TRAIN BLOG (WSAU) I met my future wife on the first day of college at Syracuse University. Sheryl and I had the same major. We had the same faculty advisor. We met at an informational meeting. She had already been on-campus for two weeks for marching band camp. I met her before my Dad and I finished unloading all of my stuff into my dorm room. “Chris already has a girlfriend,” Dad telephoned my mom.
It turned out Sheryl and I lived nearby back home. My family was in Fairfield, Connecticut. Sheryl lived in Wallingford, about a half-hour away. And Wallingford was on the train line... easy access for a college student who didn’t have a car.
I’d always taken the New Haven Line to New York City. I didn’t know what was in the other direction towards New Haven. During Thanksgiving weekend I was going to meet Sheryl’s family, and I was going to find out what was down the tracks heading east.
First was a pleasant surprise that I could ride for free. Most passengers on the New Haven Line got on in New York City, and little by little the train would empty out the further down the line it went. Most conductors would collect all the tickets shortly after leaving Grand Central and would sit in their cab for the rest of the trip. The few passengers who got on an intermediate stops would almost never have their tickets collected. I kept the $3.50 ticket in my wallet just in case.
The 5:37 train rumbled into Fairfield, and dozens of afternoon commuters got off. As best I could tell, I was the only person getting on. I was hadly notices as I walked onto the train against a crush of people getting off. I plopped down in a window seat and watched the scenery go by. The train accelerated out of Fairfield station and rounded the Post Road curve on its 20-minute trip to New Haven. The train climbed to the Railroad Avenue viaduct, a stone embankment that led to Bridgeport station. Beyond Bridgeport was the east end coach yard and Stratford Station. The train was nearly empty now. Across the historic Housatonic River drawbridge came Milford station. Then the four track line narrowed to three as the train eased towards the open rock cut and New Haven station at end of the line.
New Haven station had been lovingly restored, with high marble ceilings and gold-painted ornaments. Off the train I went, and into the station to buy a ticket on the connecting Amtrak train to Wallingford. $7.50 more, and on the connecting train they’d always take your ticket.
Only five trains a day made the trip up the Inland Route from New Haven to Springfield, and Wallingford was the first stop. Four of these trains were bound for Springfield, Massachusetts. The first two coaches from a Boston-bound train would be separated at New Haven, a second engine would be attached, and those cars would veer off the main line at Oak Creek for the run inland. Another engine would be standing by to take the remaining eight cars along the Coastal Route to Boston. The separating of the train was fascinating. The car tonk would climb down the platform and open the couplers between the engine and the first coach. The old electric engine would pull away. A silver, red, and white diesel would back into place and connect to the train. A new engineer would climb into the cab. A new conductor would board. A brake test. A horn blast. And we were off.
Wallingford was 10 minutes up the line, with a venerable old train station that dated back at least a-hundred years. Like the classic New England town that it was, the train station was in the heart of downtown, with the town green and gazebo across the street. I’d get off the train and look around. Sheryl was waiting. A friendly face is among the best things to see at the end of train ride. And a ride back home on the train made parting less of a sorrow.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau