New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad

The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (reporting mark NH), commonly known as the New Haven, was a railroad that operated in the New England region of the United States from 1872 to 1968, dominating the region's rail traffic for the first half of the 20th century.

New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad
NH system map
Reporting markNH
New York
Rhode Island
Dates of operationJuly 24, 1872 December 31, 1968
SuccessorPenn Central Transportation Company
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length2,133 miles (3,433 kilometers)
HeadquartersNew Haven, Connecticut

Beginning in the 1890s and accelerating in 1903, New York banker J. P. Morgan sought to monopolize New England transportation by arranging the NH's acquisition of 50 companies, including other railroads and steamship lines, and building a network of electrified trolley lines that provided interurban transportation for all of southern New England. By 1912, the New Haven operated more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of track, with 120,000 employees, and practically monopolized traffic in a wide swath from Boston to New York City.

This quest for monopoly angered Progressive Era reformers, alienated public opinion, resulted in high prices for acquisitions, and increased construction costs. Debt soared from $14 million in 1903 to $242 million in 1913, while the advent of automobiles, trucks and buses reduced railroad profits. Also in 1913, the federal government filed an antitrust lawsuit that forced the NH to divest its trolley systems.[1]

The line became bankrupt in 1935, was reorganized and reduced in scope, went bankrupt again in 1961, and in 1969 was merged with the Penn Central system,[2] formed a year earlier by the merger of the New York Central Railroad and Pennsylvania Railroad; Already a poorly conceived merger, Penn Central proceeded to go bankrupt in 1970, becoming the largest bankruptcy in the U.S. until the Enron Corporation superseded it in 2001. The remnants of the system now comprise Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line, (parts of) Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, Shore Line East, parts of the MBTA, and numerous freight operators such as CSX and the Providence and Worcester Railroad.[3] The majority of the system is now owned publicly by the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.


Expansion and acquisition

The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was formed on July 24, 1872, through the consolidation of the New York and New Haven Railroad and Hartford and New Haven Railroad.[4] It owned a main line from New York City to Springfield, Massachusetts via New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut, and leased other lines, including the Shore Line Railway to New London. The company later leased more lines and systems, eventually forming a virtual monopoly in New England south of the Boston and Albany Railroad.

The first line of the original system to open was the Hartford and New Haven Railroad, opened from Hartford to New Haven, with steamship connections to New York in 1839, and to Springfield, with rail connections to Worcester and Boston, in 1844. The New York and New Haven was built later, as it ran parallel to the Long Island Sound coast and required many bridges over rivers. It opened in 1848, using trackage rights over the New York and Harlem Railroad (later part of the New York Central Railroad system) from Woodlawn in the Bronx south to Manhattan. With the opening of Grand Central Terminal in 1913, New Haven's New York City terminal was moved there.

20th century

About the beginning of the 20th century, New York investors led by J. P. Morgan gained control, and in 1903 installed Charles S. Mellen as President.[5] Charles Francis Murphy's New York Contracting and Trucking company was awarded a $6 million contract in 1904 to build rail lines in the Bronx for the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. An executive at the railroad said the contract was awarded to avoid friction with Tammany Hall. In response to this contract, the New York State Legislature amended the city's charter so that franchise-awarding power was removed from the city board of aldermen and given to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, which only recently became defunct in 1989.[6] Morgan and Mellen achieved a complete monopoly of transportation in southern New England, purchasing other railroads and steamship and trolley lines. More than 100 independent railroads eventually became part of the system before and during these years, reaching 2,131 miles at its 1929 peak. Substantial improvements to the system were made during the Mellen years, including electrification between New York and New Haven. (See Electrification of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad.) Morgan and Mellen went further and attempted to acquire or neutralize competition from other railroads in New England, including the New York Central's Boston and Albany Railroad, the Rutland Railroad, the Maine Central Railroad, and the Boston and Maine Railroad. But the Morgan-Mellen expansion left the company overextended and financially weak.

In 1914, 21 directors and ex-directors of the railroad were indicted for "conspiracy to monopolize interstate commerce by acquiring the control of practically all the transportation facilities of New England."[7]

Financial difficulties

Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles, incl CNE[8]
1925 1810
1933 916
1944 3794
1960 1291
1967 954
Source: ICC annual reports

Under the stress of the Great Depression the company became bankrupt in 1935, remaining in trusteeship until 1947. Common stock was voided and creditors assumed control.

After 1951 both freight and passenger service lost money. The earlier expansion had left NH with a network of low-density branch lines that could not pay their own maintenance and operating costs. The freight business was short-haul, requiring switching costs that could not be recovered in short-distance rates. They had major commuter train services in New York and Boston (as well as New Haven, Hartford and Providence), but these always lost money, unable to recover their investment providing service just twice a day during rush hour. The demise of the New Haven may have been hastened by the opening of the Connecticut Turnpike in 1958 and other interstate highways. With decades of inadequate investment, the New Haven could not compete against automobiles or trucks.

In 1954 the flashy Patrick B. McGinnis led a proxy fight against incumbent president Frederic C. "Buck" Dumaine Jr., vowing to return more of the company's profit to shareholders. McGinnis won control of the railroad and appointed Arthur V. McGowan, a longtime McGinnis acquaintance, Vice President. McGinnis attempted to accomplish many of his financial goals by deferring maintenance. McGinnis also spent money on a flashy new image for the company: green and gold trim was replaced by black, red-orange and white. McGinnis and McGowan had Chrysler Imperial automobiles custom made so that they could travel along the railroad's tracks to their country estates in Litchfield County, Connecticut. When McGinnis departed 22 months later he left the company financially wrecked, a situation exacerbated by hurricane damage in 1955.

In 1959 the New Haven discontinued passenger service on the Old Colony Railroad network in southeastern Massachusetts. Despite this and other cutbacks the New Haven again went into bankruptcy on July 2, 1961.

Revenue freight traffic, in millions of net ton-miles (incl CNE but not NY Conn)
1925 3119
1933 2178
1944 5806
1960 2809
1967 2928
Source: ICC annual reports

Merger with Penn Central (1969–1976)

At the insistence of the Interstate Commerce Commission, the New Haven was merged into Penn Central on December 31, 1968, ending rail operations by the corporation. Penn Central was bankrupt by 1970 and the New Haven corporate entity remained in existence throughout the 1970s as the Trustee of the Estate pursued just payment from Penn Central for the New Haven's assets.

A substantial portion of the former New Haven main line between New York and Boston was transferred to Amtrak in 1976 and now forms a major portion of the electrified Northeast Corridor, hosting high-speed Acela Express and regional rail service. The main line between New Rochelle and New Haven is owned by the state of Connecticut within its borders and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority within New York borders, and is served by Metro-North and Shore Line East, which runs to New London, Connecticut. The MBTA's Providence/Stoughton Line provides commuter service from Providence to South Station in Boston.

On August 28, 1980, American Financial Enterprises, Inc., acquired the assets of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company when the plan for reorganization was approved by the court and the company was reorganized. This brought to an end the 108-year corporate history of the storied railroad, and the end to the 19-year saga of its second bankruptcy reorganization. American Financial Enterprises would become the largest single stockholder of Penn Central Company shares by the mid-1990s, controlling 32% of the stock of the company.

The Conrail Era and Beyond (1976–Present)

Freight operations on former New Haven lines passed to Conrail with its government-overseen creation on April 1, 1976. During the subsequent 23 years, Conrail withdrew from much of that territory, abandoning some track and handing other lines over to the Providence & Worcester, Bay Colony, Boston & Maine, Connecticut Central, Pioneer Valley, Housatonic, and Connecticut Southern railroads. Those lines still operated by Conrail in 1999 became part of CSX Transportation as the result of the breakup of the Conrail system.

The state of Connecticut frequently alludes to the New Haven in its modern transportation projects; many Metro-North Railroad engines are painted in McGinnis-era livery, while the familiar "NH" logo has appeared on everything from station signs to passenger cars.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has painted its diesel commuter rail locomotives used on the non-electrified Danbury and Waterbury Metro North branches, as well as its Shore Line East operation, in the "McGinnis Scheme", composed of white, black, and orange-red stripes with the iconic NH logo. All of these lines were formerly owned by the New Haven Railroad.

The Valley Railroad, a preservation line based in Essex, Connecticut that runs both steam and diesel traction, has painted the authentic script-lettering insignia of the original "New York, New Haven and Hartford" railroad on the tenders of their resident steam locomotives, 2-8-0 Consolidation type Number 97, and 2-8-2 Mikado type number 40. There is a third steam locomotive in restoration to running order, a Chinese SY-class Mikado, formerly known as the 1658, it is being renumbered and painted as New Haven 3025, and is to be based on a Mikado-type engine that was typical to the New Haven.

In 2016, the New Britain Rock Cats relocated a few miles to Hartford, to become the Hartford Yard Goats. The name reflects off the old New York, New Haven and Hartford railroad history and the logo is based off the original NYNHH logo. The team began playing in 2017 in downtown Hartford at Dunkin Donuts Park.



  • Passenger trains ran between Grand Central Terminal and Boston's South Station via Providence about hourly during the day (11 weekday trains each way in 1940).
  • Several passenger trains a day including the overnight Federal ran between Washington, D.C. and New York (Penn Station) via PRR and on to Boston.
  • Passenger service from Grand Central Terminal to Hartford, Springfield and beyond.
  • The premier New York–Boston passenger train was the Merchants Limited, leaving Grand Central and South Station at 5 PM. Also prominent was the Yankee Clipper,[9] with 1 PM departures. For many years these trains carried no coaches; only parlor cars, dining and lounge cars.

