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Connecticut State Parks

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USA Parks
River Valley Region
Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park
Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park © Pi.1415926535 / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Washington Secondary bridge 29.42 over a small tributary of the Moosup River, reused for the Moosup Valley State Park Trail, seen in December 2022
Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park © Pi.1415926535 / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Washington Secondary bridge 29.24 over the Moosup River, now carrying the Moosup Valley State Park Trail, in December 2022
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1 Railroad Avenue
Essex, Connecticut   06426
(lat:41.3505 lon:-72.4048) map location

Phone: 860-424-3200
The Valley Railroad Company leases the linear state park from the State of Connecticut and offers the visitor a 19th century railroad experience including an 1892 rail road station, steam locomotives, and vintage trains of historic cars. Here you can travel back in time on more than 12 miles of rails departing to the north out of Essex Station and continuing up the historic Connecticut River Valley.
History of the Area
In the late 1960s, Penn Central, then owner of the right of way that is now Valley Railroad State Park was planning to tear up the tracks and decommission the railroad. Thankfully, through the work of dedicated volunteers, in August 1969 the State of Connecticut received the right of way for what is now Valley Railroad State Park from the Penn Central Railroad. But the history of these rails started well before that.

In 1868 the Valley Railroad Company was chartered with the intent to build a railroad that would connect Old Saybrook to the capitol city of Hartford, a distance of 44 miles. The initial work proceeded quickly and by 1869 the mapping and surveying was complete. Construction began with groundbreaking in Higganum in April, 1870 and, because the line stayed in the relatively flat valley, there was no need for time consuming construction of tunnels and extensive bridges. Thousands of men worked on the rail line and the construction of the seventeen stations, and progress was rapid. On July 31, 1871 the first passenger train made the 44 mile run. People cheered at each of the new stations, banners and flags were hoisted, guns fired, food served and speeches given.

Both freight and passenger services were envisioned. The rail road would enable valley commerce to continue year round, with no shipping stoppage due to low-water or ice conditions in the Connecticut River. It would make a year-round connection of the lower valley towns which felt isolated from the rest of state in winter months.

By today's standards passenger fares were inexpensive. The rail trip from Essex to Goodspeed was priced at 30 cents. But even by the standards of the day, rates must have been reasonable as passenger travel was double the early expectations from the first day the line opened.

Over the years problems common to short line railroads - economic depressions, mergers, buyouts, and the loss of passengers to the automobile - brought about the companys failure. The last passenger stepped off the train in 1933, and 1968 saw the last of the freight business. By 1970, one hundred years after the lines original groundbreaking in Higganum, the line was in the states hands.

Today the Valley Railroad Company, as an independent entity once again, leases the 136 acre, 21.7 mile, mostly linear property from the state. From the 1892 station in Essex passengers can choose from a variety of train and combination train and riverboat excursions up the river valley. Special trips including a visit to Gillette Castle State Park and 'Your Hand On The Throttle' are also featured. The rail yard alone is of interest to train aficionados. Depending on the season and schedules, more than two dozen pieces of vintage rolling stock can be seen, including a variety of engines.

But the actual rail excursion up the river valley and is why most people come. The nostalgia of a bygone era is rekindled through the sounds, smells and vistas that only a trip on an actual steam locomotive and train can provide.
Connecticut has made state parks, forests, trails, historic sites and beaches more accessible to our residents so they can enjoy the many attractions and beauty they offer. Under the Passport to the Parks program, parking fees are now eliminated at Connecticut State Parks for those with Connecticut registered vehicles. You can view the CONNECTICUT PASSPORT TO THE PARKS web page to learn more.
Nearby Accommodations
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BBs / Inns
Located along the CT Shoreline midway between New York City and Boston, and only one hour from Hartford, with tons of local attractions both on the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.
4.5 miles from park*

- Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park Main Trail: This is the primary trail, approximately 22 miles long and suitable for all skill levels.

- Deep River Landing Loop: A short loop of about 0.6 miles that offers scenic views of the river; ideal for a quick hike or run.

- Chester-Hadlyme Ferry Loop: Approximately four-mile round trip featuring beautiful wildflowers in season and great bird-watching opportunities year-round.

- Goodspeed Opera House to Gillette Castle Hike: Roughly three-mile out-and-back route with stunning vistas over East Haddam Village from atop cliffs at Gillette Castle State Park.

- Essex Steam Train Route - Linear Pathway Section : An easy two mile stretch along an old railroad bed offering glimpses into history as well as nature's beauty.

- Pratt Cove Preserve Trails - Short trails totaling around one mile through wetlands teeming with wildlife including many species of birds; boardwalks provide access during high water periods.

-Eagle Landing State Park Connector Trail - Half-a-mile connector path linking Eagle landing park to main CVRSP hiking routes providing additional options for longer hikes

-Towpath Nature Walk- Easy half-a-miles stroll alongside historic canal remains where you can spot various local flora & fauna

-River Road Walking Tour- Two-Mile walk on paved road running parallel to CT river giving panoramic view across valley
Things To Do in the Area
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Explore the Connecticut River aboard the R/V River Quest, an environmentally friendly 64', 60 passenger vessel docked at Eagle Landing State Park, Haddam, CT.
10.8 miles from park*

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Nearby Hotels

Directions to Connecticut Valley Railroad State Park, Connecticut:

- From New York City: Head northeast on I-95 N towards Exit 48.
- Continue onto CT -15 North for about 40 miles.
- Take exit 66 toward US -1/Willow St/Boston Post Rd.
- Turn right onto Willow Street and continue until you reach the park.

From Boston:

- Start by getting on I90-W from Sudbury street.
- Follow MA -146 S and then take a left turn at Millville Road/Uxbridge road junction.
- Get into CT via Interstate Highway (I)395-Southbound lane which will lead directly to Norwich city in Eastern part of state
- Take Route2-West till it merges with route17-south near Glastonbury town center area where one can find several restaurants & shops if needed before reaching destination point i.e., 'Connecticut valley railroad state park'.

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Connecticut State Parks