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
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.
The 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
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.
Here 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
This passenger train slowly inches across temporary
trackwork laid out in the area of a bad washout
somewhere on the Shore Line.
The 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.
Hundreds 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.
More Shore Line Route devastation in eastern
Connecticut. Demolished summer houses were thrown
against the railroad's right of way by a tidal wave and
The washed out freight yard at Putnam, CT. This
damage was caused by the raging flood waters of the
Washed 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Flood 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
Undermined tracks suspended in mid-air in the town
of Rockville, CT.