This narrative is yet another in the
of myself and my former coworker John. As usual, if you are hoping for
lots of trains
you'll want to look elsewhere as this was not the point of our trip. If
this isn't an issue for
you, keep reading. Also, I would suggest that you have Dave Dupler's
web page http://www.davedupler.com/rr.html
handy as he has older photos
of many of these locations.
Of all the rail lines radiating out of Columbus, the former Hocking Valley heading southeast is the only line I've never followed closely for the purpose of documenting the rail line. John mentioned that he was interested in seeing what was going on with this line so it gave me the opportunity to finally check out this trackage up close. This line, once known as the Athens Subdivision, has a lineage at a high level of Hocking Valley, C&O, CSX, I&O and now is operated by Genesee & Wyoming as the Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY).
Braving the -3ºF weather, we started at what would be considered the end of the original line, Parsons Yard in Columbus. The Hocking Valley built the yard and overhead views illustrate that it is laid out to align with the HV line to the southeast rather than the much busier north-south route (the Northern Subdivision from Parsons Yard to the south was actually built by the C&O). Things were fairly quiet at the yard with only a mother-slug set in motion so we didn't bother to stop. The roundhouse is still standing but looked like it needed a new roof.
Just outside of the yard is the Essroc cement facility which had a dozen or so cars on site, however John noted the wheels were rusty so nothing has moved here for a week or two. A little beyond this is Valley Crossing where the line crosses the NS (N&W) Columbus District. All of the signals on both routes have been replaced with modern fixtures. Again, nothing doing on either line so we continued southeastward.
The next big customer is Amsted Wheel in Groveport. A park entrance runs along side the factory and allowed us to see their loading tracks which were mostly full of 50' boxcars. It's nice to see that the old 50' hulks still have a use, and that the factory looked to be busy.
After our reconnaissance of the plant I had planned to take us into Groveport to check out a rail served customer and some other misc. railroad sights, but I guessed "left turn" when "right turn" was the correct answer and pointed us back on to Rt. 33. We moved south and checked out the rail scene in Canal Winchester.
The nicely restored depot with cabooses (cabeese?) and grain elevator make a nice scene. The lighting was just right so we bundled up and took a few photos.
It is obvious that the station and surrounding fixtures are source of pride in the community. It is nice to see things in good shape for the most part. The track here is jointed 100 lb. 1923 vintage rail.
Back on Rt. 33 we passed by the old Carroll Purina grain elevator (which unfortunately no longer has the Purina checkerboard on it) and then diverted off a little bit west of Lancaster to check out a spur to an industrial complex. We also found power sitting on the main.
After circling this area we continued southeast where we found the Anchor Hocking plant. There has been a lot of speculation over the years regarding the future of the plant but it continues to produce though has suffered through a few temporary shutdowns. My employer buys from them and as part of my work I frequently have to deal with Anchor Hocking's inability to accurately count what they ship to us... but I digress. The plant looks like an old plant - long, rambling and not very tall and with limited space. John and I essentially made a loop around the plant looking for where the 86' boxcars are loaded. Later we found out that they are loaded inside on a spur that descends into the west end of the building. The spur on the east end had a few sand hoppers spotted. Just east of the plant I&O had several cars spotted on the main rather than on the siding.
As we entered into downtown Lancaster the HV line makes a curve to the north where it meets the RofW of the PC (ex PRR) Line from Lancaster west to Circleville. The two routes used to parallel each other for about a mile before crossing each other on the east side of town. The C&O freight house here has been preserved and is now used as a rental hall. Just east of the freight house is where a small yard used to exist. In the yard was an ex DT&I 86' hi cube and a few covered hoppers. Compare the first photo below to Dave Dupler's photo at http://www.davedupler.com/oh/Lan003.jpg .
Back on Rt. 33 we could see where the Pomeroy Subdivision once headed south at the east end of the yard but this line is long gone. Eventually we arrived in Nelsonville which is the home of the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. For whatever reason we didn't take a single photo here even though there was lots to photograph. The usual colorful string of cabooses was spotted at the station along with a snow plow. Further south we found the wye track which John noted would have gone through the front door of a business if it was still completely intact. Today the wye maybe could accommodate a short 4-axle unit but that's it. A little further south is where HVSR has all of their misc. equipment stored. Again lots of cool stuff (old reefers, MofW equipment, etc.) but we didn't take photos. The large truss bridge just beyond here is now a split use structure with the track on one side and a bike path on the other.
