Remembering Nova Tower

Nova Tower is shown in an early 20th century view. (Photograph courtesy of David Oroszi)

By Richard Jacobs

Nova, Ohio, is located at MP 181.1 on the current CSX New Castle Subdivision, former Baltimore & Ohio Chicago mainline. There stands an ancient wood tower at Nova, no longer used by the railroad for many years. There was no other railroad crossing there. Why then did the tower exist? What was its function?

There were both eastbound and westbound passing sidings at Nova, and a trailing point crossover.  The tower was there to handle the crossover and the entry switches to the sidings so trains did not have to stop for a trainman to throw the switch. 

The crossover and the inlet switches were right near the tower and the Ohio Route 511 road crossing there. The westbound siding was on the north side of the right of way, extending from the tower 100 plus car lengths to the west of the tower.

The eastbound siding was on the south side of the right of way and extended 100 plus car lengths to the east of the tower. Nova is on an eastbound grade, which would have made it tough for an eastbound train to stop, throw the switch and then enter the eastbound siding. The outlet switches at the far end of the sidings were very likely spring switches.

There was a train order station there in the 1970s, possibly from the time the line was built in 1891 and for sure when it was double tracked about 1906. Nova tower was still open in 1977–78 when the Chessie Steam Special and Chessie Safety Express ran.

CSX tower operator Bill Haines recalls that Nova was open on weekdays from 7 to 11 a.m. when he worked at Sterling in 1973. The operator who worked it was also the agent at Lodi so he spent the first part of his day at Nova and the rest at Lodi in the freight house.

Nova was also opened in the evening as needed in case the dispatcher needed to get a hotshot like the Chicago Jet around a less important train. In a case like that, the dispatcher would call the operator and he would open Nova and cross over one of the trains. This would entail throwing the crossover switches and handing out a reverse train order.  Sometime about 1974, Nova ceased to be open regularly. From that point on was open only as needed.

Nova was closed as a train order station when the railroad went to DTC on the line in 1986. The 1982 employees timetable shows Nova as open weekdays on day shift only. In a 1987 employees timetable, there is no train order station listed there.

Looking at the map on Page 40 of the Railroad Atlas of North America for Great Lakes East by Mike Walker, it appears that the Lorain, Ashland and Southern crossed the B&O at Nova. Actually, the Lorain, Ashland and Southern crossed over the B&O a couple of miles west of Nova on a bridge. The old LA&S right of way can be seen on Google maps. It went over the B&O in what is now a wooded area. No tower or interchange track was located there.

The LA&S was formed in 1914 from a consolidation of the Ashland & Western and the Lorain & Ashland. The Lorain & Ashland ran from South Lorain to Wellington where it ended. The Ashland & Western ran from Ashland to Custaloga on the southern end where it had a junction with the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago line. The final connection from Wellington to Ashland was constructed in 1913.

It was purchased 50/50 by the Erie and the PRR in 1916 to access the National Tube steel mill in South Lorain. It only lasted from 1914-1925 when it was abandoned. It had a short and unglamorous history, even though it has been the subject of two books.

The Lorain Ashland & Southern was paralleled from Wellington to South Lorain by the Lorain & West Virginia. Originally part of the Wheeling & Lake Erie, later part of the Nickel Plate Road, the L&WV fell into disuse after the NKP came under N&W and later NS control.

A 4.5-mile portion of the line is owned and used by a tourist railroad with the same name, Lorain & West Virginia, out of Wellington. The right-of-way has been cleared an additional 1.5 miles. Further north, it has been severed by a highway interchange and is overgrown with weeds and trees.

Thanks to Bill Cramer and Dave Ori of the B&O Railroad Historical Society for providing data for this article. Thanks also to Bill Haines of the Marion Union Station Association for his assistance. Thanks to Dave Oroszi for providing the historical photo of Nova tower from his collection.

This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Railpace magazine and is reprinted with the permission of Railpace publisher Tom Nemeth.

Nova Tower still stands today, but it is in a precarious position. A westbound train passes by on March 7, 2010. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

19 Responses to “Remembering Nova Tower”

  1. Tim Lab Says:

    Does anyone know if there was letter designation for the tower. Such as a telegraph code? Possibly NA Tower …

  2. Eric Kretz Says:

    Nova’s letters were VN-years ago, it was in the upstairs windows visible to the trains.

    • John A. Geib Says:

      As a train enthusiast for about all my life, I had taken a photo of a tower in 1982, just recently I am trying to trace the location of where this photo was taken. After scanning the photo and enlarging the image, the letters VN were displayed in the top of the window to the right of top floor doorway of the tower. I will be glad to send an attached 1982 tower photo for your comments, note another train picture is also in this scanned document.

      Hope you help me find the location of this photo.

      Thank you,
      John

  3. Jon Scarborough Says:

    My grand-father, Garrett VanVranken worked in the Nova tower in the 1920’s-1930’s. I am uncertain of the length of his career with the railroad. In fact, the gentleman in the dark suit resembles his stature, build, shape of face, although I cannot make out much detail. In the 90’s, I visited Nova, and took a couple of small, yellow-painted pieces of siding off the tower.

