AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #75a -- Washington, DC to Boston, Massachusetts
Part 6 - Bridgeport to New London
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New York to Bridgeport
New London to Providence


283    BRIDGEPORT station, 525 Water Street.  Elevation approximately 30 ft.  Bridgeport's early years were marked by residents' reliance on fishing and farming, although the farm land was rocky, much like other towns in New England. The city's location on the deep Newfield Harbor fostered a boom in shipbuilding and whaling in the mid-19th Century, especially after the opening of a railroad to the city in 1840.  The city rapidly industrialized in the late-19th century, when it became a manufacturing center.  It produced such goods as the famous Bridgeport milling machine, brass fittings, carriages, sewing machines, brassieres, saddles, and ammunition.

          Bridgeport was incorporated in 1821, and became a city in 1836.  It is the home of the Frisbie Pie Company, as well as the first Subway restaurant.  It was also the home of P.T. Barnum, of circus fame, as well as the home of Charles Thurwood Stratton, known as ”General Tom Thumb.”  At maturity, Stratton was only 40 inches tall, and he was the hit of P.T. Barnum’s “The Greatest Show on Earth” for many years.  Bridgeport is also the home of the Barnum Museum and the Discovery Museum.

          As we leave the station, the Barnum Museum is visible on the right (southbound).

          We are now entering the Stratford Block, a geologic structure formed during the Taconic orogeny of Ordovician time (440-485 million years ago). The Bridgeport Block is composed of Middle Ordovician schists, gneisses, and volcanic rocks.  It was once a part of an offshorevolcanic island arc, similar to today’s Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

          Cross Pequonnock River as we leave the station.  The Pequonnock is 16.7 miles long, and is prone to spring flooding.  The name means either “open ground,” “broken ground,” or “place of slaughter.”

283.5 Cross Yellow Mill Channel

286-287 Pass through Stratford, which was founded in 1639 by Puritan leaders Reverend Adam Blakeman, William Beardsley and several other families who had recently arrived in Connecticut from England seeking religious freedom.  Blakeman ruled Stratford until his death in 1665, but as the second generation of Stratford grew up, many of the children rejected what they perceived as the exceptional austerity of the town's founders.  This and later generations sought to change the religious dictums of their elders, and the utopian nature of Stratford and similar communities was gradually replaced with more standard colonial administration.  By the late 1600’s, the Connecticut government had assumed political control over Stratford.

          Stratford is home to the headquarters of Sikorsky Aircraft, a United Technologies Corporation subsidiary founded by Igor Sikorsky, developer of the first successful American helicopter. In its early days, Stratford was known for its shipbuilding and oyster industries.  It is also the home of the National Helicopter Museum.

288    Cross the Housatonic River and enter NEW HAVEN County.  Like other Connecticut and Massachusetts Counties, there is no county government in this county, but public functions are provided by individual Towns and Villages within the County.  New Haven County was constituted by an act of the Connecticut General Court on May 10, 1666, along with Hartford County, New Haven County, and New London County.

          The Housatonic Rover flows into Long Island Sound just south of the railroad here.  Its name is derived from the Mohican phrase "usi-a-di-en-uk", translated as "beyond the mountain place" or "river of the mountain place."

289    Cross the Milford Reservoir and pass beneath the Connecticut Turnpike, Interstate 95.

290    At approximately this location, we are crossing the Bethany Fault and entering the Milford Block, composed of Ordovician-aged schists which are very similar geologically to the Stratford Block (see MP 283 above).

290-291 Pass through Milford.  The land which today comprises Milford, Orange and West Haven, Connecticut was "purchased" on February 1, 1639 from Ansantawae, chief of the local Paugussets (an Algonquian tribe) by English settlers affiliated with the contemporary New Haven Colony.  Originally, the area was known as "Wepawaug", after the small river which runs through the town, and which has given its name to several streets in both Milford and Orange.

          During the Revolutionary War, the Milford section of the Boston Post Road, a vital route connecting Boston, New York and other major coastal cities, was blockaded by Continental forces and Fort Trumbull was constructed to protect the town.  The site of the blockade is commemorated by the Liberty Rock monument.

