Posts Tagged ‘Willimantic’

The Bridge of Death

The Abandoned Willimantic River Railway

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

“He who approaches the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, heir the other side he see.” Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

I love this quote. I always have. My friends and I used to quote this and all the other great lines from the immortal British classic all the time. Hell, I still quote it every once in awhile. It may sound a little extreme for this piece, but there has never been a structure we’ve come across that is more menacing than the abandoned bridge that was once the lifeline of the Willimantic River Railway. We’ve crossed it once before, and it was quite an exhilarating experience. Until our way back across it when the old structure began to creak. That is not a sound you ever want to hear when you’re standing fifty feet in the air over the running waters of the Willimantic River. Heart-stopping as it was, we did make it back safely.  It is an experience that I shall never forget. Though it may have been a bit scary, it was a nice thrill ride to conquer the bridge. Since then, we unofficially christened the old bridge with the quotable nickname. That was over two years ago. So in the early days of spring 2017, we decided to return to the Bridge of Death.

 The official entrance to the Willimantic River can be found on Columbia Avenue. Sitting right before the Columbia/Windham town line, the area is technically a part of the Hop River State Park Trail. Commonly used for biking and hiking, the trail begins here and extends all the way to the Vernon town line. It is describes as a perfect two mile ride or walk for your average outdoorsmen, but it wasn’t always this way. In the mid 1990’s, the town of Willimantic was a hotspot for railways and train yards. One of the older and more prominent lines ran across the picturesque Willimantic River. However, a fierce rainy season during the summer of 1955 caused major flooding in the area. The flooding permanently crippled some of the bridges on the Willimantic River line, causing it to be decommissioned shortly after. Following its closure, the land was converted into a recreational area. The former railway bed was removed and covered with gravel, making the paths perfect for bikers. It is now managed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Energy and Protection, and maintained by local volunteers and organizations. However, not everything was removed from this former railway line.

Returning to the abandoned Willimantic River Railway was quite different than our first visit. The multiple tent cities had been completely cleared out. A few pieces of junk were still left behind, most notably some beat up bedroom furniture and a deck of playing cards. But the bridge itself still proudly stands…barely. Though she may look just as sardonically beautiful as she once was, we chose not to cross it this time. The old wooden supports for this former workhorse have taken a turn for the worse. And though the water was exceptionally high that day, it was still not worth the risk of crossing it again. Adventurer’s beware. Around the bridge, a lot of old track is still standing. Farther down the line, a couple chunks of old machinery can still be found. Even without crossing the bridge, it is still truly a sight to marvel at. It is a relic of the past, and a testament of fortitude to its original crafters. And while the world around her continues to change at a whirlwind pace, the Bridge of Death is still standing.

Top 5 Abandoned Places to Go Hiking

Posted: March 20, 2017 by kingleser in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cabin, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Drive-In, abandoned home, Abandoned Hospital, Abandoned House, abandoned military bases, abandoned mill, abandoned new england, Abandoned Railway, Abandoned train station, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Berkshires, Bolton, Broken, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, dreams, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, Fortress, Forts, Graveyard, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, Massachusetts, Military, Military Forts, Mystery, nature, new england, Nike Missile Base, overgrown, photography, Portland, Public Parks, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, State Parks, Stories, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Williamtic, writing
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Top 5 Abandoned Places to Go Hiking

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Hiking is the whole reason we ever got into this. We accidentally stumbled upon the abandoned Sunrise Resort while hiking at a state park in Moodus. The rest is history. When we plot an investigation, it is usually to go explore something like a big abandoned building. But every once in awhile, we come across a place that may not be as exciting as an abandoned asylum but is still a fun place to hike. There may not be too much to see, but its nice to just be outdoors and do some exploring. Here are a few of our favorite abandoned places across New England to go hiking!

#5 – Manchester Drive-In (Manchester, CT)

This is another place that we just accidentally stumbled upon. While driving home from the office, I would see a large skeletal frame looming out of the woods. I thought it was just an old billboard, but upon further exploration we uncovered that it was actually the ruins of the old Manchester Drive-In movie theater. Unfortunately, there is not much to see here. But the old sign still sits out front, and the old screen looms high and daunting in the sky. With good weather, it is a really nice hike.

#4 – Aspinwall Hotel (Lenox, MA)

And once again, this was another place we just found. We were staying up in the Berkshires as I had a big audition up there. We went for a short walk by our hotel, and found the ruins of the Aspinwall Hotel. Once one of the most popular hotels in all of New England, this former hotspot was burned to the ground at the turn of the century. Now only ghostly ruins still stand all over the woods. But the picturesque mountain view and the lovely wooded setting make this one a very cool visit.

