This Trip took place on August 1st:
At this point I’ve done the entire New Haven Line and all train stations in Connecticut (except for a couple tiny stations on the Waterbury Branch, plus needing to revisit Waterbury itself) east of Norwalk. For the summer though because of construction on the Housatonic Swing Bridge closing off all access to the east track from the Devon wye that connects the Waterbury Branch to the main line Metro-North has constructed a temporary Devon Transfer platform that will only be in use for the summer. Although this station is temporary in nature. I just had to check it out and asked by other friend Robert (my main partner in crime on many trips) to join me and connect it with an overnight to his parents beach house near Westerly, Rhode Island. The goal of this connection would be to give us 45 minutes at the Devon Transfer platform, hopefully waiting for the next New Haven-bound train to arrive. According to the Metro-North website (but not Google Maps) we would have to board the next train, ride to Bridgeport, double-back on a train stopping at Devon Transfer to finally get to New Haven to connect to Shore Line East to Old Saybrook (because the timing was good, the extra Shore Line East ride costing 55¢ more) and then Amtrak to head to Westerly. The other goal of the trip would be to finally visit the SONO Switch Tower open only during summer weekends. Last summer I took a New Haven Line train by it and was very disappointed I hadn’t planned a layover in Norwalk to visit it when I saw people angling their cameras for photos out of the station windows.
The morning comes and I’m contemplating doing the 3 mile, hour long walk to Fordham but get going a bit late (with 40 minutes). I decide to walk down the hill towards 181 Street to try things a little differently. I just miss the Bx36 but another one comes relatively soon. I take this to Webster Avenue where I’m tracking the Bx41 and see one is approaching the stop. Were waiting at the light for it to change and luckily it does (bus signal priority, not fully working) with the next Bx41-fSBS stopped at the light as we make the left turn into the shared stop. I dip my MetroCard into the Validating Machine and get on the bus. The two-stop ride up Webster Avenue is a bit slow primarily because of trucks double-parking in the bus lane as we approach Fordham. I get off at Fordham at 11:51 alongside the New York-bound platform.
I decide to take a slight detour with 5 minutes to spare and walk up to the new ramp entrance and down the extreme northern end of the Grand Central-bound platform, instead of going around to the direct entrance. The Fordham Station is being reconstructed to better accommodate its current, extremely high reverse peak ridership. The outbound platform is also being widened onto a sliver of land the MTA has purchased from Fordham University. This platform also now has a full-length canopy. The signs on the platform can’t make up their mind if my train is on time or running 6 minutes late.
I get some pictures and notice signs that informing me that the elevator from the Grand Central-bound platform up to the station building is closed. I can either use the elevator or walk down to the Fordham Plaza exit at the very end of the platform. The problem with doing this is the southern end of the northbound platform is closed so that Fordham Plaza rear staircase is closed. The elevator arrives and I notice it feels new, taking it up to the station. I quickly use a TVM to buy my first $6.50 ticket of the day to East Norwalk. I have enough time for more photos of the northbound platform before my train arrives at 10:59.
I pay attention a bit more then normal on a New Haven Line local ride, the main reason is that finally writing up my primarily 3 year-old photos of the line is needed. I take notes of the stations to pay attention. I notice that all the stops except the last two, Rye and Port Chester have received new black fencing and more modern green lamppost, I saw this project under construction three years ago on my long day on the branch all by bus. Once in Connecticut I realize the only two stops I haven’t visited at all on the New Haven main line (a few more need revisiting before I can get any sort of real content) are Greenwich (a major stop) and Riverside.
We arrive in Stamford at 11:46, 5 minutes early; its recovery time is huge. The scheduled arrival time is 11:51. I make a point of waiting for the doors to open and get off on the side platform at Stamford, not remembering having any photos of it. This gives me an excuse to use the smaller overpass where all the escalators are going down, there is a staircase in the opposite direction that also connects to a bridge over to the parking garage. I assume in the evening the single escalators are going up.
I get on the next New Haven-bound train at 11:54, a few minutes late, that has run express to Stamford and will run local for the rest of its trip. I find Robert my friend and its a quick trip to East Norwalk where we arrive at 12:08, the conductor doesn’t bother coming through to collect my ticket (it’s already been punched I can’t really try and use it again).
The East Norwalk Station is extremely poorly designed with two platforms each on the near side (to get into bus stop lingo) of an underpass.
There isn’t even a decent pedestrian crosswalk to cross the street and get between the tracks.
We leave South Norwalk and just miss getting the Northbound Vermonter.
We start walking to our first destination of the day, across the Norwalk River and get the next half-hours Metro-North trains passing as were on the bridge. The bell that the draw bridge is being raised for the Sheffield Lighthouse Ferry starts ringing, so we quickly leave the bridge, and the bridge operator closes the gates as soon as we do.
