The Zanesville & Western Railroad (Z&W) was a railroad that extended throughout southeastern Ohio, connecting Columbus to many of the coal and clay mines and their respective power plants and factories.


The Columbus & Eastern Railroad (C&E) was chartered on February 20, 1882 and construction began around the beginning of June 1883.2

By 1884, the C&E had opened a 31.8-mile segment from Thurston to Santillo via East Fultonham.3 4 From 1886 until January 1887, a 15.7 mile segment from East Fultonham to Cannelville was placed into operation. A small 2.4 mile section of track was built from 1886 until 1887 from East Columbus to Woodland Avenue in Columbus.4

The C&E had acquired trackage rights between Alum Creek to Thurston via the Toledo & Ohio Central Railway, and from Darlington to Zanesville via the Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley Railway.3

The Shawnee & Muskingum River Railway (S&MR) was a railroad in Morgan County that extended from Shawnee eastward to the Muskingum River.2 It was incorporated on March 23, 1887. It completed a 3.2 mile section from .4 mile west of Carrington to Shawnee and a 10.6 mile section from Drakes east to Sayre through Corning from 1887 to June 1889.3 4 The S&MR connected to the Ohio Central Railroad’s Buckingham Branch, and used their line under a perpetual lease.

On September 30, 1889, the Columbus, Shawnee & Hocking Railway (CS&H) Company was incorporated and organized on October 24.2 It took control of the C&E and the S&MR on November 25. In October 1890, the CS&H completed 11.2 miles from the C&E at Santillo to the S&MR Sayre 4, and a 4.4-mile segment from Muskingum and West Zanesville.3

The Zanesville Terminal Railway Company constructed 4.686 miles of track from Muskingum to West Zanesville in 1890 in order to bring service into the city of Zanesville from the C&SH.The C&SH operated its trains over the company’s trackage to the Zanesville Belt & Terminal Railway.

The Columbus, Sandusky & Hocking Railway Company was organized on December 23, 1893 as a consolidation of the CS&H and the Sandusky & Columbus Short Line Railway.2 The company did not last long. A receiver was appointed on June 28, 1895 and was sold on October 19 under foreclosure. The Columbus, Sandusky & Hocking Railroad was chartered as a successor on October 22 and possession of the line was taken on November 14. The new company did not last long as well, having been appointed a receiver on January 15, 1897. It was discharged on the 26th due to a technicality but the railroad soon defaulted anyways.

The Zanesville Terminal Railroad was incorporated on April 7, 1902, whose total mileage was acquired by the purchase of the Zanesville Terminal Railway.4 It was a joint venture between the Zanesville & Western Railway and the Cleveland, Akron & Cincinnati Railway in equal proportion.5

The CS&H was sold on September 24 to a purchasing trustee who represented the Pennsylvania and Hocking Valley railroads, who then divided the CS&H between the two companies.3

Out of that came the Zanesville & Western Railway (Z&W), incorporated on October 17, 1902 after it had acquired 47% of the rolling stock, materials and supplies, and 74.838 miles of track of the Columbus, Sandusky & Hocking Railroad Southern Division, which was sold at foreclosure on November 1.1 The Southern Division encompassed everything east and south of Thurston. The Hocking Valley increased its preferred stock to the full $15 million and its common stock to the full $11 million, allowing it to acquire the securities of the 74 mile Z&W.3

The Z&W eventually encompassed:

  • The Toledo & Ohio Central from Fultonham to Cannelville, a distance of 15.6 miles. The section from Muskingum to Cannelville was referred to as the Cannelville Branch.
  • The Zanesville Terminal Railroad, a distance of 4.4 miles from Muskingum to West Zanesville.
  • The Shawnee Branch from East Fultonham to Glouster and Shawnee. It included Ohio Central’s Buckingham Branch for which they shared trackage rights.

The Z&W also provided a connection to the B&O at Sayre. The short branch to San Toy from Sayre included a tunnel. San Toy, also called Santoy, was a coal camp operated by the Sunday Creek Coal Company. The company closed its mining operations at the town on April 15, 1927.

The Cannelville Branch was partially placed out of service as early as 1926 and was completely abandoned on April 13, 1963.

In 1938, the Z&W, Kanawha & Michigan, Kanawha & Ohio and Middleport & Northeastern railroads merged with the Toledo & Ohio Central Railway (T&OC).6 The T&OC merged with the New York Central Railroad (NYC) in 1952 and formed the NYC’s Ohio Central line, a route from Toledo southeast to Columbus and across the Ohio River to Charleston, Swiss and Hitop, West Virginia.

As of 1954, the Shawnee Branch was listed as active but abandoned by the 1960’s.

The NYC merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad on April 27, 1966 to become Penn Central (PC) in 1968.6 The PC filed for bankruptcy on June 21, 1970 with portions of the Ohio Central operating under Conrail starting on April 1, 1976. Conrail operated the former T&OC track from Charleston, West Virginia to Buckeye Yard in Columbus, Ohio as their West Virginia Secondary.

The U.S. Railway Association (USRA) recommended the abandonment of the PC line from Central Silica at Glass Rock to Zanesville and from Glass Rock west to Thurston.10 Silica sand from Central Silica was used in the manufacture of glass, pottery, dinnerware and fire brick.11 Track was removed west from Glass Rock to Thurston and from East Fultonham to Crooksville around 1976. Conrail took over operations of the PC line from Glass Rock east to New Lexington via Crooksville and East Fultonham, a distance of 31.7 miles,7 8 as part of their Zanesville Secondary.12

In 1982, the state of Ohio acquired the former Conrail line from Central Silica at Glass Rock to New Lexington.7 8 Operations were conducted by the Moxahala Valley Railroad beginning in March 1983 and turned over to the Ohio Southern (OS) on September 20, 1986.8 The line saw less than 500 cars per year of clay, silica sand, cement and coal.8

Improvements were completed on the Ohio Southern line from New Lexington to Glass Rock in 1993 and 1994 when Central Silica ceased all rail distribution of its sand and gravel.9 New management at Central Silica decided it was more efficient to ship by truck than rail and the OS was placed out of service from Glass Rock to Crooksville via Saltillo. The “Glass Rock” branch, currently intact from Glass Rock east to Avondale via East Fultonham, is currently leased to the Newark, Heath & Buckeye Scenic Railway, which is doing business as the Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad.

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