Berlin, CT (BER)
Cradled between two ranges of hills, the city is well known throughout Connecticut as the site of the Berlin Fair held each fall. The festivities include games, rides, musical performances, livestock and produce displays and a bevy of contests.
51 Depot Road
Berlin, CT 06037
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 16,332
- Facility Ownership: Amtrak
- Parking Lot Ownership: State of Connecticut
- Platform Ownership: Amtrak
- Track Ownership: Amtrak
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Passengers in Berlin use platforms near a new station currently under construction as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) Rail Project. The rail program is a partnership between the state of Connecticut, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration, as well as the states of Massachusetts and Vermont. At an estimated total cost of approximately $650 million, this multi-year effort is aimed at creating new commuter and enhanced intercity passenger rail services benefiting the cities along the Amtrak Springfield Line. This 62-mile corridor is also considered essential to future plans for high-speed rail service in greater New England.
As of early 2016, the NHHS Project had received almost $191 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and other federal funding programs in order to double-track and upgrade portions of the route. Additional funding will be required to complete the remainder of the improvements. Connecticut has approved the use of up to $435 million in state bond proceeds to invest in NHHS Rail Corridor improvements. An assessment of the project’s environmental impacts was released in May 2012, and the commuter service is expected to launch in early 2018.
Towns such as Berlin have begun to consider possible enhancements to the areas around their rail stations to encourage the creation of mixed-use neighborhoods that would allow residents to work, shop and live without the need for an automobile. Under the NHHS Project, a new facility is being constructed at Berlin that will contain elevators, stairways and an overhead pedestrian bridge across the tracks. High-level platforms will feature snow melt systems, and ticket vending machines, a passenger information display system, bicycle racks and roadway access improvements will also be installed.
Amtrak customers used an historic 1900 red brick depot, which stood near the new facility, until early 2016 when it was closed for rehabilitation under the NHHS Project. Unfortunately, the depot was severely damaged by fire in December 2016, and the remaining portions of the building were demolished early the next year.
The old Berlin station was one in a long line of depots to stand in the general vicinity, and it was commissioned by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, more commonly referred to as the “New Haven.” Composed of red brick laid in common bond, it resembled other period depots built by the railroad throughout New England. By using a similar design, the company would have saved money on design fees.
Rectangular in layout, the building was topped with a hipped roof that extended out over the walls on the north, west and south elevations to create a porch of wide and generous dimensions that sheltered passengers from inclement weather. Where the porch terminated on the east façade, the spandrels featured a grid pattern. According to the original building plans, the roofing material was durable slate, and the ridge line was decorated with a wrought-iron railing. Trackside, a central cross gable contained a semi-circular window.
The bricklayers put their skills to good use to create the depot’s prominent quoins and arches, as well as the water table and belt courses that encircled the structure. The water course ran at the level of the first floor window sills, while one of the belt courses hits those same windows at the spring line of their arches. Above, the other belt course formed the sills of the elegant lunette windows that allowed light into the attic level. From historic photos, it is clear that the eastern façade once had a porte-cochère whose spandrels matched those of the porch.
Noted depot features included the large arched tripartite windows on the east and west facades highlighted by raised brick surrounds; above, the belt course graciously echoed the form of the arch. The window’s upper areas displayed colorful panes of stained glass in complementary color tones such as purple, green, blue and creamy white. To the sides they were set in a square grid while the center section had a flaming torch surrounded by flowing curlicues that from a distance resembled the form of a butterfly.
Trackside, the window was set within a slightly projecting bay whose base consisted of coursed ashlar granite. It gave onto the ticket office, which once housed the telegraph equipment too. Sticking his head out of the window, the station master could monitor traffic along the line.
The original layout of the station divided the main floor into four areas. The south and north ends respectively housed the parcel express office and baggage room. Both spaces were only accessible from the exterior and had wide double doors that allowed carts laden with crates, packages and trunks to be wheeled in directly from the platform. Next to the parcel express office were the restrooms, which gave onto the bright and airy waiting room in the center of the building.
Washed in light pastels as the sunlight passed through the eastern arched window, the waiting room was long dominated by the original ticket office, whose corners were gently rounded. Resembling those in other early 20th century New Haven facilities, it was a three-sided structure placed against the western wall of the building to form an enclosed, private space. The bottom third was covered in bead board while the upper portion featured recessed rectangular panels. A wide chair rail separated the two and emphasized the placement of the two windows—one for the ticket agent and another for the telegrapher. Dentil molding finished off the upper edge of the office wall.
Up above, the old tin ceiling displayed a grid of squares inset with smaller ones. Decorative designs were found on the faux beams and the cornice, as well as on the medallions whose placement showed the original configuration of the lighting fixtures. With many of its interior finishes largely unaltered, Berlin was often considered one of the best preserved of Connecticut’s small 19th century depots.
Prior to European settlement, the Berlin area was primarily a hunting ground for American Indian groups including the Wangunks, Quinnipiacs and the Mattabesett. In the early 1660s, an approximately 1,000 acre tract of land along the Quinnipiac River was acquired by Jonathan Gilbert of Hartford; it stretched over what are today parts of Wallingford, Meriden, New Britain and Berlin.
Crisscrossed by streams, much of the land was referred to as the “Great Swamp” although there were higher elevations with meadows and prominent ridgelines. Gilbert never moved to his property, and thus the first true settler of European origin is considered to be Richard Beckley. Coming up from coastal New Haven, he purchased land in the late 1660s from Terramuggus, a local American Indian chief. By 1670 he had constructed a house and soon thereafter erected a mill on the Mattabesett River.
