Vernon Depot
The Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad
Vernon, Connecticut

Updated 03/09/2011



Vernon Depot Passenger Station

Postcard of the Vernon Depot passenger station south side. The rail-line was built by the Hartford, Providence & Fishkill Railroad as part of its envisioned route between Providence, RI and Fishkill, NY. The Hartford to Willantic portion of that line was opened in 1849. This is the view you'd have had standing where the Rail-trail parking lot is today.





Vernon Depot Passenger Station rail yard

Looking east down the New Haven Railroad mainline, towards Phoenix Street in 1926, you get a good idea how busy this place once was. The line was double tracked from Prospect Street in East Hartford to Vernon Depot. There were eight tracks across over most of the area between Washington Street and Phoenix Street. At the east end, the two mainline tracks and sidings merged back into a single track, crossed Phoenix Street via a bridge, and continued on to Willimantic. In 1907, trolley wires were strung over the portion of the line from Burnside, in East Hartford to Vernon at the Vernon/Rockville junction, and up the entire Rockville branch. Trolleys shared the tracks with regular trains until the 1920's, when trolleys disappeared. The train to the left (north) of the passenger station is on the Rockville branch. The Rockville branch also passed over Phoenix Street about 150 feet north of the New Haven Railroad mainline on a separate bridge and then turned north to Rockville. The house visible to the right over the top of the gondola is on Church Street, and it still stands today.





Vernon Depot Passenger Station 1934

Vernon Depot passenger station southwest side on July 13, 1934. The station was closed by this time. Note the Vernon Rockville Jct sign on the station. The New Haven Railroad couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a little money with the building as evidenced by all the advertisements plastered on it.





Vernon Depot Passenger Station

Another shot of the passenger station southwest side.






Vernon Depot Passenger Station rail yard

View of southeast corner of the station looking west towards Hartford. The two tracks in the foreground (south side of the station) is the New Haven Railroad mainline. The Rockville branch runs parallel to the mainline here on the north side of the station.





Vernon Depot 1930 Postcard

Postcard of the Vernon Depot passenger station southeast side with an October 20, 1930 postmark. The station was closed on December 31, 1930, so its days were numbered when this photo was taken some time in 1930. Trains would continue to stop here if there were passengers, but there was no ticket agent or other services. The gentleman standing on the platform appears to be waiting for a train. The house in the far left background still stands today next door to the fire station on Birch Road.





Passengers waiting for a train at Vernon, Ct.

A large group of children with some adults pose for a photograph while they await a train. The trolley wire over the Rockville Branch indicates that the photograph was probably taken between 1907 and the mid 1920's. The view is looking east, with the main track in the foreground. The Rockville branch line is behind the group, out of view. The water tank is visible in the background.





Vernon Depot Passenger Station

Looking west, towards Washington Street. The building on the left is the freight house and you can make out its loading platform. A train sits on the Rockville branch, which ran on the north side of the station. The turntable is just out view on the right side of the picture. The signal tower, which was west of Washington Street, in visible in the distance on the right side of the tracks.





Vernon Depot Passenger Station

Looking west towards Washington Street. The baggage car on eastbound passenger train is being loaded. The conductor is walking up the tracks. The water tank is off to the right. If you look closely, you will see the turntable, between the telegraph poles, to the right of the train on the Rockville branch. The turntable was used to turn engines around so they could pull trains back to Rockville. The stone turntable pit remains today. Click here for for a present day photo of the pit.





Vernon Depot Passenger Station

Passenger station being dismantled. The footings for the water tank on the right remain today. If you look closely just to the right of the building, you will see a short pole with two wood boxes attached. The wood pole stands today.





Vernon Depot Freight House

Freight house northeast side in July 1934. Church Street runs behind the building.






Vernon Depot Freight House

Freight house northwest side, looking toward Church Street. All three houses on Church Street in the background stand today.






