NORWALK, Conn. — Here we have a photo taken from the roof of The SoNo Collection on Jan. 22, when a smidgeon of snow outlined nearby features and made it just a bit spooky.
The ring in the middle is Oyster Shell Park and the nearest railroad track is the branch to Danbury. The other tracks have recently been added to what was a mostly unused rail yard called the Danbury Dock Yard, in a state project decried in September by former Board of Education member Bryan Meek as an inappropriate use of waterfront property.
The ongoing upgrade to the Danbury Dock Yard is a Connecticut Department of Transportation project being built in conjunction with the Walk Bridge replacement. Metro-North often uses the Walk Bridge, which spans the Norwalk River, to turn trains. But it will unavailable for this purpose during the planned multi-year bridge replacement project.
When finished, the yard will be used to “turn” – meaning reverse the direction of – trains coming off the New Haven Line. Besides laying down new stub tracks, the branch – from the mainline to just north of the dock yard – is being electrified with the installation of overhead catenary wires that will enable electric-powered M8 cars to reach the yard.
Meek called it “a real headscratcher” that “some of our last 5 acres of land on the river” will be used for a “rail yard for Danbury trains.”
“For this we received $5 million for the museum in A/C upgrades when some of our schools still don’t have A/Cs,” Meek wrote
. “…the state is incapable of repurposing any state owned lands for appropriate use. Norwalk just gets to eat a rail yard purposed for trains that serve very few of us because….well just because.”
Work on upgrading the yard began two years ago, and was predicted to be a 30-month project, at a cost of $70 million. ConnDOT now needs to install the catenaries and it will be done.
The entire length of the Danbury Branch is now operated under a signal system that includes Positive Train Control
, a technology designed to automatically stop a train before certain accidents related to human error occur.
ConnDOT spokesman Judd Everhart has explained that after the new bridge has been constructed, the refurbished yard will provide operational improvements to the rail system by continuing to serve as a place to turn and start trains without blocking the mainline, as well as being a location to store trains.