Monday, January 26, 2015

Ghosts of East Berlin

Prompted by a comment on my last post, here are some additional recent (c.2005-2014) photos of the Berlin Branch north of the stone culvert ghost.

I first discovered this branch line when I first started commuting to Hartford via I-91. If you're heading northbound and look east just as you cross the Mattabassett River (just before the Cromwell exit), you'll see this ghost - provided there are no leaves on the trees, and preferably when there's a bit of ghostly snow cover on the ground...

Berlin Branch bridge crossing the Mattabessett River, Cromwell, looking east (railroad south).
I took advantage of an early dismissal from work, Christmas Eve 2005, to hike down and get a closer look:

North is to the right
Though I got very close, I decided it unwise to cross. However, this view confirms that Micro Engineering knows how to do a bridge kit properly:

Looking southbound
Following the line further north - well, you can't really follow it since it's been mostly obliterated just north of this bridge by the interstate and surrounding businesses - but Sebethe Drive in Cromwell follows the old ROW. At the end, you'll see the next bridge over the Mattabessett:

Looking north into East Berlin. Note old station building in the far distance. The old RR bridge carries a public utility ROW today.
So close, but yet so far. There's no quick way to go that final couple hundred yards by car, so you have to backtrack and go the LOOONG way around to get to the other side of the river. But when you do, you can see the old station/freighthouse and what's left of the old Berlin Iron Bridge Company:

Looking south - station in the center distance, remaining buildings of the old Berlin Iron Bridge Co. (what used to be their forge shop, but were tenements by the late 1920s). 
The Berlin Iron Bridge Co. (nee American Bridge Company - see more info here) used to be one of the largest employers in the area with a huge manufacturing complex that occupied most of this area. Unfortunately, by the late 1920s, most of the buildings were gone.

Closer view of the old freighthouse/station, looking south/southwest

Closer view of the remaining Berlin Iron Bridge Co. factory buildings

Looking east - remaining buildings on right (bottom photo c.2005) and what the area looked like in 1920. Comparison photos courtesy John Wallace.
I'm not sure how much of all this I'll be able to include on my layout, but I'm hoping at least to have the short plate girder bridge & freighthouse/station. I'll try to cram in the remaining factory buildings, but by 1947 they're just tenement houses (and would land just about in my aisle). More critical to operations is the old Stanley Chemical plant (StanChem) that was a major paint producer in 1947. You can see what remains of that operation here:

Stanley Chemical, or what remains of it. View looking north. Old Berlin Iron Bridge Co. buildings are off my right shoulder, freighthouse/station is behind me.
And, last but not least, one remaining ghost - a reminder of the primary business in this little valley for many years - a surviving example of a patented Berlin Iron Bridge:

Looking downriver, the railroad bridge is behind me. Near as I can tell from the Sanborn maps of the area, this abandoned bridge used to be the main road/access to the factory complex from the Cromwell side of the river.
I hope you enjoyed these "Ghosts of East Berlin" - and special thanks to commenter GeorgeR for inspiring this post. I hope to do a more detailed treatment of the area as I get more into modeling it, but it's little industrial archaeological field trips like these that really fire the imagination and provide so much fodder for prototype model railroading. And it's posts like these that are some of the most fun to share with you.


  1. Chris, thanks for the great follow-up.


    1. Glad to do it - do you recall there being any other rr related or other interesting buildings when you were there?

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Kyle and thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. Looks you already have contacted me :) What's up?