Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

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Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby chnhrr » Fri Dec 12, 2014 9:34 pm

I grew up in Old Greenwich during the last few years of the New Haven. When I got bored with my friends, I often went to the station to watch the action of freight, commuter and express trains passing by. Was there anything particular about this station, besides the fact that there was a nearby siding to the Electrolux plant or was it just another local stop along the main line? Added photos of the station would be greatly appreciated.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Backshophoss » Sat Dec 13, 2014 1:37 am

Don't you mean Riverside?
That was the 1st station east of Cob moveable Bridge,however Don't think there were any freight
sidings untill the Stamford/Greenwich town line,if any.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Ocala Mike » Sat Dec 13, 2014 1:44 pm

Thought from the thread title that there was a railroad bridge across Long Island Sound that I didn't know about. Sound Beach is a community on the north shore of Long Island where I spent several summers enjoying my uncle's summer home during the late 50's.

Is there also a Sound Beach along the CT shore?
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Ridgefielder » Sat Dec 13, 2014 7:23 pm

Old Greenwich station was originally called Sound Beach. Name was changed at some point in the 20th century, not sure when or why.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:51 pm

According to the Greenwich Historical Society what is today called Old Greenwich was actually the original Greenwich, first settled by Europeans in 1640. The New Haven Railroad played an integral part in the town's history:
“Greenwich” became the name for central Greenwich in 1848 when the first train station was constructed in town. It was changed because “Horseneck,” the former name for the downtown central area, was considered too provincial. Afterwards, the original community of Greenwich became “Greenwich, Old Town,” but when the train began stopping there in 1872, the community’s name was changed again to “Sound Beach” in order to attract summer tourists to the beaches. It reverted back to “Old Greenwich” in 1931 because there were no longer any public beaches to serve tourists disembarking from the train.


Here's a link to the Greenwich Historical Society page. On the map that appears click on the purple banners to open a pop-up capsule history of each section of Greenwich.

However, according to a story I heard about fifty years ago -- from a New Haven trainman on a New Haven local to Stamford -- the name was changed from Sound Beach "when they started hiring Italian trainmen. That's because of the way they pronounced it. Approaching Sound Beach they'd open the coach door and yell, 'Soun'a Beach, Soun'a Beach!'" :-D

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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:36 am

The Electrolux USA vacuum cleaner factory in Old Greenwich was apparently a longtime New Haven freight customer. I vaguely remember the plant from riding past it many times. It was located on the westbound side of the right-of-way and worked by local freights. This is from an Electrolux website:

In late 1933, Electrolux established their first American plant in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, occupying buildings previously owned by the Dalton Lathe & Tool Company, and prior to that, the Welte-Tripp Pipe Organ Company....The original Old Greenwich factory was a single-floor building erected in 1919 and had a total of 55,000 square feet including offices and power plant...An important asset of this location was the railroad tracks running alongside the factory which made shipping easy, safe, and less costly. It was an easy matter to load a boxcar and send it off to Boston, Denver, Chicago, or wherever a shipment was to be delivered.


Here's a stylized drawing of the plant dated 1951: Image

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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Ocala Mike » Sun Dec 14, 2014 3:32 pm

Tommy, being Italian-American, I've heard pretty much all the jokes about place names ranging from why so many Italian men are named Tony to and including the mispronouncing of Norfolk, Virginia with NSFW results! :wink:
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Tommy Meehan » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:28 pm

Mike I'm sure you've heard all the jokes. In fact I hesitated before posting that story, not wanting to offend anyone. But I decided that since this was the first time in fifty years the renaming of Sound Beach had come up it was now or never!

Funny how things stick in your mind. I remember the trainman had come in the end door of our 4400 series Washboard MU coach and announced that, "Old Greenwich is next, Old Greenwich." The trainman was a friendly sort and an elderly gentleman seated nearby said to him, "Years ago they used to call Old Greenwich by another name." As a railfan my ears perked up at that. The trainman said, "Yeah they used to call it Sound Beach." I had never heard that name before. Then the trainman added, with a big grin, "You know why they had to change the name?"

:-D
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby CannaScrews » Tue Dec 16, 2014 11:22 am

Tommy Meehan wrote:
However, according to a story I heard about fifty years ago -- from a New Haven trainman on a New Haven local to Stamford -- the name was changed from Sound Beach "when they started hiring Italian trainmen. That's because of the way they pronounced it. Approaching Sound Beach they'd open the coach door and yell, 'Soun'a Beach, Soun'a Beach!'" :-D

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Very interesting and evocative anecdote - however, and I'm sure this can be verified, the operating department 50 years ago (or 80 years ago when the name was changed), did not have any trainmen/ticket collectors/conductors/engineers (and god forbid a roadmaster) of Italian descent (especially if their English was accented), since back then, that craft was very closed to other than Irish immigrants (or sons of) and the previous generation's male progeny. America was a different place then. When you got off the boat, you started at the bottom, and the operations department was way far from the bottom, no matter how good you thought you were or motivated, you just didn't get the job. Leaning on an Ames shovel was your ticket to steady work.

