Posts Tagged ‘Big Four Railroad’

Sitting at Milepost 1

September 23, 2021

It’s a Saturday morning and I’ve found this R.J. Corman grain train sitting south of Ansonia, Ohio, awaiting a crew.

Rebuilt GP16 No. 1832 has yet to couple onto the cars, which were delivered to the Corman by CSX. All of the covered hoppers have CSX reporting marks and lettering.

The grain is bound for an ethanol plant located near Greenville. The track on which the train is sitting is the longest segment of the former Cincinnati Northern that is still in existence.

Once part of the Big Four system, the CN ran from Franklin, Ohio, north of Cincinnati, to Jackson, Michigan.

A few short segments of the CN are still used to serve shippers in various locations in Ohio and Michigan.

Note that on the Corman this is milepost 1. During the Big Four days Ansonia was milepost 151 on the CN.

The grain in this train will take a short surviving segment of the former Pan Handle (Pennsylvania Railroad) Columbus-Logasnport, Indiana, line to reach the ethanol plant. Most of that ex-PRR route has been abandoned, too.

No. 1832 began life as a GP7 built in March 1951 for the Seaboard Air Line. It served for a time on the CSX motive power roster before being acquired by the Corman and assigned to the Western Ohio Line.

The corn in the adjacent field will soon be ready for harvest. Perhaps someday it will these rails to Greenville to be processed into ethanol.

Way, Way Back in Time in Berea

March 12, 2020

Many, if not most, railfans who spend time in Berea watching trains are unaware or only vaguely aware that there used to be another railroad line there.

The sandstone quarries in town were served by a railroad that interchanged with the Big Four (New York Central) near where railfans gather today to watch Norfolk Southern and CSX trains.

Stephen Titchenal, who lives in the Cleveland area, said he was reviewing some Interstate Commerce Commission valuation information that he collected at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

He noticed that Berea had an Engine house between 1875 and 1918 that was located at the start of the quarry spur so it probably served engines assigned to that.

The property for the quarry branch was purchased in 1868 and its tracks retired in sections between 1938 and 1950.

Titchenal said the building information came from the ICC Form 561 Final Engineering Report that includes information on bridges, passenger and freight stations and other buildings, signals and interlocking.

The accompanying map above shows the location of the quarry branch as well as the engine house.

The branch crossed Rock River Drive just south of where it today intersects with Depot Street.

The branch crossed the latter just east of the intersection.

Aside from bridge abutments next to the East Branch of the Rocky River there are few remnants of the quarry branch left in Berea and you have to know what you are looking for to find them.

Blank for 48 Years Now

October 18, 2019

This former train bulletin board that once hung on the wall of the passenger station in Union City, Indiana, is a relic frozen in time.

The station where it hung was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad to serve passenger trains on the Pan Handle line between Chicago and Columbus.

But trains of the New York Central also called at the depot. But note that the train bulletin refers to the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, .a.k.a. the Big Four and not the New York Central.

That might have seemed confusing to passengers expecting to see New York Central, particularly given that the Big Four became part of the NYC system in 1906.

But the Big Four operated autonomously into the 1930s and even then many along its routes continued to remember the Big Four name.

The PRR’s marquee trains between Chicago and Columbus were the daylight Fort Hayes and the overnight Ohioan.

The Fort Hayes ended on Oct. 28, 1956. The Ohioan name was dropped in April 1958. On the last day of 1958 the former Ohioan was discontinued, leaving the Pan Handle through Union City freight only.

The NYC continue to host a fleet of trains that ran between Cleveland and St. Louis.

Union City would become a footnote in the Central’s efforts to do away with passenger trains on its St. Louis line.

The Central ended the Knickerbocker (westbound) and Southwestern (eastbound) between Cleveland and Union City, Indiana, on Sept. 6, 1967.

It was able to do this without regulatory approval because the Public Service Commission of Ohio allowed railroads to discontinue passengers trains within the state provided they are not the last varnish on a route.

The Central’s action left now unnamed Nos. 312 and 341 as Union City-St. Louis trains of one passenger coach pulled by a lone E unit.

In practice, this train actually originated and terminated in Bellfontaine, Ohio, but did not carry passengers between Bellefontaine and Union City.

This state of affairs continued until Nos. 312 and 341 made their last trips on March 18, 1968.

That left unnamed Nos. 315 and 316 operating through Union City as they traversed their route between Cleveland and Indianapolis.

These trains had survived as long as they did because of their heavy mail business.

