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.