We walk a little farther and make our first stop of the day, the SONO Switch Tower Museum, it’s a small museum in the decommissioned tower (used until 1984) and open by a crew of volunteers on Sundays in Summer (admission is free, donations are appreciated we both leave a few dollars).
We enter and a volunteer takes us up to the top floor. This is the actual tower level with a series of levers that controled the switches, signals and other safety mechanisms. It takes a lot of manual work for us to ‘fake’ set a switch with the interlocking machine (on the floor below) having a number of failsafe mechanisms like prohibiting the signals from being set on an open switch (which would cause a derailment) and the like. My one disappointment is the running board in the tower doesn’t show the actual trains in the area. It doesn’t get a live feed from Metro-North (that controls the switches by computers from its operation command center on the fifth floor of Grand Central)
We’re told we can spend as long as we like photographing trains through open windows that isn’t all that easy. Neither of my attempted trains come out all that well. An Acela is supposed to pass but is running over an hour a late!
We then head downstairs to the small gallery across from the ‘brains’ of the interlocking machine (I somehow forgot to snap a photo of the machine). I’m always a fan of the original cloth track assignment curtains used in Grand Central until Italian ‘flip’ boards were installed (the current electronic sign system is just third-generation).
We then leave Sono and head to East Norwalk.
We buy our $5.50 tickets to Naugatuck to visit the second goal of the day, Devon Transfer. The train arrives 9 minutes late at We board a new M8 single car (these cars lack cabs, but do have pantographs and aren’t trailers) and I immediately notice equipment boxes that take up space out in the open.
The crew is too busy getting everyone up to the front two cars because of bridgeplates at Southport, Fairfield, and Fairfield Metro due to routine weekend trackwork to collect any tickets and at Fairfield Metro the train actually backs up a couple of times to correctly align with the narrow bridgeplates. We eventually stop in Bridgeport where two people doing one of my biggest pet peeves, listening to music without headphones from their smartphones board the train. It’s annoying but almost amusing with the copetition.
We leave Stratford very slowly waiting for an Acela to go by so we can use the switches onto the normal New York-bound express track and cross the Housantonic river. The voice says this station is Milford as we enter Devon Transfer with four car wooden platforms at 2:56 to walk over to our connecting train. Some grab quick cigarettes.
The New Haven Line train train tries to leave and then stops again clearly because two people have gotten off thinking its Milford. We board the middle Shoreliner (the front one is closed) and slowly leave at 3:01 on new trackage (the other side of the Devon wye). We pick-up speed beyond the junction the whistle of the Brookfield locomotive blaring.
At 3:07 we have picked up speed under the Merritt Parkway as we follow the Housantonic River. It’s a scenic ride up a river valley. there is an obnoxious guy who got on the train with us in Bridgeport that keeps playing music without his headphones. He’s a bit better than on our previous train. The full foliage on the trees compared to my previous ride on this branch over ten years ago in March makes the river hard to see.
3:14 – Cross the Naugatuck River and see the Newtown Branch diverge.
At 3:16 we stop at Derby-Shelton, then we pass strip malls and a planet fitness. Then we’re into trees.
We cross the Naugatuck River again and follow it as we stop at 3:18 in Ansonia with a canopy and 3 shelters next to it. Then it’s past a bunch of abandoned factories.
We soon reach more trees and keep following the river with tons of trees.
We cross onto a high viaduct and see a wooden pedestrian bridge entering Seymour. A few people are getting on. We keep heading north under Route-8 grade-seperated. We head into trees on the trial line. The Naugatuck River is now on the opposite side of the train.
3:31-Pass a warehouse
we stop in Beacon Falls (that will now be the only stop east of Norwalk in the state of Connecticut I haven’t visited) for no one in a parking lot with 3 cars at 3:33.
We keep following the River with Route 8 on the opposite side.
We get to Naugatuck at 3:40, 15 minutes late. I slowly do my photo essay. We spend the layover grabbing a late lunch of a giant (and cheap) grinder at a branch of Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe a block from the station.
The train comes in at 4:19 and the engineer overshoots the platform so the second vestibule, not the first one is lined up with the platforms.
The conductor comes through and she recognizes us from the trip up. We tell her were train buffs that wanted to try Devon Transfer and grab lunch in Naguatuck. We each pay our $5.50 for receipt tickets (I’ll get to keep all my tickets from today except for the Norwalk to Naguatuck one) now issued from a second generation iPhone system (that accepts credit cards I believe) attached to a receipt reader. It has a QR code instead of a place to punch for connection conductors.
Coming back we stop at Beacon Falls for no one.
