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Ohio Short Line Railroads

Last revised: April 17, 2023

By: Adam Burns

Ohio has a long and fascinating history with railroads, which dates back to the Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad of 1836.  The state's current involvement with short line/regional railroads, largely began after the 1970s when the large, Class I's began siphoning and selling off large components of their network deemed superfluous or unprofitable.

The information included on this page highlights all of state's current short lines and regionals, which total 37 as of 2022.  

Guide Information

Akron Barberton Cluster Railway

(Reporting mark, AB):  This short line, also known as the ABC Railway, is a terminal switching line in Akron, Ohio.  The railroad can trace its history back to the Akron & Barberton Belt Railroad.

It was originally controlled by the Akron, Canton & Youngstown, Baltimore & Ohio, Pennsylvania and Erie railroads.   In 1994 the Wheeling & Lake Erie acquired the road and renamed it as the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.  Its primary yard operations are in Barberton with secondary switching and storage at Firestone Yard in Akron.

Ann Arbor Railroad

(Reporting mark, AA):  See Michigan.

Ashland Railway

(Reporting mark, ASRY):  This short line began operations in 1986 over former Erie/Erie Lackawanna between West Salem and Mansfield as well as the ex-B&O between Willard and Mansfield acquired from CSX in 1990.  Today, it operates about 55 miles of track.

Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad

(Reporting mark, ACJ):  This short line operates 6 miles between Carson and Jefferson over the former NYC and has been in service since 1984 when the property was acquired from Conrail.  The AC&J's traffic consists of plastic pellets, fertilizer, and paper while it also offers transload services.

Camp Chase Industrial Railroad

(Reporting mark, CCRA): This terminal railroad, owned by Carload Express, Inc., serves western Columbus, switching a number of industries in the area operating about 14 miles of track.  

It owns a former section of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis's main line, which later became part of NYC's route to St. Louis.  As a through corridor it was not retained under Conrail and the section now comprising the CCRA was purchased from the Class I in October of 1994.

Central Railroad of Indiana

(Reporting mark, CIND): This medium-sized carrier operates 96 miles of former NYC trackage between Cincinnati, Ohio and Shelbyville, Indiana. 

It has been in service since 1992 and was acquired by RailAmerica in 2000 before G&W ownership in 2012.  Today, its traffic base includes automobiles, chemicals, metals, aggregates while moving more than 11,000 carloads annually.

Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad

(Reporting mark, CFE):  This Genesee & Wyoming road (formerly RailAmerica) began service in 2004 over PRR's former Fort Wayne Line between Gary, Indiana and Crestline, Ohio with a branch reaching Decatur.  It operates roughly 315 miles in total with freight consisting of lumber, paper, chemicals, steel beams, shelled corn, and other hazardous materials.

Cincinnati Eastern Railroad

(Reporting mark, CCET):  This short line operates 69.5 miles of the former Norfolk & Western's "Peavine" line between Mariemont (just east of Cincinnati) to Peebles, Ohio. It interchanges with Norfolk Southern at Clare Yard in Mariemont.

Cleveland Commercial Railroad

(Reporting mark, CCR): This small short line serves industries near the city of Cleveland and has been in operation since 2009, leasing two lines from NS that run from near downtown to nearby Glenwillow and Solon (about 35 miles in all).  Its traffic includes scrap metal, sand, manufactured goods, food products, and chemicals while also offering transload service.

Cleveland Harbor Belt

(Reporting mark, CHB): This terminal road also operates in along the lakefront serving the Port of Cleveland, utilizing about 1 total mile of track.  The road began operations on August 1, 2012.

Columbus & Ohio River Rail Road

(Reporting mark, CUOH): This large short line, a G&W property, serves central and eastern Ohio operating 247 miles of track between Mingo Junction at the border of West Virginia with Columbus.  

There are also branches reaching Mt. Vernon, Zanesville, Cambridge, Cadiz, and Hebron.  It was formerly part of Class II, regional Ohio Central until purchased by G&W in 2008.  Its traffic consists of chemicals, coal, farming products, food products, pulp/paper products, and steel/waste.

Flats Industrial Railroad

(Reporting mark, FIR):  This terminal/switching road operates in the Cleveland area operating 4 miles of trackage.  It has been in service since 1996.

