Driving Trip - August 20, 2011

        Note: click on the thumbnails for a larger image

        Long overdue for a driving trip, my former co-worker John and I set out to cover some new territory for both of us in southeastern Ohio. While these lines would be better searched when the leaves are off the trees, this was a trip we had been discussing for literally years so we decided to do it anyway in spite of the full foliage. To aid in our navigation, we've brought along the invaluable Steam Powered Video (SPV) map, a GPS, Delorme Gazetteer (just in case), and a set of track charts from the mid 1980s for our area.

        We headed down Rt. 23 from Columbus and heard a NS EB train on the radio following us. Instead of doing a chase, we let the train chase us by setting up in Circleville at the location of where the diamonds used to be between NS (ex-N&W) and what's left of the PC (PRR) east-west line. The first photo shows how the PC line would have crossed. The grain elevator in the background is active but the tracks beside it were very rusty. Eventually the EB arrived at our location. The lead unit's K5LA whistle sounded like the K5LA should sound - melodious and in tune, something the newer K5LA whistles do not sound like. Many also sound overblown which might be affecting pitch.

N&W/PC crossing Circleville
The PC main sits between the grain elevator and the white building on the right.
EB NS train
EB train at Circleville. The track to the right connects with the PC line.

NS had a crane parked by the old PRR station. It looks like it has received a paint job recently.

crane on PC main
Crane on the PC main.
Crane and PC depot
The PRR station is in decent shape but could use some TLC.



        With a lot of ground to cover, we headed south to Chillicothe and started at the small yard office on the old B&O main. A mother/slug set and Chessie (B&O) caboose were tied up at the office. Our first objective was to follow the B&O Parkersburg Sub. main from Chillicothe to as far as it went which showed on the map as being Red Diamond. Starting at the yard office, we headed east to JD Cabin where the CSX (ex-C&O) Northern Sub. crosses the B&O main via an overpass. A fairly steep transfer track sits on the west side of the C&O main. C&O signals still stand at the control point. If memory serves me correctly the track arrangement here has changed.

        The SPV atlas shows the B&O main running for another couple miles before it ends at Schooleys. After a brief detour to look at Vauces on the C&O, we somewhat by accident catch back up with the B&O main and cross it at Schooley Station Road. The line here is welded 122 lb. 1979 vintage rail. Here's a look at the line at the Schooley's Station Road crossing. 

B&O main at Schooleys looking toward Chillicothe
B&O main at Schooleys looking west toward Chillicothe. Track speed was 55 mph here.
B&O Main at Schooley Station Road looking east
B&O main at Schooleys looking east. Schooley Station Road is on the left.



    We also find the reason for the line's existence - a rather large complex with a spur into the property. It appears that nothing has been over the spur in some time, yet the main didn't look all that rusty. There's nothing to identify what it is/was, and the satellite maps don't give a clue, though Google's photos do show cars on the property. Here's a look at the spur, first looking back toward the main, then looking into the property. The spur's 85 lb. rail is over 100 years old.

Spur toward the main
Spur east of Schooleys looking back toward the B&O main.
spur toward property
Spur east of Schooleys looking into the property. Things look abandoned.
spur rail
The rail on the spur is old!




     We continued east and found the line just east of West Jct. which, after crossing it on the overpass, caused us to do a double take as to what we were seeing. Were we seeing the B&O main or the CH&D branch which joins at West Jct.? John thought he saw a RofW about a mile back, so we circled back and then looked at the SPV map which showed that we had found the old B&O RofW just east of Vigo. This begins a debate of how to pronounce this town's name. Is it "Vigo" with a short "I", or "Vigo" with a long "I", or "Vigo" with a long "E"? I think we settled with the short "I", but we surmised that the pronunciation of the town probably has changed over the years.

        Anyway, the B&O main was abandoned from Schooleys to West Jct. in the late 1980s (my friend Whit says 1989) in favor of the connection at JD Cabin and switch at RA Jct. The C&O/CH&D route is a little shorter and it eliminated a redundant route which supported minimal traffic. During our short back track to look at the B&O main we head south and cross the ex-B&O/CH&D main at Richmondale. This line branches off at RA Jct. on the C&O south of Chillicothe. Here's a look at the line in Richmondale. The distant approach is for the C&O main at RA Jct. U.S. Rail (formerly Great Miami Railway) interchanges cars at Vauces and operates the trackage from RA Jct. eastward on the B&O.

CH&D main at Richmondale looking toward RA Jct.
CH&D main at Richmondale looking west toward RA Jct.
CH&D Main at Richmondale looking east toward West Jct.
CH&D main at Richmondale looking east toward West Jct.



