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Rail-fanning in Connecticut - Riding the rails around Connecticut

Updated on June 1, 2011

Steaming up the Connecticut River Valley

Travel tips for the train lover - take a train ride this summer!
Travel tips for the train lover - take a train ride this summer!

There are plenty of railfanning opportunities in Connecticut

Connecticut might not be a very large state but it does have a lot of opportunities for train fans to get out and ride the rails on a steam train or trolley. Plus the states close proximity to major metro areas of New York and Boston means their are plenty of rail fans in day trip range of these attractions.

A Round Up of Connecticut's Fine Railway Museums

Many of the following tourist attractions for rail fans are not too far from each other. In a getaway weekend rail enthusiasts should be able to take in several of these fine living museums.

Essex Steam Train

Nothing like the sound and fury of a steam train!
Nothing like the sound and fury of a steam train!

Essex Steam Train and Steamboat

Connecticut's best known and premiere rail attraction has to be the Essex Steam Train in beautiful Connecticut River Valley.

Located along the Connecticut River with connections to a steamboat near the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam as well as a hiking connection to the Gillette Castle, Dinner Trains plus special events like the Circus Train and Thomas the Train appearances, the Essex Steam train offers a variety of riding options for railfans.

Movie buffs would be excited to know that scenes from the last Indiana Jones movie were shot on the Essex location.

The Essex Steam Train has been a Connecticut Valley fixture for over forty years and offers mainly the excitement of a train ride due to its great location and available trackage. The organization offers less in terms of museum exhibits.

Essex Steam Trains were used in Indiana Jones Movie

Roundhouse at the CERM

Collection of old train equipment at the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Collection of old train equipment at the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum

Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum

The Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum is located off Bridge Street in downtown Willimantic, Connecticut, on the original site of the Columbia Junction Freight Yard. Our collection includes locomotives and rolling stock, as well as vintage railroad buildings and a six-stall roundhouse reconstructed on the original foundation.

Visitors can receive a guided tour of the museum and kids of all ages can operate a replica 1850's-style pump car along a section of rail that once was part of the New Haven Railroad's "Air Line".

Future plans include extending track from the museum site to the Bridge Street entrance, reconstructing structures such as water towers on their original foundations, and erecting a Railroad Station/Visitor Center.

Fun with a hand cart - CERM

Trains in Danbury

Danbury Railway Museum

The Danbury Railway Museum located at at 120 White Street in the old Danbury Train Station at the corner of White Street and Patriot Drive, houses plenty of hands off and hands on exhibits including a Lionel model railroad

You can ride an original New Haven RR operating turntable, explore the Boston & Maine 1455 Steam Engine and tour of the 6-acre Railyard with over 70 pieces of historic railroad equipment and artifacts. Train rides are available on weekends April - November.

Riding the turntable at the Danbury Railway Museum

CT Trolley Museum

Connecticut Trolley Museum

Located in East Windsor, Connecticut, the Connecticut Trolley Museum was founded in 1940 making it the oldest incorporated museum dedicated to electric railroading in the United States.

Among the collections is the "Streetcar Named Desire". The museums include exhibits and trolley rides around the track. The Connecticut Trolley Museum has over 70 pieces of rail equipment dating back to 1869. During your visit, you can see historic passenger and freight street "trolley" cars, interurban cars, elevated railway cars, passenger and freight railroad cars, service cars, locomotives, and a variety of other equipment from railways around Connecticut and from places like Brooklyn, Boston, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Springfield, Lynchburg, Montreal, and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Connecticut Trolley Museum

Touring the Shortline Trolley Museum

Trolley along the shoreline

This trolley ride amazingly skims across tidal marshes.
This trolley ride amazingly skims across tidal marshes.

The Shoreline Trolley Museum

Not the biggest transportation museum in the state but this museum located near New Haven is a lot of fun. There is a small museum with local historic trolley information and a fun trolley ride along the shoreline and salt marshes to the car barn where you get an informative tour of the trolley restorations.

The Shore Line Trolley Museum has been an important part of the community since its incorporation in 1945 as the Branford Electric Railway Association - it boasts a collection of nearly 100 vintage vehicles as well as artifacts and documents from the trolley era. The museum is easy to reach, its only 3 minutes from I-95 or US-1, just off the East Haven Town Green.

Read about Connecticut's Trolley History

Naugatuck Railroad

Steam returns to the Naugatuck Railroad.  Flagg Coal Co. #75 is a 40 ton coal-fired steam locomotive built in 1930.
Steam returns to the Naugatuck Railroad. Flagg Coal Co. #75 is a 40 ton coal-fired steam locomotive built in 1930.

Railroad Museum of New England

Located in Thomaston, the Railroad Museum of New England is a great place to see vintage rolling stock including including locomotives of all types, passenger cars, freight cars, and cabooses.

The RMNE is started in 1968 in the region of the Naugatuck Railroad. The members of the museum are currently restoring the Thomaston Station including several outbuildings including display tracks, and operating control tower and more.

Railroad Museum of New England

Tourist Trains, Museums, Displays Around CT

Copyright Edward M. Fielding


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