NH introduced ideas for passenger rail travel, including early use of restaurant and parlor cars in the steam era, and more during the transition to diesel. NH was a pioneer in many ways; in streamliners with the Comet, in the use of Diesel multiple units (DMUs) in the U.S. with both Budd's regular Budd Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) and the all-RDC Roger Williams trainset, in the use of rail-adapted buses, in lightweight trains such as the Train X-equipped Dan'l Webster, and in experimentation with Talgo-type (passive tilt) equipment on the train John Quincy Adams.

An audacious experiment was the United Aircraft Turbo Train, which with passive tilt, turbine engines and light weight attempted to revolutionize medium distance railway travel in the U.S. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Turbo Train holds the U.S. railway speed record of 170 mph, set in 1968. The NH never operated the Turbo in revenue service, as the NH was purchased by PC, which operated the train.

Other passenger trains:[10][11]


Yale Bowl trains

Beginning November 21, 1914, the railroad operated special trains to bring football fans to and from the new Yale Bowl stadium in New Haven. Passengers rode extra trains from Springfield, Boston, and especially New York to the New Haven Union Station, where they transferred to trolleys for the 2-mile (3.2 km) ride to the Bowl.[13] On November 21, 1922, for example, such trains carried more than 50,000 passengers.[14] "There is nothing which can be compared with the New Haven's football movement except a record of one of the mass-movements incidental to the European war," one observer wrote in 1916.[15]


Company officers

Name From To Term Notes
William D. Bishop 7/24/1872 2/1879 6y/6m
George H. Watrous 2/1879 3/1887 8y/1m
Charles P. Clark 3/1887 11/1899 12y/8m
John M. Hall 11/1899 10/31/1903 4y
Charles S. Mellen 10/31/1903 9/1/1913 9y/8m Also Chairman
Howard Elliott 9/1/1913 10/22/1913 1m/22d Also Chairman
James H. Hustis 10/22/1913 8/15/1914 9m/25d
Howard Elliott 8/15/1914 5/1/1917 2y/8m Also Chairman
Edward Jones Pearson 5/1/1917 3/21/1918 10m Also Chairman
Edward G. Buckland 3/21/1918 2/29/1920 1y/11m Also Chairman
Edward Jones Pearson 2/29/1920 11/27/1928 8y/8m Also Chairman
Edward G. Buckland 1/3/1929 3/1/1929 2m Also Chairman
John J. Pelley 3/1/1929 11/1/1934 5y/8m
Howard S. Palmer 11/1/1934 8/12/1948 13y/9m Longest term
Frederic C. Dumaine, Sr. 8/12/1948 8/31/1948 20d Also Chairman, Shortest term
Laurence F. Whittemore 8/31/1948 12/21/1949 1y/3m
Frederic C. Dumaine, Sr. 12/21/1949 5/27/1951 1y/5m Also Chairman
Frederic C. "Buck" Dumaine Jr. 5/27/1951 4/1/1954 2y/10m Also Chairman
Patrick B. McGinnis 4/1/1954 1/18/1956 1y/9m
George Alpert 1/18/1956 7/7/1961 5y/5m Also Chairman

See also


  1. Vincent P. Carosso (1987). The Morgans: Private International Bankers, 1854–1913. Harvard UP. pp. 607–10.
  2. John L. Weller, The New Haven Railroad: its rise and fall (1969)
  3. " The Penn Central Railroad". Retrieved 2015-03-22.
  4. Manual of the Railroads of the United States: For ... 1875/76. 1876. p. 104. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  5. "Obituary: Charles Sanger Mellen". New York Times. November 18, 1927. p. 23.
  6. Allen, Oliver E. (1993). The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. pp. 207–231. ISBN 0-201-62463-X.
  7. "Indict 21 in deals of the New Haven" (PDF). New York Times. November 3, 1914. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 December 2017.
  8. The ICC reports show no passenger-miles for NY Connecting, so presumably they're included in NH.
  9. "The Yankee Clipper". Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  10. Official Guide of the Railways, 1949, New York, New Haven & Hartford section
  11. New Haven timetable, April 24, 1955
  12. "Summer-Only Luxury Trains to Maine". James VanBokkelen.
  13. Monagan, Charles A. (2006). Connecticut Icons: 50 Symbols of the Nutmeg State. Globe Pequot. p. 60. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  14. "Railroad Handles 50,000 Passengers" (PDF). New York Times. November 26, 1922. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
  15. Droege, John Albert (1916). Passenger Terminals and Trains. McGraw–Hill. p. 343. Retrieved February 18, 2011.

Further reading

Archives and records

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