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The Housatonic Railroad is a Class III railroad operating in southwestern New Englandmarker. It was chartered in 1983 to operate a short section of ex-New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad in northwestern Connecticutmarker, and has since expanded north and south, as well as west into New York Statemarker.

The Housatonic Railroad was also a company chartered in 1836 and leased by the New Haven in 1892. It followed much the same route as the current company, but did not run west into New York.


Regional railroad: 1836-1898

The Housatonic Railroad, originally (mis)spelled as 'Ousatonic Railroad', was chartered in May 1836 to build a line from Bridgeport, Connecticutmarker north to the Massachusettsmarker state line, along the Housatonic River valley. On February 19, 1840, regular service began from Bridgeport to New Milfordmarker, and on December 1, 1842 it opened to the state line.

On the other side of the line, the Berkshire Railroad was incorporated April 13, 1837 to continue the line north to West Stockbridgemarker, where it would connect to the West Stockbridge Railroad (see below) and the never-built Lee and Hudson Railroad. Construction began in February 1841, and it was completed on December 1, 1842, the same day the line in Connecticut opened. The Housatonic Railroad leased the Berkshire Railroad on January 1, 1843.

The West Stockbridge Railroad was chartered in 1831 and incorporated April 5, 1836 to run from West Stockbridge west to State Line, where it would continue to the Hudson River in New York Statemarker as the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad. The line opened on August 10, 1838. On February 6, 1844 the Berkshire Railroad (then leased to the Housatonic) leased the West Stockbridge and Hudson and Berkshire Railroads. On November 21, 1854 the Western Railroad bought the Hudson and Berkshire, which became a branch from the Western's line (later the Boston and Albany Railroad) from Chathammarker to Hudsonmarker, and was abandoned east of Hudson. The West Stockbridge Railroad stayed part of the Housatonic system.

The final section of main line was incorporated March 20, 1847 as the Stockbridge and Pittsfield Railroad. This line split from the original main line at Van Deusenville in Great Barringtonmarker and ran east and north to Pittsfieldmarker. The full line opened on January 1, 1850 under operation of the Housatonic, and was formally leased January 25.

For a time the Housatonic operated the Pittsfield and North Adams Railroad, running north from the Western Railroad east of Pittsfield to North Adamsmarker, but it was returned to the Boston and Albany Railroad, the successor to the Western, in the early 1870s.

The Danbury and Norwalk Railroad opened in 1852 from Danburymarker south to Norwalkmarker. The New York, Housatonic and Northern Railroad was chartered in 1863 to run from White Plains, New Yorkmarker northeast via Danbury to Brookfield, Connecticutmarker on the Housatonic. It was only built north of Danbury, and on May 1, 1874 the Housatonic leased and opened it. On May 6, 1881 the Housatonic outright bought it, and on July 27, 1887 the Housatonic leased the Danbury and Norwalk, by then including branches to Ridgefieldmarker and Hawleyvillemarker (the latter on the Housatonic's main line) and a southern extension to Wilson Pointmarker.

In the meantime, the New Haven and Derby Railroad was chartered in 1864 to run from New Havenmarker west to Derby, Connecticutmarker and north to Ansoniamarker, planned as part of the route over the never-built Hudson Highland Suspension Bridge. It opened in 1871. On November 14, 1888 a 3.79-mile (6.10 km) extension from Derby Junction to a point in Sheltonmarker was opened. The rest of the extension, 9.79 mi (15.76 km) from that point to the Housatonic Railroad at Botsfordmarker, was built by the Housatonic and opened on November 28. On July 9, 1889 the Housatonic leased the New Haven and Derby.

On July 1, 1892 the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad leased the Housatonic, forming the Berkshire Division; it was merged on March 29, 1898.

