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New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Electrification Collection

Identifier: 2002-0016

Scope and Content

The collection consists of prints and literature associated with electrification of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad line from New York City to New Haven, Connecticut.


  • Creation: undated, 1914-1977

Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to publish from these Papers must be obtained in writing from both the University of Connecticut Libraryies and the owner(s) of the copyright.


Albert Brecken is a resident of Port Chester, New York, and a collector of information about the electrification of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad (New Haven Railroad) Shoreline route.

The focus of the collection is on electrification, or the installation of overhead wire or third rail power distribution facilities to enable operation of trains hauled by electric locomotives, of the New Haven Railroad, which is described here:

The New Haven Railroad's achievement as a pioneer in main-line electrification began in 1903, when the New York State legislature forbade all steam locomotives from entering New York City after 1908 due to train wrecks in the Park Avenue Tunnel caused by low visibility from locomotive smoke and steam. The New York Central Railroad, which operated all railroad traffic between Woodlawn, New York, into New York City, decided to install a low-voltage direct current third-rail electrical system; thus after 1908 all locomotives coming into New York City's Grand Central Terminal (then under construction), would be forced to operate off third-rail.

Although the New Haven Railroad operated considerable low-voltage direct current trackage at this time, this system was considered inadequate for the operation of heavy trains over long distances at high speeds. The railroad's engineers, working with Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company of Pennsylvania, decided to install high-voltage 11,000 volt overhead wires on the tracks from Woodlawn into Connecticut. These wires would be powered from the railroad's own power station, using single-phase alternating current electricity. This was done at a time when low-voltage direct current electrification was the rail standard of the day.

Construction of the power plant began in 1905 in Cos Cob, Connecticut, located in the town of Greenwich on the Mianus River. On 24 July 1907, the first New Haven Railroad electrified passenger train traveled from Grand Central to New Rochelle, New York. The initial electrification covered all four tracks to Stamford, Connecticut, and in 1913-1914 was extended to New Haven, Connecticut.

The New York Central's third-rail system from Woodlawn into Grand Central required the New Haven's locomotives to operate both off this system and their own high-voltage overhead wire. This meant that these locomotives (and multiple unit cars) had to change over between these two systems while moving at track speed. With so much traffic it was considered unworkable to stop every train for the changeover.

The initial overhead catenary construction from Woodlawn to Stamford utilized two parallel messenger wires supporting a single trolley wire by vertical hangers, resulting in a triangular construction. The rigidity of this arrangement was found to be undesireable, so the 1913-1914 electrification extension to New Haven utilized a single messenger wire, as did other extensions. The system reached 673 track miles at its maximum.

Freight and switching service in the electric zone was electrified as well, and these locomotives were not required to operate into Grand Central, so they did not have third-rail capability. The only steam locomotives used in the electric zone were on the overhead wire maintenance trains and the Danbury branch local freight.

The New Haven Railroad's New York area steam locomotive fleet was cascaded elsewhere on the system, being used in other areas served by the railroad. Almost 200 electric locomotives were built for the New Haven Railroad as well as over 300 multiple-unit cars. Meanwhile, no steam passenger locomotives were built for the railroad between 1916 and 1937.

In later years, the New Haven Railroad's electrification shrank due to use of freight diesels under the wire and dual-powered FL-9 passenger locomotive which could operate either as diesels or on third rail into Grand Central Terminal. Patrick McGinnis, President of the New Haven Railroad from 1954 to 1956, even considered removing the electrification between Stamford and New Haven. However, after the railroad's 1961 bankruptcy, trustees repaired the remaining electric passenger locomotives and purchased used electric freight locomotives to utilize the electrification as much as possible. Thus the New Haven Railroad's electrified operation remained the same from the early 1960s until it was absorbed into Penn Central on 1 January 1969.

