Central New England Railway

Central New England Railway
This article is about the former railroad company, merged into the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1927. For the current companies, see New England Central Railroad and Central New England Railroad.
Central New England Railway
System map
System map from 1901
Reporting mark CNE
Locale Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA west to Maybrook, NY
Dates of operation 1871–
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)

The Central New England Railway (reporting mark CNE)[1] was a railroad from Hartford, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts west across northern Connecticut and across the Hudson River on the Poughkeepsie Bridge to Maybrook, New York. It was part of the Poughkeepsie Bridge Route, an alliance between railroads for a passenger route from Washington to Boston, and was acquired by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in 1904.



Hartford west: 1868-1889

The Connecticut Western Railroad was chartered June 25, 1868 to run from Hartford, Connecticut west to the New York state line, where it would meet the Dutchess and Columbia Railroad just east of Millerton, New York. The line was completed December 21, 1871; the previous month the company had leased the easternmost bit of the D&C to gain access to the New York and Harlem Railroad at Millerton. The company also bought the short Tariffville Branch of the New Haven and Northampton Company, from Simsbury, Connecticut northeast to Tariffville, and incorporated it into its main line. The only branch was a very short one south into Collinsville. The Connecticut Western went bankrupt on April 27, 1880, and on March 31, 1881 it was reorganized as the Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad.

In the meantime, the Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad was organized in New York on June 29, 1870 to build from Rhinecliff on the Hudson River east to the Connecticut state line to join the Connecticut Western. The line opened to the public on April 14, 1875, running from Rhinecliff east to Boston Corners, New York. From Boston Corners to the state line, the R&C obtained trackage rights over the track of the Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railroad, which junctioned with the Connecticut Western and Dutchess and Columbia at the state line.

On July 1, 1882 the Hartford and Connecticut Western bought the Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad, giving it a line from Hartford to the Hudson River. The Poughkeepsie, Hartford and Boston Railroad, the successor to the Poughkeepsie and Eastern, went bankrupt in the 1880s, and on January 26, 1884 the H&CW outright bought the line east of Boston Corners that it had operated under trackage rights.

Poughkeepsie Bridge: 1871-1899

Over the years, many plans had been made for a fixed span across the Hudson River south of Albany to replace the numerous car float operations. One of the most persistent was originally chartered in 1868 as the Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge Company, and would have crossed from Anthony's Nose to Fort Clinton, now roughly the site of the Bear Mountain Bridge.

The proposal that ended up being built was the Poughkeepsie Bridge at Poughkeepsie. The Poughkeepsie Bridge Company was chartered in June 1871 to build the bridge, and the first train crossed the bridge on December 29, 1888. The Hudson Connecting Railroad was chartered in 1887 to build southwest from the bridge, and around the same time the Poughkeepsie and Connecticut Railroad was chartered to continue the line northeast from Poughkeepsie. The bridge company had hoped to acquire the Poughkeepsie, Hartford and Boston Railroad, but was unable to, and so chartered the P&C to run parallel, ending at the Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad at Silvernails. The connections were not completed until 1889, and on July 22 the two approaches merged to form the Central New England and Western Railroad. That same year the CNE&W leased the Hartford and Connecticut Western, giving it a route from Hartford all the way across the Hudson River to Maybrook and Campbell Hall, New York. Maybrook/Campbell Hall soon became a major junction point for many railroads transferring cars to the CNE&W. The Delaware and New England Railroad was also formed in 1889 as a holding company to own the CNE&W and Poughkeepsie Bridge Company.

In April 1890 the CNE&W chartered the Dutchess County Railroad to run southeast from the east end of the bridge in Poughkeepsie to Hopewell Junction, the west end of the New York and New England Railroad at the Newburg, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad. The line opened May 8, 1892, giving the NY&NE a route to the bridge. Between 1910 and 1915 the CNE would acquire trackage rights east over the former NY&NE to Danbury, Connecticut.

The Philadelphia and Reading Railway bought the CNE&W and Poughkeepsie Bridge Company from the D&NE in January 1892, momentarily extending the Reading's influence to New England via the Pennsylvania, Poughkeepsie and Boston Railroad. The two companies merged on August 1, 1892 to form the Philadelphia, Reading and New England Railroad. However, the Reading couldn't handle its new acquisitions, and the PR&NE defaulted on its interest payments in May 1893. The final reorganization came on January 12, 1899 with the formation of the Central New England Railway.

