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A Train Car Recovered From 9/11 Finds A Home In Connecticut

Davis Dunavin

Shoreline Trolley Museum manager Wayne Sanford stepped onto a PATH train car recovered from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“Here it is,” he said. “It survived.”

The train used to carry people from New Jersey to the World Trade Center. It had just finished its morning run. It was empty and parked on a side track when the towers fell. Almost all the other cars around it were crushed. This car was virtually undamaged.

“One of two cars to survive the collapse of the building,” said Sanford. “Really kind of amazing.”

On the morning of September 11, Sanford was East Haven’s fire chief. He remembers watching the attacks on TV. When he got a fax from the New York Fire Department requesting help – a request sent to many other Connecticut fire departments – he decided to send as much help as he could.

Credit Davis Dunavin / WSHU
Shoreline Trolley Museum tour guide Robert Rodenkirk shows tourists a PATH train recovered from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The train is now part of the museum's permanent collection in East Haven, Connecticut.

By Tuesday night, 17 East Haven firefighters were in New York, helping dig through the wreckage. They slept on the street. Today, Sanford said this train is a reminder of what his men did that day.

“It’s like a time capsule,” he said as he walked through the train. “Everything that you see in this car was in it on 9/11. I mean, look at the advertisement: U.S. Open, Aug. 27 to Sept. 9, 2001.”

Sanford volunteered to take the car when he learned it was going to be destroyed – it was too large to be kept at the National 9/11 Museum in New York, where many artifacts tied to the attacks are kept.

Now it’s in a barn the museum uses to display its collection of historic train cars. Sanford said the museum’s going to build an exhibit around it, complete with other pieces of the World Trade Center train station recovered from the wreckage – a sign, a piece of tunnel, a piece of rail.

He said that exhibit will memorialize the World Trade Center PATH station that was destroyed that day. It’s scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2016.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.