AMTRAK ROUTE GUIDE #75a -- Washington, DC to Boston, Massachusetts
Part 5 - New York to Bridgeport
arrownext.png arrowprev.png
Trenton to New York
Bridgeport to New London


224.5 NEW YORK Penn Station, 8th Avenue & W. 31st Street.  This is the terminus of this route.  All AMTRAK trains which pass through this station make a stop here.  Elevation approximately 38 (ground level).  Penn Station is located in the center of mid-town Manhattan near the financial district, and directly beneath Madison Square Garden.  As you detrain, you will take an escalator up into the station, where you will be within walking distance of many of the mid-town attractions, including Times Square, Herold Square, and the Empire State Building.

          New York is the largest city in the United States, and consists of 5 boroughs – Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.  The boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn are located on Long Island.

          What we now know as New York was originally inhabited by the Algonquian and Iroquois Native American groups.  The first European to visit the area was Italian Giovanni de Verrazano, in 1524.  In 1609, Henry Hudson explored what is now the river which was named after him.  In 1624, the Dutch West India Company established a colony known then as New Netherlands, and a Dutch trading post known as New Amsterdam was established on the southern tip of what is now Manhattan Island.  In 1674, the settlement was ceded to the English and renamed New York, after the Duke of York, who later became King George II.

         New York is today the financial and commercial center of the country, as well as the nation’s largest city, with an average population density of 23,300 people per square mile!  More than 17% of the City is devoted to parks and recreational areas., including 880-acre Central Park.

          New York is the headquarters city of many major corporations, and much domestic and international trade is conducted in the City.  New York’s port and transportation facilities are part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the city contains 2 international airports, Kennedy Airport, and La Guardia Airport, both located in the borough of Queens.

225.5 Your train is now plunged into darkness as we enter the East River Tunnels, which were bored beneath the river through the hard Manhattan Schist.  The tunnels were built in the first decade of the 20th century as part of the Pennsylvania Tunnel and Terminal Railroad, providing a connection between the Pennsylvania Railroad's train station in New York City, Pennsylvania Station, and the railroad's Sunnyside Yard.  The East River Tunnels are currently owned by AMTRAK and are electrified by both third rail and overhead catenary.  Diesel-powered locomotives are banned from running in the tunnels under normal operation because of ventilation concerns.

228-229 Pass through the large Sunnyside Rail Yards, owned by AMTRAK, but also used by commuter trains of New Jersey Transit.

          The neighborhood of Sunnyside developed after the Queensboro Bridge was completed in 1909.  Before that, the neighborhood was mostly small farms and marshland. A large portion of the neighborhood is 6-story apartment buildings constructed during the 1920’s and 30’s.  The land was originally owned by French settlers in the 1800’s. Sunnyside is derived from Sunnyside Hill Farms, so named by the Bragraws family who owned the land.

229    The railroad line which switches onto this line on the left is the Long island Railroad’s main line to Orient and Montauk Points, Jamaica, and other intermediate Long Island stops.

230.5 Pass over Astoria Boulevard and Interstate 278. Airplanes flying overhead are likely taking off or landing at nearby La Guardia Airport, which is approximately one mile east of the railroad.

232    Cross the Hell Gate Channel of the East River over the famous Hell Gate Bridge.  The bridge was conceived in the early 1900’s as a way to link New York and the Pennsylvania Railroad with New England and the New Haven Railroad. Construction was overseen by Gustav Lindenthal, whose original design left a gap of 15 feet between the steel arch and the masonry towers.  Fearing that the public assumed that the towers were structurally integral to the bridge, Lindenthal added aesthetic girders between the upper chord of the arch and the towers to make the structure appear more robust.  The south span of the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge is visible on the left (northbound).

          We are now leaving the borough of Queens and  entering the borough o0f New York.

          As we cross the bridge, the 66-acre Astoria Park is visible on the left (northbound).  The park contains New York City's largest swimming pool, which was designed by Robert Moses, and was used for qualifying events for the 1936 and 1964 Summer Olympics.

232.5 We are now on Ward’s Island, which is operated by the Randall’s Island Sports Federation.  The island is home to several public facilities, including Manhattan Psychiatric Center, Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center (which serves the criminally insane), and a New York City Department of Environmental Protection wastewater treatment plant.  It is also home to Ward's Island Park, which offers stunning views, athletic fields, and picnic grounds.  During the Revolutionary War, the Island served as a military post for the British military.

