News & Reviews News Wire Two charged with stealing track from Connecticut heritage railroad

Two charged with stealing track from Connecticut heritage railroad

By Trains Staff | April 19, 2024

State Environmental Conservation Police make arrests in February theft

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Steam locomotive pulling passenger train out of the forest.
Two people have been arrested for stealing track from the right-of-way of Connecticut’s Essex Steam Train. Jeff Terry

OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. — Two people have been arrested and charged with stealing nearly a half-mile of track used by the Essex Steam Train heritage railroad and selling it for scrap, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has announced.

Jason Hubbard, 47, and Nicole Hooghkirk, 38, of Clinton, Conn., were arrested on April 9 after being identified through an investigation by the agency’s Environmental Conservation Police, with assistance from the Valley Railroad Co., operator of the Essex Steam Train. Eyewitnesses reported track being removed from behind a store in Old Saybrook on Feb. 26; Hubbard and Hooghkirk are alleged to have removed a total of four-tenths of a mile of track from the 12 miles of state-owned trackage in the Connecticut Valley State Railroad Park; that track is leased to the Valley Railroad Co. The pair faces charges including first-degree damage to railroad property, first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree reckless endangerment, and fourth-degree larceny, as well as related “conspiracy to commit” charges.

They were arraigned on April 9; Hooghkirk was released on an appearance bond, while Hubbard was held on a court-set bond of $5,000.

The Essex Steam Train operates a variety of excursions on more than 21 miles of a former New Haven line with three steam locomotives — Alco 2-8-2 No. 40, built in 1920 and first operated in logging service by California’s Minarets & Western Railway; Alco 2-8-0 No. 97, built in 1923 and first operated by Alabama’s Birmingham & Southeastern in 1926; and Chinese-built 2-8-2 No. 3025, constructed in 1989. The railroad also has a pair of diesels it uses in dinner-train service. More information is available at the Essex Steam Train & Steamboat website.

11 thoughts on “Two charged with stealing track from Connecticut heritage railroad

  1. I vaugely recall circa mid-late (??) 60s periodically driving from northern NJ to Mt Ivy in Rockland County, NY for good Pizza, clams, and beer. Up there was the last remnant of the E-L Rwy’s NJ-NY RR line that used to connect back in the day, from Hoboken, NJ to the Haverstraw,NY interchange with the NYC West Shore line. But by that time, the NJ-NY line was long abandoned from Haverstraw back to Mt Ivy where it was still being used to supply coal for the NY State Letchworth Village mental institution. IIRC, that coal delivery shortly ceased then, probably in favor of heating oil truck deliveries, and the line from Spring Valley, (Woodbine commuter yard), NY through Pomona to Mt. Ivy was abandoned. And it didn’t take long for thieves to start stealing rails, as was noticeably seen near where the NJ-NY RR line crossed the U.S. Rte 202 highway in Mt. Ivy. How the thieves accomplished that is anyone’s guess???

  2. Had a MOW crew in a company truck follow thieves who had stolen rail from the ROW. While following the crooks, the MOW crew called the sheriff’s department to report the theft. Sheriff’s department pulled the robbers over. The MOW crew verified the theft and ownership of the track. Sheriff’s deputy said they could not arrest the thieves because the deputy did not witness the theft! Rail sold to a scrap dealer that day. The railroad pulled the gons that night from the scrap yard. The cars were loaded with the railroad’s stolen track. Can’t make this stuff up!

    1. This is the Northeast, land of Soros Law Enforcement and DAs. Here, law enforcement is like fishing; “catch and release.”

      Meanwhile, the scrapped rail is on its way to being metal t-posts. The likelihood of the rail being replaced is low and the Valley Railroad will have to truncate its service.

    2. Sounds like Chris didn’t read the press release. It said the track was repaired. Instead he’d rather make broad political generalizations using harmful dogwhistles.

    3. No Nathan, I did not read the Steam Train and Steamboat website. The article here did not mention anything about the track being relaid.

      In terms of dog whistles, you must have heard yours calling your name. I commented on reality. Perhaps you should check out another news source.

    4. Wow, there’s that George Soros having a hand in this now. Does the conspiracy theorists ever take a break, the way they always say Soros you’d think he’s Superman flying 24/7 to usurp the United States more than all the shysters connected to the orange grifter.

  3. Track is heavy. How did they lift it? Couldn’t be 39ft. lengths. You’d need a crane. If it’s very light rail. say 70lb., that’s still almost a thousand pounds per section. Half a mile? You’d also need a big flatbed trailer. These two must be very muscular. Anyone have details?

  4. Amongest other possible punishments maybe these two fellows could carry rail and other heavy objects to help with the rail line running, oh yes during the warmest and coldest parts of the year!!!

    1. The East Broad Top RR lost close to 2 miles of its track in a similar heist some years ago. Like this time, they did catch them.

    2. I suspect Nicole has now entered the history records as the first known female RR track thief.

  5. How in the name of all that is holy do you steal a half mile of track before somebody notices!?! And I thought scrap merchants weren’t allowed to buy RR track? If they did so, why weren’t they charged too?

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