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New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Records

Identifier: 1991-0009

Scope and Content

This collection of New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad records contains central administrative and financial records of the New Haven Railroad and approximately 300 predecessor and subsidiary companies. The records are dated from 1831 to 1980, with the bulk of material dated 1935 to 1968.

These records constitute the official records of the company, primarily from the central administrative offices. In particular, they document activities of the Board of Directors and Comptroller. Operational, engineering, and personnel activities are less fully covered, and there are major gaps in coverage of many aspects of the company's history. This collection does not include: personnel or employee records; operational records regarding equipment, schedules, etc.; maps, engineering drawings, or mechanical records; or detailed information about financial and operational activities on a daily basis. There are few administrative files for the Mellen-Morgan years, and gaps exist in several record groups and series for various time periods. Some of these gaps apparently exist because records were lost or destroyed. In some cases, records were scattered and some of these records were found and preserved by collectors and historical groups. Several other collections at the University of Connecticut and other repositories thus supplement or fill in some of these gaps.

The collection is organized in seven record groups: Secretary's Office; Trustees; Annual Reports; Comptroller's Office; Accounting Department; Legal Department Claims; and Bound Volumes.

The SECRETARY'S OFFICE record group contains central administrative files for the New Haven Railroad and many of its subsidiary companies. As the official record-keeping officer for the company, the Corporate Secretary maintained minutes of meetings, reports, administrative files, agreements, real estate records, stocks and stockholder records, legal records, and records of subsidiary companies. This record group is thus important for many issues pertaining to administrative and legal activities, particularly those under purview of the Board of Directors.

The TRUSTEES record group contains files relating to the company's activities during reorganization under court-appointed Trustees. The major concentration of records covers the second reorganization, from 1961 to its merger with Penn Central in 1968. These records include publications, reports, administrative files, legal and court records, financial records, and related materials.

The ANNUAL REPORTS record group was created by combining annual reports prepared by the Secretary and the Accounting Department. These records include annual reports to stockholders, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and various state governments, as well as annual reports by other railroad companies.

The COMPTROLLERS record group consists of records from the Comptroller's Office. These relate primarily to financial and administrative concerns, including employee relations, strikes, passenger fares, revenue forecasts, government relations, audits, freight operations, abandonment of rail lines, and subsidiary companies.

The ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT record group contains additional financial and reporting records, relating to financial transactions. This includes Securities and Exchange Commission reports, stock portfolios, rate structure studies, claims, journal entries, vouchers, and subsidiary company records.

The LEGAL DEPARTMENT CLAIMS record group contains claim files and cases handled by the Legal Department.

The BOUND VALUES record group was created for convenience in organizing and handling oversize bound volumes from a variety of offices and companies. These include bound volumes from the New Haven Railroad's Secretary's Office, Accounting Department, and Comptroller's Office. There are also bound volumes from approximately 300 predecessor and subsidiary companies.

This collection of New Haven Railroad records is the largest archival collection for the company and its predecessors and subsidiaries. The University of Connecticut also holds several major collections of materials from the New Haven Railroad, received from other sources or donors.


  • undated, 1760-1980


The collection is open and available for research.

Restrictions on Use and Copyright Information

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


During the centennial celebration of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad in 1926, President E. J. Pearson boasted that the "...history of the New Haven system was a history of transportation in this country." Had he limited his claim to the New York - Boston corridor, Pearson would have been substantially correct. For almost one hundred years the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, better known as the New Haven Railroad, was the primary means of passenger and freight transportation in Southern New England. Chartered in 1872, this merger between the New York & New Haven and Hartford & New Haven railroads later included the long desired rail link between Boston and New York. Approximately one hundred small independent railroads were built in southern New England between 1826 and the 1880s. By 1904 the majority were absorbed into the vast New Haven system. At its peak in 1929, the New Haven Railroad owned and operated 2,131 miles of track throughout New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

The local railroad lines that eventually became part of the New Haven system developed in response to local business and transportation needs. Unlike the Western states, where railroads preceded and shaped settlement, in the Northeast they served primarily to link existing towns, businesses, and markets. The New Haven system thus developed as a result of numerous consolidations and mergers. The New Haven traced its founding to 1826, when one of its predecessor companies originated, but the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad was not chartered until 1872. The company followed the pattern of consolidation established by the Pennsylvania Railroad and other companies, particularly after 1889, when major lines in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southern Massachusetts provided a strong network linking New York and Boston. By 1890, company revenue exceeded $100,000,000 per year, and the New Haven employed 4,000 people to serve twelve million passengers annually.

