Once Upon a Time in Orrville

A westbound Conrail RoadRailer cruises through Orrville on June 12 1995, during the then-named Depot Days of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society. The view is from the steps of Orr Tower.

The last sentence of a news release issued by the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society noted that the upcoming open house to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Orrville Union Depot will not feature train or track car rides.

That was probably placed there because in the past track car rides and a short train ride were a part of a day-long festival that centered on the station that once served the Pennsylvania Railroad.

But all of that began to go away a few years ago when some ORHS passenger cars being ferried back home by the Wheeling & Lake Erie derailed while on Norfolk Southern tracks in Bellevue.

The W&LE subsequently banned excursion trains from its rails and evicted the ORHS from a siding track in Orrville.

I may or may not get down to the depot anniversary event on Saturday, May 19. If I do, it will be to indulge in a little bit of nostalgia.

Back in the 1990s the ORHS used to sponsor what it called Depot Days. Aside from track car and train rides, the depot was open along with the restored Orr Tower.

Conrail usually sent a locomotive that was on static display and visitors were allowed to visit the cab.

In those days Conrail had a fair level of traffic through Orrville, much of it coming off the Indianapolis Line at Crestline and taking the Fort Wayne Line that ran through Orrville.

You could count on seeing a couple of intermodal trains in late morning and manifest freights at intervals throughout the day.

Much of that traffic ended after CSX and NS divided Conrail in 1999. There were no more visiting locomotives and the level of train traffic greatly diminished.

The event itself was renamed Railroad Days and moved to August. But the train rides and track car rides continued and at times the W&LE would have a visiting locomotive to view.

This week’s event will be but a shadow of what used to be. You can sit in Orrville for hours now before a train comes through.

But there will always be memories of what once was.

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