Water Tank

The water tank at Vernon Depot as it looked in July 1934. Photo taken looking northeast. There was no water spout on this water tank, as the water was piped underground to a standpipe on the south side of the mainline. The track in the foreground is the Rockville branch. The concrete footings are all that remain today. GPS Coordinates for this location. The pump house which supplied this tank is shown in the next picture.





pump house

This is the pump house which supplied the water tank as it looked on August 1, 1916. Its location was about 600 feet east of Phoenix Street, and that dirt road that runs in front of it is what is today Warren Avenue. It was located where Warren Avenue bends to run parallel to the railroad. The tracks are atop the embankment behind the building. The pump was powered by a coal fired steam engine, and its coal bunker was supplied via a chute from the tracks. Water was pumped from a nearby stream, which ran through a culvert under the embankment, through a pipe to the water tank shown in the previous photo, which was some 875 feet away.





James Costello in the signal station

The man in this photograph is James Costello in Signal Station 219 at Vernon Depot. Mr. Costello began is career with the New York & New England Railroad , predecessor to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad , with much of his service in this signal station as Tower operator. Mr. Costello lived nearby on Dobson Road in the house that had previously belonged to John Dobson. He retired in 1943 with 50 years of service.





Vernon Depot Telegraph Office Postcard

Postcard of the Switchman's Shanty / Telegraph office looking west, towards Manchester. The photographer was standing near, if not on the bridge over Phoenix Street to take this picture. The man seated on the left is James Costello. The points on the switch in the foreground were literally feet from the bridge according to the valuation maps. Here, train movements into and from the east end of the depot were controlled. Signals were atop the pole with the ladder. The mainline and depot sidings all funneled into a single track here to continue onto Willimantic. The Rockville branch passed over Phoenix Street about 150 feet north of here. The next building in the picture towards the center of the picture was Section House #31. This was where track maintanence equipment was stored. Section Crews were responsible for the maintenance of the portion of the railroad in which they were assigned. The passenger station is further down on the right, and the freight house is in the distance. The standpipe from the water tank is visible in front of the freight house between the mainline and the freight siding.





Vernon Depot Telegraph Office

Here is another picture of the Switchmans Shanty / Telegraph office. James Costello is seated next to the man on the bicycle.






Vernon Depot Telegraph Office

And yet another picture of the Switchmans Shanty / Telegraph office. James Costello is seated on the right.






Looking west, towards Manchester, over Washington Street

This picture was taken looking west, across Washington Street, towards Manchester in 1927. The tall structure on the right side of the tracks is the interlocking tower, or signal station (SS 219), which is boarded up. The dirt road on the right is Birch Road. The trolley wires are gone by this time. Trolleys shared the line from 1907 to 1924.





Looking east, towards the depot, over Washington Street

This picture was taken standing near the interlocking tower in 1924, looking east, towards Bolton. Four sets of tracks are crossing Washington Street. Trolley wire hangs over line, which was electrified around 1907 between East Hartford and Rockville.





Vernon Depot Signal Station 219

At Vernon Depot, the Rockville Branch interchanged with the mainline. Thus, there were crossovers and an array of yard tracks to move trains to where they needed to be. In order to safely and efficiently control train movements at junctions, railroads employed interlocking towers. A single operator controlled the array of switches, derails and signals from a single point. Located on the second floor of this tower was the operator’s station. From here, with a clear view of the entire area, he operated a 40-lever machine, which through linkages, bell cranks and connecting rods, operated switches and signals over 2000 feet away. The machine actually occupied both floors of the tower. The first floor housed the bottom end, or interlocking bed of the machine. The interlocking bed was a mechanical form of a modern computer. The interlocking bed made it impossible for an operator to line a route, which was not clear. He could not move any lever, until the appropriate lever that preceded it, be moved into its proper position, hence the term “interlocking”. To see a photograph of the inside of a restored switch tower that was similar, click here.
This photo, looking west towards Manchester from Washington Street, shows the interlocking tower, or signal station, to the right. After the downturn of activity, the interchange tracks were eventually eliminated, and only a single track crossed Washington Street. The Vernon interlocking tower, Signal Station 219, was closed in 1926.





