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Edward Miller and Chris Burchett
For an even further detailed history, be sure to get
The Hocking Valley Railway by Ed Miller.  It is undoubtedly the definitive source on the Hocking.


     The history of the Hocking Valley, as with other railroads, is one of boom times and depression. The Hocking Valley Railway Company was the largest railroad in Ohio, extending from the Lake Erie port of Toledo through Columbus, and on to the Ohio River port of Pomeroy. Coal was the main business, yet it kept the finest passenger service in the State of Ohio. A connection to Chicago was available via the Erie Railroad at Marion. Despite the fact that the Hocking Valley was such a large railroad until the merger of 1930, very little is known about it. Efforts are being made to create a historical society housing artifacts and detailed information about the railroad, its affiliates and successors. But until that time arrives, a small compilation on the history of the HV has been assembled to educate persons about the "biggest little railroad in Ohio", otherwise known as the Hocking Valley Railway.

     The Hocking coal fields were among the earliest exploited. As early as 1825, Hocking coal was used for blacksmithing work in Nelsonville and the surrounding area. The export of coal from the area started when James Knight took a six-horse team load of fifty-eight bushels to Columbus from Nelsonville (62 miles). Keep in mind that this was when roads were dirt, poorly maintained, and wandered all throughout the hills. The amount in return for the delivery by Mr. Knight - four cents per bushel.

     The quickest way to deliver coal at the time was by canal. Ohio was a large supporter of canal construction and built a vast network all across the state. The Ohio Canal, running from Cleveland to Portsmouth, was the main canal Ohio built, with several "tributaries" extending from it. One of the tributaries built was the Hocking Canal, connecting Athens with the Ohio Canal at Carroll, just north of Lancaster. In 1841, the Hocking Canal was officially opened. When the ground-breaking of the new canal was being celebrated in September 1831, a prominent citizen of Columbus, who was a spectator but not a participant, is said to have remarked, "Make as much ado as you like over your muddy ditch, but before twenty years pass most of its traffic will be carried on wheels." The prediction came true in less than forty years.

     Although the canal was much quicker than taking the "highway" to Columbus, it also had its shortcomings. Seasonal traffic was the main problem with the canal system, as it had to be shut down in the winter. And though there was much celebration with the coming of the canal, the realization began to set in that this new transportation is likewise too slow. After all, there was a speed limit of four miles per hour, and this was imposed to keep the wake created by the barges from eroding the sides of the canal! Rails were desperately needed.

     Recognizing the need for dependable transportation in his district, U.S. Congressman of Ohio John Chaney proposed legislation for the construction of the "Hocking Valley Railroad" from Lancaster to the Ohio River in 1834. This was a full two years before tracks were ever constructed in Ohio! Unfortunately, his proposal was tabled and nothing ever came about. In the 1850s, public meetings for a railroad from the Athens County coalfields to Columbus were reignited once again. On July 11, 1853, a meeting was held in Lancaster and action taken to incorporate the "Hocking Valley Railroad Company." The stock of the new corporation amounted to $2,000,000. However, these plans were not carried out due to jealousies and dissensions which arose. Surveys were made and stock subscriptions made, but no line was built. Another incident which helped stop construction of the new railroad was legislation passed by the General Assembly of Ohio on April 10, 1856, entitled "An Act to Protect the Investments of Municipal Corporations in the Stock of Railroad Companies." In short, this act stated that "no railroad could be constructed through a county, save by the consent of the legal votes of the county, despite constitutional right of eminent domain." This bill only applied to Athens and Washington Counties. This, naturally, discouraged the promoters of the new railroad, as no outlet to the Ohio River could be had except through Athens County. This act was later repealed, however. It wouldn't be until the latter years of the War Between the States that a railroad would actually be started.

     On April 14, 1864, the Mineral Rail Road Company was incorporated to build a railway from Columbus to Athens, 72 miles, with a capital stock of $1,500,000. Aside from preliminary surveys and securing some right-of-way, nothing was done toward construction. Milbury M. Greene, who operated salt works at Salina (now Beaumont), seven miles north of Athens in the Hocking River Valley, took up the project in 1867 and labored continuously, attempting to gain subscriptions to the capital stock from Southern Ohioans, but with little success. He then went north to Columbus and presented the railroad there, though with cool reception and much discouragement. Greene was finally able to interest some of the wealthier citizens, including Peter Hayden, Benjamin Smith, William Dennison, George M. Parson, William G. Deshler, W. B. Brooks, and several others. On June 26, 1867, the Franklin County Court decreed that the name be changed to the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad Company. Peter Hayden was elected president and Greene vice president and Chief Engineer. Some investigation was made as to the amount of coal, iron, and salt to be shipped annually from the region. Although no geological report was in existence at the time, it was known that a very rich vein of coal averaging six feet in thickness existed on either side of the line. The deposits of coal were considered almost inexhaustible and the quality of the coal was decided as good. Subsequent investigations revealed that the major amount of coal tapped by the original lines of the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad was the Middle Kittanning or No. 6 coal. This coal predominates in Athens, Perry and Hocking Counties. The transport of coal was the greatest business on the C&HV and successors Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo Railroad and Hocking Valley Railway.

