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The 'image page' is where we put a changing variety of New Haven Railroad photographs and advertising material for you to enjoy. Be sure to check back here often because we plan to refresh these images on a regular basis.

The Hurricane of 1938 -- 60th Anniversary

September 1st, 1998

"On September 21st, 1938, 60 years ago, with flood waters already threatening major washouts at important points along the New Haven Railroad where the 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 to 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 southern New England. But the next morning revealed a grim picture of death and desolation. Where fast freights and through passenger trains, including the crack Shore Line Limiteds had 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 tangle of power lines, signal towers, houses, boats, and thousands of tons of debris. Further inland at Hartford, Springfield, Norwich, Willimantic, and Putnam the hurricane had 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 dikes, 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 had to be restored without delay. Thousands of men were needed for the Herculean task of rebuilding a railroad. The summoning of trackmen, engineers, skilled repair crews, and laborers had to be carried out without the help of modern communications systems. In an incredibly short time an army of 5,000 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..."

So opened the "The Devastation and Restoration of New England's Vital Life Line," a photo booklet published by the New Haven and given as gifts in appreciation to the railroad's employees who rebuilt the system in an amazingly short time. The official New Haven Railroad images on this page tell the story of the devastation and restoration of the New Haven Railroad after the famous 'Hurricane of 1938'. Unfortunately, similarly disastrous storm damage would hit the New Haven Railroad again during the fall of 1954 and 1955. All photos and materials from the collection of Bill Reidy.

BookThe New Haven Railroad published this 47 page booklet shortly after the 'Hurricane of 1938' to tell about the damage to its lines and the incredible story of its work force's efforts to repair the damage. Many of the images presented below came from this profusely illustrated booklet.

Here is a map (the center-spread of the book mentioned above) of the New Haven's 1938 service territory with blue arrows showing areas of severe storm damage to railroad property.Hurricane Map

WillimanticHere we see Willimantic, CT at the height of the flood which washed out this important New Haven Railroad junction. Note the freight house in the background and the car washed across the railroad tracks.

This passenger train slowly inches across temporary trackwork laid out in the area of a bad washout somewhere on the Shore Line.Passenger Train

TulipThe huge U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse tender 'Tulip' was washed across the Shore Line tracks at New London, CT. The ship proved very difficult to move.

A giant steam locomotive crane helps to restore one of the 31 railroad bridges wrecked by the storm. Divers were employed to examine the condition of the abutments of every bridge on the New Haven's Shore Line Route immediately after the storm.Crane

Hopper CarsHundreds of carloads of crushed stone and fill, such as this, were required to restore the washed-out roadbeds to their former level.

Flood waters completely washed away the fill which had supported these tracks on the Shore Line Route somewhere in eastern Connecticut.Washout

HousesMore Shore Line Route devastation in eastern Connecticut. Demolished summer houses were thrown against the railroad's right of way by a tidal wave and subsequent flooding.

The washed out freight yard at Putnam, CT. This damage was caused by the raging flood waters of the Quinebaug River.Putnam

WarehamWashed out bridges at Wareham, MA. Note the overturned automobile on the railroad's right of way at the bottom of the photograph. Several wash outs between here and Buzzards Bay knocked out rail service to the entire Cape.

Wrecked tank cars and debris choke the freight yards in the city of Providence, RI.Tank Cars

Woods HoleThe wrecked steamship pier and railroad passenger station at Woods Hole, MA. Off in the distance you can see a large railroad section house which was washed up on the tracks.

Washed out tracks in the marshland in the area of Falmouth, MA. The Cape Cod area was severely damaged by the storm.Falmouth

Fox PointThe Fox Point freight yards in East Providence, RI. were completely submerged for several days.

Here we see the damage to the tracks, roadbed, signals, and passenger station at Niantic, CT. Niantic

Buzzards BayFlood damaged tracks as seen from the Cohasset Narrows bridge in the area of Buzzards Bay, MA. Note the station water tower and railroad bridge in the distance.

Undermined tracks suspended in mid-air in the town of Rockville, CT. Rockville


July 1998: The New Haven Goes Back to Cape Cod

June 1998: The 1964/1965 New York World's Fair

May 1998: Official Gifts of the McGinnis Era

April 1998: System Timetables

March 1998: Pre-War Advertising Brochures

February 1998: New Haven Railroad Freight Service Advertising from the 1950s and 1960s

January 1998: The Snow Trains

December 1997: Hotel Montclair Advertisement ca. 1939

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