Diagram of Vernon Interlocking

Here is a diagram of the Interlocking system at Vernon Depot. The 40-lever Interlocking machine, which was operated from the second level of the tower, employed 38 levers to control switches, derails, and signals throughout the entire Vernon / Rockville interchange yard.





Vernon Depot Signal Station 219

The New Haven Railroad mainline was double tracked from East Hartford to Vernon Depot. At Signal Station 219, which was just west of Washington Street, two tracks became four tracks and crossed Washington Street. The semaphores used to signal the trains can be seen in this photo. These would indicate to the train whether or not they had permission to proceed beyond the signal. The man on the left is tower operator James Costello. The house off to the right still stands today, the others further off in the background are long gone. The crumbling foundation of the signal station is all that remains today about 275 feet from Washington Street. GPS Coordinates for this location.





Vernon Depot Signal Station 219

Another picture of the interlocking tower, a little more recent as the "219" identifies the station as Signal Station 219 (SS219). James Castello is the man on the right.






Vernon Depot Signal Station 219

The rods and bellcranks that controlled the switches can be seen in this photograph along side the rails. The smoke stacks from the Ackerly Mill can be seen in the distance.





Vernon Depot Signal Station 219 in 1907

Here is Signal Station 219 again, this time looking east, and you can see the Washington Street crossing. The car in the foreground on the Rockville main track. The freight house is off to the right in the distance, and you can make out the roof to the coal bunker. This was a busy place in 1907, with all of the interlocked switches and signal equipment. Here is an interesting article on Interlocking Principles. To visit an actual switch tower museum here in Connecticut, check out The SONO Switch Tower Museum
Picture courtesy of Herbert Harwood.





Locomotive and crew at Vernon Depot

Crew poses with NY&NE #137, headed east on the mainline in front of the Vernon Depot passenger station. The New York & New England era was from 1878 to 1895. This picture would appear to be pre-1882, as evidenced by the link and pin couplers, which had been outlawed in favor of the much safer knuckle style couplers still used today. Link and pin couplers used oval links to couple trains together. Each car or locomotive had a drawhead on each end, which was a reciever in which the link would enter. Once the link was inserted in the drawhead, a pin was dropped passing through both the drawhead and the link. This would leave only a few inches of slack between cars. In order to couple cars, the brakeman would hold and guide the link into the recieving drawhead as the cars came together, pulling his hand clear and inserting the pin before his fingers got crushed between the converging drawheads. Brakemen whom had all of their fingers were considered inexperienced.





Locomotive and crew at Vernon Depot

NY&NE #137 headed west. Church Street is in the background.






Rockville Local Freight

The interchange yard is gone in this view looking west towards the Washington Street crossing, probably in the 1940's. The main line is still double tracked at this point in time. Here, an eastbound Rockville local freight clears the Washington Street crossing, headed towards the Rockville branch switch. The white house in the background is said to have been the residence of Station Agent William Stephens. It is located on Birch Road and it exists today.





View across tracks

This photo was taken from Birch Road looking across the snow covered tracks tracks towards the former Sacred Heart Church at the corner of Washington and Church Streets. The congragation moved to its current location on Hartford Turnpike in the 1950's. The church building is still there today and serves as a residence. Date of photograph is unknown.





Club House Switchman's Shanty

Block Shanty near the "Club House" at the Vernon / Bolton town line looking west. That is a passing siding to the left of the main line, which was used to allow opposing trains to pass. Semaphores atop the pole were to signal approaching trains to stop or to proceed. The club house itself was nearby, and had had been previously known as the "Bolton Lodge", The lodge was bought by New Haven Railroad executives whom used it as a hunting and fishing retreat for years, thus the location in general came to be called "Club House" to the railroad. The clearing in the background adjacent to the tracks was a man made pond which no longer exists. The dam which created it was demolished in the 1960's. The next photo shows the actual club house. GPS Coordinates for this location.





Club House

An eastbound freight train headed by an Alco leaves Vernon passing the "Club House" in 1966. The building burned down in the winter of 1968 and the pond is gone. A seemingly abandoned pavilian stands today in the spot where this building once stood. Click Here for an interesting article on the Bolton Lodge (a.k.a. Club House) and the Railroad.





Club House Switchman's Shanty

The Block Shanty at Clubhouse has seen its better days. Closed by the 1930's, it sits abandoned.






Train near Clubhouse

An eastbound train in Vernon near the Club House. The far track is passing siding that was at this location.






Train Wreck at Vernon Depot

This Wreck at the Vernon interlocking tower occurred on September 1, 1918 after 19 cars got loose near Bolton Notch.






Train Wreck at Vernon Depot

A crowd has gathered to watch the cleanup. Wreck crews from Hartford and New Haven have arrived. SS 219 is the building on the right. Click here for the full story.






Talcottville Station

The Talcottville Passenger station was located on the east side of the Elm Hill Road crossing on the North side of the tracks.






Railroad crossing at Hartford Turnpike

Looking north, towards Rockville on the Rockville branch at the Hartford Turnpike (present day Route 30) grade crossing in 1924. The building to the right of the tracks on the north side of Hartford Turnpike is the Vernon Center station, which also served as a frieght depot. The trolley wire can be seen hanging above the track.





Railroad crossing at Hartford Turnpike

Looking east, towards Tolland, the Rockville branch crosses Hartford Turnpike in 1924. The Vernon Center freight house on the left has been relocated and is presently part of a local farmers house. A trolley can be seen to the right.





Railroad crossing at Hartford Turnpike

Looking west, towards Manchester, the Rockville branch crosses Hartford Turnpike in September, 1924.






Train crossing Elm Hill Road

A passenger train coming from Manchester crosses Elm Hill Road in Vernon. The photographer would have been standing near the Talcottville Station to take this shot.





The Last Round up

The last train from Manchester to Willimantic. Someone painted "The Last Round Up 9/29/70" on the second boxcar. This picture was taken in Manchester.





Bridge over RT83

Here is the Melrose Branch where it passed over RT83 in Vernon, near where Scranton Motors is today, looking towards Vernon Center. Opened in 1876, the seven mile Melrose Branch connected the Rockville Branch to the Connecticut Central Railroad. The Connecticut Central Railroad was built between Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT, and if often referred to as the "Armory Branch", of which parts are still in use today. The Melrose branch would start at the Rockville Branch in Rockville at "Westway Junction", which was near West Street, pass through Ellington, and end where it joined the Connecticut Central Railroad in Melrose (East Windsor). From 1907 until the mid 1920's, the Melrose Branch was electrified for trolleys, as was the Rockville Branch. In fact, the Hartford, Manchester & Rockville Trolley tracks passed under this bridge, as its tracks ran parallel to the road. Freight service continued on the Melrose Branch after the trolley wires were removed, but local freight dwindled to a few carloads a year. Floods in March of 1936 destroyed a culvert Between Melrose and Sadds Mill, and that segment was taken out of service. The following year, the 1800 foot portion between that culvert and the Connecticut Central junction at Melrose was abandoned forever. The Westway Junction to Ellington portion did remain in use as a branch line until 1964, at which time it too was abandoned. This bridge over RT83 remained in place into the mid 1970's.





1915 NY, NH&H Valuation Map showing Track 5

A point of interest on the Rockville branch which I found on the 1915 valuation maps was a siding that followed the north shoreline of the Tankerhoosen Pond. I visited the area and used GPS to determine locations I scaled from the map. There appears to have been a switch on the Rockville branch located approximately 200 feet south of where the eastbound I84 overpass is today. From the switch, the siding curved to the west and then straightened to run parallel to the Tankerhoosen pond. The map indicates the total length of the siding was 1250 feet. That length would have come close to Phoenix Street and the Phoenix Mills. The map does not show this siding in its entirety, only indicating its presence for the first 800 feet and that it was designated Track No. 5. I would conclude that the siding itself might have belonged to the mill and not the railroad.





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