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Railroad Commissioner's map of Connecticut railroads. Cropped to show area in greater detail. Legend: Blue- New York, N.H & Hartford Railroad System, Red- N.Y. and New England Railroad, Yellow- New London. Courtesy of: Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center

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Colorized sketch of Willimantic's first railroad depot, Union Station. Courtesy of: Threadcity.us


Colorized postcard of Union Station, Willimantic, in 1910. Courtesy of: Threadcity.us


  As for Willimantic, according to railroad historian Pieter Roos in 2017 in the Windham Textile and History Museum website, "For more than 25 years, wagons ran regularly between Willimantic and Norwich and Providence, carrying raw cotton in and manufactured thread out. Then, in 1849, the railroad opened between Willimantic and Norwich, vastly increasing the amounts of raw materials and finished products that could could be transported. Willimantic became one of Connecticut’s important rail hubs, along with Hartford, New Haven, and Waterbury."

  According to Threadcity.us (a project created by Peter Zizka), the first railroad depot was Union Station which was built in 1849 by the the New London and Northern Railroad company. It was replaced by a new station in 1885 and later demolished in 1955.

  Willimantic was a very important city for railroad transportation which earned it the name of "the central rail hub of New England" as all regional trains passed through the station here. During the 1890s, Willimantic was the stop on the famed New England Air Line express between New York City and Boston -- a journey undertaken in just over four hours.

Willimantic's Railroads Through Time

  Railroads in Willimantic in the 19th century as part of the Central Vermont Ry/New England Central: 

  • New London, Willimantic, and Springfield (1847)
  • New London, Willimantic, and Palmer (1848), started in Norwhich and reached Willimantic in 1849. 
  • Reorganized as New London Northern in 1861
  • Leased to Vermont Central in 1871, which in turn became Central Vermont Railroad in 1882. 
  • Grand Trunk Ry of Canada bought control of Central Vermont of Central Vermont RR, renaming it Railway in 1880s. 

Willimantic Rail Service in 1910

Before the widespread use of cars, both steam and electric rail offered Willimantic residents regular access to the rest of Connecticut. The Chronicle regularly printed the train schedule for both rail and trolley. In addition to freight trains which kept the mills running and provided supplies to the town, 35 trains, both passenger and express, left Willimantic daily for:

  • Boston, leaving at 6:15, 9:45 and 14:56 (NYNHH) - converted to 24-hour time
  • Putnam at 6:15, 9:45, 14:56 and 19:37 (NYNHH)
  • Express to Boston at 11:45, 17:56 via Pomfret to Putnam with connection to Providence at Blackstone (NYNHH)
  • Boston Sunday train 5:20, 16:05 (NYNHH)
  • Putnam Sunday train 21:30 (NYNHH)
  • Hartford 6:50, 9:00, 11:23, 18:55 (NYNHH)
  • Hartford/New York Express at 10:07, 16:07 (NYNHH)
  • New Haven at 7:20, 11:15, 18:52 (NYNHH)
  • New Haven Sunday train 16:30, with connection to New York at New Haven (NYNHH)
  • Providence at 6:15, 9:47, 15:00 and 20:05 (NYNHH)
  • Providence Sunday train 6:05 (NYNHH)
  • Central Vermont RR north-bound at 5:55, 10:45, 16:05
  • Central Vermont RR south-bound for Norwich and New London at 8:55, 11:20, 14:50, 18:10, and 20:05.

Trolleys ran even more regularly, hourly, and included service:

  • To Baltic, Norwich and New London at 25 minutes after the hour
  • From New London, Norwich and Baltic at 5 minutes after the hour

The Willimantic-South Coventry service left the Railroad crossing on Main Street (near Jackson Street) at 15 minutes after the hour, and returned from South Coventry at 15 till the hour, with the last car to South Coventry leaving Willimantic at 23:15 and leaving from South Coventry for Willimantic at 23:45. Service on weekends ran every half hour.

More Info

If you want to learn more about Union Station see this exhibit by Madison Cotner.

If you want to learn more about the history of Railroads in Willimantic, I recommend you watch this talk by Dr. Pieter Roos and check out the railroads gallery in the threadcity.us website. You can also check out the Eastern CT Railroad Museum for more information.


Black and white photograph of train 1045 stationed at the depot in Willimantic, date unknown. Photo sourced from the President Carter Photo Collection at the Connecticut Studies in Eastern Connecticut State University.