Remembering Nova Tower
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.