Museum Spotlight: Danbury Railway Museum

 

The caboose was originally built for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad in 1909 in their East Buffalo, New York shops and was retired in 1969. This style of caboose was mainly in service from Buffalo to Albany and down to New York City and Weehawken, New Jersey. The New York Central had hundreds of these and its main feature was the low cupola to account for height clearance issues in New York State. Photograph by Carolyn Taylor.

The Danbury Railway Museum’s mission is to “educate the public as to the history of railroading and to the role of the railroads as part of our local and national heritage, and to engage in any and all activities convenient to said purposes.” This museum is filled with character and fun for people of all ages. It is located in downtown Danbury, Connecticut, and is a great place to bring your family to learn and experience the history of trains and the railroad. Housed in an historic train station, the Danbury Railway Museum bridges the distance between the present and the past.

Danbury Railway Museum’s collection focuses on the New Haven Railroad, for which the Danbury station was built in 1903, as well as other railroads from around the United States. Originally the station included a railyard facility, freight house, round house, and turntable. Between the 1960s and 1980s, the thriving railway station began to decline and several of the buildings burned or were torn down.

The Danbury Railway Museum was started by railroad enthusiasts in order to preserve the historical railways and trains of New England. In March 1994, Danbury Railway Museum was created using the existing facilities from the Metro North station, which was closed in 1993. The City of Danbury received a grant to restore the station in order to transform the train station into today’s museum.

The museum has over 350 members helping to make it grow and thrive. Their collection includes over sixty pieces of railroad equipment (including “rolling stock,” train cars that move on tracks, sometimes with visitors on board!) housed in the railyard. In addition, there are many beautiful and detailed model trains, as well as a library filled with information about trains from all over the country. Visitors to the museum during special events might ride in the cab of an engine, in a coach, or in a caboose; they might even take a ride on the turntable! Both the turntable and restored station are on the National Register of Historic Places.

I was able to speak with Stan Madyda, Vice President of Danbury Railway Museum.

 

PY: What is your favorite exhibit/object at the Danbury Railway Museum?

SM: The New York Central wooden caboose. We are working on the restoration of this beautiful wooden caboose which is part of the history of the New York Central Railroad. After finding this car, we began researching further into NYC wooden cabooses and found that there are only about thirteen of them left from that era. I have gone to visit some in upstate New York. These cabooses are about 100 years old. Cabooses protect the end of trains and have good vantage points used by the train’s conductor and engineers. The train conductor would use it as an office and a home away from home. Cabooses were done away with around 1980 with the invention called “End of Train Device,” which is a remote radio device that can alert the engineer of problems. This device allowed trains to go from being operated by five people to two people, cutting the cost of operation to the railroad.

 

PY: Can you talk about some of your annual events?

SM: The Danbury Railway Museum has a number of special events. One is First Responders’ Day. All first responders get free admission. The museum also holds a special event for National Train Day and Owney the Postal Dog Day, as well as Danbury Railway Days in August. There are great special events for families, such as the Pumpkin Patch trains around Halloween. Kids can ride on a special decorated train, drink cider, and eat cookies. At the end, the train drops them off at a pumpkin patch where they can pick out a pumpkin. Our holiday special events include Christmas trains and Easter Bunny trains.

 

PY: What is a fun fact about Danbury Railway Museum? 

SM: Several scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train were filmed around the station! Stars Farley Granger and Robert Walker were on the set.

For more information on the Danbury Railway Museum please visit http://www.danbury.org/drm/.

 

Annmarie Savarese
Research Advisory Board



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