Posts Tagged ‘Michael Connor’

Connor’s Ohio Central Book a Trip to the Past

March 23, 2014
Ohio Central stream locomotives No. 1293 and 6325 idle at the Morgan Run shops in June 2002 after bringing in an excursion train from Sugarcreek. Steam excursions were a regular site on the Ohio Central during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ohio Central stream locomotives No. 1293 and 6325 idle at the Morgan Run shops in June 2002 after bringing in an excursion train from Sugarcreek. Steam excursions were a regular site on the Ohio Central during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Michael J. Connor probably didn’t set out to write a book about the steam locomotives of the Ohio Central Railroad when he began working on Volume 1 of his planned series of books about his former employer. The Ohio Central was and still is a freight carrier that handles coal, steel and other commodities.

But steam-powered excursions are what most Akron Railroad Club members probably remember the most about the more than 20-year ownership of the Ohio Central by Jerry Jacobson, a lifetime ARRC member.

For several years the ARRC had an annual excursion behind steam over OC rails. Most of those trips began and ended in Sugarcreek, Ohio, which was also the base for the Sugarcreek-Baltic steam-powered tourist train.

And if that wasn’t enough, the OC regularly hosted other steam excursions over various other components of its system. Those steam operations get more than their due in Connor’s book. You will see all of Jacobson’s steam locomotives out on the line in page after page.

But the thrust of  book, which was released earlier this year by Morning Sun Books, is how Jacobson took over a number of moribund railroad operations that Norfolk Southern and Conrail didn’t want and turned them into profitable ventures that earned him the moniker of “Doctor of Sick Railroads.”

Without the arrival of the Ohio Central, most, if not all, of these routes might have been abandoned.

Connor joined the OC in August 1988. By then, Jacobson was more than four years into the railroad business, having purchased Ohi-Rail in 1984. Ohi-Rail used tracks that the State of Ohio had purchased from Minerva on south to prevent their abandonment by Conrail.

In 1985 Jacobson began operating another state-owned railroad, this one based in Zanesville and thus was born the Ohio Southern Railroad and the beginning of the Ohio Central System.

Connor’s book provides an overview of how Jacobson cobbled together the OC system and how it proved to be quite successful in providing a level of service that the previous Class 1 owners had little to no interest in offering.

That helped to win back customers who had long since switched their shipping to trucks. But the OC also had to overcome the antics of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which Connor writes had a decidedly anti-rail orientation. The OC was able to circumvent that in a way that might be comical if it wasn’t true.

In the typical Morning Sun “slide show in a book” format, Volume 1 is heavy on photographs. The content is organized by railroad segment. The captions are informative and it helps that Connor was around for much of the Jacobson ownership era of the Ohio Central.

The book also provides some information about how the freight business of the Ohio Central operated during the Jacobson era.

I came away with a sense that there is much more to be told about the Jacobson era of the Ohio Central and that will have to wait for another book in another format.

The Jacobson era at the Ohio Central ended at midnight on Sept. 30, 2008, when he sold the OC to Genesee & Wyoming.

The G&W owns numerous short-line railroads and takes a more corporate approach. Whether that is good for the customers that the Ohio Central spent years wooing and serving remains to be seen and probably depends on your perspective. Connor doesn’t go there in Volume 1.

The steam era on the Ohio Central as we knew it had ended well before Jacobson sold the OC system. Perhaps nothing like it will ever again happen in the lifetimes of those ARRC members who made numerous treks to OC territory to document Jacobson’s fleet of steam locomotives in action.

Volume 1 is a good way to remember those times. Although none of the excursions trains shown in the book are described as ARRC excursions, some of them might have been.

For those like myself who only got in on the tail end of the OC steam era, Volume 1 does a nice job of showing what we missed.

Review by Craig Sanders

Connor Authors Book About Ohio Central

February 14, 2014

Morning Sun books released on Feb. 1 the first volume of a planned line of books focusing on the Ohio Central System.

Ohio Central In Color Volume 1: Southern Lines was written by former OC chief operating officer/chief marketing officer and later vice president Michael J. Connor. The book focuses on the southernmost routes of the OC.

Ohio Central Book CoverLifetime ARRC member Jerry Jacobson was instrumental in developing the modern day Ohio Central, which began in 1988. Jacobson ran the railroad until selling it to Genesee & Wyoming in 2008.

During Jacobson’s ownership of the Ohio Central, he graciously offered steam and diesel-powered excursion trips on the OC, many of them between Sugar Creek and Morgan Run near Coshocton.

Morning Sun is offering the book for sale on its website for $59.95 plus postage (

However, Connor has a number of the books that he will offer for sale to members of the Akron Railroad Club at the Feb. 28. Watch this blog for further information about that.

Connor spoke about the Ohio Central to the ARRC several years ago about the early years of the railroad.

The southern end of the OC opened in 1889 as part of a standard-gauge line from Coshocton to Zanesville. The OC north of Coshocton was, with the exception of the relocation of flood-prone segments near Beach City in the 1930s, originally built to a 36-inch gauge.

Before World War II, the railroad south of Coshocton served several coal mines, all of them since closed.

Following the war, the railroad began to focus on traffic for Armco Steel Corporation’s Zanesville plant, which was linked with another Armco plant in Butler, Pa. The OC developed this traffic in cooperation with four other railroads that made up the Butler-Zanesville service lane.

OC’s efforts led to improved reliability and transit time on the route. The OC also worked to develop through traffic, principally coal, over the Zanesville gateway in conjunction with the Ohio Southern Railroad.

In 2005 the Columbus & Ohio River Rail Road, an OC affiliate, acquired the CSX lines east of Columbus, resulting in all railroads in the Zanesville area becoming part of the Ohio Central System.


Michael J. Connor

Since September 2011, Connor has served as president of the The Buffalo, Cattaraugus & Jamestown Scenic Railway Company.

Before that he served as principal railroad consultant at Excelsior Transportation Management between 2008 and 2010.

He joined the Ohio Central in August 1988 and served for more than 17 years before leaving in March 2006, when he joined the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville/Western New York & Pennsylvania system as vice president—operation and maintenance.

Before joining the OC, Connor worked at Conrail for seven years, coming on board with its inception in 1976. At Conrail, Connor worked in the Philadelphia headquarters as director of light density lines.

Connor began his railroad career while he attended John Carroll University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in transportation economics in 1967. During his summers while in college, Connor worked for the Buffalo Creek Railroad, the Erie Lackawanna and the New York Central.

Following graduation from John Carroll, Connor served as a lieutenant with the U. S. Army Transportation Corps. He was assigned to the 714th Transportation Battalion (Railway Operating) (Steam and Diesel-Electric) in the Military Railway Service.

After leaving the Army, he worked at Penn Central, serving as trainmaster in Muncie, Ind.; and East St. Louis, Ill.; and as supervisor of locomotive utilization in Indianapolis.

Connor also served as a vice president of the Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad between 1983 and 1988. He is currently the president of the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society.

Excerpted below are a couple of pages from Connor’s Ohio Central book.

Pages courtesy of Michael J. Connor