Hudson to Columbus

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(Forwarded from the Pittsburg, Mount Vernon, Columbus & London Railroad)

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Old zinc smelter at Columbus, OH. Photo by Dana Hitt.

This abandoned railway line began as the Akron Branch of Cleveland and Pittsburg Railway, in 1852. Later, the Akron branch became the Cleveland, Zanesville and Cincinnati Railroad. At the time, the railroad only made it to Millersburg, Ohio. It became part of the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railway, itself becoming part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1869. However, the PRR sold the line to the Pittsburgh, Mount Vernon, Columbus and London Railroad, which completed the line to Columbus. Afterwards, it was renamed the Cleveland, Mount Vernon and Delaware Railroad. The railroad went bankrupt in 1881, and became the Cleveland, Akron and Columbus Railway. It finally reached Zanesville by 1888. The company came back under control of the PRR in 1899.

On July 31, 1940, this line made history when an Akron-bound, gasoline-electric "Doodlebug" (self powered commuter car) slammed head on into a northbound freight train, lead locomotive was steam, killing 43. To this day, the accident remains the worst rail accident in Akron history.

In the 1958, during a time as railroads were declining, the last PRR passenger train ran on this route. By 1968, the decline had become so severe that the PRR and the New York Central merged, forming the Penn Central (PC).

In 1969, major flooding washed out a portion of the line north of Holmesville. Since the now-merged PC favored the ex-NYC Cleveland-Columbus route, the washout was never repaired, and the line never again handled through trains. The washout also caused the PC to begin abandoning the route.

By the early 1980s, most of the route had been ripped up. In 1986, the Clinton-Orrville segment was finally abandoned, and in 1991, the route between Hudson and Akron was abandoned. However, the Hudson-Akron line was sold in 1994 to the Summit County Port Authority for possible future use as a commuter line.

Today, a portion of this segment through the counties of Holmes and Knox is now in use as Rail Trails, both the 15-mile long Holmes County trail, and the 14-mile long Kokosing Gap Trail, respectively. For the Hudson-Akron route, rails, crossing signals, and "RXR" crossing signs/pavement markings still remain on this segment, although crossings have been paved over, and crossing signals and signs have been "covered." Plans for light-rail service have been shelved for many years, although the current high fuel prices (at the time of this writing) have caused some interest in light-rail service once again between Cleveland and neighboring Akron.

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

The storms that washed out the Akron Branch south of Orville hit on the evening of July 4, 1969. I am a retired engineer, having hired on to the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1963. Because of that storm I never did get to work the line from Cleveland to Columbus, but did work on the former NYC line between those cities.

Lee Swanson
Cleveland, now Wichita, KS
7/25/2009

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Where can one find the records of the early history of this road. My grandfather and great grandfather worked on this road from 1854 to the 1880's from Millersburg to Bangs Station.

David McKay
Monroe, MI
2/21/2011

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Entry Date: August 31, 2012

This entry made to attempt continuous communication traceability. On the last sentence of paragraph five, the sentence, "However, the Hudson-Akron line was sold in 1994 to the Summit County Port Authority for possible future use as a commuter line," no longer reflects the correct name of the owner. From the source web site, the following is a correction. "As of April, 2012, the name of the Summit County Port Authority (SCPA) was changed to the Development Finance Authority (DFA)," keeping the same address and apparently the same organizational structure.

Rich Patterson
Streetsboro, OH
8/31/2012

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this railroad line runs near my house my house but i see its abandoned and my dad and mom say they use to walk them bak in the 80's to bak to thier house when it was active and i hope i want to learn more about this railroad

christopher
ohio, OH
9/1/2012

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This line runs right past my apartment complex, and I've always wondered if the line was still active when the complex was built in 1969. Does anyone know when the line was completely abandoned in Columbus?

Eddie
COLUMBUS, OH
2/2/2013

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My grandfather was a brakeman & conductor on the Akron division of the PRR until 1948, when a railroad accident ended his career. The best information I've found about this former CA&C rail line is in the following books: The Pennsylvania Railroad in Columbus, Ohio by Rick Tipton, and Pennsylvania Railroad Facilities in color Volume 15, by Robert J. Yanosey.

John Lewis
Plano, TX
2/9/2014

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To Eddie in Columbus: My group of 3 friends explored all of these Ohio lines in the late 1980's. The CA&C was completely dead and rusted over at that time. The lower end of the line was, and probably is, still intact from its junction with the Panhandle Main Line from the Columbus Yards up to and across the N&W at Joyce Avenue. That tower was, and probably is, still standing, with its home signals still guarding the crossing. But through Westerville, we were amazed just how completely gone the line was, with no traceable right-of-way through there at all! I don't remember WHERE we were finally able to pick up the line north of town. Well, just yesterday, I rode the 4.0 mile Genoa Trail, which picks up at the Northgate Shopping Center on Route 3, on the north end of Westerville. The right-of-way picks up abruptly just north of the center, and harbors some fascinating PRR remnants. Please refer to the Rails-to-Trails website, TrailLink.com's "Trail Reviow" section for this, and for many regional trails, for those details.

Rich Ballash
Latrobe, PA
10/20/2014

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I used to have family that lived in the Mount Vernon area and railfanned there a bit in the 70s and 80s. I believe that 82 was the last time I saw any activity in the Conrail (old PRR) yard in Mount Vernon. When I visited again in early 83 the rails were still in place but the rail over the B&O line to Mansfield was cut. The rails still ran as far as Brinkhaven, but there the rails simply vanished into the grass.

Bob Keller
Waukesha, WI
2/18/2015

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In the late 1940's this line saw as many as 18 trains each day, very heavy for a branchline even by PRR standards, and explains why the mainline was upgraded to 140 lb. rail in the 1940's, also very atypical of a dark territory secondary route, again even for PRR. After dieselization, increased railcar capacities, and other economic factors had taken their toll by the mid 1960's, there was a daily freight each way between Columbus and Cleveland, and a coal train or even 2(and the resultant empty trains). I grew up in Westerville, within eyesight of this line, during this era. As noted, Penn Central did what the storm finished, severing the line as a through route. The segment between Columbus and Mt. Vernon saw daily local service until deregulation economics allowed Conrail to abandon the route sometime after 1981. Interestingly though, Anheuser Busch briefly contemplated locating their Columbus brewing facility just north of Westerville, but were persuaded to look elsewhere in part by the towns association with the temperance league and it's status as a "dry" community. Had this occurred though, the viability of the Columbus to Mt. Vernon segment may have improved to a degree that it's survival into the shortline era would have made it a prime property for such an operator, further enhancing it's long term prospects.

Another good research source for those seeking additional info on this line is the Multimodalways website(PRR, Penn Central, Conrail).

Brad Urton
Rossford, OH
6/8/2015

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Part of this line, from Westerville to Sunbury, has become a rails-to-trails.

Douglas
Gahanna
9/23/2015

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The flood of 1969 washed the bridge east of Holmesville toward Fredricksberg. My dad grew up there and my grandparents still lived there when the flood happened. The bridge was gone but the tracks were intact looking like a rollercoaster, twisting in the air. We used to walk the tracks there when it was still an operating rail line.

Mike Fry
Wooster now Oceanside, CA
10/24/2015

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My grandparents lived a block away from the yard in Mt. Vernon. I remember watching the PRR switch strings of box cars in the mid-50's an also the Millwood Branch. The CA&C was the PRR "main" between Cleveland and Columbus, but became moot with the advent of Penn Central and a high-speed route between the two cities. Online business was also drying up south of Orrville.

Gary Lambillotte
Medina, OH
1/3/2016

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I worked for PC, CR and I was the brakeman on either the last train or next to last train that ran on the CA&C from Columbus to Mt. Vernon. That was on May 3, 1982. Conrail had sold the track from the B&O diamond south to the industrial park switch plus a mile of tail room south of the switch to the guy that owned the industrial park. He planned to have the tracks realigned to curve to the west to hook into the B&O. There is more to this tale but to lengthy to tell here.

Kenny B
Westerville, OH
2/6/2016

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The actual head on derailment happened in Cuyahoga Falls. The rails are still there, and an old stone bridge is also across the Cuyahoga river. (You can easily get up onto the bridge, allthough it is probably illegal.) The city of Cuyahoga Falls recently improved the parking lot and added new fences and some little trails. There is also a plack at the park with the names of the people who died engraved into the stone.

If you follow the line a while, you will come across the crossing and crossing gates on Graham Road.

Sam Risjan
Akron, OH
7/21/2016

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