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March 27, 2015 Trumbull, Connecticut , U.S.A. Early Transportation


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Welcome to the Trumbull Historical Society Early Transportation Photo Page.  Click on any picture below to view it in a larger size.


The Housatonic Railroad (1840- 1931)
Beginning in 1840, the Housatonic Railroad operated a line with two stops in Trumbull. This railway provided local commuter trains which linked Danbury with Bridgeport Connecticut, and freight service as far North as Pittsfield Massachusetts. Running North through Trumbull, the single set of tracks passed through Trumbull Center, the Pequonnock River Valley, Parlor Rock Park and present day Old Mine Park. The tracks shown here were located at Parlor Rock Park. A hike along the old railroad bed in the Pequonnock Valley today reveals the extensive blasting that was required when the line was constructed back in the late 1830's. A crew of about 300 men constructed the bed and laid the train tracks. This hard manual labor required a lot of hand blasting of rocks and then shoveling the rubble into horse carts to be hauled away.


The Housatonic Railroad Train
This picture of the train at the station on Whitney Avenue was taken in the winter of 1916. Many different types of trains were used over the railroad's 91 year history. The first trains were small with wood-burning engines. On these early trains, the engineer, brakeman and entire crew had to stand out in the elements while their passengers rode behind in small coaches. These early wood-burning engines caused many fires due to the sparks they threw off. Passengers were often hit by flying sparks and sometimes entire cars were set ablaze. In the latter 1800's, the trains were converted to ones with more powerful coal-fired engines that hauled as many as thirty loaded freight cars. The engineers of these trains were respected, and no longer treated like stagecoach drivers, as the public became aware of their responsibilities for the safety and welfare of the passengers and freight. In early 1920's, just prior to this railroad's demise, the commuter train was replaced with a single gasoline powered car or "Gas Bus." Referred to as a dinky, this type of commuter train was nicknamed the "Toonerville Trolley."


Beers Mill Train Station
The station at Whitney Avenue pictured here was called the "Beers Mill" stop after the nearby grist mill once run by Gate Beers. This station was an essential transportation hub for many of Trumbull's early industries that were flourishing along nearby Long Hill Green and the Pequonnock River. As important as the train was to Trumbull's early industries, it was perhaps just as important to the local farmer. No longer would he have to move his grain by ox cart to market when it could be sent by train. Milk could also now sent to market in the specially built milk trains. The local farmer could now spend more time farming and socializing with family and friends now that the train could transport his goods.


The "Beers Mill" Station
Looking West from the Pequonnock River bridge on Whitney Avenue today, the place where Beers Mill station once stood, and where the train tracks crossed Whitney Avenue is still evident. In 1878, to increase their business on this line, the Housatonic Railroad Company opened Parlor Rock Amusement Park just North of where this station stood. During its heyday, picnickers from all over the state would come to Long Hill to spend a wonderful day at Parlor Rock Amusement Park. To accommodate all the picnickers, special excursion trains would stop North of the Station at a special siding that could handle up to fifteen cars. Guests were picked-up and let-off right at the park's entrance. Parlor Rock closed in 1907, and after the train stopped running in 1931, the Beers Mill train station was moved to Moose Hill Road and converted to a residence.


The Great Train Wrecks
Numerous train wrecks occurred during the Housatonic Railroad's 91 years of operation. Passengers were always at risk of accidents that infrequently occurred. Since the line was on a single lane of tracks, most of the serious accidents were head-on collisions. The picture of the train wreck shown here was captioned "Housatonic RR Wreck in Long Hill 1889." In an 1865 wreck, eleven persons died and another 27 were injured when a passenger train heading to Pittsfield Massachusetts came upon a disabled freight just North of Trumbull Center. The engineer then decided to back the train back to the Bridgeport depot when it collided with locomotive "Fairfield" on its first trial run. This normally unscheduled train had departed the Bridgeport depot only fifteen minutes after the Pittsfield bound passenger train. In 1881, a Parlor Rock excursion train from New Milford ran head on into a milk train just North of Parlor Rock. Fortunately, this accident occurred on a rainy day and the excursion train was not carrying many passengers. Only the excursion train's engineer was instantly killed when the two trains collided. In 1899, an accident North of the Beers Mill station resulted in two deaths. In 1901 a freight train running from Halleyville to Bridgeport met head on with a North bound freight train heading for Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The two trains collided about 1000 feet South of the Beers Mill station, resulting in the deaths of five people. The engineer of the South bound freight survived but lost his arm in the accident. He admitted to have been the cause of the accident when he fell asleep and failed to pull off at the Stepney siding and wait for the North bound freight to pass.


