Columbus-Here I am at the end of a sentimental journey through
169 miles of wintry Ohio countryside aboard the last Pennsylvania
passenger train to make the Cleveland-Columbus run.
While Ohioans along the line grew emotional about the death of
the "accommodation" train and veteran trainmen expressed
bitterness, we chugged through the night--a unique blend of the
old and the new.
The "old" was represented by the train making a final
run after 96 years of service. The "new" was the presence
on the train of a crowd of draftees making the first step of their
journey to Camp Breckinridge, Ky.
Buys Last Ticket
I bought the last Columbus ticket at the old Pennsy
depot, and found the station jammed with draftees, en route over
the old Cleveland, Akron & Columbus line, for the Kentucky
These future soldiers filled two Pullmans of a nine-car passenger
baggage and mail train that grew to 12 cars by the time it reached
Trainmen pointed to the long train and voiced doubt that it could
be unprofitable. They feel that the train made money and should
have been continued. However the Public Utilities Commission, after
a survey agreed with the railroad that the train should be dropped.
Engineer Noble Z. Close, 61, of Columbus, 29 years on the line,
said, "the discontinuance was foolish."
Fireman Clyde J. Wright, 53, of Columbus, 31 years on the line
remembers when five passenger trains daily rolled along the picturesque
route. He remembered state fair trains and football specials, and
when Kenyon College at Gambier received a bad name years ago when
a student fell asleep on the rails during a hazing and was run
over by an engine.
There were few farewells along the line as the train passed through
most of towns after all was dark.
Rode in Engine Cab
I rode the Diesel cab through the night from Orrville to Mt. Vernon.
Engineer Close and Fireman Wright were sad as they blasted the
horn for forlorn highway crossings.
South of Killbuck, the line climbs a four-mile grade. As the headlights
pierced a blinding snowfall, Wright pointed out the now abandoned
branch to Zanesville and traces of the old Walhonding Railroad.
He recalled days when hundreds of college students boarded trains
at tiny Gambier station, and how persons regularly bought tickets
at many of the darkened stations.
There were days when President McKinley and politicians like Charlie
Dick rode the old CA&C.
OSU Traveled in '90s
The Ohio State football team often traveled on the line in the
'90s to play Case and Western Reserve in Cleveland.
The twisting Pennsylvania line to Columbus has a history dating
from the stage coach and canal packet era.
Along the old CA&C route, oldtimers cannot recall a time when
there wasn't a passenger station with a pot-bellied stove and weatherbeaten
There were days when the towns-people gathered at the station
to catch a glimpse of some passing notable--a president en route
to Cleveland or theater stars moving on to the next night's stand.
Started in 1851
The line was born on Feb. 19, 1851, when the Akron branch of the
Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, now the Pennsylvania, was
chartered from Hudson to a point near Wooster.
Tracks were strung through the hills to Centerburg, but road officials
looked toward Columbus instead of Deleware, and in 1873 pushed
on to the state capital.
As the auto, bus and truck enslaught bit deep into revenues, various
passenger trains disappeared.
However, fast freights will still roll through the hills of Wayne,
Holmes and Knox counties.