Conrail is nearly six months old, but the local from Orrville still looks like a Penn Central train in this September 1976 view at Clinton. These former Pennsylvania Railroad Akron branch tracks are gone now but within the next five years the abandoned right of way is expected to become a trail. (Photograph by Roger Durfee)
A Wayne County group has completed the purchase of the abandoned right of way of the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Akron Branch between Clinton and Orrville and plans to convert into a trail.
Rails-to-Tails of Wayne County acquired the eight miles of land from Norfolk Southern and plans to open a trail that would begin on the north side of Orrville and end in Clinton. The trail would begin at the north edge of the Orrville industrial park.
Trail officials expect it will be two to five years before the trail opens and it will cost between $70,000 and $100,000 per mile. Eventually, the plans are to extend the trail into downtown Orrville.
The Wayne County group is seeking public and private grants to fund development of the trail. Three bridges along the route would need to be rehabilitated.
The trail would follow the onetime Cleveland, Akron & Columbus Railway, whose predecessor, the Akron branch of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, was the first railroad to build through Akron.
The former CA&C, as many called the line long after the Pennsy had taken it over, was the Pennsylvania’s major route for freight traveling between Cleveland and Columbus. The line was severed south of Orrville in 1972 during flooding caused by a severe storm and never restored.
Conrail took over the line in 1976, but abandoned it between Clinton and Orrville. The segment between Clinton and Akron involved a paired trackage arrangement with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and continues in use today by CSX.
The Wayne County trails group already manages a trail on the former Wheeling & Lake Erie right of way between Dalton and the Stark County line that opened in 2002. It expects to open a trail on former Erie Railroad right of way this summer between Rittman and Creston, to be called the County Line Trail.
The group’s Web site is: http://waynecountytrails.org