Posts Tagged ‘Ohio abandoned railroad lines’

Railroad Heritage Still Visible in Wakeman

December 31, 2014

 

Trains no longer rattle and roll on the sandstone bridge over the Vermilion River in Wakeman, Ohio, but it remains an impressive looking structure. A recent brush cutting  job has opened the view a bit.

Trains no longer rattle and roll on the sandstone bridge over the Vermilion River in Wakeman, Ohio, but it remains an impressive looking structure. A recent brush cutting job has opened the view a bit.

Wakeman is a town with just north of 1,000 souls that I’ve passed through numerous times during trips to railfan in Bellevue.

Whenever I’m going through this sleepy little Huron County burg I think of Marty Surdyk because he claims the town is a speed trap run by a cop named Roscoe.

Marty tells anyone who will listen – and a few who won’t – that you better be doing the speed limit when you cross the town line because Roscoe will be watching you.

I don’t know if Marty made that story up or if Wakeman is any more of a speed trap than any other podunk town in America with a police department seeking to raise revenue for the city.

Still, I keep one eye on the speedometer and the other out for Roscoe although I’ve yet to observe him running radar.

Wakeman has caught my eye for another reason. If you are traveling west on U.S. 20 you’ve probably noticed the massive sandstone double-arch bridge over the Vermilion River on the east side of town. It used to carry a railroad.

Near downtown Wakeman sits a railroad freight station and a pair of old-style grain elevators. The linear empty area next to these structures suggests “railroad space.”

Wakeman used to be a railroad town. The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern mainline between Cleveland and Toledo was built through here in 1852-53.

Construction of a more direct route via Sandusky relegated the original LS&MS to branch line status during its New York Central years and on through the end of Penn Central in 1976.

With the formation of Conrail that year, the branch that came off the mainline at Elyria and ran via Oberlin, Wakeman, Norwalk, Bellevue and Fremont before meeting up again with the mainline at Millbury was abandoned and the tracks removed.

Today, parts of that railroad right of way are a hiking and biking trail, although not in Wakeman.

On a recent trip to Bellevue I stopped in Wakeman to document what is left of the town’s railroad infrastructure.

I began with that sandstone arch bridge over the Vermilion River. Winter is a good time to see the bridge because of the lack of foliage.

From outward appearances, the bridge still appears sturdy enough to support contemporary railroad operations.

I’ve seen conflicting reports on when this bridge was built. A website devoted to old bridges says 1853 but a site devoted to abandoned railroads says 1872. Whenever it was built, it is more than a century old and looks good.

There are fences and no trespassing signs at each end of the bridge, but the fences are not that high and would not deter someone determined to walk across the bridge.

I then made my way down Railroad Street, which runs north of the former railroad ROW.

Much of the former ROW remains open and is covered with grass. Whoever pulled up the tracks more than 30 years ago probably scooped up the ballast along with the ties and rails. Whatever was left has sunk into the earth or been covered.

As typically happens over time, nature and man have obliterated the physical appearance of a railroad ROW by moving earth and erecting structures where tracks had been.

In Wakeman, a small park and a building now occupy part of the ROW. But the ROW near the former freight station and the grain elevators remains an open area with the appearance that says “railroad space.”

Nonetheless, it was difficult to determine how many tracks used to be here. There was probably a mainline and one or two sidings to serve the freight station and grain elevators.

Online sources say the passenger station, which resembled the existing depot in Olmsted Falls, was razed in the early 1950s not long after passenger service ended in late 1949.

The sources also say the freight station was built in 1873. It appears to be in decent condition considering its age but doesn’t shown signs of having an apparent use these days. Perhaps it was used for something in the past and was well maintained then.

One of the grain elevators has been repurposed into some sort of meeting center with a grain elevator motif. The other grain facility is still used although I didn’t observe it all that closely to determine for what purpose.

Information that I found online said that in its final years Penn Central had a daily local that passed through Wakeman westbound in early morning and eastbound in late afternoon or early evening.

That train had a lone geep, a transfer caboose and a small number of cars.

Whatever business Penn Central had in Wakeman probably was related to agriculture. The freight house had probably stopped receiving less-than-carload shipments by the early 1960s if not earlier.

I didn’t spend much time in Wakeman. It was already midday and I had business to take care of in Bellevue. Perhaps I’ll make it a point to stop in Wakeman again and study the remaining infrastructure a bit more closely.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The top of the sandstone bridge that once carried tracks of the New York Central, Penn Central and various other predecessor railroads over the Vermilion River in Wakeman.

The top of the sandstone bridge that once carried tracks of the New York Central, Penn Central and various other predecessor railroads over the Vermilion River in Wakeman.

The passenger station was demolished more than 50 years ago but the freight station still stands. The path the tracks took through town is apparent in this image although changes to the former ROW make it difficult to tell how many tracks were here.

The passenger station was demolished more than 50 years ago but the freight station still stands. The path the tracks took through town is apparent in this image although changes to the former ROW make it difficult to tell how many tracks were here.

The wood of the freight station is well weathered. How many people over the past century or so have walked through this door?

The wood of the freight station is well weathered. How many people over the past century or so have walked through this door?

It is evident that there used to tracks past the grain elevator complex, but note how the earth had been graded. This is removed the part of the ROW substructure.

It is evident that there used to tracks past the grain elevator complex, but note how the earth had been graded. This is removed the part of the ROW substructure.

One of the town's grain facilities has been converted into a storage facility and meeting center. It also has received quite a facelift.

One of the town’s grain facilities has been converted into a storage facility and meeting center. It also has received quite a facelift.

 

At the ‘End of the Line’

June 10, 2012

The Murray City depot, caboose and dinky 0-4-0 bask in the Memorial Day afternoon sun on May 28, 2012.

After Barbara and I left Nelsonville, Ohio, on Memorial Day, May 28, at 3:30 p.m., we headed north on Ohio Route 78 for Zanesville. On the way, in Murray City, we spotted a depot with a displayed caboose. We stopped for a look see.

The depot had a Snow Fork Line caboose and a little dinky 0-4-0 switcher displayed alongside. We parked and walked around. The depot was a well maintained structure that turned out to be the Murray City Train Depot and Coal Mining Museum. It was not open on this Memorial Day, however. That was disappointing.

The depot is located at the end of a former Hocking Valley Railway branch, now abandoned. The branch led northeast from Nelsonville to Snow Fork Junction, where it split with one leg leading to Murray City, Coalgate and New Pittsburgh. The other leg led northwest to Monday Creek Junction, where it joined the HV branch from Logan to New Straitsville.

The Murray City Train Depot, established between 1890-1900, was for many years the only way in or out of the coal mine camp town Murray City, which once boasted of having the “largest coal mine in the world.”

Goods and people were shipped to Murray City aboard the Hocking Valley Railway. Coal was shipped out of the Murray City Sunday Creek Coal mines Nos. 25, 5 and the New Pittsburgh No. 7, and, before that, the Greendale No. 29.

he train line was so important because of a lack of any other transportation or roads. The depot at Murray City was called the “End of the Line Depot” because the railroad track ended there and the train had to turn around. The Murray City Depot is one of only three original historic train depots left in the state of Ohio.

The Murray City Improvement Committee has restored the historic train depot and added a coal mining museum inside. The depot houses railroad and coal mining artifacts, and looks to be close to the original facility.

Article and Photographs by Richard Jacobs

The restored Hocking Valley Railway depot at Murray City, Ohio, has a dinky locomotive and caboose displayed alongside.

The Murray City 0-4-0 dinky and restored Hocking Valley depot.


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