          In the post-World War II period, Milford, like many other New England towns underwent significant suburbanization.  Interstate 95 was routed through town and the Milford section was completed in 1958.

          The 1960’s and '70’s witnessed the construction of the Connecticut Post Mall, one of the state's largest shopping malls, and the extensive commercial development of the town's stretch of the Boston Post Road.  The city became host to several headquarters of multinational corporations, including the Schick Shaving company and Subway fast-food corporation.

291    Cross Wepawaug River

292    Cross Indian River.

295    Pass through the community of Orange.  The town is named after King William III, "Prince of Orange".  William is remembered for succeeding James II, deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  James II had been considered a despot in Connecticut; he had famously and unsuccessfully commissioned Edmund Andros to seize Connecticut's Charter. Orange is now part of Milford (see MP 290 above).

297    Geologically, we are also now leaving the Milford Block and entering the Hartford Basin, a narrow structural and topographic basin which follows the Connecticut River Valley in part.  The basin formed in Jurassic time (approximately 200 million years ago) as the ancient continent of Pangea began breaking up and rifting apart.  In areas which were rifted, such as the Hartford Basin, magma  from deep beneath the earth’s crust was brought close to the surface, thus creating volcanic activity as well as metamorphism of existing rocks.  Then rifting took place along deep faults beneath the earth’s surface.  After the rifting, what we observe today are outcrops of sedimentary rocks of Triassic and Jurassic age, which are much younger than the rocks we have been traveling across in the Milford, Stratford, and Bridgeport Blocks.

297-298 Pass through West Haven, long known as a shipping and industrial center, known for its buckle shops and, later, for Armstrong Rubber Co. The factory now sits empty, except for a few small businesses renting space within.  Settled in 1648, West Haven (then known as West Farms) was a part of the original New Haven Colony.  In 1719, it became the separate parish of West Haven, but was still officially a part of New Haven until 1822.  During the American Revolution, West Haven was the frequent launch and arrival point for raiding parties on both sides of the war.  On July 5, 1779 the British invaded New Haven Harbor and came ashore in West Haven and East Haven.  Thomas Painter, a teenaged militiaman watching for the approaching British ships while standing atop Savin Rock, is depicted on the city seal. The main commercial street, Campbell Avenue, is named for British Adjutant William Campbell, at the time an Ensign in the Third Guards, who rescued the Reverend Noah Williston, the local Congregational minister and outspoken revolutionary, from being bayoneted by British and Jager troopers.

          West Haven is best known for the Savin Rock Amusement Park, which began in the late 19th century as a regionally renowned seaside resort. It evolved into a general amusement park in the 20th Century and eventually closed in the 1960’s.  The park ran along the west side of New Haven Harbor beachfront and is today a walk and bike path.  One of the last reminders of the area is Jimmies of Savin Rock, a restaurant known for its seafood and split hot dogs.

          West Haven is home to the University of New Haven, a U.S. Veterans Affairs hospital, and Yale Field, a baseball park for the Yale University.

298.5 Cross West River.

299.5 NEW HAVEN Union Station, 50 Union Avenue.  Elevation approximately 30.  New Haven is the 3rd largest city in Connecticut, and home of Yale University (see MP 300.5 below) and Southern Connecticut State University.  One year after its founding in 1638, eight streets were laid out in a grid of four streets by four streets creating what is now commonly known as the "Nine Square Plan", which is recognized by the American Institute of Certified Planners as a National Historic Planning Landmark.  The central common block is New Haven Green a 16-acre square, now a National Historic Landmark and the center of downtown New Haven. 