Grand River Railway

(Reporting mark, GRRY):  This short line launched in June, 2015 and utilizes the northernmost 2.56 miles of the Baltimore & Ohio's old Lake Branch between Painesville and Fairport. 

Historically, this line branched from the B&O's Chicago main line at Youngstown to the lake front at Fairport.  Alas, CSX abandoned most of the route in the 1980's.  It was famous for hosting B&O's fabled 2-8-8-4 EM-1's in their final years.

Today, the Grand River Railway, after restoring the tracks, serves Morton Salt operating 3-5 days a week.

Indiana & Ohio Railway

(Reporting mark, IORY):  This short line has been in service since 1985 when it acquired a former NYC branch between Valley Junction, Ohio and Brookville, Indiana.  

In the succeeding years the I&O picked up several more routes being shed by Class Is with histories tracing back to the PRR, Baltimore & Ohio, and Chesapeake & Ohio that stretched as far as Dundee, Michigan.  

For many years it was owned by RailAmerica whose assets were acquired by G&W in 2012.  Today, the I&O operates about 570 miles and hauls metal products, chemicals, plastics, lumber, paper, agricultural products, and distillers grains.

Indiana Eastern Railroad

(Reporting mark, IERR): This privately owned short line, a subsidiary of the Respondek Railroad, leases 43-miles from CSX between Richmond, Indiana and Fernald, Ohio that previously dated back to Chesapeake & Ohio ownership.  The road has been in service since 2005.

Indiana Northeastern Railroad

(Reporting mark, IN):  This short line traces its history back to the Pigeon River Railroad of 1992.  Today, the company has blossomed into a 120-mile system serving northeastern Indiana, southern Michigan, and northwestern Ohio much of which dates back to NYC heritage.  The road's traffic base consist of coal, agriculture, sand, glass, steel, and other freight.

Kanawha River Railroad

(Reporting mark, KNWA):  Launched in July of 2016 the Kanawha River Railroad is a Watco subsidiary operating most of the Norfolk Southern's former West Virginia Secondary in Ohio and West Virginia.  

The corridor totals 309 miles of former New York Central and Virginian trackage from Refugee, Ohio (just southeast of Columbus) to Alloy, West Virginia with another section between Cornelia, West Virginia and Mullens, West Virginia (ex-Virginian).

Its traffic is largely based in chemicals, coal, cement, aggregates, and metals.

Lake Terminal Railroad

(Reporting mark, LT):  This historic terminal road dates back to its incorporation on September 13, 1895, projected to serve a mill in the Lorain area.  It was intended to reach both Sandusky and Cleveland but never opened service further than Lorain.  Today, it still functions as switching line and serves the steel industry.

Mahoning Valley Railway

(Reporting mark, MVRY):  Formerly part of the Ohio Central system, this short line is another Genesee & Wyoming property operating 6 miles of track north of Lowellville.  The system primarily moves steel products.

Napoleon, Defiance & Western Railroad

(Reporting mark, NDW):  See Indiana.

Newburgh & South Shore Railroad

(Reporting mark, NSR): This historic railroad, now an OmniTRAX company, once served the steel mills located near Cleveland. However, today, it operates about 5 miles of track east of the city hauling a wide range of freight such as steel, agriculture, scrap metal, food products, and aggregates.

Northern Ohio & Western Railway

(Reporting mark, NOW):  This short line, an OmniTRAX property, utilizes a former section of the PRR between Woodville and Tiffin, acquired from Conrail.  It runs about 25 miles with traffic including limestone, lime, magnesite, and pressed board.

Ohi-Rail Corporation

(Reporting mark, OHIC): This small short line operates 43 miles of former New York Central branch lines between Minerva and Hopedale with connections to Norfolk Southern and Wheeling & Lake Erie.  It began service during the summer of 1982 and has slowly added trackage since that time.  

At one time the corridors handled predominantly coal but today moves traffic related to the Utica and Marcellus Shale industries (oil an natural gas).

Ohio Central Railroad

(Reporting mark, OHCR):  The Ohio Central Railroad System, part of the Genesee & Wyoming family of short lines since 2008, was once based out of Coshocton, Ohio.

In its original incarnation under Jerry Jacobson the system was actually a combination of small short lines under one banner, deliberately set up in this manner to allow the communities in which it served to feel more like they have a railroad to call their own.

