Waterbury Branch Improvements: PTC, Sidings, Service

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Waterbury Branch Improvements: PTC, Sidings, Service

Postby Jeff Smith » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:31 pm

From the Hartford Courant:

Transit planners are in the middle of a two-year study of the Waterbury branch, and are scheduled to recommend this summer whether to make minor enhancements, drastic improvements or no changes. They also might propose a complete overhaul by converting the right of way into a busway or light rail route.

Metro-North has gradually beefed up service on the route, but Naugatuck Valley commuters have insisted that ridership would rocket if the schedule were expanded. There's no simple way to add trains, the railroad says, because the relatively antiquated line is already maxxed out at morning and afternoon rush hours. Only one train at a time can operate because there are no signals and only a single set of tracks with nowhere for oncoming trains to pass. Also, the branch can accommodate only diesel service, so Metro-North can't pull trains from its heavily traveled and electrified New Haven-to- Manhattan main line.


Very interesting. As we've learned from Noel Weaver over on the Danbury CTC thread shown below, Waterbury was once a highly used double-track line. This could become an alternate route to Hartford / West Hartford if they also pursue reactivating the line to Berlin from W'Bury. I don't think they'll convert to LRT or BRT. I could see sidings and CTC being installed if they don't study the line to death. Forget electrification, BiggAW (who I am convinced is Systems Consciousness in disguise) will get his M-8's for SLE before that happens.

I'd like to see them rename the branch the Naugy, too.

Noel Weaver wrote:At one time the Waterbury was a better railroad than the Danbury was. Even though the Danbury had the wires the Waterbury was fully double track until 1950 and double track as far as Ansonia or rather a point somewhat east (railroad direction at the time) of Ansonia. This part of the second track came out between Ansonia and Derby Junction as a result of the August 19, 1955 floods. The CTC on the Maybrook Line was removed by Conrail sometime in 1979. I have the B/O on this somewhere here but it is not handy right now. Even after the second track was pulled up, they had decent sidings at
Naugatuck, Beacon Falls and Seymour for the purpose of making meets. Again, I would have to get into old timetables to determine just when these old sidings came out but I suspect it was either Conrail or Metro-North that removed them. Another thing about the Waterbury Line is the relatively few road crossings that exist. One in Waterbury, the next one between Ansonia and Derby and two or three between Derby Junction and Devon. There is more than this on the Danbury
Branch just in Norwalk alone. Back in the 1940's there was a lot of railroading on the Naugy (Waterbury Branch to most of you).
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby Otto Vondrak » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:51 pm

Sarge wrote:I'd like to see them rename the branch the Naugy, too.


Sorry, there's only room in this town for one Naugy, and we're it!!

Can someone please refresh my memory... wasn't there a period of time in the 1980s when all Waterbury Branch commuter service was suspended due to lack of fundung?
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby Erie-Lackawanna » Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:58 pm

No, it was suspended for an extended period in the early 80's due to flood damage, IIRC.

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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby TomNelligan » Wed Jan 07, 2009 9:22 pm

Erie-Lackawanna wrote:No, it was suspended for an extended period in the early 80's due to flood damage, IIRC.


Flood damage (a washout along the Housatonic south of Derby Junction) and the need for other trackwork, a lack of patronage compared to other MN lines, and a shortage of functional RDC and SPV equipment in the days when Bridgeport-Waterbury service was all handled by self-propelled cars.

The ridership increase reported in the Courant article is pretty amazing, considering how economically depressed the Valley was when I moved out of there in 1976. At the time, the traditional manufacturing industries (American Brass, US Rubber/Uniroyal, Farrel-Birmingham, etc.) had pretty much collapsed and nothing had taken their place as a source of jobs. The absurd real estate prices in Fairfield County did indeed push a lot of people northeast in recent years, and Valley towns with lots of relatively inexpensive housing benefited. Service on the line now is better than it was forty years ago, which I find kind of amazing given that it was in some danger of being dropped altogether during the bus substitution period.

From the Courant:

There's no simple way to add trains, the railroad says, because the relatively antiquated line is already maxxed out at morning and afternoon rush hours. Only one train at a time can operate because there are no signals and only a single set of tracks with nowhere for oncoming trains to pass.


What's the big deal? Back in the early 19th century, railroads invented these things called passing sidings that allowed two trains traveling in different directions to meet on a single-track line. MN might want to read up on that and restore a couple of the ones that used to be there. In late NH days the Naugatuck siding was used almost every night for a meet between the last northbound RDC and Waterbury-Cedar Hill freight DN-1.

They also might propose a complete overhaul by converting the right of way into a busway or light rail route.


Do people actually get paid with tax money to ponder that sort of stuff? If so, how can I get some? A busway is absurd when you have limited-access Route 8 paralleling the line from top to bottom with plenty of capacity for buses except for a couple miles south of Shelton at rush hour, and there's no way on earth the Naugatuck Valley would support light rail type service frequencies... there isn't even a Connecticut Transit bus north of Seymour and they want to run trolleys?
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby Noel Weaver » Thu Jan 08, 2009 5:10 am

Otto Vondrak wrote:
Sarge wrote:I'd like to see them rename the branch the Naugy, too.