The track, which here would be part of the Armitage Subdivision, basically ends east of here and becomes a bike path so instead of following it we made a bee line south where we had plans of seeing where the NS (ex-CR, T&OC) West Virginia Secondary comes south to meet with the HV. We saw what looked like a RofW just before the The Plains exit (I think that's grammatically correct) but I should have turned left which would have brought us back to the HV line and led us to the T&OC, however I turned right instead. According to the SPV maps this point was called Beaumont and continuing a tad north we would have seen Chauncey (Billups).
After going through The Plains (the name sounds like a whimsical place in a poem), John and I consulted the map (yes the DeLorme Gazetteer still has a use) and decided to continue south toward Athens. All of a sudden we found ourselves at Grosvenor where the T&OC crossed the B&O Parkersburg Subdivision. The diamond for the crossing sat right next to the grade crossing for Rt. 682 (as did the block tower). Dave Dupler's web page has lots of good photos of this area at http://www.davedupler.com/athens/rr_ath.html . There are no traces of the B&O immediately west of the former diamond location as a business now occupies the RofW. East from the T&OC the RofW is now a bike path.
We then followed the B&O into Athens. The HV, which originally was on the west side of the T&OC, crosses over the T&OC just north of here at Arm (Armitage) and then snakes its way into Athens where it meets the B&O at what today is around the intersection of Shafer and Byard Streets. The B&O is mostly obliterated in Athens itself as the bike path only follows the RofW on the east and west edges of town. Inside Athens itself the large depot is the the only clue that a mainline just over 30 years ago existed that once moved Amtrak and TOFC trains. John and I took a moment to take in the surroundings around the station and contemplated how things once were (including the many drunks and other college pranksters the train crews had to endure over the years).
After getting some grub we continued to follow the B&O toward Belpre. US 50 more or less follows the RofW most of the way. John noted that when the road was widened that the RofW was used for part of it. The RofW would make an appearance at times, completely absent of ties, telephone poles or any other railroad fixtures. I found it odd that, for a line only 30 or so years removed, that there was absolutely nothing left even in the remote areas. There are still remnants of other lines gone for much longer still in place, but this line was completely stripped.
Fast forward to Belpre the track is in place a little west of town to serve one of the many industries along the Ohio River. We crossed the line a mile or two east of this location and the track of welded rail still looked good for 40-50 mph. The track charts show it as welded 122 lb. 1976 vintage rail. It also looked like CSX had replaced a number of ties in this area. A little further east is the junction called Belpre (how original!) where this line splits with the main taking a right turn across the Ohio River to Parkersburg, WV while to the left the route takes a sharp curve north where it begins to parallel the Ohio River toward Marietta. At the junction is a static display of a caboose painted in B&O paint (but has a stencil noting that it isn't a B&O caboose), a passenger car and some other odds and ends equipment.We then began following the line toward Marietta which John and I thought had a short stretch of street-running trackage. Ohio Rt. 7 parallels the line nicely and is at grade with it for most of the way to Marietta. CSX has a handful of large customers to keep the rust off the rails. In Marietta the line appears to split with the main continuing north while another branch (abandoned) heads east and crosses the Muskingum River on the "historic" Harmar Bridge. The bridge has a pedestrian path allowing people to walk across. A few pieces of rolling stock also sit just north of the bridge. A nice blog article about the area can be found at https://akronrrclub.wordpress.com/trackside-tales/memorial-day-on-the-hocking-valley-scenic/soaking-up-ohio-railroad-history/ .
Eventually we arrived at the end of the line. The line ends on the power plant property where the satellite photos show that the main becomes part of a balloon track for unloading coal trains on the property. We then see why the tracks were shiny as we see a headlight inside the plant property and coal cars snaked through the facility. The other customer is a chemical company which had several 60' hi-cube boxcars on site and large piles of wood chips but we didn't see wood chip hoppers on site. The use of boxcars didn't make sense to us so if anyone has information to satisfy our curiosity let me know.
We continued to follow the now long-abandoned portion of the B&O line north toward Zanesville which again continues to follow the Muskingum River. The river at times had small chunks of ice floating on it making for a pretty scene. Along the way we reached Stockport which has a dam, lock and old mill converted to a bed and breakfast inn. We stopped here to take in the beautiful but chilly surroundings. I tried to operate the do-it-yourself lock doors but they seemed to be frozen in place.
The B&O RofW is nothing more than a mound in most areas, though a large deck girder bridge a little south of Zanesville is still in place. Finally we reached Zanesville and made a reconnaissance of the area. Here are a few photos of the B&O bridge over the Muskingum River and draw bridge over the canal.
At this point we were basically out of light so we decided to head back to home base. This trip of 361 miles was one of our shorter jaunts.
Questions, comments welcome!