Sandusky to Springfield

The Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad

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Looking southwest, the right-of-way and railbed pass through the small community of York, Ohio. The overpass in the background is the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/90). Just beyond the overpass is a small wooden trestle spanning a creek (visible from the Ohio Turnpike) but it is on private property. Photo by Aaron M.

This abandoned railway began as the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad in 1835. It was the very first railroad west of the Appalachian Mountains, and the first in Ohio. At its completion, it ran from Sandusky to Springfield. The MR&LE was later purchased by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad (also known as the Big Four), itself becoming part of the New York Central System (NYC) in 1906.

In the mid-20th century, when most railroads were in decline, the NYC began to look for ways to reduce costs. They rerouted trains and slowly began to abandon the MR&LE track throughout the 1960s. Based on various system maps of the time period, this particular section from Sandusky to Tiffin via Clyde appears to have been removed sometime between 1966-1968, prior to the advent of the ill-fated Penn Central. The remainder of the line was abandoned in 1976, with the advent of Conrail.

Today, most of the ROW has been obliterated as farmers removed the railbed within their farms. Only a trace of the railbed is visible.

Thanks to Aaron M. for contributing information about this route.

As far as I know, the segment from Bellfontaine to Springfield via Urbana is still there and operated by the I&O (RA) I would have to consult the I&O or westernohiorails Yahoo groups to know for sure. Thank you for making this site... I have seen many rail lines abandoned around my area over the years and I even discuss them on my swohiorailroading yahoo group.

Adam Arnold
Miamisburg, OH
11/29/2008

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According to topographical maps, it looks like the MR&LE was double-tracked from its southern terminus in Springfield all the way north to Kenton, OH. It also paralleled the Erie-Lackawanna between Springfield and Urbana, which I believe is also abandoned.

Greg Harrison
Fort Worth, TX
1/8/2009

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That Erie-Lackawanna route is abandoned, it is one of the lines I am currently working on. For those that are interested in rail lines in Ohio, I'd suggest checking out the Ohio Public Utilities Commission < http://www.puc.state.oh.us/website/railADF/ags_map_help/welcome.cfm > and a very nice page put up by a rail enthusiast < www.railsandtrails.com > , which includes lots of current and historic railroad maps.

Aaron M.
Cleveland, OH
1/18/2009

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A segment of the Big Four track in Clyde is still in use by a large grain storage operation. The tracks connect to the NS/Wheeling and Lake Erie and run north across US 20 to the grain storage operation. The facility is rated at 100 car capacity. Apparently the grain is sold by the entire trainload to poultry operations in the south. There is quite a bit of havoc caused when the train blocks US 20 for extended periods while picking up loaded cars. It is a rather long process. The city has created an alternate train route to divert some of the congestion.

Dan Young
Clyde, OH
8/4/2009

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This railroad has been a fascination of mine for years. The depot is still standing in town, and a small piece of track is still used. The part south of town between Belle Center and Kenton was abandoned around 1963.

Shawn Cook
Kenton, OH
9/9/2009

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The first route was from Sandusky through Bellevue, West Lodi, Republic to Tiffin. Later the shorter route from Sandusky, through Castalia, York, Clyde, Greensprings to Tiffin replaced it. Legend that a shipment of gold was robbed and lost from a train in West Lodi and never recovered.

Brian Jordan
Bellevue, OH
1/13/2010

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I own property in Bellefontaine adjacent to the original Mad River & Lake Erie. The tracks were operational into the late 1980's. I rode the passenger train from Bellefontaine to Kenton and back when I was a kid. I've walked much of the roadbed both directions out of B-Town. The section from B-Town, south to West Liberty is cut off from the main line, but still drops grain cars at WLib.

Ronald Irick
Bellefontaine, OH
1/6/2011

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From above "the MR & LE was the first railroad west of the Appalachian Mountains and the first in Ohio. Wikipedia -

the M R & L E was the second railroad to be built and operated in the US state of Ohio (the Erie & Kalamzoo RR was first beginning operations during the Toledo War of 1836). It was also the first rialroad chartered west of the Allegheny Mountains. Since I'm from Ohio, would rather the MR & LE was first, but it doesn't appear so.

don wonnell
sylvania , OH
6/17/2011

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The Penn Central called this ex-"Big 4" NYC line the Sandusky Branch that ran from Clyde (originally from Sandusky-but was ripped up from Sandusky to Clyde by 1973) to 2 miles South of Kenton to Sands. PC still ran at least 1 local type train from Kenton to Carey, and from Carey to Tiffin as late as 1972. And a crew out of Toledo from the Norwalk Branch (the PC/NYC line that ran from Millbury to Elyria that connected to & crossed the Sandusky Branch in Clyde), switched Clyde as of 1972 at least, but the track was still in from Clyde to Tiffin by as late as 1972, and possibly up until the late 1970's, but fully abandoned from Clyde to Carey by the time Conrail absorbed the PC in 1976.

P
N, OH
1/30/2012

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The Indiana and Ohio uses a portion of this line. They use the old Erie Dayton branch out of Springfield to Glen Echo and then this line from Glen Echo to the south end of Bellefontaine. The line from Glen Echo to Springfield is now a rail trail. From Glen Echo northward to Urbana the bike trail is on the Erie roadbed. From Glen Echo south to Springfield, the bike trail is on the NYC roadbed.

The I&O switches industries in Urbana 3-5 times a week (usually around noon) and the grain elevevator in West Liberty as needed. The south end of Bellefontaine is used for car storage (it is full of autoracks right now). It no longer connects with the former NYC (now CSX main through Bellefontaine. It was cut off years ago during Conrail. The south yard in Bellefontaine was downsized and closed in the early 1960's and the main yard was closed in 1983.

Brian S.
Troy, OH
8/8/2012

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Engineer I worked with in Kenton O., was a PC new hire back in early 70's he ran freight pool from BN Bellefountaine to Toledo Stanley via the MR&LE from BN to Berwick then turned north up the Eastern Division thru Fostoria to Stanley....he also made a few trips past Berwick to Sandusky which was already down to local service only by the time of the PC merger....Berwick to Sandusky did not survive to conrail nor did eastern div. south of berwick.....he said BN to kenton went just before Conrails birth....portion between kenton to Berwick was porked around 80-81....

Elmer
N.W. Ohio, OH
3/20/2014

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