A Ride on The Air Line



Air Line Trail, Colchester CT
Air Line Trail, Colchester CT
The Air Line was once the primary inland railway between New York and Boston. Unable to support larger modern trains, it was recommissioned as a recreational path and linear State Park. It features a wide crushed stone path and is easy biking for any level rider.






Without a jar, or roll or antic,Without a stop to Willimantic,
The New England Limited takes its wayAt three o'clock each day,Maids and Matrons, daintily dimited,Ride every day on the New England Limited;Rain nor snow ne'er stops its flight,It makes New York at nine each night.
One half the glories have not been toldOf that wonderful train of white and goldWhich leaves each day for New York at three
Over the N.Y. & N.E.   -Rudyard Kipling


From New York to Boston along a line drawn between the two 'as if in the air'.  When the veterans of America's Civil War were not yet 30 years old New England began to percolate with big ideas. With the transcontinental barrier broken obstacles to any major transportation project seemed insignificant. Such obstacles were frequent and overcome with engineering might along the Air Line.

We dream about the same things today: How wonderful would it be to travel on Super 7 from Norwalk to Danbury - in a straight line on a robust multi-lane expressway? Imagine a high speed train shuttling passengers between Boston and D.C. at 220mph. Or, how about a New Haven Line option to arrive in Penn Station - with a connection to the LIRR?

Are we as bold today as we were in the fabled Gilded Age?  This remains to be seen.

The Air Line hosted the famed White Train. The Ghost Train...Whose whitewashed clerestory cars, trimmed in gold, stormed past at such unimaginable speeds (40mph) that it appeared to be an iridescent otherworldly object slicing through time itself. The Ghost Train was illusive, so fast that it could not be grasped before it was gone down the tracks - It's lonely horn howling a haunting and hypnotic siren song that echoed off the giant stone hearths and arches supporting unfathomably high viaducts. Its coal fired boilers hissing all the while.

I can imagine what it must have been like for a Connecticut farmers' boy to witness the White Train as it passed by his humble homestead on a spooky moonlit night. The awe and wonder of such advanced technology screaming through deeply peaceful Connecticut woods surely inspired many dark and twisted dreams.

But, I can also imagine the passengers on that train. The Air Line served the Northeast Corridor decades before Grand Central or Penn. The streets of New York were choked with coal smoke and soiled with raw sewage. The harbors, we now call greenways and waterfronts, must have stank from a confluence of discarded fluids. To be whisked along through green and peaceful Connecticut on a luxury train must have been a deep and pacific inspiration.

You might catholicly contemplate these divergent perspectives - one of the observed, the other of the observer - while you pedal along this historic route. You will take in the sights at a far slower and much quieter pace than was imagined for this right-of-way. Yet 40mph is not unachievable on a bike.

Salmon River from the Air Line Trail, Colchester CT
Salmon River from the Air Line Trail, Colchester CT


DIRECTIONS

Address for your GPS: 240 Hartford Road, Amston CT 06231
| Coordinates: N41.59192,W072.391461|
From Bridgeport1 Hour 15 Minutes
From New Haven1 Hour
From Hartford25 Minutes
From New London35 Minutes
From Providence1.5 Hours
From New York2.5 Hours



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LINKS

Air Line Trail Map

Official Air Line State Park Website

Air Line History

Flickr Images from Air Line Trail



PHOTOS

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Air Line Trail, CT
Air Line Trail, CT
Air Line Trail, CT
Salmon River, Air Line Trail