No. 315 departed Cleveland Union Terminal every night at 11:50 and was scheduled to arrive at Indianapolis Union Station the next morning at 6:05 a.m. This train was not scheduled to stop in Union City.

The equipment turned and departed Indy at 9:35 a.m. with a flag stop in Union City at 11:30 a.m. No. 316 was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 4:05 p.m.

The planners who created Amtrak probably gave little thought to saving trains 315 and 316 and they began their final trips on April 30, 1971.

And with that this train bulletin board was wiped clean for good.

If you look carefully you might see that at some point some wag wrote “Hogwarts Express” as an eastbound Big Four train bound for London.

It is noteworthy that the bulletin board has room for more Big Four trains than PRR trains.

Tthat probably reflects the reality that the NYC had more trains through Union City and then did the Pennsy.

Although some railfans refer to the Union City station as the former Pennsylvania Railroad station the town calls it the Union City Arts Depot.

That’s because it is an all-purpose community center that happens to have a railroad history.

I have to wonder how many people in Union City know much about that railroad history.

Big Four on the Floor

September 28, 2019

The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway has been gone for several decades.

Also known as the Big Four, it was acquired by the New York Central in 1906, but continued to operate as an autonomous entity through 1930.

There are few tangible relics of the Big Four left because its rolling stock has long since been relegated to the scrap yard.

Therefore, I found this relic in the collection of the Wabash Valley Railroad Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, to be quite interesting. It’s also quite rare.

This Big Four herald was part of a tile floor of the former passenger station in Terre Haute.

The museum was able to rescue it but not before it had been largely broken up when the station was razed in 1986 to make way for a parking lot for Indiana State University.

The last passenger train to use the station was Amtrak’s National Limited between New York and Kansas City. It began its final trips on Sept. 30, 1979.

For now the tile Big Four herald sits in a wood box on the first floor of the former Haley Tower on the museum grounds.

Haley Tower once controlled the junction of the Big Four and Chicago & Eastern Illinois in Terre Haute.

A long-term project of the museum is to piece it back together. That is going to take a lot of patience and time.

Sanders Speaks to NYC Convention

May 7, 2018

Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders gave a presentation on the New York Central’s St. Louis line on Sunday to the annual New York Central System Historical Society, which met over the weekend in Independence.

Sanders spoke about the history of the line, particularly in his hometown of Mattoon, Illinois.

He illustrated his presentation with historic images and presented some here and now scenes to show how the railroad right of way has changed.

The St. Louis line of the New York Central was built in the mid 1850s between Terre Haute, Indiana, and Alton, Illinois.

It later became part of the Big Four, which was leased by the New York Central in 1930.

Conrail abandoned the line between Paris and Pana, Illinois, in March 1982. The tracks through Mattoon were removed in May 1983.

Since then, virtually all traces of the former NYC in Mattoon, including the passenger station, shops, Railway Express Building and the bridge over the Illinois Central mainline, have been razed.

A portion of the yard and shops is now a softball fields complex known as the Roundhouse Complex because it is located where the 21-stall roundhouse used to be.

Colorful Railroad Stock Certificates

May 3, 2017


I don’t own any railroad company stock so I don’t know if railroads still issue stock certificates.

Given how corporate America has embraced the religion of cost cutting and is trying to eradicate paper I would not be surprised if stock certificates have fallen by the wayside.

If they still exist, the shareholder probably has to print them. But maybe not.

If stock certificates still exist, I wonder if those certificates are as elaborate as what railroads issued in the past.

Shown are two certificates from the collection of Akron Railroad Club member Jack Norris.

The top certificate shows stock in the Big Four. Note that the issue date was well after the Big Four had long ceased to operate under that moniker. But many railroads lived on paper long after their “brand” had been replaced by another company.

The bottom stock certificate of the New York Central features an image of the commodore himself, Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Nice Weather, 32 Trains at Marion Outing

June 29, 2009

Akron Railroad Club members had the opportunity to tour AC tower during the club's longest day outing on Sunday, June 28 at Marion, Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

Akron Railroad Club members had the opportunity to tour AC tower during the club's longest day outing on Sunday, June 28 at Marion, Ohio. (Photograph by Craig Sanders)

It was a slow start, both in train count and weather conditions, but the 20 Akron Railroad Club members and their guests who meandered to Marion on Sunday for the longest day outing came away pleased with the results.

Members saw 32 trains of CSX and Norfolk Southern in this central Ohio community that lies at the junction of three rail lines. This was far from the record of more than 40 trains set on an earlier longest day outing at Marion, but also exceeded the low count of 28.

