Tariffville Rail Road History
by John Nagy

*The Railroad in Tariffville

1850 - The Canal Line

In 1850 the Canal Line built a spur over from Simsbury to Tariffville to accommodate the needs of the Tariff Manufacturing Company, which was busy making carpets with power looms by that time. The rails went right down to the factory and ended there.

1871 - The Connecticut Western Railroad

The Connecticut Western Railroad came to town in 1871, having acquired parts of the Canal Line including the Tariffville spur, and having built a line from Hartford connecting Bloomfield, Tariffville, Simsbury, Collinsville, New Hartford, Winsted, Norfolk, Canaan, Salisbury, Lakeville and on into New York State. This line came through Bloomfield from Hartford on what we now refer to as the Griffin Line and it turned off to Tariffville, passing by Old St. Andrew’s Church in Bloomfield and entering the Village on what is now the Route 189 right-of-way. It proceeded on an elevated trestle going in front of the Mill, then on behind what is now Jennie’s Beauty Parlor, Elizabeth’s Restaurant, and the Cracker Barrel Pub and down the Main St. Extension to the Tariffville Station. From there it proceeded behind what is now the Governor’s Bridge development and across the river to join the Canal line at Hoskins Road and Route 10. From there it went south down the Canal Line and turned off towards Collinsville at what is now the Boy Scout Hall.

1878- Train Wreck at Tariffville

On January 15, 1878, around 10:00PM, an excursion train returning from Hartford derailed and broke through the bridge over the Farmington River in the location just below what is now the Governor’s Bridge condominiums. The passengers had been attending a revival in Hartford that evening and were returning home to towns all along the Connecticut Western Line. The train had just dropped its Tariffville passengers and was only minutes out of the station on its way to Simsbury and towns west when it broke through the bridge and went into the icy river. The two engines pulling the train were the "Salisbury" and the "Tariffville". Both went into the river along with a baggage car and three passenger cars. Word was telegraphed to West Winsted and Hartford from the Tariffville Depot (which was located at the end of what is now the Main St. Extension), and emergency trains were dispatched. Residents of Tariffville took passengers into their homes and provided emergency assistance. The first Hartford doctor notified was Dr. D. P. Pelletier. He rushed to the Capitol Avenue Drug Store and made what is referred to now as the world’s first emergency phone call, summoning more doctors to Tariffville (see the Hartford Courant, January 15, 1978, p. 12). Thirteen people died and seventy people were injured in the wreck. The cause of the accident could not be verifiably determined. Some felt that the bridge had been weakened by the elements and had collapsed under the weight, but others felt that the Salisbury’s tender had derailed and sent the train through the side of the bridge. The bridge was rebuilt along the same design with reinforced planking on the sides. Both engines were raised and restored to service.

1880- The Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad

The Connecticut Western Railroad eventually went bankrupt in 1880. From there its assets were acquired by various other railroads including this one and the ones listed below.

1892- The Philadelphia, Reading and New England Railroad- acquired the Hartford and Connecticut Western Railroad through merger.

1899- The Central New England and Western

This railroad, referred to as the "The Central New England Railway" is the name most associated with the line running through Tariffville. In 1899, work began on a branch line which later became the "East Granby and Suffield Railroad" and which opened in 1902. This line ran from Tariffville to West Springfield, originating in what is now Tariffville Park where it joined the Tariffville line. The purpose of this line extension was to access markets in central New England and Boston, for Pennsylvania coal. The idea was to avoid using the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad that was controlled by J.P. Morgan and enjoyed a monopoly situation. Other products carried by the railroad included domestic goods; stone from the Ed Balf quarry (which was located on what is now Route 189 under the cliff on Mountain Rd); tobacco, widely cultivated in Tariffville; a variety of products manufactured at the Mill; and fertilizer, pesticides and other materials used in agriculture and manufacturing operations here in town.

1927- New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad

J. P. Morgan eventually won out (through the use of underhanded tactics) and acquired the Central New England Railroad.

1930’s- Portions of tracks begin to be abandoned.

2003- Portions of track are still in use by trains on the section from Hartford to Bloomfield and in the Canaan area.

*Reference: "Connecticut Railroads… An Illustrated History" by Gregg M. Turner & Melancthon W. Jacobus. Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 1989, pp. 129-154.