In the next decade, Jonathan Gilbert’s son-in-law, Andrew Belcher, constructed a tavern on the road between New Haven and Hartford. Those cities had been the heads of their own colonies which finally joined together into one entity in 1664. As a result of the merger, a system of dual capitals was born that lasted well into the 19th century. The 40-mile overland route between them became a vital transportation corridor, and settlements along the road—including Berlin—prospered as taverns and stables were constructed to accommodate travelers.
Outside of the orbits of Hartford and New Haven, the Berlin area was considered the frontier until the early 18th century. When a dozen families under the guidance of Richard Seymour moved to the district in 1686 from Farmington, they immediately built a fort as defense against unfriendly American Indian tribes and wild animals. The cabins were located within the stockade, but farming plots were allotted beyond the walls.
Religion was central to life in the early colonial period in Connecticut, and meeting houses functioned not only as places of worship, but as administrative centers for local government. Residents of the Great Swamp had to travel eight miles to Farmington every Sunday, and by 1705 they decided to petition for their own parish. Although granted, the meeting house was not erected for 11 years. It no longer stands, but its 1774 successor on Worthington Ridge is one of a handful remaining from the pre-Revolutionary era.
By the mid-18th century, Berlin developed as a center for metal industries, and numerous blacksmiths could be found on the road between the capitals; they supported other businesses such as coopers, saddlers and wagon makers. William and Edward Pattison, Irish immigrants, started a tinware business in 1740. Importing sheets of tin from England, the brothers cut out and fashioned spoons, plates, cups and other household goods.
The popularity of their products grew so that they soon employed traveling salesmen to peddle the wares across the country—giving rise to the famous “Yankee Peddler.” Period accounts recall that these peddlers, hauling goods by sack or wagon, were found as far as Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis at a time when the lands west of the Appalachians were sparsely populated by European colonists. Stocks of tin ware and other Connecticut-made items including clocks, pins and buttons were often shipped to major ports such as New Orleans where the salesmen replenished their supplies and set out once again. The imprint of the Yankee Peddler was so strong on colonial society that an image of the figure with his basket of useful treasures now adorns Berlin’s city seal.
Ammunition was also an important industry, and arms manufacturer and resident Simeon North is credited with developing one of the nation’s first milling machines in the 1810s. It allowed for a great degree of precision and helped further efforts to create standardized, interchangeable parts. For many decades, North fulfilled contracts with the federal government to manufacture pistols, but he later moved his factory to nearby Middletown.
Due to its abundant and fast flowing rivers, New England was the first region of the young United States to industrialize starting in the 1790s. The need to move products quickly and facilitate shipping gave rise to early railroads. One of those was the Hartford and New Haven (H&NH), chartered in 1833 to link its namesakes. Despite delays caused by the financial panic of 1837, the line was in full operation by 1839. That December, it bore the first steam locomotive in the state and ushered in a new era in transportation.
At New Haven, passengers could transfer to steamships to reach New York City. As was common in the early days of railroading, Berlin’s ticket office was located in a store. Rail stations were a new type of building, and it took a few years for architects to hit upon a prototype that worked well for passenger and freight needs. The town’s first permanent depot, opened in 1848, was a two story board and batten structure with deep eaves supported by heavy, fancy brackets.
Many of Connecticut’s early railroads, such as the H&NH, were oriented north-south due to the undulating coastline which was marked by numerous streams and rivers that would have to be bridged. The challenge was not undertaken until the New York and New Haven Railroad (NY&NH) was chartered in 1844; by 1849, the line had opened between the two named endpoints, with access over the New York and Harlem Railroad into Manhattan. Realizing the value in helping one another and shutting out rivals, the H&NH and the NY&NH agreed to merge in 1872, resulting in the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, or the “New Haven.”
The New Haven quickly became the dominant freight and passenger line in southern New England, absorbing smaller railroads in order to control the route linking Boston and New York City. In the first decade of the 20th century, a group of investors headed by J.P. Morgan gained control of the New Haven, and went on a buying spree to acquire steamship lines and trolley companies in an effort to completely monopolize regional transportation. By the 1920s, the New Haven had more than 2,000 miles in its portfolio, and it was estimated that it carried 10 percent of American passenger rail traffic. Berlin became an important junction for local serving lines. To reach significant industrial concerns, branch lines were opened southeast to Middletown in 1848 and northwest to New Britain in 1865. Two full wyes were laid out at Berlin, and the branch lines operated into the 1930s.
While the right-of-way for the H&NH was being prepared in the late 1830s, large beds of clay were discovered and determined to be perfect for brick-making. The first brickyard was established in 1842, and the industry thrived until the mid-20th century. By 1910, a dozen manufacturers were producing more than 100 million units per year. Each company stamped its bricks with a unique signature, and today a collection of these building blocks can be viewed at the Berlin Historical Society Museum, along with brick molds and terra cotta fragments. Blonde bricks from the nearby Yale Brick Company were used in the construction of a new depot that opened in 1893 but which only stood a few years before it was destroyed by fire. Its replacement did not fare much better, as it was struck by lightning and also engulfed in flames. Remnants of this structure, such as the foundation, were then incorporated into a new depot in 1900.
Cradled between two ranges of hills, whose most prominent peaks are Lamentation and Ragged mountains, the city is well known throughout Connecticut as the site of the annual Berlin Fair. Initiated in 1882 as a Harvest Festival, the Fair is now run by the Lions Club as a way to raise funds for charitable work in the region. Held each fall, the festivities include games, rides, food vendors and live musical performances on the Midway, livestock and produce displays in the Exhibit Halls, and a bevy of contests to determine the best nail driver, smiliest baby, fastest turtle and best blueberry pie eater.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station, which is served by 12 daily trains. Springfield Shuttle service between Springfield and New Haven is financed primarily through funds made available by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. The Vermonter is financed primarily through funds made available by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
- 20 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Short Term Parking Spaces
- Wheelchair Lift