Central New England Railway: 1899-1927

The East Granby and Suffield Railroad was incorporated in 1901 to build a branch from Tariffville, Connecticut north to the Boston and Albany Railroad at Agawam Junction in West Springfield, Massachusetts. From West Springfield to Springfield, trackage rights were obtained over the B&A. The branch opened in 1903 and was leased to the CNE. (The part in Massachusetts had previously been incorporated May 16, 1856 as the Springfield and Farmington Valley Railroad.)

In 1904 the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad acquired control of the CNE, but continued to operate it separately, but the lease of the Dutchess County Railroad was assigned to the NYNH&H on December 1. The Newburg, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad and Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railway, acquired by the NYNH&H in 1905 and 1907, were both assigned to the CNE and merged into it June 25, 1907 (along with the Dutchess County Railroad). The ND&C gave the CNE a route from Millerton southwest to the Hudson River at Beacon, intersecting the Dutchess County at Hopewell Junction, and the P&E ran parallel to the main line from Boston Corners southwest to Poughkeepsie.

In 1910 the main line was abandoned in favor of the parallel Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railway from Pine Plains, New York southwest to Salt Point (where the two lines had crossed). The P&E used trackage of the Newburg, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad (also merged into the CNE in 1907) from Pine Plains southwest to Stissing. Connections were built at both ends of the abandonment.

In 1921 the Massachusetts part of the Springfield Branch (the East Granby and Suffield Railroad) was abandoned after less than 20 years of operation. The former Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railway was abandoned from Ancram Lead Mines northeast to Boston Corners in 1925; along with the concurrent abandonment of part of the former Newburgh, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad to the south, the old Poughkeepsie and Connecticut Railroad and Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad was the only remaining route of three from Pine Plains to Connecticut. On January 1, 1927 the CNE was finally merged into the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, ending its independent operation.

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad and successors: 1927-

The CNE had the steepest grades of the various east-west routes of the NYNH&H, and most bridge traffic was routed via the former New York and New England Railroad to Hopewell Junction. In 1932 the former Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad was abandoned from Copake (north of Boston Corners) southeast to the state line, cutting the CNE in two. In 1938 came many more abandonments. The main line was closed from East Canaan east to Tariffville, along with the rest of the Springfield Branch (the East Granby and Suffield Railroad). The whole main line and former Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad were abandoned northeast and east from Poughkeepsie and Rhinecliff, as well as the parallel Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railway, and the main line from the state line east to Lakeville. In 1940 the main line from East Canaan to Canaan was closed, and in 1965 abandonment came to the line between Lakeville and Canaan.

The Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad was owned by the NYNH&H through the CNE, but was not merged into the NYNH&H by the mid-1930s when the NYNH&H went bankrupt. On December 31, 1937 the H&CW filed a reorganization plan. After a long reorganization, the H&CW was merged into the NYNH&H on September 18, 1947 (along with the Providence, Warren and Bristol Railroad and Old Colony Railroad); by then all of the H&CW but the easternmost section had been abandoned.

At the time of the 1969 merger of the NYNH&H into Penn Central, all that was left of the CNE was the westernmost section, from Maybrook over the Poughkeepsie Bridge and southeast along the Dutchess County Railroad to the former New York and New England Railroad, as well as the easternmost portion, turned into an industrial spur (the Griffins Secondary Track) to the northern part of Bloomfield from Hartford. The westernmost section was part of the Maybrook Branch, continuing east over the former NY&NE and other lines to Derby. With the 1974 closure of the Poughkeepsie Bridge, the Maybrook Branch was abandoned west of Hopewell Junction, currently being turned into the Dutchess Rail Trail. In 1976 the remaining line became part of Conrail. The Connecticut Department of Transportation acquired it at some point, and in January 1999 the Central New England Railroad acquired the 8.7 mile (14 km) Griffins Industrial Track.


  1. ^ Railway Equipment and Publication Company, The Official Railway Equipment Register, June 1917, p. 335

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