I should preface this entry by saying that we really didn’t enjoy Larkin State Park Trail today, so we only managed about a third of it. As a result I probably won’t spend much time delving into the history. The DEEP seem to love it, it has one of the longest web site entries I’ve seen them write, but their suggestion that it is perfectly explored by cycling is really not correct. The trail is surfaced appalling in the original energy sapping cinder and sand, alternating with small pointy stones, meaning that cycling is an unpleasant drain on the legs throughout. If you choose to start at the east end you’ll need a mountain bike - we had to drive to the next crossing with Rob’s sturdy hybrid. The trail goes constantly uphill here at least until Towantic Hill Road, which was where we gave up. Looking at google maps terrain, we may actually have done the worst of the climb and surfacing by then.
This uphill struggle was actually a pretty remarkable feat of engineering when the railroad was built in the 1880s. There are long sections of earthen viaduct (as described previously in the Air Line State Park Trail), rock blasts, and the climb is 3 feet in 100 at some spots. It must have been pretty slow going, both to construct and to travel.
The line loops all over the place to avoid the worst gradients, and as a result, business was finished pretty quickly once cars started to grow in popularity in the 1930s. Unusually, it was gifted to the state soon after specifically for the purpose of recreation, instead of lying derelict for a number of years.
There’s not much in the way of views. The woods are pretty scrappy by Connecticut standards, and the most interest comes from peering into people’s gardens. 5 foot statues of Jesus & the Virgin Mary on one side of the road, dog on a zipline on the other. No, I didn’t take photos of crazy things in people’s gardens )and the dog on the zipline was clearly enjoying himself).
If you want a bit of railroad history coupled with a fun bike ride, go to Hop River instead. I highly recommend you visit Larkin on foot (I could run faster than we were cycling on most of the uphill sections) or not at all.