    • Marie Conn Says:

      My grandfather, David Fonce Akers worked for the (B&O) I think, railroad for many years at this tower in Nova. Retired. Not sure years. Do u have info about him?

      • Anna Crumrine Says:

        Marie are you replying to me or Jon Scarborough? If me no I do not have info. on David Akers but prob. could find stuff for you. Let me know.

    • Anna Crumrine Says:

      Hi Jon, Just checking out this site and your name caught my eye. My husbands family is related to you. If you are interested in any genealogy just let me know.

      • Marie Conn Says:

        Yes Anna, I would love any help you could give me. My grandfather began working for the B&O about 1934 in Willard Ohio. Then came to Nova Tower. Not sure year but raised his family in Nova. Retired in late 70’s or early 80’s. my Mother is 86 and doesn’t recall dates very well. I have been in the tower many times as a child and loved watching him switch the trains and use the telegraph. He was a former teacher in the hills of Kentucky, his birthplace, as well as a businessman in Indiana. Strange how he never shared much to leave behind. Enough of that. Please let me know what I can do to help. The man in black in the pix also has the stature of an Akers. Feel free to email me at goldenlady@mikrotec.com.

  4. Jim ray Says:

    WOW WHAT A MEMORY, AS A YOUNG COLLEGE KID WORKING FOR THE B&O AS A VACATION RELIEF TELEGRAPH OPR IN THE SUMMERS OF 57-58 I WORKED TOWERS GREENWICH, NOVA, LORAIN, LESTER, LODI, STERLING, MASSILLON, BREWSTER AND HOLLOWAY. MY DAD WAS A TRAINMAN ON THE CHICAGO DIV. ONE NIGHT I WAS WORKING VN AND FELL ASLEEP WHEN #8 HAD LEFT OD & I DIDN’T GIVE HIM THE SIGNAL. HONK, HONK, HONK.- – – – -BEFORE I GOT HOME WALT PAUL, THE SUPR IN AKRON, LET ME KNOW I WAS TO SEE HIM 1st THING IN THE MORNING. I GOT HOME TO WILLARD ABOUT 8:30. MY DAD WHO HAD JUST COME IN FROM CHICAGO SAID, “I HEARD YOU STOPPED 8 LAST NIGHT”GEEZZZ I SAID! HOW MANY DIVISIONS KNOW ABOUT THIS?

  5. Jim ray Says:

    OH- MARIE CONN, I MET YOUR GRANDAD, DAVE AKERS. HE WAS WORKING NOVA IN 58. BUT SAID HE WAS ABOUT TO RETIRE SOON. HE WAS A GRAND GENTLMAN TO THIS YOUNG
    COLLEGE KID.

  6. Jim ray Says:

    JIM RAY ABOVE SHOULD BE JIM GRAY

    • Frank Menssen Says:

      Jim Gray, voice out of the past. I have a picture of you in OD Tower Lodi, Oh back in Aug. 1957 when you broke in with me. I broke in with Dave Akers in March of 1957. I have a good picture of Nova tower taken in Sept. 1957.
      Frank Menssen

      • BWWilkinson Says:

        Frank:

        I hope you are still enjoying your retirement since the closing of Parma – I wish you all the best.

        B W Wilkinson

  7. Marie Conn Says:

    Thanks for reply. Yes, he was a granddaughter’s idol and was so nice to hear your story. I’m so glad you met him.

  8. John A. Thompson, Jr. Says:

    Have visited and photographed this tower many times. Also heard it was slated for demolition many times, still remains to this day. Grand Tribute to a bygone era, even if it is ready to come down

  9. Westy Says:

    It’s still there. Took this picture yesterday…

  10. Westy Says:

    Alas. It is gone now.

  11. Ron Piskor Says:

    Very Nice article. I have spent many good times at VN exercising my Canon F-1 shutter.That old tower provided great photo framing possibilities through the years as so many RR right of ways turned vanilla,as towers and telegraph lines came down.

  12. Dave Carpenter Says:

    Dave Carpenter here. Our family lived/farmed very close to Nova, OH. Beginning clear back to the early 1900’s. I well remember the RR tower @ Nova. I remember a tower employee, who lived in Nova, that put U.S. Mail on the end of a stick and an individual aboard a moving train would extend his arm & snag the small bundle of mail as the train passed by the tower. I was a 1959 graduate of Ruggles-Troy High in Nova. I believe the school was ‘bull-dozed’ in the early 2000 years? I worked part-time @ the Nova elevator in the 50’s. Bill Fagart was the owner then. At that time, Nova had (2) grocery stores, a barber shop, a post office, the Hassinger garage for auto maintenance, and the Lacy Bros. Minniappolis(?) Moline farm equipment dealership. Mike & Andy Lacy. My father, Ralph Carpenter, & I, in the early 50’s, helped Bell Telephone rip out the old wall/crank phones & install the new ‘high tech’ rotary dial phones within Nova & the surrounding community. A lady named Dorthey Hipp was the local ‘operator’ in Nova, when we were still using the old ‘crank’ telephones. She had a BIG board within her home, with a LOT of plugin cables & wiring, that connected folks calling each other from their homes. My……. how times have changed! -Dave-

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