        Completing our circle we join back up with the B&O main that we saw earlier just east of West Jct. where the B&O and CH&D mains met. The actual West Jct. is in a field not close to the roads but the satellite maps don't show that there's much to see. We then follow the B&O eastward. My familiarity of the B&O main is minimal, except that I know it was signaled, good for 55 mph freight, and hosted the B&O Trailer Jet trains. It's also a fairly curvy route in spots. It's interesting to note how much of it was single track at the time the line was abandoned in 1987. There are very few sections of double track and only a handful of sidings, however the RofW is broad enough for two tracks in many areas so my guess is that more of it was double track years ago. Since we picked up the main at West Jct. the pole line has been pretty much non-existent.

        The line has also long been the subject of many debates as to whether CSX was not thinking long term when they severed the route in the late 1980s. The route was attractive for cross-country business because its gateway to the west was at St. Louis. Chicago was and still is a bottleneck for freight. And while intermodal was certainly around in the mid 1980s, its revenue stream and profit margins were significantly smaller than what they are now. Few had the long term vision of COFC being the new dominant money maker for the railroads. And probably even fewer ever figured the east coast ports would become as important for import/export freight as the west coast ports. In today's intermodal-heavy market, the line makes perfect sense. But like so many other inventions, its utility was not needed at the time it was available, and as a result it was discarded.

        After passing through (Rachael) Ray, we arrive at Byer which I always thought was called "Byers" since the railroad station name is "Byers Jct.". I stand corrected! The SPV atlas shows that an ex-B&O (CH&D) line breaks off the B&O main to the south towards Coalton. You can tell we are in coal mining country! We circled the dinky town but didn't see any sign of a line, and for good reason. It's nearly impossible to see on the Google or Bing satellite maps. But the old TerraServer (now MSR) maps has a 1995 view which faintly shows the line. Click this link <http://msrmaps.com/image.aspx?T=1&S=11&Z=17&X=897&Y=10845&W=3&qs=|byer|oh|> to check it out. The B&O main is in the center running more or less left to right. You'll see a profile change in the trees pulling away from the line to the southeast of the main, then curving straight south by State Route 327.

        After noting the older crossing signals at this location, we soon encountered our first GPS blunder. The GPS showed that (Hugh) Jackman Road on the north side of the main parallels and crosses it a few times. So we start down the narrow but partially paved road. We soon cross the main and note the rock cut made so the line can pass through.

B&O Main near Byer.
B&O main east of Byer needs a weed sprayer train! Date of rail is visible on both rails.
Rock cut for B&O main
Cut through the rock for the B&O main east of Byers Jct.



    Then we cross under a deck girder bridge, and then the road becomes gravel with lots of gravel "pot holes". The road is in a very scenic valley and parallels a creek which appears to have taken over the road in spots. The GPS notes a fork in the road and to take a right. Well... that's not going to happen folks. The fork to the right is overgrown (and no longer crosses the track), and to the left is a dead end, which we then both said at the same time, "Why did they wait to put the "Dead end" sign way back here???". So a quick route reversal puts us back on Rt. 327 south.

        Eventually we get back on track and parallel the line to Hamden. Just west of town is a wye with a line splitting off the B&O main to the south.  Eventually we'll follow this line south, but our attention is drawn to the impressive collection of second generation EMD locomotives in storage at the small yard on the east side of town. Also included in the mix is a B&O caboose still in its as-delivered B&O paint. It is stenciled "Owned by Dwight Jones" so it looks like Dwight has another project on his hands. A few recently spotted freight cars are also here which will soon prove to be a key observation later on our trip.

Power at Hamden
Impressive lineup of power at Hamden. Also note the old BN trailer on the right.
Power at Hamden
Another view of the power stored in Hamden.
Power at Hamden
This unit has a massive fuel tank!



Power at Hamden
A few 4-axle units were also among those stored in Hamden.
Power at Hamden
This caboose is still in its "as delivered" paint from the factory.


    Before leaving Hamden, John notes that the SPV shows a C&O line skirting the east side of town. The RofW is nothing but a grass mound, but the satellite map shows it fairly well. In this image there are three lines which more or less parallel each other from southwest to northeast. The far left line is Rt. 93, the middle line is the B&O, and the right line is the C&O RofW. Toward the bottom is Rt. 347 which the C&O parallels southward. Going north the line will eventually meet up with another C&O line at Dundas. http://msrmaps.com/image.aspx?T=1&S=11&Z=17&X=922&Y=10840&W=3&qs=|hamden|oh|

        With the mainline plugged with cars and equipment we question whether there's anything going on further east on the B&O main. Only one way to find out, so we continue to follow the line. A mile or so east of town we pass the first of two potential rail customers. A nice sized lumber company had a spur on the property but we couldn't tell if it was in use. Continuing east we reach Dundas where the B&O and the north-south C&O Pomeroy Subdivision (ex-HV) crossed. This is the line that veers to the south just outside of Logan. The old C&O RofW is visible but is rapidly fading away.