#3 – Willimantic River Railway (Willimantic, CT)

This place can be a little spooky. It was once part of the lifeblood of the rail system all along the East Coast. Now, she is nothing more than a shadow of her former self. The local homeless population uses this area from time to time as a makeshift tent community. But they periodically seem to get kicked out. Plus stretching over the untamed Willimantic River still stands the old tressell, aka The Bridge of Death. Crossing it is certainly one thing that we crossed off our bucket list. Watch your step, and don’t look down.

#2 – Shade Swamp Shelter (Farmington, CT)

This is certainly one of the more unique and underrated places that we have ever visited. It really doesn’t get enough attention. Once a wildlife shelter and sanctuary, this historic landmark now sits empty in the middle of the woods just off a very busy road. Along a winding trail, there are dozens of old enclosures, cages, and habitats that once housed the former residents of this shelter. On a nice sunny day, this place is not only great for hiking but is also a treasure trove for all you nature photographers out there.

#1 – Nike Missile Site (Portland, CT)

Our number one pick just happens to be in the middle of a state forest. It may be a gigantic pain in the ass to get to, but its really worth it if you can make the trip. Unpaved roads, untamed wilderness, and a total lack of other people can hinder your journey. But if you can find the lost Nike Missile site deep in the woods, you’re in for a real treat. The two sites are about a mile from each other. One features a few still standing structures. The other still has its tunnel system (which we recommend you stay out of). Of all the places on this list, this one is truly all about exploration.

And that’s our list! Got any other places you think are great for hiking? Be sure to let us know! Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe.

Finish Your Popcorn – The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

Posted: October 27, 2016 by Abandoned Wonders and Hidden Wonders Photography in #postaday, Abandoned, Abandoned Attractions, Abandoned Business, Abandoned Cinema, Abandoned Connecticut, Abandoned Drive-In, abandoned new england, Abandoned Theaters, Abandoned USA, Abandoned Wonders, Broken, Cinema, Closed, commercial, Connecticut, darkness, Death, Destruction, empty, Exploration, exploring the abandoned, for sale, Forgotten, forgotten beauty, forgotten home, Ghosts, Haunting, Hiking, History, Homeless, Information, left behind, lost, Mansfield, Movies, Mystery, nature, new england, nightmares, overgrown, photography, research, Ruins, Safety First, Searching, Showcase Cinema, Stories, Theater, Uncategorized, Urban Decay, Urban Exploration, Urban Exploring, Urbex, Williamtic, writing
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Finish Your Popcorn

The Abandoned Willimantic Movieplex

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs by: Amanda H.

Cinema should make you forget that you are sitting in a theater.” -Roman Polanski

We have known the bustling town of Willimantic for many years now. When we were both in college, the town was like a second home to us. We did four years of university here; going to classes by day and enjoying the festivities of the town by night. Willimantic has always been a place full of life and light. It features an old school main street, many thriving businesses, and a rich local culture. Notable landmarks such as the Frog Bridge, Eastern Connecticut State University, and the Willimantic Brewing Company make it a surefire place to visit. But there is one place here that sticks out from the vibrant town around it. And that is the now defunct Willimantic Movieplex. Though it was once a staple of the local community, it is now an eyesore and a shadow of its former self. Today, it is simply used as a municipal parking lot for the local businesses. Sitting on a prime piece of real estate, the abandoned Willimantic Movieplex has had quite a history. But regrettably, its past is much more rich than its future.

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The Willimantic Movieplex was first opened during the heyday of the local community. Located right at the cross roads of both the historic Main Street and the nearby Route 66, the theater was in a prime position in downtown Willimantic. With no other movie theaters in the general area, it was very successful during its initial run. But as we all know, times change. And the movie industry is about as predictable as the weather. During the late 90’s/early 2000’s, attendance began to wane. Competition also sprouted up a few miles away with the new Mansfield Movieplex. Over the next few years, the ownership of the theater bounced back and forth like a game of hot potato. It closed and re-opened several times during this period, as multiple different owners tried to save the failing theater. Its final owners made a few minor renovations during 2004 in an attempt to recapture business. But it was never enough. The Willimantic Movieplex closed its doors for good in 2006. It has remained abandoned ever since.

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I honestly wish I could tell you there was more to see here. But sadly, there isn’t. Due to increasingly bad vandal activity and a large local homeless population, the doors to this place were completely sealed off. A large barrier blocks the front, which once featured two doorways and a small ticket window. Around the sides of the theater, all six of the emergency exit doors have been bolted shut. The paint on the walls is pealing off in droves. Vicious and nasty graffiti coats the exteriors. Discarded clothing, shopping carts, and other various pieces of trash are strewn about the ground. The once well groomed weeds and grass now grow wild and restless. But the theater itself sits quietly, waiting for the next entrepreneur to open her doors again and try to bring it back it life. But sadly, as each days passes, that seems to be less and less likely of ever happening. For the Willimantic Movieplex, it seems that the show is over. The tickets were purchased. The crowds filed in. The previews have played. And the movie has now ended. Roll credits. Finish your popcorn.

Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.” – Jean-Luc Godard

Where the Tracks End

The Abandoned Willimantic River Railway

Written by: Sean L.

Photographs By: Amanda H.

     Along the banks of a lively river in a bustling town, there lies a world hidden in plain sight. Much like another former rail yard that we investigated long ago, Cedar Hill, this is a place outside the bonds of society. It is a place that has become its own little world, where the unexplained and the unexpected walk hand in hand. This is all that remains of the once prominent Willimantic River Railway. Though it may not be as dark and depressing as the abandoned Cedar Hill rail depot in New Haven, it is just as wild and dangerous. This is a world that nature has reclaimed, and the wilderness has claimed dominion over the land. The last remnants of mankind’s kingdom slowly crumble against the weight of time. Tracks have been ripped up. Train cars have been left to rot. An old bridge still runs across the river, decaying in the sun. Although the world left this place behind a long time ago, many different forms of life have come to call it home. On our investigation, we encountered signs of birds, beasts, and even humans living amongst the underbrush.

   The official entrance to the Willimantic River can be found on Columbia Avenue. Sitting right before the Columbia/Windham town line, the area is technically a part of the Hop River State Park Trail. Commonly used for biking and hiking, the trail begins here and extends all the way to the Vernon town line. It is describes as a perfect two mile ride or walk for your average outdoorsmen, but it wasn’t always this way. In the mid 1990’s, the town of Willimantic was a hotspot for railways and train yards. One of the older and more prominent lines ran across the picturesque Willimantic River. However, a fierce rainy season during the summer of 1955 caused major flooding in the area. The flooding permanently crippled some of the bridges on the Willimantic River line, causing it to be decommissioned shortly after. Following its closure, the land was converted into a recreational area. The former railway bed was removed and covered with gravel, making the paths perfect for bikers. It is now managed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Energy and Protection, and maintained by local volunteers and organizations. However, not everything was removed from this former railway line.

   The crown jewel of the abandoned Willimantic River Railway is the bridge. This ancient trestle runs across the Willimantic River, and can be seen from the road. At first glance, it is hard to tell whether or not the bridge is still in use. Once you get up close, it become abundantly clear. The bridge is very rusted, and the wooden support beams have become old and frail. It is about two hundred feet across the bridge, which stands over fifty feet above the running waters of the Willimantic River. Wild vines and vegetation grow all around it. The bridge is quite unsafe and very unstable. We crossed it by going one step at a time, though the entire structure seemed to creek and sway with each and every step. It is not recommended to cross this bridge. It has been nicknamed “The Bridge of Death,” after Monty Python and the Holy Grail. However, it’s much more reminiscent of the railway bridge from Stand by Me. Halfway across it, I almost expected to hear Wil Wheaton yell, “Train!” Sadly though, it has been many years since any locomotive passed across this old structure.

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    On the other side of the river, the old tracks continue for a ways. Sitting on them, is what appears to be a long abandoned set of train cars. The train cars are huge, each one standing very tall and very wide. They have all become overgrown and all but forgotten. Their wheels have become rusty and decrepit, even to the point where it is doubtful whether or not they can even move anymore. We were only able to walk along the left side of the train cars, as the right was completely overgrown with vines and thorn bushes. The old set of train cars sits right beside what must be either a dumping site a Mackey’s supply store. While scoping out the train cars, we encountered what must’ve been either a large dog or coyote which quickly took off into the woods. Though the train cars had some graffiti and there was plenty of liter around, there was no way anyone could break into these. All of the doors and hatchways were padlocked shut. It remains unclear to us whether these cars have been abandoned, or if they have merely been forgotten here.

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     Though the ancient bridge and the old train cars were very cool, the thing that stood out about this place the most were the tent cities. Throughout our walk, we came across three different abandoned encampments along the banks of the river. Each one appeared to have once held a small group of people. There were tents, cooking supplies, clothing, fire pits; everything that was essential to survival. But each encampment had been totally ransacked. Tents were torn apart. Chairs were flipped over. Clothing and sleeping bags lie strewn across the forest floor. It looked like these encampments had been cleared out overnight, like something out of The Walking Dead. We have heard rumors that the local homeless population had been granted legal permission to camp out here, but they have clearly been gone a long time. But for some reason, all of their belongings had been left behind.  There were also dozens of old car tires thrown about all over the place. Some were clustered together, others were in small stacks. It was very strange. But then, we’ve seen it before many times in the past. Places like the Willimantic River railway get left behind, and a whole new world takes over.

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This is what becomes of a place when it finally hits the end of the line. This is where the tracks end.