Today, the original Ohio Central line operates 74 route miles between Zanesville and Warwick, Ohio.

Ohio South Central Railroad

(Reporting mark, OSCR):  A division of the Indiana Eastern, this short line operates a rough "Y" shaped system covering 64 miles south of Columbus.  Towns served include Jackson, Oak Hill, Wellston, Richmond Dale, and McArthur.  Interchange is provided with CSX at Vauces, Ohio.

Ohio Southern Railroad

(Reporting mark, OSRR): Another Genesee & Wyoming short line the railroad connects Zanesville with New Lexington and Glouster. The company has interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern. It first began service in 1986 and for many years was part of Ohio Central, purchased by G&W in 2008.  There are currently 18 miles of track in service carrying coal and waste.

Ohio Terminal Railway

(Reporting mark, OHIO):  The Ohio Terminal Railway operates 13 miles of the former PRR along the Ohio River from Powhatan Point to Hannibal where it serves the Hannibal Industrial Park (former Ormet facility). The railroad interchanges with the Norfolk Southern at Clarington.

Republic N&T Railroad

(Reporting mark, NTRY): This short line has been in operation and leases trackage owned by Norfolk Southern near Canton.   It is a subsidiary of Republic Steel.

R.J. Corman Railroad - Cleveland Line

(Reporting mark, RJCL):  Purchased in December, 1988 this branch operates from a connection with CSX south of Barberton (a southern suburb of Cleveland) at Warwick to Uhrichsville, on a line that is 55 miles in length. The short line also has a connection to NS at Massillon.

R.J. Corman Railroad - Western Ohio Lines

(Reporting mark, RJCW): RJ Corman operates a variety of rail-related businesses, including short lines.

It currently owns to lines in western Ohio that total 94 miles southwest of Lima and in the Greenville area.  Operations began in 1993 and traffic includes grain, fertilizer, aluminum, rubber, food products, plastic, and steel.

Republic Short Line

(Reporting mark, RSL): This short line, a division of Massillon Logistics, provides switching/terminal service in Massillon.  It interchanges with Norfolk Southern and R.J. Corman

U.S. Rail Corporation

(Reporting mark, USRC): US Rail operates several short lines east of the Mississippi River within the states of New York, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.  Its property in Ohio include a terminal service in Cleveland as well as trackage operated around Hamilton and Jackson.

Warren & Trumbull Railroad

(Reporting mark, WTRM): The W&T is another Genesee & Wyoming short line, that operates just 4 miles of track north of Warren with connections to both CSX and Norfolk Southern.  It first began operations in 1994 and the current trackage is ex-Erie property.  The road's traffic includes plastics and steel.

Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway

(Reporting mark, WE): The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway is a privately owned Class II, regional which has been in operation since 1990 carrying the name of the original W&LE.

It operates an extensive system stretching across northern Ohio, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania with trackage rights reaching Cumberland and Hagerstown.  It operates about 575 miles of its own lines as well as an additional 265 via trackage rights.  The road carries more than 130,000 carloads annually with a highly diversified freight base.

Youngstown & Austintown Railroad

(Reporting mark, YARR): Another Genesee & Wyoming property, the Y&A is also quite small operating just 5 miles of trackage west of Youngstown and also connecting with both NS and CSX.  The trackage is a former Erie branch and traffic includes food products and steel. 

Youngstown Belt Railroad

(Reporting mark, YB): This short line is Genesee & Wyoming's largest in northeast Ohio operating 13 miles of railroad between Ravenna and Courtland via Warren.  There is also a southern extension to Youngstown.  The Belt has connections to several railroads including NS and CSX.  It first began operations in 1997 and then-owned by Ohio Central, who acquired the property from CSX and Conrail that dated back to the B&O and Erie.  Its current traffic includes aggregates, brick/cement, and steel.

Youngstown & Southeastern Railroad

(Reporting mark, YSRR): The Y&S is owned by the Indiana Boxcar Corporation and has been in operation since 2006 (formerly operated by the Ohio Central) running between Youngstown, Ohio and Darlington, Pennsylvania, operating about 39 miles.  As of 2014 the property is owned by Mule Sidetracks, LLC and leased to the Y&S for rail service.