Derby History Quiz

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Derby in the year's before the turn of the century (1900!) was a fairly prosperous and progressive community. The picture above shows Derby Horse Railway's Electrical Line Motor on the left shortly after being put into service in July 1888. Passenger car No. 1 is to the right, but it is the one on the left that made world history for Derby.

What made it unique was the fact that it was the first electric locomotive to be built and successfully used commercially for hauling freight. Its motor was built by the Van Depoele Electric Manufacturing Company and the railway car was built by the Pullman Palace Car Co., of Pullman, Illinois. It arrived in Derby in April and was in service by July. If you look carefully, you can see the flatbed loaded for a possible trip to the Derby Docks. There the steamboats of the Naugatuck Valley Steamboat Company stood ready to transport the goods to market.

The arrangement was short lived however, as steam railroads and low freight rates drove the steamboat line out of business in 1895 and eliminated the need for the freight locomotive between Ansonia and the Derby Docks.

The locomotive is now on display at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven. 

This quiz proved to be very elusive to many who thought that the correct answer was the first electric rail line in the U.S. rather than the first electric locomotive for hauling freight. Correct answers were received from Marsha Pettingill, Randy Ritter, Mary Lou Boroski, and Jack Skelding.

Randy even provided more interesting information about the history associated with this venture. Click here to read it.

The information and photo for this quiz came from "The Derby Horse Railway and the World's First Electric Freight Locomotive" by John R. Stevens published by the New Haven Colony Historical Society in 1987.

To see our other earlier quizzes and learn more about Derby's unique history, click here.

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