This success led a wealthy group of New York investors, headed by J. P. Morgan, to seek and gain control of the New Haven's board. In 1903, Morgan installed Charles Mellen as president of the railroad. Together Morgan and Mellen set out to achieve a complete monopoly of transportation in New England. Substantial improvements to the system were made during the Mellen years, including electrification of rail lines between Woodlawn, New York, and New Haven, Connecticut, and construction of a power generating plant in Cos Cob, Connecticut. These accomplishments, however, were overshadowed by Morgan's ambitious schemes to dominate all modes of transportation in New England. Steamboat lines, trolley companies, and other railroad lines were purchased regardless of price and incorporated into the New Haven system.

An investigation of the New Haven's activities by Louis Brandeis in 1907 revealed the overextended railroad was on the verge of financial collapse. Morgan's death in 1913 and Mellen's subsequent resignation brought to a close a stormy period in the New Haven's history.

During the First World War all of the railroads in the United States, including the New Haven Railroad, were operated by the federal government. After the war, under Edward Pearson, President through 1928, the railroad was able to recover partially, despite increasing competition from automobiles, by sharing in the national economic growth of the 1920s. The company tried to meet this transportation competition by forming the New England Transportation Company, which operated a fleet of trucks and buses. Recovery of the New Haven, however, was cut short by the Depression of the 1930s, and in 1935 the New Haven plunged into bankruptcy. The company remained in trusteeship until 1947, when it returned to private ownership.

A series of struggles for control of the company in the post World War II period severely weakened the management of the company and its ability to adapt to changes in the transportation industry. The completion of the Connecticut Turnpike and other superhighways and the start of air shuttle service between Boston and New York intensified competition. The company's historic liability as a railroad overburdened with many short, costly branch lines further accelerated its decline.

On July 2, 1961, the New Haven Railroad once again went into receivership. A seven year trusteeship period followed, culminating in the absorption of the New Haven in the Penn Central system on January 1, 1969. Three years later the Penn Central itself collapsed into bankruptcy. The former components of the New Haven Railroad were divided among several entities. Freight service was assumed by Conrail when it was formed in 1976, although the Providence & Worcester Railroad also provided freight service on portions of the former New Haven, as did a few other operators. Passenger commuter service was funded by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Long-haul passenger service was provided by Amtrak beginning in 1971. After 1976 passenger commuter service was operated by Conrail. In 1982 the United States Congress passed legislation that forced Conrail to divest itself of its commuter rail lines. On January 1, 1983, Metro-North Commuter Railroad, under joint ownership of the states of New York and Connecticut, took over all commuter passenger service. Amtrak continued to handle all long-haul passenger service.

The history of the New Haven Railroad reveals a company formed by one of the classic merger and consolidation patterns of the late 19th century, which was later unable to respond effectively to major changes in the transportation industry. The company's rapid growth, collapse, temporary recovery, and final dissolution offer a dramatic story, with government regulation, internal management decisions, and market competition playing important roles in the company's history.


3050 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The corporate records of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad document the history and impact of the system that dominated railroad transportation in southern New England from 1872 to 1969.

Provenance and Acquisition

The history of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad records and the records of its predecessor and subsidiary companies is almost as complex as the organization itself.

In 1952, approximately 1,945 bound volumes, mostly financial ledgers of the New Haven Railroad and its predecessor and subsidiary companies, were placed on "permanent deposit" at Yale University Library by the New Haven Railroad. Within ten years, space shortages forced Yale to consider transferring the volumes to other repositories. In 1962, the New Haven Railroad authorized Yale University to destroy the material on permanent deposit that could not be transferred elsewhere. The volumes were then transferred to Baker Library at Harvard University, the Marine Historical Society in Mystic, Connecticut, and the Connecticut Electric Railway Association at Warehouse Point, Connecticut. There is no record that any documents were destroyed.

In February 1969, William E. Wood, Director of the National Railway Historical Society transferred over 500 bound volumes and several cartons of timetables, vouchers, and stock certificates to the University of Connecticut Library from their storage location at Warehouse Point, Connecticut. The bulk of the New Haven's 20th century records remained in a records center at Cedar Hill, Connecticut.

In June 1978, the Trustees of Penn Central, the New Haven's successor, designated the University of Connecticut the official repository for records of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Later that year, the first group of records from the Cedar Hill records center were transferred to the University. The records included approximately 1,150 cartons (over 1,200 linear feet) of Accounting Department and Comptroller records, personal injury claims, and legal case files.