We cross the river into Seymour and stop at 4:35.
We’re going through the factory again at 4:39 into Ansonia at 4:41 as we stop at the station with three bus shelters and a long wooden shelter. Two of the shelters are new and have been added since my previous visit by car in 2008.
We stop in Derby-Shelton at 4:45. The Shoreliner is having a toilet problem. I can smell it from the opposite end of the car.
We get to Devon Transfer at 4:59 and get off it’s unclear if we’re waiting here for half an hour or not. I see a few crew members from our shuttle train use the emergency exit staircases and start walking down the tracks (there must be employee parking nearby perhaps). We get some decent photos of the New York-bound train entering, the conductor sees us waiting for the crowd to get on and tells us we need to get on and change at Bridgeport.
We get on and an announcement is made to change at Stratford for New Haven. I’m tracking the line (the Transit app is the way to go since it uses live streams) and see the next New Haven-bound train semi-express is running a little late with 5 minutes (officially this train connects with the local a half-hour later that stops at Devon Transfer for the next Waterbury Shuttle trip). We get off at Stratford–(10 Photos) using permanent bridgeplates and have a complicated walk to the underpass due to the new construction of an ADA ramp. There is a staircase at the end of the platform we could have used. We then head up to the New Haven-bound platform and get on.
We leave at 5:11 and the next think we know we’re switching back onto the opposite track to stop at Devon Transfer!
The stop is unannounced and I think it’s to drop off a new engineer beginning his shift and pick up our engineer.
We then stop in Milford where the platforms are now decorated with images on what I believe are the former advertising panels.
- 5:29 – West Haven
We arrive in New Haven–(8 Photos) at 5:34 and a Shore Line East train arriving to terminate. We go into the station buy tickets at the Amtrak window, get timetables, and see the previous Amtrak train to Boston is an hour and a half late.
We board really early, around 5:45 and the connecting New Haven Line train arrives early at 6:08. We leave on time at 6:12 for the quick two minute trip to New Haven-State Street for one boarding passenger at 6:14.
We leave and pick-up speed and watch the Springfield Line diverge.
- 6:19 – Through the tunnel under the hilly portions of eastern New Haven.
- 6:21 – See I-95 and are running with the speed of traffic. A Shore Line East Train passes the other way.
We stop in Branford at 6:24, an overpass and second platform is under construction and seems to be coming along nicely with the metalwork of the platform done.
We take the third track siding that I notice is still diesel only but is just waiting new catenary into Guilford. The very short reverse-direction platform is getting expanded to a full length platform.
We stop in Madison at 6:38, no new surprises here, just a platform with no overpass or second platform under construction.
We stop at Clinton at 6:43, nothing new, no overpass or new platform under construction.
We stop at the modern two platform Westbrook Station at 6:49 with a retractable platform edge on track 1 for freight trains. The two platforms are exactly the same length.
We get to Old Saybrook–(18 Photos) at 6:54, 4 minutes early because eastbound trains on Shore Line East are allowed to leave up to five minutes early, just as a westbound, New Haven-bound train is making its station stop on the opposite platform. It soon leaves
Were supposed to have just 12 minutes in Old Saybrook before getting on Northeast Regional #194 for the final short trip to Westerly (at the NEC minimum fare it seems of $15, the fare is the same from New London). Unfortunately Train #194 originated in Newport News and lost a bunch of time in Virginia and is running roughly 50 minutes late. I stop at the ticket window to pick up a printed ticket (my cell phone is on its death) and the agent is the extremely hot not air-conditioned station confirms the lateness. I decide to do the graveyard walk and we walk to the opposite side of the station to get this unique perspective again, this time ‘pure’ without a Shore Line East Train idling in the station like on my last trip.
Eventually Northeast Regional #194 (the day train on weekends that originates in Newport News) comes in 50 minutes late.
We get on and walk a few cars pack to find an open pair of seats. The train is in a state of few sets of empty seats but no-one doubling-up against their will. We make our one intermediate stop in New London at 8:20. It’s long due to the low-level platform. Such as carrying a baby carriage off.
We leave New London, now in the dark and are told Westerly in 22 Minutes as we cross the Thames River. Its officially dark, I take my computer out and work on my trip report.
8:32 – The train skips Mystic, the platform lights aren’t on. It’s extremely dark.
We pack up and arrive in Westerly–(3 Photos) at 8:40, 50 minutes late, we spent longer waiting for this train than riding it. The platform feels extremely dark, all the lights are working, the issue is there not enough of them! I enjoy how the LED “Train Approaching” signs reflect off the Amfleets with a bit of light.
I have a relaxing Sunday including a nice swim in the ocean before driving back to New York on Sunday evening.