          As we round the bend, the Manhattan State Hospital is visible on the left (northbound), which was built prior to World War II  You may also see some of New York City’s sludge boats in the river hauling treated domestic waste out to sea.

233    Cross Bronx Kill and enter BRONX County, named after Janas Bronck, an early Dutch landowner.  The Bronx is a borough of New York City.  We are now crossing Randalls Island, a part of Ward’s Island,. which is also operated by the Randall's Island Sports Foundation under a partnership agreement with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  Note the northern part of the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge to the left (northbound).  The Triborough Bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens, on Long Island.  Construction had begun on Black Friday in 1929, and the Triborough project's outlook began to look bleak.  Othmar Ammann's assistance was enlisted to help simplify the structure. Ammann had collapsed the original two-deck roadway into one, requiring lighter towers, and thus, lighter piers.  These cost-saving revisions saved $10 million on the towers alone.  Using New Deal money, the project was resurrected in the early 1930’s by Robert Moses and the bridge was opened to traffic on July 11, 1936. Its cost was greater than that of the Hoover Dam.

233-234 Pass through Port Morris, an industrialized neighborhood of the Bronx.  The name comes from a deep water port established along the neighborhood's East River (Long Island Sound) waterfront by Governor Morris in 1842.  He built a two-mile railroad from Melrose to his family's holdings on the waterfront.  The area is dominated by factory and warehouse buildings constructed in the mid- to late 1800’s, convenient to the railroad yards.

234-235 We are now passing through the outcrop area of the Cambrian- to Ordovician-aged Inwood Marble, and the Precambrian-aged Fordham Gneiss.  The Fordham Gneiss is approximately 1100 million years old.  The irregular line that separates the older Precambrian-aged strata from the Ordovician strata is a complex thrust fault known as Cameron’s line, named after its discoverer Eugene Cameron.

236    Cross Bronx River.

236-237 Pass through the West Farms neighborhood of the Bronx, established in 1846.

238.5 On the left (northbound) is the campus of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which is a graduate school of Yeshiva University.  Classes began at this school in 1955. The school offers M.D. and Ph.D degrees and has a Medical Scientist Training Program that awards a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree.

240-241 Cross Hutchinson River, a 10-mile stream which begins in southern Westchester County and flows into Eastchester Bay, an inlet of Long Island Sound.  The river was named after Anne Hutchinson, who came from Rhode Island in 1642 and settled on Pelham Neck to the east of the river, across from where Co-op City is now. She was murdered by a group of Native Americans the following year.

241-242 Pass through Pelham Bay and the Pelham Bay Golf Course, named after early landowner John Pell (the “ham” is a contraction of the word “hamlet”).  Bedrock in the area is Ordovician-aged Hartland Formation.  We are now entering the New England Province, an extension of the Appalachian Mountains.  The New England Province, like the Piedmont, through which we traveled further south, consists largely of folded, faulted, and intruded older Lower Paleozoic (Cambrian- to Ordovician age) or Precambrian-aged rocks, which have been eroded into hills and mountain ranges, especially further north.  The Province has also been extensively glaciated; therefore, you will not see bedrock exposures in many areas.

242    Enter WESTCHESTER County.  Westchester County was named after Chester, England.  The first Europeans to explore Westchester were Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 and Henry Hudson in 1609.  The first European settlers were sponsored by the Dutch West India Company in the 1620s and 1630s.  English settlers arrived from New England in the 1640’s.  Westchester County was an original county of the Province of New York, one of 12 created in 1683.  Today, Westchester County is one of the most affluent counties in the country, home to many of New York City's most desirable suburban communities.

244    NEW ROCHELLE station, 1 Railroad Plaza.  Elevation approximately 78 ft. The city was named after la Rechelle, France, the homeland of many of the area’s early Huguenot (French protestant) settlers. Some 33 families established the community of la Nouvelle-Rochelle in 1688.  A monument containing the names of these settlers stands in Hudson Park, the original landing point of the Huguenots.  31 years earlier, the Siwanoy Indians sold their land to Thomas Pell.  In 1689, Pell officially deeded 6,100 acres for the establishment of a Huguenot community.

         The British Army briefly occupied sections of New Rochelle and Larchmont in 1776.  Following British victory in the Battle of White Plains, New Rochelle became part of a "Neutral Ground" for General Washington to regroup his troops.  After the Revolutionary War ended in 1784, patriot Thomas Paine was given a farm in New Rochelle for his service to the cause of independence.  The Thomas Paine Cottage in New Rochelle is open to the public, as well as  an associated museum.