        East of here the SPV map lists a station name of (Bobby) Vinton but this is not listed on the old B&O track chart I have from 1984. In fact the town of Vinton is actually about 10 miles to the south. The track chart gives no indication of where this might be, though my best guess is around MP 134 where Vinton Station Road crosses the tracks. It's also possible this is a SPV map error.

        Finally we reach Red Diamond which the SPV shows as the end of the line. The track ends within the limits of the Austin Powder Company which is some sort of explosives manufacturer. This is where the observation of the cars in Hamden comes into play. One of the cars was a covered hopper with a hazmat placard, so our guess is that they receive cars of nitrous oxide for the explosives. The area around the plant is fenced so there is no way to access the last 1/2 mile or so of the track, but the satellite maps show a switch back of sorts into the plant. The end of the track would be around MP 136.7. While here we see this young deer on her own, observing the "No Trespassing" sign. The B&O RofW sits roughly on the other side of the fence in front of the trees.

deer at Red Diamond
This young fawn is observing the "no trespassing sign". The B&O RofW sits between the fence and the trees in the background.


We then head back to Hamden and take a left to follow the line from the wye previously mentioned south toward Wellston. The old track chart lists this as the Portsmouth Subdivision. For a location far from anything major this is a complicated area of trackage. The SPV shows lines from the B&O, DT&I, and CH&D in this area. There used to be several coal mines and the railroads appeared to have done their best to serve the area. Unlike the B&O main, the branch line has a lot of weeds growing on the RofW.

        We arrive in Wellston which has an annual Coal Festival. This begs the question - why isn't the Coal Festival held in nearby Coalton? Does Coalton host the Festival of the Wells? Just wondering. Anyway, at Wellston the B&O and the C&O lines come in from the north. The B&O is on the west side of Rt. 93 and the C&O is on the east side, thought it appears the two lines merged or ran right next to each other through town. This theory is supported by the rather large depot which still stands with train signal. This probably was built as a combination depot given the station's proximity to multiple rail lines, but I believe was built by Hocking Valley.

Wellston depot
The large Wellston depot still stands along with its train order signal. The existing main track is on the left side of the trees on the left. It's likely the DT&I route ran between the trees and the depot.

The SPV also shows a presence of the DT&I but we found no traces of it and I struggle to see anything on the satellite photos. Just south of the station a line diverts off to the southeast with a half dozen or so coal hoppers on the line which, judging by the rusty wheels, have been there a while. The track chart shows this as the Buckeye Branch, and the SPV suggests this is what's left of a B&O (CH&D) branch line eastward to access several mine locations. Today the line seems to be out of service beyond the hoppers though the track is in place. The satellite photos show the line fanning out to a couple businesses. I found this photo online which shows the branch and covered hoppers.


        Wellston's biggest employer is no longer coal mining but rather food processing. A large General Mills plant sits on the south side of town and receives rail cars.

        We then try to follow the B&O to (Phil) Jackson but make a navigational error and miss the entire line from Wellston to Jackson. Even with the GPS and a human we can still make mistakes! As we drove between the two towns on SR 788 we noticed bits and pieces of a RofW in a creek valley. Then when we came into Jackson the active B&O line (or what we thought was of B&O heritage but the track chart shows from just before Coalton to Jackson as C&O trackage) came in from the north and to the right of us. This contradicts what we should have seen according to the SPV map, but it's clear that the SPV map has a glaring error in that it shows the abandoned DT&I line we saw in service, and the B&O line from Ironton Jct. to Jackson via Coalton abandoned. Ironton Jct. is where the B&O and DT&I split on the south side of Wellston and went there separate ways towards Jackson.

