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Ohio’s railroads: 1946 and 2006

By | February 19, 2015

We track six decades of change in Ohio, now the fourth-largest state in rail mileage.

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It’s almost a cliché to call Ohio a crossroads of railroading. The state was, literally, stitched in steel. Here, the New York-Chicago and New York-St. Louis routes of the Eastern trunk lines crossed paths with Pocahontas coal roads making a beeline to Lake Erie and nearby railroad gateways (Norfolk & Western got as far as Columbus and Cincinnati; Chesapeake & Ohio reached Toledo and Chicago).

Manufacturing centers spanned the state, from the steel mills of Youngstown and the rubber plants of Akron to auto plants in Toledo and the warehouses of Cincinnati. In hilly southern Ohio, railroads curled around each other to reach lucrative coal fields, while up north, they staked their claim on Lake Erie harbors from Ashtabula to Toledo, where coal and iron ore could make a lakeboat-rail transfer.

By 1946, Ohio was sixth among U.S. states in rail mileage, boasting 8,416 route-miles among 35 roads (7 switching and 28 line-haul, including subsidiaries such as New York Central’s Pittsburgh & Lake Erie). Some carriers barely made an appearance (Louisville & Nashville; Southern; Ann Arbor; Bessemer & Lake Erie). Others spanned the state with single (Erie; Akron, Canton & Youngstown; Detroit, Toledo & Ironton) or multiple routes (Pennsylvania, Baltimore & Ohio, Nickel Plate, NYC). The few short lines included steel roads serving mills near Lake Erie, a belt around Toledo, and single-commodity carriers such as Youngstown & Southern (coal) and Lakeside & Marblehead (limestone).

Retrenchment in the late 20th century hit Ohio hard — especially the ex-PRR, NYC, and B&O lines to St. Louis — yet the state has risen to rank fourth in total rail mileage. In 2004, Ohio claimed 5,179 route-miles, with 4,165 run by Class I railroads (CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National). Regional carriers Wheeling & Lake Erie, RailAmerica, Ohio Central, and R.J. Corman are among the state’s 34 short lines and 7 tourist lines.

Railroads included in this map:
Akron & Barberton Belt; Akron, Canton & Youngstown; American Electric Power; Ann Arbor; Ashland Railway; Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson; Baltimore & Ohio; Bay Terminal; Bessemer & Lake Erie; Buckeye Central; Camp Chase; Canadian National; Central Railroad of Indiana; Chesapeake & Ohio; Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern; Cleveland Commercial; Cleveland Works; CSX Transportation; Cuyahoga Valley; Detroit & Toledo Shore Line; Detroit, Toledo & Ironton; Erie; Fairport, Painesville & Eastern; Flats Industrial; Great Miami & Scioto; Hocking Valley; Indiana Eastern; Indiana Northeastern; Lake Terminal; Lakeside & Marblehead; Lorain & Southern; Lorain & West Virginia; Louisville & Nashville; Mahoning Valley; Maumee & Western; New York Central; Newburgh & South Shore; Nickel Plate; Nimishillen & Tuscarawas; Norfolk & Western; Norfolk Southern; Northern Ohio & Western; Ohi-Rail; Ohio & Morenci; Ohio Central; Ohio Consolidated; ORMET Railroad; Pennsylvania; Pere Marquette; Pittsburgh & West Virginia; R.J. Corman; RailAmerica; River Terminal; Southern; Temperance Yard Corporation; Toledo Terminal; Toledo, Angola & Western; Toledo, Lake Erie & Western; Wabash; Wheeling & Lake Erie; Youngstown & Northern; Youngstown & Southern

This map originally appeared in the August 2006 issue of Trains.

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15 thoughts on “Ohio’s railroads: 1946 and 2006

  1. I was born in Defiance Ohio, and lived there until I was around 5. Two doors down from my grandparents house
    was a mainline railroad. Every time a train went by..I would run to the window to watch it. I guess being a Railfan starts early. I wasn't sure what railroad it was, but I thought it was the B & O. Sure enough, the B & O
    ran through Defiance as well as the Wabash. Looking at the two Ohio maps 1946 and 2006, I see the B & O
    is now the C & O. The Wabash is long gone replaced by the Maumee & Western and the track south of Defiance is out of service. Its amazing the amount of changes in 60 years in the Ohio rail network.

  2. I was a yard clerk in Akron for Erie-Lackawanna in '68-'69. There is not a trace of it left. The double track main, McCoy St. Yard (along with the yard office and engine house), the cereal belt line, passenger station, the huge freight house- it's all gone. Same with the ex PRR Akron Secondary. In the 50s, I'd sit on the loading dock of my grandfather's cold storage plant near South St. and watch a continuous parade of trains. I remember being taught in school the difference between permanent and temporary. I thought of the railroads as permanent- all that steel, equipment and infrastructure; it will always be there. Same with the Firestone, Goodyear, Goodrich, and General tire plants. Alas, none of it remains. The temporal trumped permanence.

  3. Robert Meese. I was born in Dover Ohio where the B&O and Pennsylvania crossed the big EMI hauling coal from Cadis to Cleveland l worked on both and both are gone today an independent is on the B&O good memories Warther museum is in Dover the evolution of steam

  4. I lived along B&O mainline from Grafton, WV to Cincinnati. It was very busy, even with pathetic two coach, 19 mail car passenger trains still running. Line from Greenfield east to Clarksburg, WV taken up in 1985.indiana& Ohio stills runs to Greenfield. There were tons of GP38-2 and old F units along with some GE B30-7 coming around and GP9's heading up locals. I still regret not riding that now gone line before it disappeared. I think the line runs west from Parkersburg for a few miles across the river to local industry.

  5. I love hearing the railroad related stories from old timers and youngsters, too. Keep it up, guys, and thank you.

  6. My dad started with th B&O in the late 1920's then went to work at the Dayton Union durin the depression. As child and young man I knew most of the train number that passed through Dayton. This was the Ohio I knew. Thank goodness I have the slides my Dad took to remember those Days.
    Marc
    Wauwatosa, Wi

  7. TODD VADAS FROM CLEVELAND HEIGHTS OHIO
    My father grew up in Pittsburg and in 1929 he moved to Cleveland. His older brother was an engineer for the New York Central and he got my Dad a job that year as a fireman for the Central. He fired those magnificent Hudsons and all the rest of the fleet to Buffalo. I can still remember going to Collinwood Yard on pay day. Still seeing steam engines but the new lightning striped F and E locos were and still are unbelievable works of art.

  8. The neighborhood was and is still called Collinwood and still has servicing area for CSX locos and can be seen from the East 152nd Sreet bridge.

  9. Does anybody know if the Toledo Angola and Western, as chartered, was originally to build to Angola, Indiana, and westward as the name implies?

  10. I grew up in Cleveland,my dad was an fireman and used to take me to see the steam engines in the roundhouse at Collinwood back in the day,I used to live near East 55th Street and enjoyed watching the trains on NYC’s Buffalo-Chicago line,CSX also has a Intermodal ramp there now,even now retired from CSX ii bring back wonderful memories.

  11. Does anyone know or have pictures or a history of the Pennsylvania’s Kinsman Ave freight yards that was in Cleveland, Ohio back in the early ’60s, it was a very large yard, when I lived in Cleveland I lived near the PRR’s mainline from downtown where it split with the NYC south, all the trains that passed by my window slowed entering the yard, the ore jennies, regular freight, unit coal trains, etc! I’ve been trying to find photos but so far unable to.

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