245.5-247 Pass through Larchmont. Originally inhabited by the Siwanoy (an Algonquian tribe), Larchmont was discovered by the Dutch in 1614.  By 1720, few Siwanoy remained in the Larchmont area and the land had been largely bought up by British and Dutch settlers.

         Larchmont's oldest and most historic home, the Manor House on Elm Avenue, was built in 1797 by Peter Jay Munro.  Munro was the nephew of John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and was later adopted by Jay.  At the beginning of the 19th Century, Munro was active in the Abolitionist movement, helping to found the NY State Manumission Society, along with his uncle and Alexander Hamilton.

          In 1989, Larchmont was rocked by the murders of two doctors in their home. Doctor Lakshman Rao Chervu, 58, and his wife, Shanta Chervu, 51, were found dead of multiple stab wounds in their bedroom on New Year's Day of that year.  The grisly crime would remain unsolved for four years because no clues as to who had committed the murder could be found at the crime scene.  Larchmont was also the home of writer Edward Albee (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”), actor Douglas Fairbanks, actress Mary Pickford, baseball legend Lou Gehrig, and Maurice Barrymore, patriarch of the Barrymore family.

248    Cross Mamaroneck River and pass through the Town of Mamaroneck (pronounced muh-MAR-uh-nek), which is derived from an Indian word meaning “place of the rolling stone.”  The town of Mamaroneck was purchased from Native American Chief Wappaquewam and his brother Manhatahan by an Englishman named John Richbell in 1661.  During the American Revolutionary War in 1776, the British loyalist William Lounsbury was attacked and killed by a group of revolutionaries led by John Flood. Several other skirmishes occurred that year between loyalists and revolutionaries.

249-250 Pass through Harrison, named after John Harrison, who, in 1695 was given 24 hours to ride his horse around an area which would become his.  Harrison was the home of pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart, and is also the home of former Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas.

251-252 We are now passing through Rye, which was formerly an AMTRAK station; however, it is now served only by Metro-North, the New York City area’s commuter railroad.  The City is named after Rye, England, and is an affluent New York City suburban community.  It is the site of the boyhood home and final resting place of John Jay, a Founding Father and the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Original milestones, fixed in 1763 by Benjamin Franklin along the Boston Post Road during his term as Postmaster General, still mark the 24th, 25th, and 26th miles from New York City.  Playland, an historic amusement park and designated National Historic Landmark, is located in Rye.  Playland features one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the northeast, the Dragon Coaster.  Glenn Close and Ellen Latzen rode the roller coaster in the 1980's thriller, "Fatal Attraction."  Playland is also the setting for several key scenes in the movie "Big," starring Tom Hanks.

          Geologically, the hills north of the railroad (left if northbound) are composed of the Ordovician-aged Harrison Gneiss, and the Hartland Formation, also of Ordovician age.

252-253 Pass through Port Chester, named after Chester, England.  In 1660, three settlers from Greenwidge (now Greenwich, Connecticut), Thomas Studwell, John Coe, and Peter Disbrow, arranged to buy Manursing Island and the land near the Byram River from the Mohegan Indians.  The land that they bought is now Port Chester.  The village was originally known as Saw Pit for the saw pits which were in use during the time.  Logs were cut in holes in the ground for wood to be used for shipbuilding.  The name of Sawpit was used for the first time in 1732.  The village eventually outgrew this name and became Port Chester by incorporating as a village in 1868.  When Port Chester was first incorporated, it was considered a major seaport. Port Chester is currently one of only 12 villages in New York still incorporated under a charter.

253.5 Cross Byram River and enter FAIRFIELD County, CONNECTICUT, one of the highest-income counties in the United States, which helps to make Connecticut one of the richest states in the United States.  Like other New England Counties, there is no real county government in this county, with most services provided at the Town and Village level.  Fairfield County was established by an act of the Connecticut General Court in Hartford as one of the first four Connecticut counties, on May 10, 1666.

255    The hills to the north are composed of Middle Ordovician Harrison Gneiss.

255-256 Pass through Greenwich, the southwesternmost Town in Connecticut.  The Town of Greenwich was settled in 1640 and incorporated in 1665.  Greenwich is home to many hedge funds and other financial service companies that have left Manhattan.  The first settlement in Greenwich was established by Adriaen Block in 1614.  The Town is the home of the Putnam Cottage, where General Israel Putnam escaped from the British in 1779.