Sorry, there's only room in this town for one Naugy, and we're it!!

Can someone please refresh my memory... wasn't there a period of time in the 1980s when all Waterbury Branch commuter service was suspended due to lack of fundung?


For quite some time before Metro-North the train service to Waterbury did not operate due to lack of equipment and maybe
some other reasons. This went on for quite some time and although the trains were still in the timetables, buses operated
in place of them stopping only at the railroad stations. There may have been track conditions affecting this too.
There was no major flood damage on this line or in this area after the floods in 1955. The dam at Thomaston took care of
that situation. I am not saying that they never have had weather related problems since 1955 but 1955/56 was the last
prolonged period of no service due to flood damage.
I am well aware of the RMNE in Thomaston but I still reserve the right to call the line between Devon and Waterbury and the
passenger trains that operate on it the "NAUGY". It was an old New Haven term and was used for a long, long time.
Probably the best term for Metro-North people is the "Waterbury Branch".
As for Waterbury - New Britain - Berlin - Hartford, Waterbury - Plainville became single track in the late 30's but Plainville -
Hartford remained double track until either 1953 or 1954. It had automatic block signals of the semaphore type all through
that period too. The direct line between New Britain and Hartford was phased out within the last 20 or 25 years or so and
only the branch to Berlin remains for a connection to Hartford. I think the abandoned right of way may belong to the
State of Connecticut at present. I do not think it is practical to restore this route to passenger service by rail and I would
think the leadership in Connecticut would have brains enough to realize that.
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby edbac333 » Thu Jan 08, 2009 12:57 pm

I can confirm that the flooding in 1982 washed out the bridge on the Waterbury line south of Derby in Orange right at Turkey Brook,as I remember looking at it.It took awhile to fix this and it was during this service outage the double track was removed between Derby and Devon as well. This flooding was the only real test I remember of all the flood control placed in the Naugatuck Valley.The water was high enough to also wash against the bridge for the Waterbury line over Naugatuck River in Ansonia and against the gates in the flood walls where the train tracks go through.
The town of Orange had a lot of damage from streams and smaller rivers and the washout at Turkey Broook was just one of them.
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby Otto Vondrak » Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:11 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:I am well aware of the RMNE in Thomaston but I still reserve the right to call the line between Devon and Waterbury and the passenger trains that operate on it the "NAUGY". It was an old New Haven term and was used for a long, long time.
Probably the best term for Metro-North people is the "Waterbury Branch".


Agreed, Noel. More of a joke with Sarge than anything else. I often find myself describing the whole Devon-Torrington route as the Naugy in certain company...
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby Otto Vondrak » Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:13 pm

TomNelligan wrote:A busway is absurd when you have limited-access Route 8 paralleling the line from top to bottom with plenty of capacity for buses...


Agreed, Tom. The Naugatuck Valley has something the "Danbury" Valley lacks- a limited access four-lane highway. I wonder if we would be clamoring for extra trains on the Danbury if the Super 7 had actually been built.
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby Jeff Smith » Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:59 pm

Otto Vondrak wrote:
TomNelligan wrote:A busway is absurd when you have limited-access Route 8 paralleling the line from top to bottom with plenty of capacity for buses...


Agreed, Tom. The Naugatuck Valley has something the "Danbury" Valley lacks- a limited access four-lane highway. I wonder if we would be clamoring for extra trains on the Danbury if the Super 7 had actually been built.


<hits ground with thud>

Appreciate the Naugy joke, Otto.

I'd venture that the rail line would be gone, or rail-banked, anyway, with the entire corridor "suburbanized" with strip malls, and people clamoring for rail resumption due to the congestion. How the Waterbury line survived I don't know, but I'm glad it did. When Rowland proposed killing it, even though I opposed it, I understood the rationale - there's already a highway......

Someone posted a year or so ago about the need for more trains. I think I blew it off, but given the growth, was clearly mistaken in my opinion. I kind of wish now they'd run RDC's along the HRRC for a ways, too, connecting at Derby Junction. That's what I'd recommend for New Milford, too; not invest a lot of money, just start a demo service. Even a mini-bomb (with P-40's and VRE's - screw SLE! That's a joke.).
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin? Hartford???

Postby Jeff Smith » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:48 am

Additional (locked) thread: http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=67&t=58873 This thread has a link to another article.

I place this here since CDOT operations, whether SLE/Amtrak/MNRR or not, is part of this. You all will love this article, especially the blurb about "Pan Am Passenger Rail":

Bristol Press

The service would use an existing freight line railroad track that runs through Bristol and New Britain on its way to Berlin, where it can hook up with the Amtrak line that runs along the Connecticut River.