        It's quite evident that, like Wellston, Jackson probably was a fairly busy rail town when the coal mines in the area were active. DT&I had a larger presence than B&O did, as can still be seen by the old DT&I shops which still stand in part on the northeast side of town. It looks like the center of most of the action was just east of the intersection of East Broadway Street and Water Street where the B&O and DT&I crossed at what probably was a somewhat complex track arrangement. The SPV shows this as "B&O Jct." which is probably the DT&I name for it since the old Chessie track chart doesn't have this name listed. The more or less east west DT&I RofW is the mainline that stretched from Greggs down to the company's namesake town of Ironton. Today, only the B&O line still is in place, but the DT&I RofWs are still evident. The DT&I depot is now a bait and tackle store. A depot built by the Wellston & Jackson Belt Railway (C&O subsidiary) and a C&O caboose also stand along the RofW. The book "Ohio's Railway Age in Postcards" has a picture of this depot. What's interesting is that it appears the existing track is actually the old interurban RofW!

C&O Jackson depot
This depot in Jackson was built by the Wellston & Jackson Belt Railway, an electric interurban subsidiary of the C&O. The Jackson water tower in the background pays homage to the town's apple heritage.

C&O caboose at Jackson
This C&O extended vision caboose was built in July 1970 and retains its "as delivered" factory paint scheme.


A little south of the depot a switch splits off to the east. The track chart shows this as "Huron Switch" but doesn't give any other information. The SPV shows the line but has it abandoned. Obviously the SPV is wrong (again) since we can see that it isn't so we follow it and discover that it is in place to serve a stone company. John notes that this is relatively new business which is confirmed by the new rail and switch to the plant and newer crossing gates at a nearby road crossing. What's also interesting is that the part of the main that serves the business is actually the old DT&I main to Greggs. This is a rather circuitous route to get to this customer considering the old main RofW through town is a much more direct route, but this branch line was probably still in place thus it got the funds.

US Rail at customer in Jackson
Cars with power spotted at customer in Jackson. This spur is on the northeast side of Jackson on the DT&I main.


After getting some grub, we check out the main just south of the Rt. 32 overpass. Two manufacturers sit on the south side of the road along the B&O main. One company, a cabinet manufacturer, is in business but does not appear to have a switch into the plant, the other company is not open but does have a switch. Go figure! On the east side of the main, a spur breaks east toward a warehouse. John and I note this caboose, but more importantly see a 60' hi cube boxcar spotted. It appears this is an outside warehouse for the cabinet company.

DT&I caboose at customer in Jackson
This caboose was spotted at a warehouse on the east side of Jackson. It does appear to get used, though it also gets abused judging by the broken window.



The SPV map shows this line in place to Fire Brick. Years ago when we both worked for a logistics company we actually traced a car which either went to or came from Fire Brick, so we decided to see if this the map was accurate. The answer is, "Yes, but...". Yes the line is in place to Fire Brick, but there are no active customers along the line. In fact the roadbed is starting to get compromised in a few locations by the creek that parallels it in a few spots. An interesting note is that from Jackson south to Fire Brick (and beyond) the SPV map shows this as joint B&O/DT&I trackage. Here's a look at the line a couple miles south of Jackson.

Track south of Jackson
Here's the main a few miles south of Jackson looking south. Track is in place but hasn't seen a steel wheel in a few years.
Track south of Jackson
Here's the main a few miles south of Jackson looking north toward Jackson. Weed sprayer train anyone?



In the town of Oak Hill the line parallels Rt. 93 through town. The town keeps the RofW mowed and the track looks like it is in service, but once you get south of town it becomes overgrown again. A red caboose also sits near the main in a small park. Continuing south on Rt. 140 we eventually find the end of the track at a small business. The main is basically the spur to the business. Just south of the business the track is gone but we can see where the RofW used to cross Rt. 140 to something called "York's Switch" on the track chart. Here is the end of the line.

Track at Fire Brick
This is the last customer at the end of the track in Fire Brick. The track may extend a bit beyond this building but it is heavily overgrown.




The line at Bloom Jct. splits with the B&O heading west to Portsmouth, and the DT&I continuing south to Ironton. We decided to follow the B&O RofW to Sciotoville via Rt. 140 which more or less parallels the RofW for most of the way. While we didn't follow it, the B&O line eventually ducks under the CSX (C&O) Northern Subdivision just south of a point called MP3 on the C&O. The B&O then continues west into Sciotoville and ends in town which we did take a look at. I think at one time there may have been some truck to rail transfers taking place but the line looked quite rusty. This MSR link shows the B&O going west to east with the C&O moving north to south. The Limeville bridge is just out of sight at the bottom. http://msrmaps.com/image.aspx?T=1&S=11&Z=17&X=843&Y=10731&W=3&qs=|sciotoville|oh|

        When we reached the beautiful Ohio River (which is redundant since "Ohio" means "beautiful river"), the scanner, which had been silent for most of the past couple hours, came to life as we heard a train call a signal at Limeville. It sounded like it was a westbound so we headed to the river up close to the massive Limeville bridge. The Summer 2011 issue of the C&O Historical Society Magazine has a neat article about this area written in 1975 by the late Gene Huddleston. Several of his photos, mostly from the steam era, accompany the article. He also mentions the B&O line in Sciotoville that we noted above still in service.

