POST # 32 – MANSFIELD DEPOT, TRAIN STATION
By 1849, the New London, Willimantic and Palmer Railroad had completed its line from New London as far as Stafford Springs, providing both passenger and freight service. There were three station stops in Mansfield – Eagleville, Mansfield Depot, and Merrow. This was a true game-changer for the town. Now Mansfield residents could travel near and far with ease and local businesses could efficiently bring in supplies and transport their products to customers. The rail company was reorganized in 1861 as the New London Northern Railroad, and eventually, it was taken over by the Central Vermont Railway.
The first train station in Mansfield Depot was built c. 1850 and it served the community until 1928 when it burned down. From this station, the Mansfield Organ Pipe Works received supplies and shipped out innumerable wooden organ pipes. Following the fire, the Central Vermont Railroad replaced the train depot with a new one that functioned until 1959 when the train stop was discontinued. Today, there is only non-stop freight service through Mansfield, operated by the New England Central Railroad.
In 1978, Larry Ross converted the old railroad station into the Depot Restaurant. He later added a caboose to the building, a 1920s-era relic that he purchased from the Maine Central Railroad. The popular eatery was known for its fine food and railroad-themed décor. The occasional freight train that rumbled past added to the atmosphere.
After running the restaurant for 18 years, Larry Ross sold it to Deborah Netto and Robert Donnell in 1996. They closed briefly for renovations and then re-opened as Netto’s at the Depot. They carried on the railroad theme with the addition of a large mural of a steam locomotive. By 1998, Scott Bergin had acquired the restaurant and continued it, using its original name.
Sadly, the Depot Restaurant was destroyed by fire in the early morning of July 2, 2003. Five fire companies responded to the scene. The former train station was a total loss but the firefighters were able to save the caboose. After the caboose sat neglected and subject to vandalism for a few years, it was purchased by the Connecticut Trolley Museum in 2010. It was moved to the museum’s East Windsor site where it was restored and is now used for birthday parties and other special events.