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History of the Railroad in Georgetown, Connecticut  

Included in this Georgetown Railroad History section is information I have gathered from Gilbert & Bennett publications and Wilbur F. Thompson articles. More information will be added as I find it.

Please let me know if there are more areas you'd like me to explore or if you have further information. Contact bcolley@snet.net or phone me at 860-364-7475.

The History of the Railroad in Georgetown

In the 1800's the demand for a better means of transportation began to make itself felt. In 1825 a survey was made for a canal from Danbury to tidewater at Westport. From Danbury, through Bethel to the Saugatuck River in Redding, following the course of the stream through Weston to tidewater. This project was given up when it was found that Danbury was 350 feet above sea level.

In 1835 there were two surveys made for a railroad from Danbury to Tidewater. One followed the old canal survey to West-port. The other survey was along the line of the present D. & N. R. R. In 1835 it was found that in 1834 over 8,000 tons of freight was carried in freight wagons at $5 per ton, 10,000 passengers were carried by stage coaches to and from Danbury for the fare of 75 cents and 1,000 passengers from Sections between Danbury and Norwalk, for the fare of 50 cents.

The first estimate was for a horse railway, be-tween the rails there was to be a plank roadway or horse path. But nothing was done until 1850, when the contract was let to Beard, Church & Co. to build and equip a steam railroad. John Beard was a resident of Danbury. These contractors sublet sections of the work to other firms. The section between what is now Cannondale and Topstone was known as the Georgetown section. The first work done in this section was in the deep rock cut known as "Couches Cut" between Branchville and Topstone. Cannon & Fields was one of the firms contracted to do the grading of the Georgetown section; Charles Cannon was from Wilton and Frank Fields was from Croton Fall, N. Y. Mr. Fields had just finished a contract on the Harlem R. R. and came well equipped to do the work. The surveyors for the Georgetown section were Aaron B. Whitlock of Croton Falls, N. Y., and Jcbediah I. Wanzer of Pawling, N. Y. They were assisted by a young man, John W. Bacon, who later became superintendent of the D. & N. R. R. They boarded with Aaron Bennett, who lived an old house east of Connery's coal yard in Georgetown. This boarding house stood north of the Methodist Protestant Church know as Miller's Hall which was later torn down.

The following are names of some of the men employed to work on the section:

Foreman, Austin Walbridge, who later was engineer on the road for many years;

Blacksmith, Turney Stevens;

Bridgebuilders, William Bedient, Steven Bedient, John Campbell;

Stone Workers, William Avaunt, Waterman Bates, Alexander McDougal, Harden Knapp. Knapp was foreman of the stone gang.

The Norwalk section was finished first, and a train ran over that section carrying rails and supplies as far as the road was built. The engineer of this train was George Tucker. Work on the railroad progressed and, on March 1, 1852, the first train from Norwalk to Danbury went through. George Tucker was engineer and Harvey Smith con-ductor. Above Redding Station the ties and rails were all laid on frozen ground. The new railroad was equipped with three engines, four first-class and two second-class passenger cars, eight box and sixteen platforms cars, and three hand cars. Two trains were run each way daily after the railroad was completed.

The first station agent in Georgetown was Silliman Godfrey, who was also Postmaster. The next agent was Dr. Lloyd Seeley, later Burr Bennett, and for many years James Corcoran. The old Railway station which later burned down, was a two-story building. In the first story was the Railway Station, Post Office and store kept by Silliman Godfrey. On the second floor was a large hall used for various purposes. In 1853 it was the lodge room of Fraternal Division, No. 79, Sons of Temperance. In the later 1850's, it was occupied by Fanton's shirt factory. In 1862 it was the Armory of Co. E, 23rd Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, who were mustered into service in the Fall of 1862. Later it was used by the Gilbert & Bennett Co. for a sieve shop.

Among those employed in building the Georgetown section of the D. & N. R. R. that settled in that vicinity were: William Avaunt, Waterman Bates, John Bates, George Gould, Thomas Granville, Richard Higgins, Patrick Maloney, Larry Fox, Alexander McDougal, Thomas Pryor, John Rady, Billy Spain, George Tilly, Frank Welch, Charles Vaughn, Michael Vaughn and others. Edson Smith ran a stage coach from Ridgefield station (later Branchville Station) to Ridgefield. Later he was for many years conductor of the D. & N. Rail Road.

1908 Ticket

In 1874 The railroad was convinced by Gilbert and Bennett management to run a spur line into the mill during reconstructive work on the Norwalk-Danbury line, this paid huge dividends for the future of the company. The track that came into the mill, branched off from the railway just before the Georgetown Station where Miller Hall stood, two team tracks split to the left, one that lead to the back of Georgetown Station and one extending further to the road. The main track split in two, joining again in the factory. In addition to Miller's Hall, two small sheds also stood, one was a coal shed. My Grandfather recalls in the twenties and thirties, freight trains containing feed and buildings supplies would be dropped off across from the factory, once unloaded from the cars, feed would be taken to the Gilbert/State farm and building supplies would be taken to the Connery Brother's store.

1908 Ticket

1918 Ticket

Learn more about the history of the Danbury/Norwalk Railroad

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