Driving Trip - February 15, 2015

Note: click on the thumbnails for a larger image

This narrative is yet another in the series of driving trips 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 -3F 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. 

Canal Winchester, OH
HV line looking northwest toward Columbus in Canal Winchester, OH
Black Run, OH
Canal Winchester depot and additional equipment around station


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. 
Canal Winchester, OH
The weather was chilly but made for a beautiful scene - Canal Winchester, OH depot
Canal Winchester, OH
Cement right-of-way marker in the foreground marking the territory around the depot

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.

Canal Winchester, OH
Canal Winchester, OH depot
Canal Winchester, OH
Canal Winchester, OH old elevator
rail at Canal Winchester, OH
The rail at the Canal Winchester, OH station is jointed 100 lb., 1923 vintage

After about 10 minutes we got back in the car and were thankful the Honda salesman had suggested the Accord SE trim line with the seat warmers!

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.

CFE 3888 west of Lancaster
CF&E 3888 on the transfer track from the HV main to the Anchor Hocking warehouse spur west of Lancaster, OH

The spur leads to several warehouses of which one is the Anchor Hocking distribution center and the destination for the oddball shuttle trains between the plant and distribution center. To access the line to the plant the crews have to pull north past the switch then perform a backup move to the DC. Anyone know how long this spur has been in place? The track was shiny but we did not see any cars from a distance. 

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 .

C&O Freight House - Lancaster, OH
C&O freight house in Lancaster, OH looking west; the PC main would have been on the left side of the existing track.
C&O freight house - Lancaster, OH
C&O freight house - Lancaster, OH
HV main looking east - Lancaster, OH
View looking east from the C&O freight house in Lancaster, OH. The PC had a small yard in the grassy area on the right. The HV and PC mains would have crossed in the distance where the line curves to the right.

After taking photos of the freight house, we decide to follow the PC line to see what activity it has. The satellite maps show four spurs between Lancaster and the end of track, but from what we could tell the only active customer is ConAgra at the end of the track. The rail at the very end is 85 lb, 1910 vintage rail.
PC line east of Lancaster, OH
End of the PC main looking west toward Lancaster. Cars for ConAgra on the right.
PC line east of Lancaster, OH
Another look at the PC main looking west over a small creek. 

PC line looking east - east of Lancaster, OH
PC line looking east to the end of the track - east of Lancaster, OH.
Track date at end of track - east of Lancaster, OH
Old steel! Track here is jointed 85 lb., 1910 vintage rail

We deliberated our next move and decided to double back to Lancaster and follow the HV line southeast. We noticed that almost all of the bridges are wide enough for two tracks, however the 1983 track charts show this as single track. Fellow RFF (railfan friend) Whit Wardell thinks this was single tracked in the 1930s when the coal business from the southeast began to dry up. At Sugar Grove we got off Rt. 33 and took side roads to follow the track. The road we took was dirt and gravel, however since it was so cold the mud was frozen solid so we didn't have to worry about getting the car muddy or stuck. The road we were on also followed the Hocking River for a bit and we stopped at one of the canal locks along the line. We were glad we took the road less traveled.

Canal sign east of Sugar Grove, OH
Sheep Pen Lock sign east of Sugar Grove, OH. The HV main is out of view to the left.
Sheep Pen Lock - east of Sugar Grove, OH
Here's a look at the remnants of the Sheep Pen Lock. Neat seeing these old relics.

Advancing southeast to Logan we first took a quick drive-by of the HV shop buildings on the west end of town. We then passed by the grain elevator which was open but had no cars spotted though a small switcher was waiting for its next assignment. The old HV yard also looked desolate and empty which makes sense now that I&O has its operations stationed out of Lancaster rather than Logan. We then followed the remnants of the New Straitsville branch line which heads north from around the middle of the HV yard in Logan. The line has managed to reinvent itself yet again with the movement of aggregate to a site formerly occupied by another rail customer, General Clay Products. No trains were staged but the track was shiny. At the end of the line is a GE Lighting plant which had 4-5 cars spotted.