American Financial Enterprises, Inc., successor to the New Haven Railroad, signed a formal Deed of Gift, donating additional records to the University, on October 24, 1980. This agreement renewed the designation of the University of Connecticut as the official repository for historical records of the New Haven Railroad. In 1980, the University received over 1,000 linear feet of records from the railroad's headquarters at 54 Meadow Street, New Haven. The records included approximately 1,000 bound volumes, annual reports, Secretary files, Trustee files, and claims.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of materials in this collection may also be found in the Archives & Special Collections digital repository

Related Material

Archives & Special Collections has a substantial collection of materials pertaining to the railroads of southern New England. For detailed information on these collections please contact the curator or ask at the Reading Room desk.

Physical description

1,305 boxes and 2,199 bound volumes.

General note for researchers

This guide to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Records is an archival finding aid prepared to assist researchers in using the collection. Due to the size and complexity of this collection, which contains more than 3,000 linear feet of documents, a brief explanation of how to use this guide is in order.

Two basic archival principles guided us in arranging and describing the records in this collection. The records have been maintained according to their office of origin and their original order. The documents are organized in record groups, each of which contains the files created by a particular department (e.g., Secretary, Trustees). Only two record groups, Annual Reports and Bound Volumes, are based on type of material rather than office of origin.

Within each record group, documents are filed in sub-categories called series. Each series contains records which were generated by a specific office within a department, created as a result of a particular type of activity, or related to a specific topic. The arrangement of files in each series reflects, to the extent possible, the original filing system under which the records were created and maintained by each office.

Although this finding aid can be used profitably before visiting the Archives, please remember that it was developed specifically for use in consultation with a reference archivist. There is no substitute for discussing your research query directly with the reference archivist, who will assist you in locating information and in avoiding some of the many potential wrong turns and dead-ends which frequently make archival research both challenging and, sometimes, frustrating.

This finding aid will not enable you to identify individual items, or to locate in one place all the material on a given subject. Nor can the Archives staff provide photocopies of individual pieces or specific information on a topic. With a collection of more than 2,000 linear feet of documents, it is impossible to list or catalog each item or topic. In most cases, only a general listing of filing categories is available. The finding aid is merely an aid to research, not a substitute for it.

This guide can, however, assist you in narrowing your search and in identifying which series or boxes are likely to contain useful information. The first step is to determine which of the major offices within the company was likely to have dealt with the issue or topic you are researching. This will guide you to one or more of the record groups. The narrative description of the records should be read carefully for an overview of the filing systems and the types of records in each record group and series.

After identifying which series might contain useful information, you should scan the contents list for each appropriate series. The contents lists for some series only identify the numerical or alphabetical grouping of files in each box. In some cases, they provide a listing of the file folder titles in the boxes. The only listing which is more detailed than this is provided for the record group Bound Volumes, which lists each type of record book for the various companies. For some series, a card file index prepared by the office of origin provides more detailed access to names, places, and topics (see Appendix A). The contents list will lead you to the box numbers which should be requested for research use (include both record group number and box number, since boxes in each record group are numbered separately).

Because of the size and complexity of this collection, researchers investigating most topics should carefully examine the listings for each of the record groups and series. Information about a particular railroad company or a local station, for example, might be located in two or three different record groups. A large number of files and individual documents refer to numerous railroad companies, stations, or topics; however, the size of the collection made it impossible to list each such reference. Thus, some information about the Naugatuck Railroad, for example, may be located in Secretary's Office Legal Records, even though the company's name does not appear in the contents list for this series. Other clues, such as dates of major events, topics of special importance to the company, or secondary subjects related to the main topic of inquiry, will need to be followed in order to locate such information.

It should be noted that this collection contains only the core group of New Haven Railroad records in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center . Many of the company's historically valuable records have been destroyed or scattered among other archival repositories and private collectors. The Railroad Archives already has acquired several other groups of New Haven Railroad records, and welcomes information about other railroad records which might be donated for preservation and research use.


This project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional funding from the University of Connecticut Libraries and matching gift funds from the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association and several individuals. For their many contributions to the project, we wish to thank Advisory Board members Fred V. Carstensen, L. Peter Cornwall, William G. Dulmaine, Jr., Charles B. Gunn, Alan M. Levitt, Karl Schlachter, Karl Stieg, and Gregg M. Turner.

The staff members who completed this undertaking include: project archivists Marguerite Giguere-Davis, Peter Latincsics, Heather Smith, and Cheryl Turkington; project assistants Jill Padelford, Aldo Salerno, and John Wraight; students assistants Peter Cote, Laura Ebert, Brian Fitzgerald, Christine Klimek, Elise Orringer, and Jeffrey Wilson; and project director Randall Jimerson.

New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Records
Archives & Special Collections staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
This project was originally funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional funding from the University of Connecticut Libraries and matching gift funds from the New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Association and several individuals.

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