New York & New England RR Train Tunnel - Newtown, CT
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member NH2beers
N 41° 26.104 W 073° 19.582
18T E 639827 N 4588407
An abandoned train tunnel, located in the Hawleyville district of Newtown, CT.
Waymark Code: WMFPA0
Location: Connecticut, United States
Date Posted: 11/12/2012
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member Team GeoDuo
Views: 11

This tunnel was part of the former New York & New England Railroad line that ran from Boston, MA to Maybrook, NY. Positioned at the NY&NE 85-mile mark, it afforded passage through a ridge between Sandy Hook and Hawleyville, both villages of Newtown. It runs parallel with another abandoned tunnel to its immediate south, the former Housatonic Railroad tunnel. Both tunnels are remnants of a once complex railroad system that ran through Newtown from the late 19th thru early to mid 20th century.

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 other's 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 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.

Eventually, the NHRR bought out the NY&NE. The section of the NY&NE that ran from Hawleyville to Waterbury, viewed as non-cost effective was eventually abandoned in favor of roads running to the south of it, and according to historians, was dismantled in 1948, although it may have been as early as 1943. Whatever the case may be, the tunnel was part of this abandonment.

An excellent history of the area's rail system is shown in the link below. The map details of these tunnels are amazing.

Access to this tunnel is extremely difficult and hazardous. First and foremost, the present remaining track running through this area is active. Second, getting down to the tunnel is not impossible, but extreme care is advisable. Risk of injury / death exists, and walking on active railroad tracks is legally frowned upon. Use your judgement. The only known approach that I am aware of is at the east portal off the north side of the tracks. The grade is steep, and requires good climbing skills. The last time I remember scaling this slope was when I was a teenager some 40 plus years ago. I admit that this time around I was not up to testing my abilities and was not really dressed for the occasion either. People still go down to the tunnel, but I repeat, be safe, be prepared, and use good judgement. The west portal is cluttered with debris and is flooded as well. I remember the inside of the tunnel as relatively dry and walkable save for a couple of piles of railroad ties, but these days it's safe to assume that there is much more water down there.

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 Road; a 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/Berkshire tunnel to your right (entry into that tunnel is hazardous, and not advised). Cross over the tracks and you will notice the top of the east portal to the NY&NE tunnel and the steep embankment.
Construction: Concrete

Condition: Good

Rail Status: No

Current status: Abandoned & Visitable

Original Use: Freight

Suggested Parking Area: N 41° 26.122 W 073° 19.607


Website: [Web Link]

Date Built: 1881, modified 1911

Date Abandoned: 1948

The "Other End": Not Listed

Tunnel Length: Not Listed

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