         Before European arrival, the New Haven area was the home of the Quinnipiac tribe of Native Americans, who lived in villages around the harbor and subsisted off local fisheries and the farming of maize.  In April 1638, 500 Puritans who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony under the leadership of the Reverend John Davenport and the London merchant Theophilus Eaton sailed into the harbor. These settlers were hoping to establish a better theological community than the one they left in Massachusetts.  New Haven was incorporated as a city in 1784, and Roger Sherman, one of the signers of the Constitution and author of the "Connecticut Compromise", became the new city's first mayor.  The city struck fortune in the late 18th century with the inventions and industrial activity of Eli Whitney, a Yale graduate who remained in New Haven to develop the cotton gin and establish a gun-manufacturing factory.

         The American Civil War boosted the local economy with wartime purchases of industrial goods.  After the war, New Haven's population grew and doubled by the start of the 20th Century, most notably due to the influx of immigrants from southern Europe, particularly Italy.

          New Haven in 1970 witnessed the largest trial in Connecticut history. Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale and ten other Party members were tried for murdering an alleged informant.  On May 1, 1970, the pretrial proceedings began for the first of the two New Haven Black Panther trials; it was met with a demonstration by 12,000 Black Panther supporters, including a large number of college students, who had come to New Haven individually and in organized groups and were housed and fed by community organizations and by Yale students in their dorms.

         Today New Haven is an important port city and educational and commercial center in New England.  It was the birthplace of 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush, and is the home of the New Haven Museum, the Peabody Museum of Natural History on the campus of Yale University, the Knights of Columbus Museum, and Lighthouse Point Park.

300.5 To the west (left if northbound) can be seen several of the buildings of Yale University, a private, coeducational university and member of the Ivy League, which was founded in 1701.  Yale is the 3rd oldest Institution of Higher Learning in the United States of America, with more than 2000 undergraduate and graduate courses offered annually.  The University's assets include a US $16 billion endowment, the 2nd largest of any academic institution, and more than two dozen libraries that hold a total of 12.5 million volumes, making it one of the world's largest library systems.

302   Pass beneath Interstate 91.  The tracks which diverge from this railroad line to the left (northbound) is AMTRAK’s Vermonter route, which connects New York City with St. Albans, Vermont, via Hartford, CT, Springfield, MA, and Montpelier, VT.

         Cross Quinnipiac River, discovered in 1614 by European settlers.  The river was originally called the Dragon River, in honor of the seals who inhabited the area.  Seals were originally known as sea dragons.  The name of the river is an Algonquian word for “long water land.”

          Between here and Rhode Island, we will be crossing several geologic terranes, each terrane being a large fault-bounded block of rock with a geologic history which is different from the neighboring terrane.  Many of the terranes are actually microcontinents which attached themselves to what is now the U.S. mainland at various times in geologic history.  At this point, we are still actually within the Hartford Basin (see MP 297 above).

305-306 Pass through East Haven.  The area now known as East Haven was obtained by Puritan settlers Reverend John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton on November 29, 1638, as part of the purchase of New Haven from Sachem Momauguin of the local Quinnipiack tribe.  In 1639, Thomas Gregson petitioned for the purchase of Solitary Cove, later called Morris Cove. This was granted on August 5, 1644, and was the last piece of land that made up the original town of East Haven.  In 1665 then, New Haven Colony was merged with the Connecticut Colony, centered in Hartford, under a charter from King Charles II.  In 1665, the first ironworks in Connecticut was established here.  On July 5, 1779, during the American Revolution, British forces led by General William Tryon landed from war ships, attacked Black Rock Fort in Morris Cove and captured its 19 defenders.  East Haven was incorporated in May, 1785.

         Black Rock Fort was eventually rebuilt and named Fort Nathan Hale, after the patriot.  The fort defended the town well during the War of 1812; however, the Fort was relatively quiet during the Civil War.  In the 20th Century, the town became primarily residential; however, some of the old colonial buildings still survive, such as the Old Stone Church and the Old Cemetery.  East Haven is the home of the Short Line Trolley Museum.

306.5 Cross Lake Saltonstall, a lake located between two east-dipping Triassic-aged basalt flows.

308-310 Pass through Branford, named after the town of Brentford, England.  In 1636, early Ditch settlers bought the townsite from the Mattabesech Indians.  The Town was established in 1644.  The railroad came through in 1852 and brought new business to the area.. Granite quarries were opened around that time also, which quarried materials from the Precambrian-aged Waterford Group and Stony Creek Granite Gneiss.

