New Haven Railroad Historical Events


Wreck Excerpt from "The Devastation and Restoration of New England's Vital Life Line"

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938

AS a remembrance of the strenuous days we experienced following the floods, hurricane and tidal wave of September 21st,

1938, the Trustees are presenting each member of the New Haven family with a copy of this graphic record of the damage and

reconstruction of the New Haven Railroad.

New Haven, Conn. - November 30, 1938

ON SEPTEMBER 21, 1938, with flood waters already threatening major washouts at important points along the New Haven

Railroad, where tracks paralleled or crossed the swollen torrents of New England's rivers ... suddenly, just before dark, in the

teeth of a howling southwest gale which increased momentarily into hurricane proportions, a steadily rising tide which in

some places rose twenty feet in as many minutes, swept inland along the New England coast-line, across the Shore Line

Route of The New Haven Railroad ... carrying on its crest hundreds of boats, ships, cottages, buildings and wreckage.

Communications by rail, wire and telephone with many devastated areas was completely cut off. No one realized as yet what a

staggering blow had been dealt by this combined hurricane-tidal wave-flood throughout the length and breadth of New

England. But next morning revealed a grim picture of death and desolation. Where yesterday fast freights and through

passenger trains, including the crack Shore Line Limiteds sped in rapid succession between New York and New England

points carrying passengers, mail, express and the vital necessities of life . . . now miles of silent track hung at crazy angles

over yawning chasms, in a hopeless jumble of power lines, signal towers, houses, boats, and thousands of tons of debris.

Further inland at Hartford, Springfield, Norwich, Willimantic and Putnam the hurricane left its toll of felled trees and

communication systems, crumbled freight sheds and roofless factories . . . and to add to the chaos, the raging rivers from the

north broke through dams and temporary dykes, washing out railroad bridges and miles of track . . . rendering useless the

strategic points through which Shore Line trains might have been re-routed. The vital life-line between New England and

points south and west had been effectually severed. It must be restored without delay. Thousands of men were needed for the

Herculean task of rebuilding a railroad. The summoning of trackman, engineers, skilled repair crews and laborers must be

carried out without the help of modern communication systems. In an incredibly short time an army of 5000 men were at

work ... toiling 24 hours a day in 3 shifts ... many of them eating and sleeping in work trains and Pullman cars on the job.

The pictures in the following pages tell the story of devastation and restoration far more graphically than either pen or tongue

could describe it … In 6 Days Freight Service was Established Via Willimantic — In 13 Days Through Passenger Train

Service was Being Operated on the Shore Line Between New York and Boston . . . and NEW ENGLAND'S VITAL LIFE-

Abandonment Line from Bridgeport, CT to Stepney, CT, abandoned.

Milestone James Humphrey Hustis, 7th President of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company, died of a heart attack at

age 78 in White Plains, NY.

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