The Trumbull Church Station
The train station at Trumbull Center pictured here, was located near Tait Mill Road, and was called "Trumbull Church" after the nearby Trumbull Congregational Church. Both of Trumbull's train stations were "flag stops" meaning that the stationmaster was required to signal the on-coming passenger train with either a flag or lantern to indicate that there were passengers waiting. When the train first began, the fare to Bridgeport was 25 cents but was later reduced to 15 cents. In the early 1900's, an estimated 75 people from Trumbull would commute to Bridgeport daily in the winter months. Helen Plumb's father, Arthur E. Plumb, was one of the early stationmasters at the Trumbull Church station. The train stopped running through Trumbull in 1931 for several reasons. Parlor Rock Amusement Park had closed in 1907, due to falling patronage after the Town of Trumbull went dry and beer could no longer be sold. Probably the most significant reasons for the demise of Trumbull's railway was the popularity of private automobiles, the construction of new highways like the Merritt Parkway and buses that ran on more frequent schedules between Trumbull and Bridgeport.


 The Long Hill Trolley
The Bridgeport and Danbury Trolley Company started a Trolley line in 1913 that ran from downtown Bridgeport to Long Hill. The short lived line was originally planned to extend North to Bethel but never made it past Long Hill. During its six years of operation, the trolley line ran from just North of Stonehouse Road down Main Street to Golden Hill Street in Bridgeport and then over to the railroad station. The full fare from Long Hill to downtown Bridgeport was 15 cents, paid three times, 5 cents each time. High School students who used the trolley to attend school in Bridgeport bought a three month book of tickets for $12 each. At the end of the school year the town would reimburse the parents for these tickets. The picture shown here was taken at the Long Hill terminus. The trolley was wonderful for Clara Freer's ice cream and confectionery store business which was located here at the trolley's final stop. In inclement weather many waiting passengers would buy items from her store when they might not have otherwise.


The "Grasshopper"
The Long Hill Trolley was often referred to as the Grasshopper because it was painted a rich green color, and when it passed over Long Hill's rough roads with its low wheel base, it appeared to move along with a hopping, jouncing motion. There were actually two identical trolleys that serviced Long Hill. On numerous occasions the trolley would jump its tracks, especially on a curve near Blackhouse Road. The trolley motormen were dressed in blue uniforms and were noted for there courteous service. The trolley did not always fare well in the winter since it could not always make it up hills when it snowed and often abandoned passengers miles from their final destination. The trolley ceased operating in 1919, less than six years after it first began. The short lived trolley failed to remain profitable when bus service began in town. For many years after their service ended the trolleys were stored in Bridgeport's trolley barn until eventually they were junked.


The Long Hill Bus
Campyon "Camp" Cutter ran Long Hill's first bus, providing service to Bridgeport from 1917 to 1922. Camp is pictured here driving his bus with passengers Dorothy Seeley and Rita Shelomis aboard. The right-hand drive bus was manufactured by the Miller Motor Car Company of Bridgeport. The bus was open on its sides and had curtains that could be lowered in case of inclement weather. The bus route had no regular stops. When patrons wanted a ride they would flag the bus down and be charged 20 cents for a ride to Bridgeport. The bus went out of service because it lacked enough power to climb hills. Michaelangelo Sciortino, Chester Emack and Mr. Banay all operated early bus and taxi services in Long Hill, while Allie Abercrombie operated an early bus in Nichols. Later on, Charles Randall operated the first full-sized bus in Trumbull that carried children to school. Although the train and trolley vanished, bus service is still provided between Long Hill and Bridgeport today.


Folwler Taxi c. 1948
The Fowler family lived in Long Hill on the South-East corner of Whitney Ave and Broadway from 1941 to 1953. Charley Fowler who ran a taxi sevice for residents of Trumbull and Monroe is pictured with Trumbull Police Chief, Raymond Beckwith.


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