The Chaplin Station Story
By Robert A. LaMay
The small miniature
looking Chaplin Railroad Station was built sometime during the early
1870’s, since the railroad line it was on was completed during August
of 1872. The building
itself is compact and only measures 12 by 16 feet and has a small
operator’s bay. The line
it sat along was part of the Boston, Hartford & Erie Railroad, a
troubled, bankrupt company that was under reorganization. Within five
years a new railroad company would emerge, namely the famed New York
& New England Railroad.The
Chaplin station served most of its life with the New York & New
England Railroad, which went bankrupt in 1895, and was reorganized as
the New England Railroad. This
railroad too would fail and end up being taken over by the New York, New
Haven & Hartford Railroad in 1898. The New Haven Railroad, as it was referred to, proceeded with
many capital projects that would improve the line as time went on.
These changes resulted in the Chaplin station being replaced by a
larger combination freight and passenger station in 1902.The new structure was
designated Clark’s Corner, primarily because the actual village of
Chaplin was some distance away. This meant that the future of the
Chaplin station building was in question.
However, Elmer Jewett had a strong sense of history and liked to
collect things. He
proceeded to purchase the station from the New Haven for the sum of
$2.00. Elmer, who had
served as agent at both the Chaplin and Clark’s Corner stations, had
the station moved several hundred yards to his backyard at a cost of
$4.00. The station would
sit quietly and safely for another 88 years.Elmer Jewett’s daughter,
Elizabeth Gordon cared for the building for many years and she was
getting on in age. Her
conservator, Ms. Pat Cascio, was greatly concerned about the future of
the building, since the property had been sold.
She wanted the building to be preserved as a station.
It was during this time that Railroad Museum of New England was
developing in the Willimantic area.
The Chaplin station was donated to the RMNE and the building was
relocated from Chaplin to Willimantic during the spring of 1991.
The move to Willimantic ensured its survival and once again it
sat next to a section of the old New York & New England Railroad.From the fall of 1990 to the
summer of 1991, the RMNE did lots of work and many countless of
hours were poured into the site. Heavy
duty clearing of the airline had been undertaken with lots of success.
However, the RMNE’s future as a museum in this area was short
lived due to numerous situations and other challenges which couldn’t
be resolved. This resulted
in the RMNE abandoning their plans for a museum in Willimantic. The RMNE
held their last open house at the site on July 4, 1991.
It was here that the Chaplin station was officially opened for
the public to see. An unveiling of the Chaplin station signboard took place. The
sign board reads -‘Boston 77.4 miles - Hudson River 150.4
miles.’Once the open house closed on July 4, 1991, the RMNE story of
operating a railroad museum in eastern Connecticut ended.
Fortunately the story of a railroad museum coming to Willimantic
didn’t die when the RMNE left town.
Another group of individuals got together with the common
interest of building a railroad museum in Willimantic, Connecticut.
Thus, the Connecticut Eastern Chapter of the N.R.H.S. was formed
in November 1991. Their first task was to ensure that the Chaplain
station would continue to play an important part in the history of
Eastern Connecticut railroading. From 1991 to July 16, 2000, the Chaplin station sat
along part of the New Haven’s Airline and Midland Divisions in
downtown Willimantic, Connecticut.
On July 16, 2000 the Chaplin station was moved to its final
location on the grounds of the Connecticut Eastern Museum approximately
one and a half miles to the west. It
is located in close proximity of the Groton freight house and
reconstructed six-stall Columbia Junction Roundhouse. Currently the Chaplin station is sitting on its
permanent foundation. The
next step is to add fill around the base, put down the loading
platforms, and relay the ties and rails.
Who knows, trains may stop here once again in the not too distant
of Upcoming Events
11 - Business
18 - Monthly
4 - Business
1 - Business
Spring Train Show
5 - P & W
10 - Museum
Grand Opening & Roundhouse Dedication
CERM Spring Train Show
Our spring train show will be held on April 22nd from
10 AM to 3 PM at Windham High School.
Flyers are now available.
Grand Opening and Dedication
The grand opening of the Museum and dedication of
the roundhouse will take place on Sunday, June 10th. The museum will be open from 10 AM to 4 PM and
the dedication ceremony will take place at 2 PM.
A lot of help will be needed to get ready. Can you help?