The Hocking Valley Railway was a railroad in Ohio, with a main line from Toledo to Pomeroy via Athens and Columbus. It featured several branch lines to coal fields in the Hocking Valley near Athens. The line consisted of the main line from Toledo to Pomeroy, and Wellston & Jackson Belt Railway, the Monday Creek Branch and the Snow Branch as feeders.
Columbus & Hocking Valley Railway
The origins of the Hocking Valley Railway dated to 1834, when U.S. Congressman John Chaney (Ohio) proposed legislation for the construction of a railroad from Lancaster to the Ohio River.4 The proposal was tabled and resurrected in the 1850s as a line from Athens County to Columbus. A meeting on July 11, 1853 sought to incorporate the “Hocking Valley Railroad Company,” with a stock of $2 million, although the plans were never enacted. Surveys were conducted and subscriptions to the stock were sold, but the line was never constructed.
On April 14, 1864, the Mineral Rail Road Company was incorporated to construct a railroad from Columbus to Athens with a capital stock of $1.5 million.4 Some right-of-way was secured, although construction never began. Milbury Greene, a salt works operator at Salina, purchased the project in 1867 and pushed for the railroad’s completion. Traveling to Columbus to plead for the railroad, he was able to convince wealthier citizens in Franklin County to finance the project, with the requirement that the line be named the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad Company.4 Surveying work along the proposed line was completed in May 1867.
A contract was let for construction on May 22, 1867 at a cost of $865,000.4 The first segment of the railroad opened on July 16, 1868 from Columbus to Canal Winchester, followed by a segment to Lancaster on January 13, 1869. The section to Nelsonville opened on August 17, followed by Athens on July 25 of 1870, with the segment from Logan south to Nelsonville becoming the Athens Subdivision. The section from Nelsonville to Athens was named the Armitage Subdivision.4 The Straitsville Branch from Logan east to New Straitsville opened on January 2, 1871.
Columbus & Toledo Railway
By this time, numerous coal mines had opened along the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad, producing 250 cars daily on the main line from Columbus to Athens and New Straitsville.4 As a result of the line’s success, the Columbus and Toledo Railway was incorporated in 1872. Construction was completed in January 1877.
Gallipolis, McArthur & Columbus Railroad
The Gallipolis, Jackson and Chillicothe Railroad was incorporated on March 22, 1850 to construct a railroad from Gallipolis, along the Ohio River, to Chillicothe via Jackson.5 The line was never constructed.
Twenty years later, on March 3, 1870, the Gallipolis, McArthur & Columbus Railroad Company was incorporated to construct a railroad from Logan to Pomeroy via McArthur, Vinton and Gallipolis to connect Columbus to the Ohio River.4 Construction began in 1872, with work progressing through August 1874.5
The company was sold to the Columbus & Gallipolis Railway Company in November 1877, and again to the Ohio & West Virginia Railway in August 1878;4 construction had not been completed by the time of the sale. The railroad was completed from Logan to Gallipolis in October 1880 and from Gallipolis to Pomeroy three months later, and was independent of the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railway Company. In 1895, the company was a part of the Columbus, Hocking Valley and Toledo Railroad, and the line became part of the Hocking Valley River Division.5
Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo
The Ohio & West Virginia Railway, Columbus & Toledo Railway and Columbus & Hocking Valley operated in agreement due to the constraints of the railroad alignments.4 The Ohio & West Virginia had no track north to Columbus from Gallipolis sans the rails of the Columbus & Hocking Valley, and the Columbus & Hocking Valley had no track north to Toledo sans the rails of the Columbus & Toledo. Because of that, the three companies merged into the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo Railway Company in July 1881.4 The route from Toledo to the Ohio River became noted as “The Buckeye Route.”
With the consolidation, the northern terminus of the new company was Walbridge, just south of Toledo.4 The southern terminus was the Ohio River at Pomeroy, with a major branch line running to New Straitsville and Athens. An agreement with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1876 allowed the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo to use its tracks from Walbridge to the western banks of the Maumee River in Toledo, giving it access to Michigan. In 1890, the line was extended north for 1.5 miles to connect to the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, later named the Lake Superior & Michigan Southern Railroad and then New York Central.4
In 1895, the Wellston & Jackson Belt Railway was constructed from McArthur Junction, near Dundas to Wellston and Jackson for a distance of 17.5 miles.4 It officially opened in February 1896, and connected the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo at its eastern terminus, with its western end at the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton. The line was wholly owned by the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo. The branch was quite profitable, serving numerous coal mines along its route, but it went into receivership in 1897 and was reorganized in 1899 as part of the Hocking Valley Railway Company.4
The Monday Creek Branch was constructed from Nelsonville to Bessemer, Carbon Hill, Sand Ruck and Oreville, where it connected with the Straitsville Branch east of Logan.4 In addition, the Snow Fork Branch was constructed from the Monday Creek Branch at Bessemer north to Jobs and Murray City.
