Categories: Bristol, East Haddam, Emergence of Modern America, Everyday Life, Popular Culture, Surprise, William Gillette
Video – William Gillette’s Railroad
YouTube – CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection
Actor William Gillette is featured in this two-minute newsreel, “Sherlock Holmes Turns Engineer,” filmed by Fox Movietone News in 1927. Gillette’s point of pride—his short-line, narrow gauge train—is shown traveling over the three-mile route on the grounds of his 184-acre estate, the Seventh Sister (known today as Gillette Castle) in East Haddam. From the 1920s through the ‘30s, Gillette’s personal railroad amused visiting dignitaries from Albert Einstein to Calvin Coolidge as it carried them across bridges, trestles, and through a tunnel Gillette designed himself. The 18-inch-gauge railroad included electric- and steam-powered locomotives, two Pullman cars, and an observation car. In the 1940s the tracks and train engines were sold to Lake Compounce in Bristol. They were donated back in the 1990s and a restored passenger car is currently on display at the castle’s visitor center.