     The preliminary survey was conducted by W. W. Graves and was completed in May, 1867. At this time, the name of the road was changed to the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad Company. By this time sufficient stock was subscribed to start construction. On May 22, 1867, a contract was made with the Dodge, Case & Co. to construct the road complete and ready for rolling stock in eighteen months, at a cost of $865,000. Construction under this contract had proceeded to such an extent that on July 16, 1868, an engine and car were run over the track from Columbus to Canal Winchester, a distance of fourteen miles. On January 13, 1869, the members of the General Assembly, State officers, and citizens journeyed over the road from Columbus to Lancaster at the invitation of the President and Board of Directors. The train consisted of an engine and twelve coaches, carrying a total of 720 passengers.

      On January 20, 1869, regular passenger and freight trains were instituted between Columbus and Lancaster. The first freight train from Nelsonville arrived at Columbus, August 17th of the same year. This train, filled with coal, came from the mines of Brooks and Houston and consisted of twenty-two cars of twelve tons each. It had a small cannon aboard, the discharge of which gave notice of the approach of the train at various points along the line. The first passenger train was operated between Columbus and Athens on July 25, 1870. The Straitsville Branch was opened for traffic on January 2, 1871. At this time, mines on the line had been opened to the extent that there was a daily production of 250 cars, (twelve tons each) or 3,000 tons of coal. The Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad Company proved a gold mine from the very beginning not only to the original investors, but for Columbus as well. The property was such a paying investment, that a move was soon started to extend the line to Toledo! Accordingly, the Columbus & Toledo Railway was incorporated in 1872, and was financed largely from local subscriptions along the line. Construction was finished and the road was opened in January 1877.

     The former C&O Pomeroy Subdivision (ex-HV River Division) from Oldtown (Logan) to Gallipolis was originally the Gallipolis, McArthur & Columbus Railroad Company. Incorporated March 3, 1870, under that name, it was sold to the Columbus & Gallipolis Railway Company in November 1877. Construction from Logan to Gallipolis was not yet completed when, in August 1878, it was again sold to the Ohio & West Virginia Railway Company. This road was built by capital independent of the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railway Company, and largely adverse to it. The road was completed from Logan to Gallipolis in October 1880, and from Gallipolis to Pomeroy in January 1881.

     For some time prior to 1881, there existed a close operating agreement between the three companies. As the Ohio & West Virginia had no outlet into Columbus except over the rails of the Columbus & Hocking Valley, while the Columbus & Hocking Valley had to use the Columbus & Toledo tracks into Toledo, it was decided therefore, to consolidate the three companies into the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo Railway Company. In this merger, the capital stock of the road, which had been largely Columbus-owned, passed into alien hands. The road had been constructed, almost wholly, by the Columbus capital or by subscriptions along the line. Its offices and shops had always been in Columbus, and so it became known as "Columbus' own road." The railroad became widely known for the kindly relation between employer and employee, and familiarly known as "The Buckeye Route." Columbus always entertained a kindly feeling for the Hocking even after the capital stock passed from local control.

     Under the consolidation of the three roads, which was effected July 1881, the termini Walbridge, a point near Toledo; Pomeroy on the Ohio River; and New Straitsville and Athens in the very heart of the coal region. An agreement was made with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1876 to use its tracks from Walbridge to the docks on the west side of the Maumee River in Toledo. This agreement automatically terminated when the road came under the control of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. This agreement was extended to June 30, 1914, at which time the company's new docks in East Toledo were occupied. The road was extended in 1890 from Walbridge to Rockwell, a distance of 1.86 miles, from which point tracks of the Lake Superior & Michigan Southern Railroad (later New York Central) were used into Toledo for passenger and interchange business. Other branches were later added, giving entrance into the cities of Wellston, Jackson, and Murray City. In 1914, at the completion of the company's new docks in East Toledo, the tracks of the Toledo Terminal Railroad from Walbridge to Starr Avenue, a distance of 3 miles, began to be used for lake coal shipment. A second track was constructed on the "Terminal" for this purpose.

     In 1870, B. E. Smith was elected President, with Peter Hayden resigning. Milbury M. Greene was elected President in 1874 and continued in this capacity under the consolidation until July 1, 1886, and was succeeded by Stevenson Burke. He occupied the presidency for a few months before the next annual meeting, at which time John W. Shaw, having purchased the holdings Mr. Burke, was elected president.

     It is interesting to note that Stevenson Burke, upon leaving the CHV&T, built the Toledo & Ohio Central from Toledo to Gallipolis, and on to Charleston, West Virginia via the Kanawha & Michigan. Two divisions were constructed north of Columbus: the Eastern Division from Bremen to Toledo, via Fostoria; and the Western Division from Columbus to Toledo via Findlay. Both lines paralleled the HV's Toledo Division.

     Mr. Shaw resigned and was succeeded by Christopher C. Waite who served in the capacity of president from 1889 to 1896. Waite came to the CHV&T with extensive railroad experience and immediately set about the work of reducing grades, rebuilding bridges, and introducing heavier equipment on the line. It assumed its position as the principal coal-carrying road in the state.

     In 1895, the Wellston & Jackson Belt Railway was built by the Hocking Valley group from McArthur Junction, near Dundas, to Jackson - a distance of 17.5 miles - with the CHV&T wholly owning the company. This subsidiary passed through the coalfields of Jackson County and was fully opened in February 1896. The property was quite prosperous, especially under Mr. Waite's direction, until the panic years of 1892 and 1893 when the earnings ran so low that they could not cover the fixed charges. Application for Receivership was filed in February 1897. The appointment was asked in order to conserve the assets of the Company and to prevent a dissolution of the property. Nicholas Monsarrat was appointed Receiver on February 25, 1897 and the property was operated under his direction until March 1, 1899. At this time the road was reorganized under M. E. Ingalls and G. H. Gardner, acting as reorganization managers. It then became the Hocking Valley Railway Company.

      In March 1910, the control of the Hocking Valley was acquired by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. N. Monsarrat served as president from time of the reorganization to 1910. On March 22, five members of the board of directors resigned and were replaced with C&O men, among whom were Frank Trumbull and George W. Stevens, elected chairman and president respectively.

     The C&O's purpose of acquiring the Hocking Valley was to give it an outlet to the Great Lakes, via Toledo, for westbound coal originating in West Virginia. As the Big Sandy fields in eastern Kentucky were opened in 1904, the coal was delivered to the Norfolk & Western at Kenova. Improving its western connections, the C&O purchased the Chicago, Cincinnati & Louisville in 1910. Coal became important on this line, but the flow to the Great Lakes was denied it. Therefore, the C&O acquired the HV, which also controlled the Toledo & Ohio Central and Kanawha & Michigan. The K&M was very important in the acquisition, as it was the C&O's connection to the Hocking out of Gauley Bridge, near Charleston, West Virginia. With this connection now under its control, the C&O began shipping coal to Toledo and connections at Columbus and Fostoria. This new arrangement produced satisfactory results, even though coal had to be back-hauled from the Big Sandy and Logan fields to Gauley.

     In 1914, the U.S. District Court ordered the C&O to release its K&M interest under the Sherman Act, thus isolating the HV. The solution? Build a route to connect with the HV. On May 11, 1914, the Chesapeake & Northern, a wholly-owned C&O subsidiary, was formed and built a line from Edington, Kentucky, on the Cincinnati Division near Russell, Kentucky, to Waverly, Ohio, on the N&W main. The C&O negotiated trackage rights with the N&W for hauling a specified number of trains to Columbus. This arrangement with a competitor never proved entirely satisfactory, and from 1926 to 1927, the Chesapeake & Hocking completed the line from Waverly to Valley Crossing. Because of the new connection, an immense bridge - Limeville Bridge (also known as Sciotoville Bridge) - was constructed across the Ohio River from a point near NJ Cabin in Kentucky to Sciotoville, Ohio.

     By the 1920s, the Hocking fields were largely depleted, and the mass of branches south of Columbus became backwater area, while the Toledo Division boomed. As an economy measure, and a plan of the Van Sweringen brothers, the Hocking Valley was absorbed into the Chesapeake & Ohio system and became the Hocking Division. The Mound Street shops in Columbus and the Logan shops were phased out as "unnecessary facilities." Throughout the 1940s and '50s, the Hocking Division continued to decline south of Columbus and coal traffic continued to climb on the Columbus Subdivision. Abandonments continued to occur south of Columbus to alleviate the financial problems associated with them.