Chesapeake & Ohio
The Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo became part of the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1910.2 By then, the company had controlled the Toledo & Ohio Central and the Kanawha & Michigan. The Hocking Valley became known as the Hocking Division. The Hocking Valley River Division from Logan to Pomeroy via Gallipolis became the Chesapeake & Ohio Pomeroy Subdivision. The line from Columbus to Toledo was noted as the Columbus Subdivision.4
The rationale for the merger was that it gave the Chesapeake & Ohio access to the Great Lakes via Toledo, and the coal fields of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.4 With the purchase of the line, it gave the Chesapeake & Ohio access via the Kanawha & Michigan to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, a critical connection for coal traffic.
In 1914, the company constructed new docks on Lake Erie in East Toledo, and constructed a new 3.5-mile branch from Walbridge to serve the docks.4 This was used for lake coal shipment.
By the 1920s, the Hocking Valley coal seams had all but been exhausted, and traffic on the line began to steadily decrease.4 The Mound Street shops in Columbus and the Logan shops were abandoned, and throughout the mid-20th century, various branches south of Columbus were abandoned.
Traffic spiked in the early 1950s when the Kyger Creek Power Plant was constructed in Cheshire, Ohio, and again in the early 1970s when the Gavin Power Plant was completed next to Kyger Creek. Most of the traffic that remained on the line was through traffic or traffic that originated in Middleport or Pomeroy. In 1975, the C&O sought to abandoned the Pomeroy Subdivision, but it was denied due to the remaining customers.6
In February 1979, a flood along the Ohio River damaged the tracks in Middleport and Pomeroy, which gave the C&O reason to discontinue service east of Hobson to Pomeroy.6 Traffic continued to decline, with the subdivision becoming an “as-needed” line that served the Cheshire power plants. In 1982, Chessie, the C&O’s successor, reached an agreement with Conrail to use the Kanawha & Michigan Bridge across the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, which would bring in coal to the power plants. Later in the year, American Electric Power (AEP) began running coal trains from a Southern Ohio Coal Company loadout in Minerton to the Gavin power plant, and as part of the mine’s opening, heavy, welded rail was laid from Minerton south to Kanauga.4 North of Minerton to Dundas, the line was idled due to a lack of customers but the tracks remained as AEO had considered constructing a coal washer at Dundas. Coal would have been trucked into Dundas, washed and then shipped for Gavin.6
In 1986, the tracks were dismantled north of Dundas to Logan. It also became apparant that the Dundas coal washer would not be completed. Adding to the line’s woes, the Minerton mine that brought traffic to the Pomeroy Subdivision merged with another underground mine, which shipped its coal to the Gavin plant via a conveyor belt. In 1992, AEP stopped using the Pomeroy subdivision and the tracks were dismantled from Kanauga to Dundas in 1993.6
Today, remnants of the Hocking Valley Railway continues to operate between Toledo and Columbus as CSX’s Columbus Subdivision. South of Columbus, the line continues to operate on a single track to Logan as part of the Indiana & Ohio. From Logan to Nelsonville, the railroad continues to operate as the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.
South of Nelsonville, the former Armitage Subdivision is now the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, a rail-to-trail.4
The Pomeroy Subdivision was abandoned in the 1980s, sans a seven-mile segment from Kanuaga, east of Gallipolis, to Hobson Junction near Middleport. While still owned by CSXT, the successor to the Chesapeake & Ohio, it is used exclusively by Norfolk Southern.4
Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
In 1972, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway was formed, and operated excursion trains along the Hocking Valley Railway Monday Creek Bran.3 4 It moved to the Armitage Subdivision between Nelsonville and Glen Ebon, north of Athens, but abandoned the line in 1985 because it would have become isolated as the Chesapeake & Ohio was scheduling to abandon the line from Logan to Nelsonville. It now utilizes the Athens Subdivision from Nelsonville north to Logan.4
The excursion company purchased the former Hocking Valley Railway Athens Branch north of Nelsonville in 1985.2