Definitions of electrification terms and phrases found within the finding aid [Note: definitions supplied by the donor]:


  1. Station A was located in New Haven, Connecticut, and served as the connection between the New Haven Railroad and the Connecticut Company, a large holding company for Connecticut trolley systems.
  2. West Farms was a section in Bronx, New York. The New Haven Railroad received utility power from the West Farms sub-station that was located at the junction on the NHRR and the New York, Westchester & Boston Railroad. The utility power was generated at the Sherman Creek station at the tip of Manhattan.
  3. Catenary - a combination of suspension cables formed together for strength and durability. The New Haven Railroad's 1907 triangular catenary (“tri-cat”) is well known and still in operation on Track 3 between Port Chester, New York, and Stamford, Connecticut. It was hung on girders that spanned the tracks. Each girder was numbered and called a “bridge.” To take up the strain or tug of the catenary cables required, at certain intervals, a heavy girder bearing on a vertical truss the form of an “A frame.” This was an anchor bridge (“AB”). The large AB girders also supported the distribution circuit-breakers that switched power to the catenary.
  4. A bus is a heavy copper conductor in the form of a rod or bar that conducts power to several connection points. As an example, the “bus feeder west” would conduct power between circuit-breaker connections and traction-power transformer connections. These were 11,000/22,000 volt connections or “high-tension” connections.
  5. A high-tension circuit breaker is held in the “closed” position by a mechanical latch. Energizing a magnetic coil will release the latch and the breaker will open. Releasing a latch will “trip” the circuit-breaker. The circuits that will energize the “trip-coil” are “trip-circuits.” It is necessary to “trip” the circuit-breakers automatically should a “fault” occur. Protective relays will detect the fault, and then operate and energize the “trip-circuit” to open the breaker and “clear” the fault. These connections are “relay schemes” and there are different types of protective relays for specific purposes. The wiring diagrams that show the relay scheme connections are known as schematics.
  6. An impedance relay is a type of protective relay and was used to detect faults at a remote, distant point on the Danbury branch.
  7. The Visi-Code system was used by the New Haven Railroad to operate the bridge circuit-breakers by remote-control from a dispatching office at Cos Cob. The only connection between the Dispatching office and the apparati at Green's Farms was a single telephone “pair” of two wires.
  8. The Shunt Capacitor is a capacitor connected directly across another circuit component such as a resistor.


12 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The focus of the collection is on electrification, or the installation of overhead wire or third rail power distribution facilities to enable operation of trains hauled by electric locomotives, of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad.


Series I: Rolled Prints (undated) consists of 551158 blueprints and diagrams (some items with duplicate copies) of various elements of electrification of New Haven Railroad line, including those detailing the arrangement of transformers, arrangements of bridge type circuit breakers for A.C. and D.C. operation, arrangement of buswork, electrical plans, wiring diagrams of control switchboards, elementary circuit diagrams, capacitor static control wiring, protective relaying logic charts, traction power conversion, and the Cos Cob supply station. Locations include Bridgeport (Burr Road), Cos Cob, Darien, East Norwalk, Greenwich, New Canaan, New Haven, Stamford, and Woodmont, Connecticut; and East Port Chester, New Rochelle, Rye, and South Mt. Vernon, New York.

Series II: Collected literature (undated, 1914-1973) includes documentation concerning railroad electrification and as well as small blueprints, many of which were produced by the Electrical Engineering Department of the New Haven Railroad. Information involves circuit breakers, relay schemes, Station A in New Haven, and capacitors. Also included is information specific to the various anchor bridges and right of ways along the route from New York City to New Haven, including Baychester, Bowery Bay, Harlem River Yard, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Oak Point, and Rye, New York; and Cedar Hill, Cos Cob, Darien, East Bridgeport, Green's Farm, South Norwalk, Stamford, and West Farms, Connecticut.

Acquisition Information

Materials collected by Albert Brecken of Port Chester, New York. Some prints came directly from the Town of Greenwich, Connecticut

General Physical Description note

12.0 linear feet.

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Electrification Collection
Archives & Special Collections staff
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US