          In the late 19th and 20th Centuries, Branford became a popular vacation site on Long Island Sound.  Branford is the home of the Harrison House and Museum, a 1724 home with period furnishings, as well as the home of the Branford Center, Branford Point, Canoe Brook, Route 146, and Stony Creek-Trimble Islands Historic Districts.  Day trip cruises are also available at the Stony Creek Dock, on the Sea Mist and Volsunga IV.

308.5 The Eastern Border Fault is crossed at approximately this location.  This fault marks the boundary between the Hartford Basin (see MP 297 above) and the Ordovician-aged Bronson Hill Terrane (see MP 302 above), which overlies the older Avalon Terrane, of Late Precambrian age.  The Bronson Hill Terrane is an ancient volcanic arc, much like the present-day Aleutian Islands of Alaska or country of Japan.

309.5 Cross Branford River.

311    Pass through Pine Orchard section of Branford, the home of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the late Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy of Massachusetts, and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

312    Cross Stony Creek, and inlet of Long island Sound, now visible on the right (northbound).  Pass through the Village of Stony Creek, a popular resort area and seaside village on Long Island Sound.  Offshore are the Thimble islands, most of which are privately owned; however, they can be seen from numerous boat crises in the area.  Stony Creek is the home to the all-male Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps, as well as the all-female Totoket Ancient Fife & Drum Corps. Novelist Ayn Rand spent the summer in Stony Creek in the late 1930’s, and figured out the climax of her novel "The Fountainhead" here. Stony Creek is also the home of the Stony Creek Puppet House (now known as the Legacy Theatre), the old Stony Creek Depot, and the Stony Creek Museum.

314-315 Pass through Leetes Island, which is underlain by Precambrian-aged Stony Creek Gneiss with intrusions of Permian-aged rocks, beneath the glacial; deposits on the surface.

316    Cross West River.

316.5 Guilford Station. The village of Guilford is located to the right (northbound), on the coast, and is named after Guildford, England.  The town was settled in 1639 by Puritans who followed Rev. Henry Whitfield from England.  The land was purchased from Wequash, a Native American leader.  Guilford is said to have the 3rd largest collection of historic homes in New England.  It is the home of the Henry Whitfield House and Museum, the Hyland House, the Thomas Griswold House Museum, the Comfort Starr House, and many others. One of Guilford’s best known residents was Samuel Hill, who ran for office repeatedly throughout his life during the 18th Century. The expression “run like Sam Hill” was derived from this man.

318    Cross East River.

319    Pass through Village of East River, a part of Guilford.

320-321 Pass through Madison, first settled in 1641.  Madison was originally known as East Guilford, but it incorporated as Madison in 1826.  Madison is the home of the Deacon John Grave House and the 1785 Allis-Bushnell House.

322    Pass beneath Highway 450.  The highway north of the railroad (left if northbound) is Interstate 95, the Connecticut Turnpike.  A few miles south is Hammonasset Beach State Park, the largest and most visited State Park in Connecticut. Geologically, the dunes along the beach are eroded from glacial hills which dominate this part of Connecticut.  The hillier portions of the park are composed of glacial materials from the Hammonasset-Ledyard Moraine.

         The railroad is crossing the Madison-Oxoboro Moraine at approximately this location.

322.5 Cross Hammonasset River and enter MIDDLESEX County.  The Hammonasset Rover was named after the Hammonasset people of the Algonquian Indian tribe.

         Middlesex County was created in May, 1785, from portions of Hartford and New London Counties.  Like the other counties in Connecticut, there is no county seat.

323-324 Beneath the glacial deposits here, the bedrock in this area is the Precambrian-Aged Waterford Group, consisting of gneiss and amphibolite.

