July 31: All Aboard The Branford Trolley Line!


On this day in Connecticut history, one of the first electrically-powered trolley lines in the United States began service between Branford and East Haven, Connecticut.  July 31, 1900 marked the inaugural run of the Branford Electric Railway, which was hailed as a more efficient and sanitary way to transport people along the Connecticut shoreline than the horse-drawn streetcars which were then the most dominant form of public transportation.

The advent of electric trolley lines in the early 20th century marked a turning point in settlement patterns in Connecticut.  With more easily-accessible transportation options available, families began flocking to newly-established suburban neighborhoods, where they could escape the noise and crowds of city life while still able to commute to their urban places of employment.

ConnCo car no. 1425, one of the many original trolley cars preserved, owned, and still operated by the Shore Line Trolley Museum.

The Branford Electric Railway operated along the Connecticut shoreline for 47 years until newer suburban trends — namely the advent of the family car, the construction of auto parkways, and the expansion of suburban neighborhoods beyond the reach of the trolley line — led to service being officially discontinued in 1947.  However, the Branford Electric Railway Association, founded in 1945 and operating today as the Shore Line Trolley Museum, had enough foresight to immediately purchase a section of track and assume operation of the trolley service (albeit on an extremely reduced basis) as soon as the Railway company relinquished it.  Their forward-thinking actions ensured that there has never been an official interruption of service on the Branford Electric Railway, earning it the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating trolley line in America.  In 1983, the Museum successfully petitioned to have their line of historic track included on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, visitors to the Shore Line Trolley Museum, located in East Haven, can ride the rails on one of the historic trolleys used during the original run of the Branford Electric Railway.

Further Reading

Branford Gets on the Trolley,” connecticuthistory.org

A Century Along the Branford Electric Railway,” Shore Line Trolley Museum website