A Trainmaster of Italian extract I personally knew when he retired (and his son worked for MNCR I think as an example of the back then rampant nepotisim) was around on the New Haven in the '60s, but he spoke perfect Connecticut and I doubt that his father worked as a trainmen back in the 1920s.

One can do a master's thesis on the discrimination of railroad employees.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby chnhrr » Fri Dec 19, 2014 10:17 pm

Here’s a current aerial view of the station. The only original structures remaining are the station house, the bridge and possibly the stairs leading to Sound Beach Avenue. It seems that versions of this station house were repeated along the main line.

When I used to go the station in the Sixties as a causal observer or young passenger to New York, I don’t remember seeing a station or ticket agent in this facility. When did that level of service end?
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Engineer Spike » Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:21 am

I'm surprised that they renamed it Old Greenwich. There was an accident on B&M where a station East XYZ was mistaken for XYZ. To avoid confusion, similar station names were changed. Someone told me that they did the same on New Haven. It might have been because it was just a good idea, but it could have happened when B&M was under New Haven control.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Ridgefielder » Wed Dec 31, 2014 12:25 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:I'm surprised that they renamed it Old Greenwich. There was an accident on B&M where a station East XYZ was mistaken for XYZ. To avoid confusion, similar station names were changed. Someone told me that they did the same on New Haven. It might have been because it was just a good idea, but it could have happened when B&M was under New Haven control.

The only place I know for sure that the New Haven renamed was "Cannondale" on the Danbury branch; the original name was "Cannon's" which in a Yankee accent sounds close enough to Canaan-- another 60 miles up the Berkshire Route-- that it confused the passengers. Other than that, similarity of names doesn't seem to have troubled management: in southwestern Connecticut alone, I know there were two Wiltons (South Wilton, Wilton), two Greenwiches (Greenwich, Old Greenwich), three Havens (West, East, North) and no fewer than four Norwalks (South Norwalk, East Norwalk, Norwalk, and Norwalk Mills.) Given the geographic naming conventions of New England-- whereby Anytown begets North/East/South/West Anytown, Anytown Center, Anytown Depot/Station/Junction, Anytown Falls, Anytown Mills, Anytown Port, etc., etc.--I'm sure there are many, many other examples.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby TCurtin » Thu Jan 29, 2015 12:29 pm

If you look in the NH employee timetable at locations that have repeated names, ie., north, south, east, west, or new, old, you will see the RR have such locations totally different "official"
names to distinguish them.

Old Greenwich CT did not get a different name, but you did have the following (These are only examples that I happen to know of):
Niagara, MA (Lenoxdale)
Hurlbut, MA (South Lee)
Scantic CT (E. Windsor)
Wapping, CT (S. Windsor)
Spring Brook CT (South Wethersfield)
Landers, CT (New Hartford)
Hopkins CT (South Wilton)
Clement MA (West Barnstable)
Moorland MA (North Truro)

. . . .and on and on.

But this wasn't a consistent practice because there were other place besides Old Greenwich CT that did NOT have an "official" name, eg:
West Stockbridge MA
South Worcester MA
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby oamundsen » Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:59 pm

Having spent the first third of my 76 years about a half mile from the Old Greenwich station but living in Riverside, I will always have fond memories of that station. When quite young, I would go with my buddies by train from Old Greenwich one stop to Stamford to see a Saturday matinée movie. In my high school years, I would take the 8:05 local from Old Greenwich to Greenwich, walk up Greenwich Avenue to the Greenwich High School. While in high school, I got a tour of the massive NYNH&H power plant in Cos Cob because my Dad knew, John Coolidge who was the plant manager. It was awesome. My family was in the boat business, so I would go under the large railroad drawbridge over the Mianus River between Cos Cob and Riverside many times and since our home was about 200 feet from the four track main line, I felt that the NH was an integral part of my life. The Old Greenwich station on the west side was large and always manned and the east bound side had a tiny building with a little coal stove for heat when I was young. Behind the east side station was a coal yard with a large coal trestle. As was mentioned, on the west side was the Electrolux plant with its siding and there was also a team track where the Conde Nast printing plant used to get its massive rolls of glossy paper and where, as a young boy, I helped my Dad unload a box car of molded plywood sailboat hulls made by Boeing out in Seattle and also a car load of Philippine mahogany lumber...plank at a time. I also, later in life used the NH to do a weekly commute from Stamford to Boston for college and then between Old Greenwich and NYC for graduate school. The NYNH&H was one wonderful railroad for many years.
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Re: Old Greenwich – Sound Beach

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:37 pm

Just for the record the NHRR Employee Timetable no.113 dated 9-28-30 showed the station in question as Sound Beach while the very next timetable no. 114 showed the station as Old Greenwich and there were no supplements to timetable no 113 so I think it is safe to say rhe name change took effect on the effective date of timetable no. 114 which was April 26, 1931.
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