

In 1902 it was sold to the Connecticut Railway and Lighting Company, which leased out the streetcar operation to the Connecticut Company until service was discontinued in 1936.

Meriden Electric Railroad

The Meriden Electric Railroad was another interurban serving Meriden and lasted until 1904 when it became part of Consolidated Railway (predecessor to the Connecticut Company).

Central Railway & Electric Company

The Central Railway & Electric Company was incorporated in 1886 and served New Britain. In 1899 it was to Connecticut Light & Power (later the Connecticut Railway & Lighting Company) and all operations leased to the Connecticut Company until 1936.

Fair Haven & Westville Railroad

The Fair Haven & Westville Railroad dates back to 1861 as a horse-powered interurban railroad operation serving New Haven.

In 1893 the system switched to electric power and would go on to take over most of NYNH&H's interurban operations including the New Haven & Centreville Street Railway, New Haven Street Railway and Winchester Avenue Railway.  It became part of the Consolidated Railway in 1904, a Connecticut Company predecessor.

Torrington & Winchester Street Railway

The Torrington & Winchester Street Railway served Torrinigton and began operations in 1897. It became part of the Connecticut Company's Torrington and Winsted Division in 1915 and was abandoned in 1929.

Waterbury and Milldale Tramway

The Waterbury and Milldale Tramway served its namesake cities operating a 9.2 mile system. It lasted until October 29, 1933 when the remaining 4.7 miles of the system were abandoned in favor of buses.

Berkshire Street Railway

A subsidiary of the New Haven system, this interurban was created by the railroad through smaller lines, notably the Hoosick Falls Railroad.

It was the only interurban serving four states and reaching such towns as Canaan, Connecticut; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Bennington, Vermont; and Hoosick Falls, New York.

The company slowly cutback operations beginning as early as 1917 and total abandonment came on November 12, 1932 when the system was converted to bus service.

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