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In southern New England’s golden age of railroads, massive engines pulled freight and passenger cars to and from virtually every town between New York City and Boston. The locomotives were respected for their power, their industry, and, oddly enough, their beauty.

The predominant railroad of the time was the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, better known as the New Haven Railroad. It influenced everything from the growth of the region’s commerce and industry to working class leisure activities and Boston Brahmin vacation plans. The railroad’s locomotives, a constant presence in southern New England’s towns andcities, engendered awe in the young boys, and perhaps a few girls, who sat on the bluffs to watch the plumes from the smokestacks of the steam engines as the trains went by on their daily runs.

For almost one hundred years the New Haven Railroad was the primary means of passenger and freight transportation in southern New England. At its peak in 1929, the railroad owned and operated over two thousand miles of track throughout New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The railroad declined after World War II, unable to compete with increased dependence on the automobile and the introduction of air shuttle service between New York and Boston. The end came on January 1, 1969, when the company was absorbed into the Penn Central system.

The exhibit presents images from Railroad History Archive at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, which holds thousands of images of locomotives and trains of the New Haven Railroad. The archive also includes administrative, real estate, financial and legal records of the railroad and over two hundred predecessor and subsidiary companies that were leased or purchased by the railroad in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These corporate records are supplemented by related collections of photographs,maps, researchers’ files, and ephemera.

Dodd Research Center Gallery
Curator: Laura Katz Smith

Image: New Haven Railroad steam locomotive 1107 in Boston, MA, 1938
Photographer: Fred Otto Makowsky

To view more images, click on the image above.