    As we drove down the narrow road next to the river we see the westbound begin to cross the bridge so we quickly set up for a photo. As the train exits the north end of the bridge, I press my camera shutter but nothing happens. I quickly resize the shot and do it again. Nothing. Hmmm... why it is not working? Upon further investigation, I discover that somehow the  timer function got turned on. Argh! So I turned it off and took a photo of the train moving away from us.
Train on north approach at Limeville bridge
One that got away thanks to my haste to get the camera set up. Train is heading north and has just crossed the main span of the Limeville bridge.



        After paying homage to the Limeville bridge (and envying the guy who has a front row seat of the river and the bridge... from his in-ground pool!), we head east to Portsmouth to check things out. We drive by the yard which had a couple UP units mixed in with the NS power. We also notice a long string of QTTX heavy duty flats, presumably in long term storage. We then follow the line through town which is still mostly governed by N&W position light signals, though one of the signals in the yard had been converted.

        With nothing pending, we fuel up the car and decide to follow another dormant piece of track - the NS (N&W) Peavine route. This line has been blocked at the east end just north of Portsmouth for a number of years as a through route. I believe the big bridge over the Scioto River has some structural issues as well but I cannot remember if this true. I followed this line a few years ago on one of my driving trips back on 11/14/2008, but John has not seen it up close.

N&W bridge over Scioto River for Peavine route in Portsmouth
Here's the big bridge over the Scioto River valley just north of Portsmouth. This carries the NS (N&W) Peavine route which is out of service at this end of the line. Photo taken 11-22-2008.



 So we parallel it as closely as we can which at times is easy, others is not. Most of the signals and pole line are still standing along the route. In fact if you didn't notice the heavy layer of rust on the rails you would think the line was still in service considering how good of shape it is still in, and it is absent of any weeds or other vegetation. NS must use super-industrial strength weed killer!

McDermott, OH on NS (N&W) Peavine
Things have not changed in McDermott, Ohio since this photo was taken on 11-22-2008. The pole line is still in place as is the heavy welded rail mainline track. Will it ever see a revenue train again?
Signals on NS (N&W) Peavine
Signals still stand at several locations along the Peavine, waiting to be used again. Photo taken 11-22-2008.



    A few miles east of Peebles is a decent sized quarry operation but it does not appear to have rail access. Thus it appears the furthest east online customer is a railroad tie maker in Peebles. A siding between the quarry and Peebles is used to run the power around the local's cars. As we drive further west one thing I notice that is missing from my previous trip to see the Peavine is the lack of railcars stored in the sidings along the route. Last time every siding had something in it, mostly intermodal spine cars. Today everything was empty. Finally, the last spot we looked at on the Peavine was in Winchester where a grain elevator has a spur on to their property. The elevator and spur are deep on the property so we can't see if they have any cars, but John points out the small switcher or trackmobile they have to switch cars on site.

        We then head towards home but make a few stops along the way. First, we stop in Hillsboro which used to have a N&W and B&O reach it from the west. The N&W line turned south to Sardinia, and the B&O line turned northwest to Blanchester. The B&O line is long gone and the N&W line was pulled up around 1980 or so. We struggled to find any remnant of either line, but do eventually find a grassy mound on the west side that curves into town and ends at an old abandoned lumber yard. As it turns out where we found the mound is where the B&O and N&W lines met as they entered the town. There are still two tracks in place inside the lumberyard everything else is gone.

        After getting a quick bite to eat for the trip back we continue north and encounter the western half of the B&O mainline across southern Ohio in Leesburg. The line is active here and serves the a candle maker in town. It's probably the most pleasantly fragrant location in this part of the state! Several tank cars were spotted at the plant so things are looking good here. For a few years this was the furthest east customer on this line but now no longer is now that Johnson Controls is back online in Greenfield.

        We continue north and make a quick stop in Washington C.H. to see if anything of interest was going on. Other than a few cars spotted in town nothing was happening. This is one of the few times we've stopped through and not seen any power sitting by the diamonds.

        With that we were officially out of light and headed back home. When we got back to my house, John and I guessed how many miles we had driven (according to the GPS). His guess was 392, mine was 420. The GPS said 398. Good thing I didn't bet him any money.

        Comments, questions welcome!

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