|Canaan Union Station building and track layout.|
Better known as the oldest operating Union Station in the United States, the historic Victorian era Union Depot of Canaan, Ct. continues to be known as the heart of the town. This grand, wooden structure was born in the heyday of the development of railroads in New England, and miraculously has survived until Fire caused it to almost be completely destroyed on October 13, 2001.
In 1872 the Housatonic Railroad and Connecticut Western Railroad constructed the building at the junction
in North Canaan. The Housatonic ran generally north to south, following it’s namesake river through the hills and valleys of western Connecticut and Massachusetts. The “Western” later became the Central New England, and eventually, both railroads fell under the dominance of the New York, New Haven and Hartford. The “Western” ran from Hartford, west to Poughkeepsie, NY and the important high level bridge across the Hudson River. This link created an all rail route north of New York City, and connected the coal fields of Pennsylvania to the factories of New England. Black diamonds could flow north east, manufactured goods from the many mills and forges of New England would move west and south.
|Canaan Union Station waiting for the train.|
The building featured exterior walls of board and batten siding, and two long wings are at right angles to each
other at the diamond. A distinctive three story tower (topped by a locomotive weathervane) allowed railroad telegraph operators a clear view down the right of way. Each wing was 90 feet in length and was occupied by the respective railroad companies noted above. Graceful rounded arch windows were used throughout, and neat wooden brackets supported the roof and track side canopies. Old curved back benches once occupied the platforms for patrons who were changing trains here.
On the second floor, is a large room that functioned as the station restaurant. It had a twenty foot long semicircular counter in place. In the days before railroad dining cars were commonplace, the Canaan depot lunch room satisfied many a hungry rail patron.
In 1971, passenger service was discontinued. Freight service would remain only until 1974, and the station was closed. It was saved from demolition by a former Amtrak executive who purchased it and converted it to a flourishing retail center, which until recently also includes a very popular railroad theme restaurant in the Central New England wing of the building. In 1980, the state “rail banked” the Housatonic track, and since 1983 a short line by the same name operates on the upgraded track age, which is seeing increasing car loadings. Occasional rail fan excursions still operate on the historic and scenic right of way. Many other stations still exist along the old Housatonic track, and countryside of western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The Connecticut Historical Railroad Association, INC. recently purchased the station after a huge fire nearly destroyed this historical landmark. This not for profit charitable organization is in the works of reconstructing the station back to its original state. The estimated project cost is close to 2.2 million dollars in work and labor. Donations are needed. Please help on reconstructing this historical site that was so much a part of peoples lives and the heart of this small town.