Traffic on Sunday was a mix of manifest freight, intermodals and coal trains. Nothing out of the ordinary passed by. A CSX westbound auto rack train had a former Conrail unit still in blue in the lead, but foreign power was scarce.

Only one train, a westbound CSX manifest freight, had any foreign power in the motive lashup. That train had a pair of Union Pacific units. The lack of foreign power was, perhaps, not surprising given that the class I railroads have sidelined thousands of locomotives due to traffic being down during the recession. They hardly need to borrow power from another road to help get their trains over the road.

Marion area residents who visited the station during the day said that traffic counts were down due to the economy, particularly on NS.

Volunteers from the Marion Union Station Association opened the depot and AC tower in the afternoon. A former operator was on hand to explain the workings of the tower and simulate tower operations by lining signals as trains approached. Of course he had to use radio transmissions intercepted by the tower’s scanners to know of approaching trains.

Many ARRC members witnessed a near miss between a southbound NS train and two bicyclists who crossed in front of it at the first grade crossing just north of the diamonds with the former Big Four/Erie, now owned by CSX. The engineer had already begun sounding the horn and the gates were down when the cyclists ran around the gates and crossed about 20 or so feet in front of the train. Had one of them gotten a wheel caught in the rails we no doubt would have witnessed a catastrophe.

Another notable occurrence played out just after 2 p.m. A CSX crew had readied the locomotives parked in Marion yard that are used by a local that originates there. A CSX dispatcher told them he had two CSX trains and an NS train lined up to cross the former Big Four/Erie diamonds before the local could come out and head east on the ex-Big Four to do its work.

At one point the crew told the dispatcher that they had been told to work as far as Crestline, but were not qualified all the way there. After the passage of the opposing traffic, the dispatcher came back on the radio to tell the crew to take its power back into the yard and tie it down.

Some 10-15 minutes later, another dispatcher came on the radio to ask the crew about their original work orders, saying there was some confusion in the office about what was happening or not happening.

The crew explained it was to go Galion, do some switching there, do more switching at Shelby and do more work at Crestline before returning to Marion. They expressed concern that due to traffic and the amount of time needed to get done what they had been assigned that they would not make it back to Marion before outlawing and their power was needed the next day for another job out of Marion.

The dispatcher consulted with a supervisor who apparently decided that the local was to go ahead and do the work it had been assigned, getting as much done as possible. By now, though, the crew had backed the engines back into the yard and placed the derail back into place. They finally got out on the main just after 3:30 and even then had to wait east of Marion for a pair of auto rack trains to clear before they could get on the single mainline track and head for Galion.

The day got off to a slow start. Members Rick Houck and Jerry Dietry were the first to arrive at 7:30 a.m. They saw two trains pass before Marty Surdyk, Tim Krogg and Richard Thompson pulled in at 8 a.m. But it would be nearly 9 a.m. before another train arrived and it did not go past the station, instead taking the connection from the former Chesapeake & Ohio to the ex-Big Four line to Indianapolis.

It would be more than a hour before another train appeared and it, too, took the connection, going from the ex-Big Four to the ex-C&O. The next train to pass the station, where most ARRC members spent the day, was a northbound NS intermodal just after 11 a.m.

During the lull, ARRC members hand spent time listening to the constant radio chatter of an NS work crew, which was tending to a project to install new rail through Marion. The members also spent considerable time grousing about the weather, which was overcast with occasional sprinkles, and wondering if the sun would come out.

By noon, though, the clouds had begun breaking up and mostly sunny skies prevailed for the remainder of the day. The temperature was nearly perfect, warn, but not hot and the humidity was low.

Traffic picked up about the time the weather began improving, with seven trains appearing between noon and 1 p.m. A lull of an hour and 20 minutes enabled members to go get lunch or have lunch on the station grounds. Rail traffic picked up just before 2:30 and was fairly steady the remainder of the day.

Other ARRC members attending the outing included Craig Sanders, Bob Redmond, J. Gary Dillon, Paul Woodring, Rich Antibus, Jim Mastromatteo, Blaine Hayes, Tom Ward and Matt Ward.

Some members had left by late afternoon but many remained at the station until 8 p.m., the unofficial quitting time. Three members decided to stick it out until 9 p.m.

Following the passage of two NS trains just after 8 p.m., which included a meet near Center Street, seven members ventured to Bucyrus for dinner at the Bob Evans restaurant near the intersection of Ohio Route 4 and U.S. 30.

The following is the list of trains in Marion on Sunday with the time, train symbol (if known), lead engine number, type of train and rail line it traveled. EB and WB CSX trains used the former Big Four/Erie whereas NB and SB trains used the former C&O.

Morning Trains

7:44     NA       CSX 841        auto racks      WB CSX

7:53     NA       NS 2586       light power    NB NS

8:53     Q359    CSX 7512    manifest         SB to WB CSX

10:04   Q358    CSX 8729   manifest         EB to NB CSX

11:04   217      NS 9484      intermodal    NB NS

11:19   Q216    CSX 5321    auto racks    EB CSX

Afternoon Trains

12:19   179       NS 7635      manifest           WB NS

12:26   Q123    CSX 9036    intermodal    WB CSX

12:35   Q108    CSX 7711   intermodal     EB CSX

12:40   218      NS 9832     intermodal     SB NS

12:58   18M     NS 9027    manifest          SB NS

2:22     854    NS 9957     coal                   NB NS

2:29     NA      CSX 7388     stone cars     NB CSX

2:38     Q637  CSX 5205    manifest       SB CSX

3:35     C935   CSX 2752     local            EB CSX

3:47     Q377   UP 5951      manifest    WB CSX

3:50     Q348     CSX 684    manifest     EB CSX

4:00     180       NS 8782    manifest     NB NS

4:10     375       NS 9621    manifest     SB NS

4:30     Q227    CSX 8759  auto racks    WB CSX

4:56     Q279   CR 7358     auto racks    WB CSX

5:07     305      NS 2687    manifest        NB NS

5:47     V358   CSX 263    coal                NB  CSX

5:59     857     NS 9017    coal hoppers  SB NS

Evening Trains

6:10     Q636    CSX 832    manifest     NS CSX

6:28     889      NS 8455    coal hoppers    SB NS

6:58     E809    CSX 338    coal hoppers   SB CSX

7:16     Q268     CSX 4743  auto racks      EB CSX

7:37     116         NS 9275    manifest         NB NS

8:04     851        NS 2698     coal hoppers    SB NS

8:05     854        NS 9722     coal               NB NS

8:30     G204     CSX 567     light power   EB CSX

NOTES: The NB NS  power move had 16 units . . . CSX Q377 had Union Pacific No. 7065 as the trailing unit. . . CSX Q348 terminated at Marion. . . NA denotes that we were unable to determine the train symbol.

Sanders Article Published in The Mid-American

May 11, 2009

An article written by Akron Railroad Club President Craig Sanders was recently published in The Mid-American, the quarterly magazine of the Illinois Central Railroad Heritage Association. The article, titled “Mattoon’s Mid American CoverMillion Dollar Trench,” is about the cut that the Illinois Central Railroad built in 1914 in Mattoon, Illinois.

Sanders is a native of Mattoon and lived there for nearly 30 years. He also is the author of Mattoon and Charleston Area Railroads, which was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2008.

The cut through Mattoon was one of three that the IC constructed in Illinois in the early 20th century. The others were at Paxton and Monee.

Sanders’ article is illustrated with 14 photographs, most of which appeared in his book on the railroads of Mattoon and Charleston. Many of these photographs were borrowed from the collection of the Mattoon Public Library. A photograph that he took of an Illinois Central Gulf freight train in Mattoon on May 7, 1979, graces the cover of the the issue (shown above) containing his story.

Construction of the cut through Mattoon, which local wags dubbed the Million Dollar Trench because of its cost, began May 5, 1914, and ended March 6, 1916. As part of the project, the IC also built a new passenger station, which opened January 21, 1918.

The Mattoon IC station still stands and is used today by Amtrak. The City of Mattoon owns the depot and plans are moving forward to convert it into a museum to be operated by the Coles County Historical Society as well as to enhance its role as an Amtrak station.

Before opening this station, IC had shared a Union Depot located in the Essex House Hotel with the Big Four. The Big Four also built a new Mattoon station, which opened May 15, 1917. That former Union Depot was then demolished and a Railway Express building was constructed on its site.

The former Big Four depot, which served New York Central passenger trains until March 18, 1968. The former Big Four depot was subsequently used for storage by a local drug store, but stood vacant for several years. It was razed in April 2004.

Conrail removed the former Big Four tracks through Mattoon in May 1983 and the Big Four bridge over the ICRR was removed in early 2002.

The former Illinois Central tracks through Mattoon are today owned by Canadian National. Six Amtrak trains a day serve Mattoon including the City of New Orleans, Saluki and Illini.

For more information about the ICRHA, visit the organization’s web site at