         Greenwich is also the home of the Audubon Center in Greenwich and the Bruce Museum.

         Across the Turnpike on the south is Greenwich Harbor.

257.5 Cross the Mianus River.  To the right (northbound) is Cos Cob Harbor, located where the Mianus River empties into Long Island Sound.  Bedrock in the area is the Middle Ordovician Harrison Gneiss.

         Cos Cob is a summer retreat for New Yorkers, and is also a portion of the Town of Greenwich.  Cos Cob has long been an artist’s community, and is the home of the Bush-Holley Historic Site, which contains exhibits about the artist colony history of the area.

258   Pass through Old Greenwich and Riverside, which are sections of Greenwich.

259    Innis Arden Country Club is visible on the right (northbound).

260.5 Cross the Rippowam River as we arrive at STAMFORD station, Washington Blvd. and South State Street. Elevation approximately 30.  Stamford was known as Rippowam by the Native American inhabitants to the region, and the first European settlers to the area also referred to it as such.  The name was later changed to Stamford after a town in Lincolnshire, England. The deed to Stamford was signed on July 1, 1640, between Captain Turner of the New Haven Colony and Chief Ponus.  By the 18th century, one of the primary industries of the town was merchandising by water, which was possible due to Stamford's proximity to New York.

         Starting in the late 19th century, New York residents built summer homes on the shoreline, and even back then there were some who moved to Stamford permanently and started commuting to Manhattan by train, although the practice became more popular later. Stamford incorporated as a city in 1893.

          Stamford is the home to the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, and the Stamford Museum and Nature Center.

262    Hills on either side of the railroad are composed of the Pumpkin Ground Member of the Middle Ordovician Harrison Gneiss.

263    Cross the Noroton River.

264   Pass through Noroton Heights, a section of Darien.  Occasional exposures of bedrock consist of Middle Ordovician granitic gneiss.

265-265.5 Pass through Darien, an affluent, upscale suburban community of New York City, the average home price in which is approximately $1 million.  According to early records, the first clearings of land were made by men from the New Haven and Wethersfield colonies and from Norwalk in about 1641.  According to the Darien Historical Society, the name Darien was decided upon when the residents of the town could not agree on a name to replace Middlesex Parish, many families wanting it to be named after themselves.  A sailor who had traveled to Darién, Panama, then part of Colombia, suggested the name Darien, which was eventually adopted by the people of the town.  Until the advent of the railroad in 1848, Darien remained a small, rural community of about 1,000. After the Civil War, the town became one of the many resorts where prosperous New Yorkers built summer homes.

267    The hills on either side of the railroad here are composed of Ordovician-aged Trap Falls Formation.  Some of the hills to the south are composed of Middle Ordovician Harrison Gneiss.

268-269 Pass through South Norwalk.

269    Cross Norwalk River.  Bedrock in this area consists of gneisses and schists of the Lower to Middle Ordovician Trap Falls Formation.

269-270 Pass through East Norwalk. The City of Norwalk contains the smaller towns of East Norwalk and South Norwalk as well as the main part of the city, which is just north of here.  The word “Norwalk” comes from the Algonquin word “noyank” meaning “point of land.”  Norwalk was purchased in 1640 by Roger Ludlow.  The original purchase included all land between the Norwalk and Saugatuck Rivers and a day’s walk north from the sea.  Norwalk was chartered as a town on September 11, 1651.  The traditional American song "Yankee Doodle" has Norwalk-related origins.  During the French and Indian War, a regiment of Norwalkers arrived at Fort Crailo, NY, the British regulars began to mock and ridicule the rag-tag Connecticut troops who only had chicken feathers for uniform.  Dr. Richard Shuckburgh, a British army surgeon, added new words to a popular tune of the time, Lucy Locket (e.g., “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”, macaroni being the London slang at the time for a foppish dandy).

         In 1776, American spy Nathan Hale set out from Norwalk by ship on his ill-fated intelligence-gathering mission.  British forces under General William Tryon arrived on July 10, 1779 and almost completely destroyed Norwalk; only six houses were spared.  After the Revolutionary War, many residents were compensated for their losses with free land grants in the Connecticut Western Reserve in what is now Ohio.

          Norwalk is the home of the Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk.

