Willimantic's Railroad Lines

Willimantic was a small but prosperous city in the late 19th century, thanks to its thriving textile mills and its location at the junction of three major railroad lines. The railroads gave Willimantic businesses a great advantage in bringing in materials and shipping out finished goods. Because of the rail lines, Willimantic became a commercial center for the surrounding region, with banks, wholesale businesses such as lumber and coal yards, and a thriving Main Street shopping area. The trains also brought passenger traffic to the city, creating business for hotels and restaurants. At its height, Willimantic was served by forty passenger trains a day.

Willimantic's passenger station was a busy place around 1900.
Willimantic passenger station, ca. 1900

The three major rail lines that converged on Willimantic were:

Helen B steam locomotive

The three lines came together just west of the Thread City Crossing bridge, giving the thread mill exceptional access to the railroad system. For a time in the 1890s, the thread mill operated its own narrow-gauge railroad to transport material from one end of its property to the other, but this was discontinued in the early 20th century in favor of standard-gauge freight sidings.

Today, Willimantic's railroad history is being kept alive by the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum.



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