Housatonic Railroad Tunnel - Newtown, CT
Posted by: NH2beers
N 41° 26.117 W 073° 19.511
18T E 639926 N 4588433
Quick Description: An abandoned rough cut railroad tunnel, located in the Hawleyville district of Newtown, CT.
Location: Connecticut, United States
Date Posted: 11/12/2012 11:48:56 AM
Waymark Code: WMFP9W
Located east from the village of Hawleyville, in Newtown, CT, this tunnel is one of two abandoned railroad tunnels at this location. This one is the first, and was cut through the ridge between the Newtown villages of Sandy Hook and Hawleyville in 1840 to allow passage of the original Housatonic Railroad that ran from Bridgeport, CT, up to Pittsfield, MA. Forty years later, a competing railroad company, the New York and New England, cut a tunnel immediately to the north of the Housatonic tunnel. By this time, the Housatonic RR had been absorbed by the New Haven Railroad.
Back in the late 19th century, the NY&NE and the New Haven Railroad (who bought the Housatonic RR) ran alongside each other, but the two rail companies were fierce competitors and did not use the others roads, hence the parallel tunnels and roads. In 1911, the NHRR chose to realign their road and make it straighter than the excessively curvy arrangement that existed previously, and also allowed for double tracking. In the region of the tunnels, the curve east from the tunnel was straightened out some, and a rock cut was made to the immediate north of the original tunnel, running directly over the NY&NE tunnel. Because of this new arrangement, the NY&NE tunnel was lengthened some from it's original dimension, and new concrete portals were made at each end. A large concrete retaining wall was set in place at the west portal also, to accommodate the new rail bed passing over it. So now, the NY&NE road ran south of the NH road. Meanwhile, the original Housatonic tunnel was abandoned along with the original alignment.
Eventually, New Haven bought out NY&NE and sometime in the 1940s dismantled the NY&NE line from Hawleyville to Waterbury, CT. Because of this, the tunnel running under the current line was abandoned also, like the Housatonic tunnel.
An excellent history of the rail system in this area, in addition to the evolution of the tunnels, is at the link below.
When visiting this tunnel, be aware that the remaining track running through this area is still active. Use extreme caution. Also, the Housatonic tunnel is flooded with water from end to end, and the ever present hazard of falling rock fragments within exists.
The western portal of this tunnel is practically inaccessible. At best, you can get a view of it by climbing the hill at the transmission tower and carefully packing down the ridge between the two tunnel portals / rock cuts.
Basic approach to the site is to take Parmalee Hill Road to the bridge crossing over the tracks. Turn onto the road immediately north from the bridge (Daniels Hill Rd; left turn if you're going north). Go about 200 feet and park the vehicle off the south side of the road, and head toward the railroad tracks; there will be an opening in the trees and a small scamper down an embankment. Cross over the tracks and pack east toward the overpass and you will see the retaining wall to your right where the west portal is. Keep going until you are past the bridge. About 100 or so feet you will see the east portal of the old Housatonic tunnel to your right. Once again, entry into this tunnel is not advised. Also, if you cross over the tracks and you will notice the top of the east portal to the NY&NE tunnel and the steep embankment leading to it (Refer to that Waymark for visiting details and advisory).
Construction: Natural - No lining
Rail Status: No
Current status: Unused & Hazardous
Original Use: Freight
Suggested Parking Area: N 41° 26.122 W 073° 19.607
Website: [Web Link]
Date Built: 1840
Date Abandoned: 1911
The "Other End": Not Listed
Tunnel Length: Not Listed
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