New Haven's Berkshire Division: 1892-1969

By the end of the New Haven's life, the Housatonic's original main line had been abandoned south of Botsfordmarker, where the old New Haven branch ran only east to Derbymarker. The main line was also gone between Brookfieldmarker and Hawleyvillemarker, with traffic using the branch to Danbury and old New York and New England Railroad. The Danbury and Norwalk was still in use, but most branches, including the original main line to State Line, Massachusetts, were gone.

On January 1, 1969 the New Haven was merged into Penn Central, which named the lines as follows:

Penn Central and Conrail: 1969-

The last passenger train ran over the route on April 30, 1971, the day before Amtrak took over Penn Central's passenger operations. By 1974 the middle section was abandoned, between Boardman Bridge in New Milfordmarker and Canaan, Connecticutmarker, and was not made part of Conrail on April 1, 1976, instead being bought by the State of Connecticutmarker. In 1982 the Boston and Maine Railroad bought the line north of Canaan, renaming it the Canaan Running Track. Conrail continued to operate the line south of New Milford, and the old Danbury and Norwalk Railroad was conveyed to the Metro-North Commuter Railroad on January 1, 1983, becoming their Danbury Branch.

New company: 1983-present

A new Housatonic Railroad was chartered in 1983 by John Hanlon, Jr. to lease 34 miles of the former line, from Boardman Bridge in New Milfordmarker north to Canaan, Connecticutmarker, from the State of Connecticutmarker. Excursion trains began operating between Canaan and just south of Cornwall Bridgemarker (at Belsprings Siding) in November 1984. The rest of the line, south into New Milford, was made serviceable in 1989, giving the company two connections - the Boston and Maine Railroad (Guilford Rail System) in Canaan and Conrail in New Milford. In April the Housatonic began to serve Becton, Dickinson and Company, a plastics plant in Canaan, but almost immediately the line was severed at Falls Villagemarker by a washout, not repaired until 14 months later.

The Housatonic Transportation Company was incorporated in Delaware on January 2, 1991 as a holding company for the railroad's properties, including the newly-formed Danbury Terminal Railroad (an operating company) and Maybrook Properties (a land-owning company). That month the Housatonic bought the connecting Guilford trackage (Canaan Running Track) north to Pittsfield, Massachusettsmarker, where it obtained another interchange with Conrail.

In December 1992 the Danbury Terminal Railroad acquired trackage and rights belonging to Conrail in southwestern Connecticut and southeastern New York. Maybrook Properties bought the former New Haven line (then the Danbury Secondary Track) from Beacon, New Yorkmarker (MP 0.0) east to Hopewell Junctionmarker (MP 12.8) (former Newburg, Dutchess and Connecticut Railroad), Hopewell Junction (MP 42.9) east to Derby, Connecticutmarker (MP 104.8) (former Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Railroad, Housatonic Railroad and branch to Derby). The Danbury Terminal operated this Maybrook Properties-owned trackage. The Danbury Terminal also obtained Conrail's former trackage rights to serve freight on the Metro-North Commuter Railroad's Harlem Line from White Plainsmarker (MP 22.0) to Dover Plainsmarker (MP 76.6), and north to Wassaicmarker (MP 81.6) over trackage still owned by the New York and Harlem Railroad and leased to Conrail, crossing the east-west line at Dykemansmarker. Finally, it obtained overhead trackage rights over Metro-North's Waterbury Branch from the east end of this line at Derby (MP 8.9) south to Devon, Connecticut (MP 0.0) (operated for freight by the Providence and Worcester Railroad). The Housatonic also acquired the final part of the main line, from New Milford south to the east-west line at Berkshire Junction near Danburymarker. With this acquisition, the Housatonic gained a much expanded system and several new customers. These new acquisitions were first operated January 2, 1993.

On December 31, 1996 the Danbury Terminal Railroad was merged into the Housatonic Railroad.

In 1984, the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museummarker began operating passenger excursions between Lee and Great Barrington, over tracks owned by the Housatonic Railroad. Due to deteriorating track conditions, passenger operations were suspended in 1989. The excursion trains returned in 2003, based out of the restored station in Lenox, with regular schedules to Lee and Stockbridge.

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