The story of a forgotten America.

Zanesville & Western Railroad

The Zanesville & Western Railroad (Z&W) is a former 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. By 1884, the C&E had opened a 31.8-mile segment from Thurston to Santillo via East Fultonham. 3 4 In January 1887, a 15.7-mile segment from East Fultonham to Cannelville was placed into operation, and between 1886-87, a 2.4-mile section of track was built from Woodland Avenue in Columbus to East Columbus. 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), incorporated on March 23, 1887, in Morgan County, extended from Shawnee east to the Muskingum River. 2 It completed a 3.2-mile section from Carrington to Shawnee and a 10.6-mile section from Drakes east to Sayre through Corning between 1887 and 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) incorporated and took control of the C&E and the S&MR on November 25. 2 In October 1890, the CS&H completed 11.2 miles from the C&E at Santillo to the S&MR at Sayre, and also finished a 4.4-mile segment between Muskingum and West Zanesville. 3

The Zanesville Terminal Railway constructed 4.6 miles of track from Muskingum to West Zanesville in 1890 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 (CS&H) 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 as 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 but it did not last long as well, with it entering receivership on January 15, 1897.

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

The CS&H was sold on September 24 to a purchasing trustee who represented the Pennsylvania and Hocking Valley (HV) railroads, who then divided the CS&H between the two companies. Out of that came was born the Zanesville & Western Railway (Z&W), incorporated on October 17, 1902, after it had acquired 47% of the rolling stock, materials, and supplies and 74.8 miles of track of the Columbus, Sandusky & Hocking Railroad Southern Division. 1 The Southern Division encompassed everything east and south of Thurston.

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, 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. It was listed as active in 1954 but abandoned by the 1960’s.
  • The San Toy Branch from Sayre to San Toy, a coal camp operated by the Sunday Creek Coal Company that operated until April 15, 1927. It included a tunnel.
  • The Cannelville Branch, which was partially placed out of service as early as 1926 and abandoned entirely 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 then merged with the New York Central Railroad (NYC) in 1952 and formed the NYC’s Ohio Central line from Toledo southeast to Columbus and across the Ohio River to Charleston, Swiss, and Hitop, West Virginia.

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 Glass Rock west to Thurston. 10 Silica sand from Central Silica was used in the manufacture of glass, pottery, dinnerware, and firebrick. 11 The track was removed west from Glass Rock west to Thurston and from East Fultonham south to Crooksville circa 1976. Conrail took over operations of the PC 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 OS from New Lexington to Glass Rock in 1993 and 1994, but Central Silica ceased all rail distribution of its sand and gravel shortly after. 9 New management at Central Silica decided it was more efficient to ship by a truck than rail and the OS was placed out of service from Glass Rock to Crooksville via Saltillo. The Glass Rock branch, intact from Glass Rock east to Avondale via East Fultonham, was leased to the Newark, Heath & Buckeye Scenic Railway, doing business as the Zanesville & Western Scenic Railroad (Z&WS). The Z&WS today operates only in the vicinity of Mt. Perry.



  1. “Zanesville and Western Railway.” Interstate Commerce Commission Reports: Decisions of the Interstate Commerce Commission of the United States. Valuation reports 28 (1929): n. pag. Print.
  2. Sutor, J. Hope. “Zanesville and Western Railway.” Past and Present of the City of Zanesville and Muskingham County, Ohio. N.p.: S.J. Clarke Publishing, 1905. 72-73. Print.
  3. Miller, Edward H. “Background of the T&OC, the K&M, and the Z&W.” The Hocking Valley Railway. Ohio University Press, 2007. 103-105. Print.
  4. New York Central Railroad Historical Data. Map. New York Central Railroad, 1932. A-18-3-19. Print.
  5. Drury, George H. The Historical Guide to North American Railroads: Histories, Figures, and Features of more than 160 Railroads Abandoned or Merged since 1930. Kalmbach Publishing (Waukesha), 1994. 206-217. Print.
  6. Plank, Mark. “Toledo and Ohio Central Railroad timeline.” Unofficial Toledo and Ohio Central Home Page. N.p., 20 Mar. 2008. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. Article.
  7. Lewis, Edward A. “Short Lines No Longer in Existance.” American Shortline Railway Guide. 5th ed. Waukesha: Kalmbach, 1996. 359. Print.
  8. Lewis, Edward A. “Whose Line Was It?” American Shortline Railway Guide. 5th ed. Waukesha: Kalmbach, 1996. 235. Print.
  9. Nicholson, Stu. ORDC Seeks Input on Perry County Rail Line. Columbus: Ohio Rail Development Commission, 8 Sept. 2006. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. Article.
  10. Wolf, Robert. “Ohio Faces Big Rail Cut.” Times Recorder [Zanesville] 25 Feb. 1975: 1. Print.
  11. Daily Times [New Philadelphia] 30 Jun. 1954: 14. Print.
  12. “NOTICE.” Times Recorder [Zanesville] 5 Dec. 1977: 21. Print.


Add Yours →

Parts of the old Z&W used to go through Trimble Twp in Athens County Ohio, The tracks were removed many years ago, I was hoping to find someone who might know when they were removed?

Scot, Do the names David William (the father of), Charles Ora, William Abner, or Pearlie Homer Mathews sound familiar to you?

I’ve been involved with the Z&W Scenic Ry’s passenger excursion operation for the past two years as their certified track inspector, based out of Mt Perry. As I’m out on the line doing on-foot track inspections, I constantly wonder what this line and it’s traffic base looked like under NYC in the 1930’s, 40’s and into the 50’s or NYC steam era. What would an average train look like? What type or size of steam engine(s) were utilized. Where were the crews home terminal’ed at, where or what mines did they run to? What were the mines and what were the mine ratings (average loadings)? Where were the open stations? i.e., Thurston had an operator, looks like Mt Perry had a depot/manual block station and passing siding? Be neat to view a NYC employee timetable from that era? Are there any vintage timetables out there?

Old maps show the ZT had a bridge over the Licking River. Looks like the Z&W had trackage rights on the B&O across the Muskingum to reach a depot in Zanesville. Did the bridge get washed out or destroyed in any of the great floods, or did it get abandoned and removed?

This is some really good information. It is not easy to find anything on the Z&W RR. My Great Grandfather hired out on the Z&W as Section Foreman and retired from NYC after 49 years of service the Zanesville and surrounding areas. My Grandfather worked as Section Foreman in the NYC days and my father worked the B&O in the Zanesville area. Being from Zanesville myself I am employed by CSXT and had the opportunity to also work in Zanesville. Thank you for all the information on your website. I really appreciate it.

Hey Scotty.
Jim Whitlatch, Here! is any of this Abandoned lline accessable by auto or on foot? I been working with Hocking Vlley At Nelsonville, Ohio. if I can get to it will take some photos and take to the BOD see if any interest in attempting toRestore t. may need a Engineer???
also saw a photo of an Locomotie in the weeds and a box car coupled to it
Big Jack out!

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