Reliving the History of Bucyrus T&OC Depot

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Railroad stations have a grandeur about them that is both pleasing and deceiving.

It is pleasing because the rich architectural details found in old train stations are largely lacking in the modern transportation facilities.

Yet it can be deceiving because stations did not necessary serve their communities in their intended functions for as long as you might think given that the depot is more than a century old.

Such is the case with the former Toledo & Ohio Central passenger station in Bucyrus.

Built in 1892, it somehow survived a period of abandonment. The depot is still around due to efforts in the community to save and preserve it.

As you stand outside this magnificent structure, it is easy to imagine how several generations began or ended a trip here.

We often use the phrase “once a busy place” in describing old railroad stations.

That’s because we’ve heard it from our parents or grandparents when they described the era of passenger service when most Americans traveled by train or knew people who did.

The implication is that at about any time of the day or night there were crowds of people at the train station. It might have been that at times the T&O station in Bucyrus was a busy place at train time.

But in reality, few scheduled passenger trains ever served this depot and those trains were gone by the middle 1930s.

Bucyrus was located on the eastern line of the T&OC, which began in Toledo and ran to Thurston in southern Ohio where it met up with the western line, which extended between Toledo and Thurston via Columbus.

South of Thurston, the T&OC extended to Charleston, West Virginia, and had a web of branches that served coal mines in southern Ohio and in West Virginia.

Although construction of the eastern line began in 1869, it was not completed until 1880 and placed into operation in 1881.

Passenger service on the eastern line was oriented to local service and none of these trains operated south of Thurston.

A timetable dated March 22, 1914, showed one roundtrip between Toledo and Thurston, one roundtrip between Toledo and Bucyrus, one roundtrip between Bucyrus and Thursday, and three roundtrips between Fostoria and Toledo.

A scheduled dated Jan. 1, 1918, showed the same pattern with all of the trains operating during daylight hours.

That would prove to be the zenith of passenger service on the eastern line of the T&OC.

By the time of the Sept. 30, 1923, timetable, service had fallen to one Toledo-Thurston roundtrip (Nos. 23 and 24) that operated during daylight hours. There was also a Toledo-Bucyrus roundtrip that departed Bucyrus in the morning and returned that evening.

This operating pattern continued through 1935. By then the Bucyrus-Toledo trains did not operate on Sundays.

I was unable to determine the date when passenger service on the eastern line of the T&OC ended, but it was gone by the timetable change of June 1, 1936.

The Bucyrus T&OC station is 124 years old this year, but it only served as a passenger station for at most 44 years or 35 percent of its life. It must have served a railroad function for several years after the end of passenger service.

Today the Bucyrus depot sits as a reminder of a bygone era and the city’s only surviving train station. The locals have done a good job restoring it, yet I’ve always sensed that more restoration work remains to be done.

I’ve never been inside the depot and it apparently is only open on special occasions.

Still, there is plenty to see on the outside and I’ve looked through the windows to get a sense of the interior.

I can picture in my mind men and women standing on the platform or in the waiting room dressed in their Sunday best awaiting the arrival of No. 123 or 124, which were the numbers of the Toledo-Thurston train in its final years.

The train was pulled by a steam locomotive and probably had a couple of heavyweight open window coaches along with head end cars.

There were no dining cars, no air conditioning and no sleeping cars. It was basic transportation designed to take people a relatively short distance.

In the end, though, the combination of the effects of the Great Depression as well as an expanding network of highways combined to doom passenger trains on the eastern line of the T&OC.

Other forces would later work to doom the eastern line itself except for a short segment in Bucyrus.

In that sense, the Bucyrus T&OC depot is a monument to a railroad that no longer was needed, yet is still worth remembering.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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