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/ .
Static display in Marietta, OH
C&O C3301 on static display in Marietta, OH. The Harmar Bridge can be seen in the distance.
C&O C3589 in Marietta, OH
Here's another view of C&O C3301 in fresh Chessie paint in Marietta, OH
B&O C2473 at Marietta, OH
B&O C2473 is also on display in Marietta, OH and gives reference to the line's heritage.

After taking photos of the rolling stock, we started following the B&O line north. I then asked John, "Did we miss the street-running trackage?" D'oh! John confirms that the trackage should have been somewhere in Marietta but we didn't see it. So we turned around and found the street-running trackage which began just beyond where the B&O line split. It was right under our noses and we missed it! We noticed that most of the houses along the street-running trackage were not in good shape so the occupants probably hear every creak and feel every vibration when a train snakes through their neighborhood!

B&O street running trackage in Marietta, OH
B&O street running trackage in Marietta, OH looking northeast
B&O street running trackage in Marietta, OH
B&O street running trackage in Marietta, OH looking southwest. The split from the branch over the Muskingum River is just beyond where the track curves to the right.

We then resumed following the B&O line north which is called the Marietta Subdivision. Someone has made a small Wikipedia article on the line at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marietta_Subdivision . The line's main purpose is to serve the AEP Muskingum River power plant at the end of the line in Beverly, OH. Sometimes this is called the Relief, OH power plant. The plant is scheduled to close sometime in 2015 so we figured we better see it now while everything was functioning. There are two other customers on the line, one not much outside of Marietta and another also at the end next to the power plant. The line is all welded rail and more or less follows the Muskingum River. The one spot we looked at the rail it was welded 132 lb. 1957 vintage rail. We saw an overpass with 1955 stamped in the concrete. With the power plant first opening in 1953 it's obvious that this line was rebuilt to serve it. It's in fairly good shape the entire way and is a very scenic route. We also noticed that the track was shiny so something had been over it recently. Some of the roads we drove on to follow the line were dirt/gravel so again we were happy for the sub-freezing temperatures which had frozen the road solid.

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.

Lock and dam at Stockport, OH
View of the mill and dam at Stockport, OH. The mill is now a bed and breakfast inn.
dam at Stockport, OH
Here's another view of the dam. The do-it-yourself lock is just out of view on the right.

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. 

B&O bridge over Muskingum River - Zanesville, OH
This is the B&O bridge over the Muskingum River looking west. Photo taken November 10, 2009.
OC eastbound train at Zanesville, OH
Looking west through the B&O bridge over the Muskingum River. Note the curve in the foreground at the east end of the bridge. Photo taken November 10, 2009.

drawbridge in Zanesville, OH
Just east of the truss bridge over the river is this small drawbridge over the canal. Note that it appears wide enough for two tracks. A car is also spotted at Purina in the distance. Photo taken November 10, 2009.
drawbridge at Zanesville, OH
Here's a side view of the drawbridge illustrating its construction and function of bridging the canal. Photo taken November 10, 2009.

As usual the small yard by the freight station was full of covered hopper and tank cars. While driving around we heard a whistle and saw an Ohio Central coal train on the west side of the river heading south. Yes, we're actually going to see a moving train on this trip! After doing a quick loop of the area we watched the train and its 52 cars do its pull through across the east-west truss bridge to the B&O trackage, then head back south across the north-south truss bridge.

Ohio Central eastbound into Zanesville, OH
The Ohio Central empty coal train snakes its way around the curve east into Zanesville, OH. The train will pull clear of the switch then reverse movement to head south.
OC eastbound train at Zanesville, OH
OC 4027 and OC 3329 head east into Zanesville, OH. The head end has just crossed the Muskingum River and the canal drawbridge.

OC train in Zanesville, OH
Here's the reverse angle of the same train heading into town. In the background are an ex-DT&I caboose, freight warehouse converted to retail and our transportation for this trip.
OC train at Zanesville, OH
On the other end of the train is OC 3308 now ready to take the train south. Yard tracks and the PRR yard office are in view.

By this time the sun was setting and what little warmth it had given was quickly going away. Earlier we passed a sign displaying 4F and it felt like it. We stood outside to watch the train's movement back south but quickly retreated to the car and the toasty seat warmers once the head end had passed. When we departed, we noticed that the spur to the pet food plant had been cut from the main. No more 60' plug door boxcars for the plant!

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!

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