2014 Rails to Trails Tour

Riding the old rails: Railroad authority Bob Belletzkie, holding notes and microphone, and historian Lee Hossler stand in front of what was once the site of the old Stevenson Railway Station (just on the other side of the track) off Cottage Street in front a segment of the nearly 100 riders who assembled Saturday, May 31 2014 on three buses for the Rail Trails Tour arranged by the Monroe Historical Society and the Monroe Senior Center. The tour was sponsored by Bernie Sippin and covered four old railway sites active years ago in Monroe. Rounding out the presenters with Belletzkie and Hossler were John Babina and Pete McLachlan, a retired engineer who once rode the Monroe rails, all working with their own research and material provided by Kevin Daly.                                                              

Four old railway stations on Monroe historical tour May 31, 2014.

The Monroe Historical Society offered a look back to the Golden Age of Railroading for its annual spring glimpse into the past.

The tour covered the sites of four old wooden railway stations once vital to the rhythm of life in Monroe—Stepney and Stevenson Depots, Pepper Crossing and a stop off Hammertown Road known simply as Monroe Station.

To take into account the change in the nature of the sites, what was called “The Mines and Mills Tour” the three previous years becomes “The Rail Trails Tour” for 2014, again open to society members and non-members alike.

The tour was conducted by bus, starting at 10 a.m. sharp from the Monroe Senior Center–where there is ample parking–and the itinerary covers two stops in the morning and two in the afternoon with a noon stopover for lunch in Wolfe Park where there are restroom facilities.

At the center, arrangements had been set up to screen a 10-minute silent film, “The Great Train Robbery,” produced by Thomas Edison Studios in 1903, the first commercially viable movie with sequential scenes. Screenings are scheduled prior to the departure of the buses and after return. There was no admission charge.

Because of safety considerations, no private automobiles, motorcycles or bicycles are permitted on the tour.

Cost of the tour was $10 for members, $15 for non-members, discounted to $5 for seniors and students. Tickets are to be available soon at the Monroe Senior Center and the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library. Previous tours were virtual sellouts. Additional information is also available from Marven Moss at mmoss36@yahoo.com

To pry away the layers of the past, the society has arranged for illustrated presentations at each site, delivered by railway historians John Babina, Bob Belletzkie   and Monroe’s town historian, Ed Coffey.

They prepared displays that show starting in the 1840s how the steam engine was the lifeline for distributing the farm products that drove Monroe’s economy and the primary link to the outside world with its jobs and high schools in Bridgeport. The rail line also gave Monroe’s merchants access to goods and brought the farmers supplies like seed, fertilizer, feed and agricultural machinery.

With the advent of the automobile, by the 1930s passenger service was virtually discontinued. At the same time trucks became a more dedicated alternative for transporting the needs of business although limited use of the tracks for commerce continued until recent years.

The four sites—as they appeared in years gone by–on the Rail Trails Tour, clockwise from top left, Stepney Depot, Pepper Crossing, Stevenson Depot and Monroe Station.

Beardsley Rails Collage