324    Pass through the Town of Clinton, named after New York Governor DeWitt Clinton.  The town was started in 1663, when a committee appointed by the General Court of Hartford laid out a plantation between the settlements of Guilford and Saybrook.  The settlement was first named Kenilworth, then later Killingworth.  One of the early leaders of Clinton's church was Abraham Pierson.  In 1701, when the General Court of the Colony in Hartford granted a charter for "the founding of a collegiate school within His Majesty's Colony of Connecticut," its founders chose Pierson as its rector.  The first classes were held in his parsonage in Clinton.  In later years the school was moved to Saybrook and then to New Haven, where it eventually became Yale University.

          Clinton is now a suburban community to New Haven.  Children’s writer Dr. Seuss summered in Clinton.

326-327 Pass through Grove Beach, a part of Westbrook.  We are crossing the Hammonasset-Ledyard Moraine at approximately this location.

328-329 Cross Potchogue River and pass through the Town of Westbrook, which was founded in 1648 and then known as Pochoug, an Indian name meaning “at the confluence of two rivers.” Westbrook was the birthplace of David Bushnell, the inventor of the first practical submarine for the U.S. Navy, which was named theTurtle..  It was also a home of actor Art Carney, best known for his role on television’s “The Honeymooners.”  Westbrook is also the home of the Military Historian’s Museum.

          Beneath the glacial deposits here is the Ordovician-aged Brimfield Schist, which is likely a part of the Avalon Terrane, a microcontinent of late Silurian to Devonian age.

332    Cross Oyster River.

333    OLD SAYBROOK station, 455 Boston Post Road, at Saybrook Junction Market Place.  Elevation approximately 25 ft.  Native Americans in the area called this place “Pashbeshauke,” which means “place at the river’s mouth,” in reference to its location at the mouth of the Connecticut River (known as Quonitocutt by Native Americans). Old Saybrook was first established in 1624, by Dutch settlers, who established a factory and a trading post called Kievits Hoek (“Plover’s Corner”) here.  The trading post was soon abandoned when the Dutch began settling at New Amsterdam (at present-day Lower Manhattan in New York).  The Saybrook Colony was established in late 1635 at the mouth of the Connecticut River, and was named after William Fiennes, the first Viscount Saye, and Lord Brooke, head of the settlers’ Saybrook Company.  John Winthrop, the Younger, son of the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was designated Governor by the group that claimed possession of the land.  The design of the Flag of Connecticut comes from the seal of Saybrook Colony. The seal was brought from England by Colonel George Fenwick, and depicted 15 grapevines and a hand in the upper left corner.

          Old Saybrook is the home of the William Hart House, as well as the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater, the former town hall building, which was renovated and named after one of Old Saybrook’s well-known residents.

334.5 Cross Connecticut River and enter NEW LONDON County, which was created on May 10, 1666, as one of the four original counties of Connecticut.  The county originally had only 4 towns, but more were added in the first part of the 18th Century.  Like the other counties in Connecticut, New London County does not have a county seat.

          We are now crossing the Avalon Terrane (see MP 302 above).  The Avalon Terrane microcontinent smashed into the older continental crust during Silurian and Devonian time. Rocks of the Avalon Terrane consist of high-grade intensely metamorphosed igneous rocks.  When the Avalon Terrane smashed into the continental crust, a large-scale mountain building event in what is now New England, known as the Acadian orogeny took place.

335-335.5 Pass through Old Lyme, a resort community named after the port of Lyme Regis in England.  The town of Lyme was set off from Saybrook (now known as Deep River), which is on the west bank of the river mouth, on February 13, 1665.  South Lyme was later incorporated from Lyme in 1855, then renamed Old Lyme in 1857 because it contains the oldest-settled portion of the "Lymes".  The Florence Griswold House in Old Lyme housed an art colony for many years in the early 20th Century to many prominent American Impressionist painters, such as Childe Hassam, Edward Charles Volkert, Willard Metcalf, Wilson Irvine, and Henry Ward Ranger, among many others. These artists made Old Lyme a thriving art community, which still continues today.  Old Lyme is also the home of the Lyme Academy College of the Fine Arts and the Lyme Art Association Gallery.

          Albert Einstein had a summer home on the shore of Old Lyme, and Old Lyme was also the home of naturalist Roger Tory Peterson.

336.5 Cross Black Hall River.  The name of the river is derived from the name of a nearby cave. called Black Hole.

337-339 Beneath the mantle of glacial materials here is a geologic structure known as the Lyme Dome, which is an upward bulge in the Late Precambrian granite and gneiss.  The dome was likely pushed upward into the adjacent Killingworth Dome as the Avalon Terrane first smashed into the older continental crust.

339-340 At approximately this point, we are crossing the Old Saybrook-Wolfs Rock Moraine.

340-341 Pass through the southern part of Rocky Neck State Park, characterized by a large crescent-shaped beach on the right (northbound).  Bride Brook and the beach lie between two prongs of the Lyme Dome (see MP 337 above).  Quartz and feldspar sand on the beach have been eroded from the granite and granite gneiss of the Lyme Done.  You may occasionally also see dark bands of black magnetite sand, which is heavier than the quartz and feldspar and tends to congregate in bands as it is washed back and forth by wave erosion.

342   Cross Pattagansett River.

342-344 Pass through the Village of Niantic, named after the Niantic Indians, a group from the Algonquian culture.  In 1637, during the Pequot War between the Indians and the settlers, the Niantic people were almost wiped out. Those who survived were largely taken in by the Mohegan people.  Niantic was once famous for its Niantic River scallops, but the scallop population has been in decline for a number of years.  Niantic is the home of the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut and the Thomas Lee House, an excellent example of early Colonial architecture.

344    Cross Niantic River, a tidal river just over 5 miles long.

345    On the right (northbound) are the Village of Millstone and the Millstone Nuclear Power Station, which was formerly located in a quarry at nearby Waterford.  It is the only nuclear power generation site in Connecticut and the only multi-unit nuclear plant in New England.  The plant produces enough electricity to serve 2 million homes.  The plant has had numerous safety-related shutdowns, and in 1998, Unit 1 was permanently shut down.  Units 2 and 3 are still in operation, and have been operated by Dominion Energy since 2000.  On November 28, 2005, after a 22-month application and evaluation process, Millstone was granted a 20-year license extension for both units 2 and 3 by the NRC.

346.5 Cross Jordan Cove.

348   The hills along the railroad here are covered with glacial materials overlying the Precambrian-aged New London Gneiss.  We are still crossing the Avalon Terrane (see MP 334.5 above).

350.5 NEW LONDON station, 27 Water Street.  Elevation approximately 6 ft.  New London was named after London, England, and was first settled by Puritans under. John Winthrop, Jr., in 1646. The Pequot Indians called the settlement Nameaug, and, during the 1650’s, the Connecticut General Assembly wanted to retain the name Nameaug; however, the settlers insisted it be called New London, so it was officially changed on March 10, 1658.

         During the Revolutionary War, the harbor here, on the Thames (pronounced thayms) River was a good natural harbor, and therefore became a base of U.S. Naval operations during the Revolution.  In 1781, New London was raided by the British under traitor Benedict Arnold, and mostly burned to the ground.  In 1784, New London, as well as New Haven, were both incorporated as cities.

         During the War of 1812, torpedoes fired from New London were used to protect the harbor.  Before the war, the whaling industry began to grow here, and reached its peak in the mid-19th Century, when approximately 75 whaling boats were staged here.

         New London’s downtown historic district includes Patriot Nathan Hale’s schoolhouse, the Captain’s Walk, and several Greek Revival homes along Whale Oil Row, plus the historic 1760 New London Lighthouse.  It is also the home of the Connecticut College Arboretum, Fort Trumbull State Park, then U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, and the Shaw Mansion.  Ocean Beach State Park is also nearby.

                                                                                               In addition to being the home of Patriot Nathan Hale, New London was also the home of playwright Eugene O’Neil and lawyer L. Patrick Gray, of Watergate fame.