James Kennedy



James D. Kennedy is another Derby Hall of Famer who contributed to the progress in transportation not only in Derby, but throughout the country. Kennedy came to Derby in 1877 after leading the construction of the first electric trolley road from Scranton to Dunmore, PA in 1885 and 1886. Besides the construction of the line, Kennedy won fame for overcoming the difficulty of operating the line when ice could be formed on the track. He outfitted the cars with special sand boxes under the front seats that released sand onto the tracks. It was said by some that the innovation spelled the doom of horse drawn trolleys.

He was persuaded to duplicate the Scranton line in Derby by Thomas Wallace of the Borough of Ansonia. The line between Derby and Ansonia would become the first in New England came to fruition at midnight on April 30,1888. A large crowd witnessed that first trip from Ansonia to Derby and regular trolley service began the next day. At the time, the horse-drawn Ansonia and Derby Railway provided service between the two boroughs on both sides of the Naugatuck River, while the new electric line only serviced the east side of the river. However, the superiority of the electric services replaced the Ansonia and Derby Railway.

Kennedy went on to build electric lines in Lynn, MA and Bangor, ME before returning to Derby serving as construction superintendent for the Derby Street Railway Company and its successor, the Connecticut Company.

He was born in Syracuse, New York on May 4, 1854, but his large family moved to Scranton and his father and brothers worked on the railroads there. Kennedy went to work with the Delaware and Hudson Railroad and developed his skills working with his brother on other railroad construction projects.

Mr. Kennedy's son, Joseph G. Kennedy, was born in Derby and at an early age entered the postal service. He served as a clerk and substitute carrier and assistant postmaster and on July 1, 1935, was commissioned acting postmaster.

The Tercentenary Pictorial and History of the Lower Naugatuck Valley by Leo Molloy is the source of this information.

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