271.5-272 Cross Saugatuck River and pass through Saugatuck, which is a part of the Town of Westport.  Although colonists settled along the Saugatuck River in 1639, Westport was officially incorporated as a town in 1835 with land taken from Fairfield, Weston and Norwalk. For several decades after that, Westport was a prosperous agricultural community, which distinguished itself as the nation's leading onion-growing center.  Westport's Compo Beach was the site of a British expeditionary force's landing, in which about 2,000 British soldiers marched to Danbury and razed it, resulting in the Battle of Ridgefield. They were attacked on the way and attacked upon landing by Minutemen from Westport and the surrounding areas.  A statue of a Minuteman, rifle in hand, is located near Compo Beach. The statue has its back towards the beach to symbolize the Minutemen's strategy of waiting for the British to land and then attacking them from behind.

          It wasn't until after the turn of the 20th century that Westport gained the reputation as an artist's colony and cultural center.  While Westport still retains its cultural roots, the town is no longer an artist's colony.  Despite the small-town charm, Westport is a thriving business center and home to approximately 15 corporate headquarters and more than 660 retailers.

273    At Sherwood Millpond (visible on the right if northbound), we are crossing the Pomperaug Fault.  We are still passing through a large block of Ordovician and Silurian aged gneisses and schists.

273.5-274.5 On the right (northbound) is Sherwood Island State Park, the first property acquired by the Connecticut State Park Commission.  The sands on the beach in the park are composed of red garnet, black magnetite, and white quartz.  Surficial features above the bedrock are glacially-deposited drumlins, which are elongated hills of glacial materials deposited as the last of the Ice Age glaciers retreated to the north.  The drumlins are aligned in the direction of glacial ice retreat.

         Sherwood Island Park also contains the State of Connecticut’s Living Memorial to those who perished in the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.  From Sherwood Island State Park, visitors could see the smoke rising from the World Trade Center in New York City on that day.

274.5 Pass through Greens Farms, a neighborhood of the Town of Westport.  The area was originally called Machamux ("beautiful land") by the Pequot people and then within the original boundaries of the Town of Fairfield.  It was renamed Green's Farms in 1732 after one of the original five settlers (the "Bankside Farmers") in the area, John Green.  Greens Farms is the home to a private coeducational K-12 institution known as Greens Farms Academy.

276-277 Pass through Southport, which is a part of the Town of Fairfield. Settled in 1639, the downtown area has been designated a local historic district since 1967, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as the Southport Historic District.  The historic significance of Southport is because of its harbor, churches, public buildings, and the homesteads of some of the first families in southwestern Connecticut. The earliest recorded event in Southport's history was the “The Great Swamp Fight” of July 1637, an episode of the Pequot War in which English colonial forces led by John Mason and Roger Ludlow vanquished a band of about 80 to 100 Pequot Indians who had earlier fled from their home territory in the Mystic area and had taken refuge with about 200 Sasqua Indians who inhabited the area that is now Fairfield.  The exact location of the battle is not known, but it is known to have been in the vicinity of Southport.  By 1831, the village had changed its name to Southport and was a bustling commercial area with warehouses, churches, schools, stores and elegant houses.

          The hills across the Turnpike on the north (left if northbound) are composed of Lower Ordovician-aged Golden Hill Schist.

277    Cross the Mill River.

277-279 Pass through Fairfield, the 9th best place to live in the country according to Money magazine, due to its affluence.  In 1635, some Puritans and Congregationalists in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were dissatisfied with the rate of Anglican reforms, and sought to establish an ecclesiastical society subject to their own rules and regulations. The Town of Fairfield was purchased from the Pequot Indians in 1639, then in 1779, the town was looted and burned by the British.

          World War I brought Fairfield out of its agrarian past by triggering an unprecedented economic boom in Bridgeport, the center of a large munitions industry.  The prosperity created a housing shortage in the city, and many of the workers looked to Fairfield to build their homes.  The grounding of a barge with two crewmen on Penfield Reef in Fairfield during a gale led to the first civilian helicopter hoist rescue in history, on November 29, 1945.  The helicopter flew from the nearby Sikorsky Aircraft plant in Bridgeport.

         Fairfield is also the home of the corporate headquarters of GE, General Electric, one of the world's largest companies.  The City is also the home of the Connecticut Audubon Society Center, and the Fairfield Museum and History Center.  It was also the home of conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein, as well as actress Imogene Coca.

279-280 We are now traveling along the outcrop band of Middle Ordovician-aged granitic gneiss.

282    The University of Bridgeport, a private university, is visible to the south (right if northbound).

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 offshore volcanic 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.”