The Naugatuck Railroad is a subsidiary of the Railroad Museum of New England and is actually a real railroad that was merged into the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (better known as the just the New Haven) way back in 1906. The reborn Naugatuck Railroad has been in operation since June 1995 and operates over much of the original Naugatuck system. While the railroad could realistically haul freight again if the opportunity beckoned it probably won’t happen. Still, today the Naugatuck is becoming an increasingly popular tourist line operating through the breathtaking New England countryside in Connecticut between Torrington and Waterbury. Because the railroad and museum are so close to many of New England's populated areas and admission is relatively expensive you may want to consider a trip to see them.
The original Naugatuck system was formed in 1845 and completed its main line between Winsted and Bridgeport four years later in 1849. For almost the next fifty years it remained an independent operation hauling freight and passengers from its northern terminus of Winsted to a connection with the New Haven Railroad at Bridgeport. After just forty years of operation it was leased in 1887 by the NYNH&H and officially merged into the railroad in 1906. Because the original Naugatuck Railroad lay on the outskirts of the New Haven's system with minimal traffic and lightly populated farming communities the company discontinued passenger service along the line as early as 1958 and abandoned the Torrington-Winsted segment in 1963.
The remainder of the line remained in operation through the creation of Penn Central in 1968 as freight-service only. However, PC's service became so bad and unreliable that so many customers switched from rail to truck that the route was no longer profitable to operate. To save it from further abandonment the state of Connecticut leased the line in 1971 from PC and eventually purchased it from successor Conrail in 1982, which included the entire route between Devon and Torrington.
At this time the state named the Boston & Maine Railroad operator to provide freight service along the line although traffic had completely dried up by 1995. As they say timing is everything and about this time the Railroad Museum of New England was looking for a new home. After working out negotiations with the state the RMNE was named operator of the line in October of 1996 forming the new Naugatuck Railroad to provide freight service, although this is only done so on as-needed basis. As such, the Naugatuck is almost exclusively a tourist train operation.
Today, the original Naugatuck system is abandoned between Winsted and Torrington. However, you can still catch the train from Thomaston (at the original Naugatuck Railroad station located there) anytime between May and October during the operating season. Overall, the Naugatuck operates just a very small section of the line, about 11 miles in length (the entire line is over 50 miles in length). Typically, the Railroad Museum of New England operates excursion trains each Sunday and Tuesday every week between May and October.
The railroad also has numerous specials operated throughout the year including the Easter Bunny Express, a Mother’s Day special, Haight-Brown Vineyard Express, Grandparent’s Day, a Father’s Day special, the Halloween Train, and the Santa Express. Also, their busiest month for excursions is October when they not only operate Sundays and Tuesdays but also Saturdays running fall foliage specials and the aforementioned Halloween Train. The Naugatuck Railroad usually operates its restored Alco RS3 #529, an original New Haven unit (and painted in its original colors and number).
So, if you are ever in Connecticut or looking for something a little different and more relaxing you may want to consider a visit to the Naugatuck Railroad and taking a ride aboard the Railroad Museum of New England's splendid operation between Torrington and Waterbury as you certainly shouldn't be disappointed! If you are interested in visiting the museum and Naugatuck Railroad please click here to visit their website, which includes everything from a monthly calendar of events to pricing and directions. For more information about excursion trains like the Naugatuck Railroad you might want to consider the book Tourist Trains Guidebook, which is put together by the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine.