Historic Pennsy Train Makes
Last Cleveland-Columbus Run

by Harry Christiansen
News Staff Writer
Cleveland Press, Dec. 15, 1950
CSU Cleveland Press Collection

Columbus-Here I am at the end of a sentimental journey through 169 miles of wintry Ohio countryside aboard the last Pennsylvania passenger train to make the Cleveland-Columbus run.

While Ohioans along the line grew emotional about the death of the "accommodation" train and veteran trainmen expressed bitterness, we chugged through the night--a unique blend of the old and the new.

The "old" was represented by the train making a final run after 96 years of service. The "new" was the presence on the train of a crowd of draftees making the first step of their journey to Camp Breckinridge, Ky.

Buys Last Ticket

I bought the last Columbus ticket at the old Pennsy depot, and found the station jammed with draftees, en route over the old Cleveland, Akron & Columbus line, for the Kentucky camp.

These future soldiers filled two Pullmans of a nine-car passenger baggage and mail train that grew to 12 cars by the time it reached Columbus.

Trainmen pointed to the long train and voiced doubt that it could be unprofitable. They feel that the train made money and should have been continued. However the Public Utilities Commission, after a survey agreed with the railroad that the train should be dropped.

Engineer Noble Z. Close, 61, of Columbus, 29 years on the line, said, "the discontinuance was foolish."

Fireman Clyde J. Wright, 53, of Columbus, 31 years on the line remembers when five passenger trains daily rolled along the picturesque route. He remembered state fair trains and football specials, and when Kenyon College at Gambier received a bad name years ago when a student fell asleep on the rails during a hazing and was run over by an engine.

There were few farewells along the line as the train passed through most of towns after all was dark.

Rode in Engine Cab

I rode the Diesel cab through the night from Orrville to Mt. Vernon. Engineer Close and Fireman Wright were sad as they blasted the horn for forlorn highway crossings.

South of Killbuck, the line climbs a four-mile grade. As the headlights pierced a blinding snowfall, Wright pointed out the now abandoned branch to Zanesville and traces of the old Walhonding Railroad. He recalled days when hundreds of college students boarded trains at tiny Gambier station, and how persons regularly bought tickets at many of the darkened stations.

There were days when President McKinley and politicians like Charlie Dick rode the old CA&C.

OSU Traveled in '90s

The Ohio State football team often traveled on the line in the '90s to play Case and Western Reserve in Cleveland.

The twisting Pennsylvania line to Columbus has a history dating from the stage coach and canal packet era.

Along the old CA&C route, oldtimers cannot recall a time when there wasn't a passenger station with a pot-bellied stove and weatherbeaten bulletin board.

There were days when the towns-people gathered at the station to catch a glimpse of some passing notable--a president en route to Cleveland or theater stars moving on to the next night's stand.

Started in 1851

The line was born on Feb. 19, 1851, when the Akron branch of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, now the Pennsylvania, was chartered from Hudson to a point near Wooster.

Tracks were strung through the hills to Centerburg, but road officials looked toward Columbus instead of Deleware, and in 1873 pushed on to the state capital.

As the auto, bus and truck enslaught bit deep into revenues, various passenger trains disappeared.

However, fast freights will still roll through the hills of Wayne, Holmes and Knox counties.

Scan of article from microfiche, Cleveland Press Collection , CSU Special Collections Library.

 

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