Light rail is “critical to the movement of people,” said Mike Nicastro, president of the Greater Bristol Chamber of Commerce. Having it is an important element in restoring the city center, he said.

“It runs right through the center of our town,” said state Rep. Frank Nicastro, a Bristol Democrat whose 79th District covers the southern third of the city.

Nicastro said “it would not be that costly” to begin passenger service on the existing rail line.

This is “a good time” to pursue the idea, said state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat whose 22nd District includes portions of both Bristol and New Britain.

Boukus said she can envision a time when Pan Am passenger trains might be able to take people from Bristol all the way to Maine, at the other end of the regional system.

Mike Nicastro pointed out that from Waterbury, train riders can connect to the Metro North system that runs trains into New York City.

The Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency recently renewed its support for the proposed commuter line.


Wow. "Not that costly". Right. First, the line will never be converted to light rail. Pan Am, like HRRC, would want upgrades. Now, CDOT owns some of the trackage HRRC operates over, so there's some leverage there. What leverage would CDOT have over Pan Am? Pan Am owns that ROW, although I'm at a loss as to how they access it (over Amtrak's Springfield line?).


Ken Sooshan-Staller, a regional planner, said the current estimate pegs the cost of upgrading the tracks, including bridges and the construction of new depots, at $52 million.

Those pushing the idea say that perhaps old Metro North trains could be used without piling up much additional expense.

Sooshan-Staller said the last major study of the rail line’s possible use came 17 years ago. Another study is the next necessary step, he said.

“It’s very favorable that they’re talking about funding the feasibility study,” Ward said.

Officials said that some changes in the line would be needed to prevent traffic tie-ups at busy intersections such as Bristol’s Maple End or a handful of junctions in New Britain.

There are currently four freight trains a day running between Plainville and Berlin and one between Bristol and Waterbury.

The average speed on the single track is about 20 miles an hour, with some sections requiring slower speeds but some sections allow faster travel.


How much will the study cost LOL. Old MNRR trains? Better not let BiggAW know; he wants those old M-2's saved at any cost! :wink: That said, I think this, along with other initiatives, are worthy.
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin?

Postby D.Carleton » Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:18 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:The direct line between New Britain and Hartford was phased out within the last 20 or 25 years or so and
only the branch to Berlin remains for a connection to Hartford. I think the abandoned right of way may belong to the
State of Connecticut at present. I do not think it is practical to restore this route to passenger service by rail and I would
think the leadership in Connecticut would have brains enough to realize that.

According to the state rail map the 4.5 miles were land banked sixteen years ago. For those of us unfamiliar with this line what is the impractability of restoring trackage to this ROW?
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin? Hartford???

Postby BiggAW » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:07 pm

Sarge wrote:How much will the study cost LOL. Old MNRR trains? Better not let BiggAW know; he wants those old M-2's saved at any cost! :wink: That said, I think this, along with other initiatives, are worthy.


That same New England Yankee cheapness wouldn't get the line electrified. :D

On a serious note, what is this semi-proposed line for? Commuter rail from little towns to Hartford and Waterbury? I guess it would create a triangle with NHHS, whenever that gets done. The real question is, who would ride it? Something like this could make a convincing case for those heavy-rail DMU's that don't exist so they could run down to the main line to transfer to a STM-GCT bound train. :D Does anyone else feel like the state should stop studying stuff and build out Danbury and/or NHHS?
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin? Hartford???

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:28 pm

I think the State of Connecticut should concentrate their funding on existing Metro-North rail service and the three branches
and forget about what they do not have funds for and it is not very likely that the feds would waste their limited resources
on additional rail lines in Connecticut where they are not needed.
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin? Hartford???

Postby BiggAW » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:43 pm

I would agree in regards to Waterbury- Berlin. NHHS, however, would be HUGE for Connecticut and Springfield. It would serve three decent sized cities and connect with two other existing services (SLE and MNCR).

Considering SLE is a success (other than the New London run), NHHS would be even better, as I think Amtrak runs like two or three trains through there a day (the Springfield shuttles would likely be replaced by NHHS CDOT trains), so the schedule would make a little more sense than SLE's schedule, which was created the only way it could be given the fact that the Shore Line is double-tracked- around Amtrak's, and then P&W's was sort of created around what was left midday. NHHS wouldn't often get delayed by an Amtrak train that's late from somewhere else like SLE does.

Yes, either SLE or NHHS looks pathetic compared to MNCR, but let's not forget that MNCR, in the whole scheme of things is a MASSIVE commuter rail operation (the biggest in the US?).
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Re: Waterbury Upgrades Discussed - W'Bury-Berlin? Hartford???

Postby Tom Curtin » Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:19 am

Folks, it appears to me that CDOT's record (going back a few decades) indicates they will not be interested in instituting any passenger service on any lines that don't already have it. Thus we have SLE. Thus we might have Springfield line service. But they have turned thumbs down on "Highland Line" passenger service before.
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