CENTERBURG — A generous anonymous collector has contributed this vintage Knox County image, which shows the junction of the two railroads that met just outside of Centerburg.
Both railroads are gone now, and the spot where they met is now simply a place along the Heart of Ohio Trail, with no function like it once had.
If my interpretation of this image is correct, as judged against the 1896 Knox County atlas, then we are looking northeast in this image, and the train is headed southwest on the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus Railroad.
That railroad bed is the source of the main rail-to trail walking and bicycling paths that today run through the county: The Heart of Ohio Trail, The Kokosing Gap Trail, and the Mohican Valley Trail.
We’ve talked extensively about the C&C here, as it was the location of the infamous hazing death of Stuart Lathrop Pierson, covered extensively here last fall.
The other railroad has received less exposure, though it was discussed some in the series of bizarre disappearances and reappearances by Centerburg’s runaway banker, Daniel Paul.
It was the Toledo & Ohio Central Railway, which was in operation in one form or another from 1885 to 1952.
While the CA&C became recreational trails, the T&OC tracks were torn out and not dedicated to extensive use.
The path of the railroad near Centerburg can be seen if you drive south out of the village on Ohio 3/36.
Just before the Dollar General, there is an unnamed lane stretching to the right that is used as an access drive to some of the businesses north of the highway.
That is the former path of the T&OC Railway, and if you follow it as far north as the Heart of Ohio Trail, that is the intersection depicted in this vintage image.
The 1896 atlas shows the connecting spur between the two lines, and a close look at the photo shows some boxcars and an empty coal car waiting on the spur to be picked up by another train.
The signal is clearing the CA&C train to cross through the intersection, but it is interesting to note that the signalman, up high in the observation tower, is looking southeast, suggesting that another train was approaching the junction on the T&OC line.
As soon as the short train cleared, the signalman’s next move would have been to change that signal to clear the northbound train to come on through.
It was likely a train coming from Newark to Toledo.
As the date of the photo is unknown, it’s hard to identify the farmhouse in the background.
If this photo is early enough, it would seem to roughly match the farm of “E. Darling” identified on the 1896 map, though it may be too close for that.
However, that area—north of the Heart of Ohio Trail—is one that gradually grew up and is the north side of the village of Centerburg today. We might be seeing some of the first buildings built in that neighborhood.
The westbound train was likely headed to Delaware and Columbus. Its cars (and its shortness) suggest that it was a passenger train, back in the day when such trains were common in Ohio.
I, for one, would love to see their return. I’d love to travel around the state and leave the driving to someone else.