The state of Connecticut is the third smallest state and the southernmost state of the New England states. Despite its size, the state has many quaint little towns. Among them is the town of Essex. Located on the west shore of the Connecticut River about six miles inland from Long Island Sound, it was attacked by British forces April 8, 1814. Today, you can visit some of the historic buildings to include the Griswold Inn where you can spend a night or take in a meal, or you can drop by the Connecticut River Museum. Essex is a town that is truly a treasure to visit if you are a history buff or one who enjoys the water, and it is also a great town… if you are a railfan.
Welcome to the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.
Now some of you are saying, “Wait a minute. Steam Train and Riverboat? How is this possible? How does the train suddenly become a boat? Is this like a floating railroad?”
The train does not float. Here is what you will experience.
You arrive at the Essex Steam Train depot. You park and walk around looking at the vintage rolling stock. There is also a model train display inside the old freight house that is open when the trains are running. You go to the ticket office to buy your ticket, but you are overtaken by the steam locomotive chugging along. “Toot toot!” The whistle blows. Then board the train and you take your seat. The train pulls away from the station. You look outside, and you come in site of the Connecticut River which the railroad parallels on most of the journey. The train arrives in the town of Haddam which is the terminal for the train.
Now you are saying, “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I know. You get off the train. You walk around Haddam. You get back on the train. Then you go back to Essex. It is the same old same old. This is nothing new. Every train I have been on does the exact same thing.”
Please note why it is called the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat. You have just taken a ride on the train. It is not time to take a ride on the riverboat. You walk over to the riverboat. You board the boat, and your cruise begins on the Connecticut River. You go north and go under the East Haddam Bridge and see the town of East Haddam on your right. Along the way you see homes built on the waterfront and eagle’s nests and, if you are fortunate enough, you may spot a few eagles. You turn around and head south under the East Haddam Highway Bridge. A few miles later you see medieval castle high on a hill. This is Gillette Castle, the home of William Gillette who was a stage actor who was famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes. It is now a state park. Sadly, the riverboat does not stop here for tours, but you will get great views. The boat returns to the dock. You get off the boat, and you ride a shuttle to the town of East Haddam. Here you can see the old opera house that still hosts shows, and you can visit the Gelston House where you can catch a meal with a great view of the river. Once you tour the town you can river the shuttle back to Haddam and walk through the old Haddam depot that houses a gift shop. You then walk back to the train and then head back to Essex.
The Essex Steam Train runs along tracks owned by the Valley Railroad. The tracks were originally owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
The Essex Steam Train is located a 1 Railroad Avenue in Essex, Connecticut just west of Connecticut Route 9 about a few miles north of Interstate 95. Parking is available on site. Excursions options vary. You can go to http://essexsteamtrain.com to learn about the different excursions and to purchase tickets.
If you only want to ride the average train trip, the Essex Steam Train is not for you. You want an train experience that is unlike any other, come ride the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.