The Seabreeze Route - Trolley Cars on the Connecticutt Shoreline

Trolley Photos

Trolley at the CT Trolley Museum Photo: Edward M. Fielding
Trolley at the CT Trolley Museum Photo: Edward M. Fielding

The Sea Breeze Route


Back in 1905 the Shore Line Electric Railway received a charter from the State of Connecticut to build and operate a trolley line from Stony Creek to Ivoryton. Along its route it would connect the communities of Stony Creek, Guilford, Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook and follow the Connecticut River to Ivoryton. Five years later the Seabreeze Route was in operation.

At its peak the Shore Line Electric system boasted over one hundred cars and ran on 250 miles of track.

Power came from overhead feed lines which could run up to two connected cars at once. The cars used on the line used twice the amount of power as typical city trolleys so the cars of the Shore Line Electric Railway were capable of speeds up to 80 mph.

The line ran 34 ton Jewett cars painted green with gold lettering and were upholstered in green velvet. A very plush ride indeed. Each car had at least forty seats. The cars had two sections – a parlor compartment and a smoking compartment. In the parlor section the seats faced forward while in the smoking section there were bench like seats along the sides.

Passengers entered the cars at the midway point instead of the ends as in later trolley models. This was called the “vestibule”. At each stop the conductor took up position in the vestibule area and lowered the steps for the passengers.

The line also had line cars and freight cars to service the line and to carry supplies to area stores. The line cars brought men out to fix problems with the line while the freight cars serviced stores such as Fenwick's Bakery. Mr. Charles Fenwick's bakery business was located on a siding at the Chapman Beach stop. He would receive barrels of flour and sugar from New Haven.

On each car a conductor and motorman were needed to run the trolley cars which ran every day during the day. Summer timetables show that half-hour service was maintained between New Havan and Saybrook with extra runs on Sundays. The trains ran from early morning to 1 A.M. In Saybrook. The conductor and motorman worked eight hour days and were paid 37 to 42 cents and hour depending on experience. A fare from Saybrook to New Haven cost $1.01 at the time. Short jaunts say from Chapman Beach to Saybrook were five cents.

The Sea Breeze Route ran for nine years until trouble began, first in 1917 when a head-on collision tool the lives of 19 people and seriously injured 22 others when one of the conductors fell asleep on the gentle rocking trolley. Then in June 1919 there was another crash and 12 more people were killed. Later that year a strike among the conductors and motormen lead to some derailments from the strikers and other disruptions of the line. Riders became fearful of the line safety and all trolley transportation ceased for four years.

In July 1923 operation reopened under the ownership of the New Haven and Shore Line Company using lighter, one-man cars. Unfortunately by this time buses had started eroding the ridership of trolley lines on the shoreline and all over America, on January 1, 1930 the last trolley rode over the rails.

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