     The Hocking Valley had basically the same motive power of contemporary lines of the time while independent. The 4-4-0 design was prevalent across the system throughout the nineteenth century, the 2-8-0 design stronger in the early twentieth century. Builders were mainly Rogers Locomotive Works until 1880 and Brooks thereafter. With the control of the C&O in 1910, two of its designs were transplanted to the HV: the 2-8-2 HV Mikados of 1912-13 were duplicates of the C&O's 1911 design, and the twenty 2-6-6-2 Mallets of 1917-18, duplicates of the C&O Mallets, were designed for hauling heavy coal assignments north of Columbus. Additional 2-8-0 Consolidations were added until 1911. Passenger traffic was handled by modern 4-4-0s and 4-6-0s of 1904-13 vintage. In 1920, the HV picked up sixteen secondhand 2-10-2 Santa Fe types from the Lehigh Valley that had been built a year before. These were the last engines bought by the HV, save for the ten 0-8-0s from Lima Locomotive Works in 1926 and fifteen American Locomotive Company 0-8-0s in 1930. The entire HV roster was absorbed into the C&O roster following the merger of 1930, but most of the engines continued on the former HV lines, rather than being dispersed across the C&O system since they were too small for most of C&O's uses. However, the Santa Fes did move to Virginia. The 4-6-0s continued on branchline passenger trains until they were discontinued 1949-50. The only Hocking Valley locomotive to survive the scrapper's torch was C&O No. 701, former HV No. 171, a 2-8-0 built by ALCO-Richmond in 1911. It had been moved to Clifton Forge, Virginia, where it operated on the Hot Springs Branch local. At the end of steam, it was donated to the City of Covington, Virginia, where it has been most recently displayed in Convington's Mian Street Park. It is still in fairly good condition today.

     The tracks of the Athens Subdivision are still completely intact, being operated by the Indiana & Ohio Central, a part of Fortress, as the Logan Line. The double track was long ago removed in the 1930s, but one can still find remants of the former second track in form of passing sidings and industrial tracks. The I&OC hauls mainly lumber, grain, clay, sand, glass, and metal products.

     Part of the Armitage Subdivision is still intact with tracks from Logan to Nelsonville, operated by the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway. This railroad operates regular passenger excursions every weekend from April through December. The HVSR originally operated on the old Monday Creek Branch south of Nelsonville, but moved to the Armitage Subdivision between Nelsonville to Glen Ebon, a point just north of Athens. Soon after, though, the Glen Ebon route was removed in 1985 in favor of the current line in order to keep from being isolated, as the C&O was to abandon the line from Logan to Nelsonville. The rest of the Armitage Subdivision south of Nelsonville is now the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, a rails-to-trails project. For those interested, it also affords good railfanning opportunities of Norfolk Southern's former Conrail (ex-T&OC) West Virginia Secondary near Armitage and on south to Athens.

     The Pomeroy Subdivision from Logan to Pomeroy is gone, except for a seven-mile stretch from Gallipolis to Hobson, near Pomeroy. This line is still owned by CSXT, but only the trains of Norfolk Southern traverse the route. This is an agreement that is over 100 years old and has passed through numerous railroads.

     CSXT has no connection with the tracks, except by going through the interchange yard at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and crossing the old Kanawha & Michigan bridge across the Ohio. In 1983, a unit coal train began a short-lived operation from Southern Ohio Coal Co.'s loadout near Minerton to American Electric Power's Gavin power plant in Cheshire on the Ohio River. The train ran daily until the mine was flooded around 1987 and service was discontinued. Gavin now receives its coal via a system of conveyor belts.  CSXT subsequently removed the line between Minerton and Kanuaga (where the NS trackage rights begin) in 1992.

The Hocking Valley Railway by Edward H. Miller (2006)
The Hocking Valley Railway

By Ed Miller

Be sure to get your copy of Mr. Miller's comprehensive print resource of the Hocking Valley Railway.  Click here to order your copy today!

Updated 27 Oct 2008 10:08:06

Copyright 1999-2008 Chris Burchett.  All rights reserved.  No part of this Web site may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of the respective owner(s).  This Web site is not sponsored by any railroad, trade association, union, or non-profit organizations.  CSX Corporation, Fortress, or the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway do not endorse or otherwise support the information supplied herein.  By using this Web site, you release Chris Burchett from any liability from exploring any areas mentioned herein and forfeit all claims of computer problems, injury or death resulting from negligence or otherwise.  In other words, you're on your own.  We "know nothing!"