Ohio railroads officially date back to 1836 when the Erie &
Kalamazoo Railroad completed its main line between Adrian, Michigan and
Toledo, Ohio. The E&K later became part of the much larger Lake
& Michigan Southern Railway, which itself became a subsidiary of
the New York Central System in 1914. The first railroad to operate
solely in Ohio, however, was the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad,
which began construction in 1835 to connect Sandusky with Springfield
and which was eventually completed by 1847. Interestingly, the MR&LE
used a wide gauge of 4 feet, 10 inches instead of the more standard 4
feet 8 1/2 inches (remember, too, that during the time of its
construction there was no uniform gauge in the country).
The railroad would become part of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, & St. Louis (the "Big Four") in 1892, another predecessor of the NYC. Following the MR&LE's opening, Ohio quickly became vitally important with coal mines located in the state's eastern regions; port cities to the north like Cleveland (and the aforementioned Sandusky); important cities like Cincinnati, Toledo and Akron; and a key component of main lines stretching to western markets like Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis. Virtually every large eastern Class I carrier of its day reached Ohio to some extent and included the four trunk lines of the Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania Railroad, New York Central, Erie Railroad as well as several others.
One of the state's most venerable railroads was the Baltimore &
Ohio. Today, the B&O's lines in Ohio
are drastically different under CSX's management. While its main line
to Chicago remains intact and was recently upgraded to double-track
standards, its St. Louis main line did not fair so well as beginning in
the late 1980s it was severed east of Greenfield to Belpre, Ohio along
River (it is also severed east of Parkersburg, WV to Clarksburg, WV),
with much of the rest of the trackage west of Greenfield sold to Ohio
shortline Indiana & Ohio. A large percentage of the B&O's
branch lines have likewise been abandoned or ripped up in the Buckeye
State. Even though Ohio likewise no longer includes the former Erie main line as a through route, the Buckeye State is still home to both the ex-PRR and ex-NYC main lines to St. Louis and Chicago that see heavy amounts of traffic on a daily basis.
For instance, some locations in Ohio where activity is the busiest includes legendary Fostoria (a railfan's dream, it sees dozens of CSX and NS trains daily and is still protected by F Tower where both railroads cross), Queensgate Yard in Cincinnati, Willard, Columbus and Berea, where you can dine in the city's restored Union Station and watch CSX and NS freight trains pass within waving distance from one another. These places are just a few interesting railroading locations in Ohio as there are far too many to highlight here. Aside from CSX and NS, Ohio also features numerous shortlines and
regionals. These include the Ohio Central System (the parent company
of numerous shortlines in Ohio), RJ Corman, Indiana & Ohio,
and the Wheeling & Lake Erie just to name a few. Today, Ohio continues to operate over 5,300 miles of the
state's original infrastructure that at one time topped more than 9,000
miles in the 1920s during the industry's height. Overall, Ohio has
lost about 41% of its peak rail network, which isn't bad considering the
average per state is between 45% and 50%. For more information about
the state, in terms of route mileage over the years please refer to
the chart below.
Famous passenger trains like the National Limited, Capitol Limited, 20th Century Limited, and Broadway Limited may no longer pass through Ohio. However, Amtrak still operates a number of trains through the state including the tri-weekly Cardinal which serves Cincinnati and the Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited,
which serves state's northern areas like Cleveland and Toledo. Passenger
and freight trains aside, Ohio railroads also feature plenty of museums
and excursion trains. For instance, there is the Ohio
Central's famous steam fleet that includes recently acquired Nickel
Plate #763 (which is ultimately slated for a full restoration) and the
Warther Carving Museum that features the expertly, one-of-a-kind
handcrafted locomotives by the late Ernest Warther.
These are just a few of the interesting attractions located in Ohio.
Others include the AC&J Scenic Line Railway, Buckeye Central Scenic
Railroad, Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad,
Cincinnati Railroad Club, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Dennison
Railroad Depot Museum, Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, Jefferson Depot,
Lorain & West Virginia Railway, Mad River & NKP Railroad Museum,
Marion Union Station Association, Minerva Scenic Railway, Northwest
Ohio Railroad Preservation, Ohio Railway Museum, Orrville Railroad
Heritage Society, Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway & Museum,
Train-O-Rama and the Turtle Creek Valley Railway. All in all Ohio offers the railfan just about anything
he or she wants! Whether you are after main line railroading, steam
action or simply strolling abandoned rights-of-way of once-important
lines; the Buckeye State offers it all.
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