Unlike many railroad museums and excursions, the Valley Railroad Company has been in existance in one form or the other since 1868. In some ways, the history of this little railroad is as exciting as a ride on the railroad today, and reflects the ups and downs of the American rail system from the early days of steam to the present. Enjoy!
In the 1830's the first growth of railroads began in New England. After one failed attempt to start, the Valley Railroad Company, headed by the President of the Charter Oak Life Insurance Company (James C. Walkeley), obtained the state charter to build and form the company on July 17, 1868.
During 1868-1869, survey crews worked to map out the line from Hartford to Saybrook Point, and in 1870, actual construction of the line began. With the ease of building a rail line in the Connecticut River Valley (no tunnels or major bridges), the line was completed during the summer of 1871 with the first ceremonial train run over the 45 mile line on July 29, 1871.
Two days later the first "regular" train was run and on August 24, 1871 the Connecticut Valley Railroad finally declared an official opening. The initial schedules of trains operating along the Valley Railroad called for one mixed (passenger and freight) and four passenger trains each way daily (except Sunday) with fifteen stops along the way.
Financial trouble plagued many early railroads and the Connecticut Valley found theirs in 1876 when it defaulted on its second mortgage bonds and was placed in receivership.
On July 1, 1880 a company called the Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad took control, but also at this time the New Haven Railroad was rapidly building up its stature in Southern New England. Seeing a good chance to sell their new line at a good price, the owners of the Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad convinced the New Haven that it should buy control. In 1882 the New Haven did and ten years later (1892), the Hartford & Connecticut Valley Railroad became part of the New Haven system.