Canal Winchester could become home for train tours

Messenger photo by Rick Palsgrove
Canal Winchester’s "Queen of the Line" train depot could be involved in plan to bring scenic and specialty train tours to the village.

Scenic and specialty train tours could breathe new life into the Queen of the Line Depot in spring 2009 if a railway company, Canal Winchester officials, and the historical society can come to an agreement.

Mayor Mike Ebert told Canal Winchester Village Council, at its Nov. 3 meeting, that he held discussions with a representative of the Cincinnati Railway Company, which is interested in expanding their tour business and making Canal Winchester a hub for train excursions to and from the Hocking Hills/Nelsonville area.

"Currently, they’re doing them in Lebanon," said Ebert."They would like to move a portion of their operations to Canal Winchester. It could be a pretty nice opportunity for Canal Winchester to have with several thousand people coming to the village (to board the trains). They (passengers) can walk from the station to town in a couple of minutes. The (Canal Winchester) historical society is tickled to death about this. There are opportunities for them they can definitely use."

The Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad, operated by Cincinnati Railway, offers nostalgic weekend rides on a vintage train departing year round from Lebanon, Ohio near Kings Island. Specialty tours include tea party/mystery trains, storybook character events, and holiday/seasonal excursions on a 1930s-era four-car, one open-air coach train pulled by a 1947 locomotive.

Themes for 2008 include Pumpkin Patch Express, Civil War Train, Clifford’s Big Red Train Ride, Easter Bunny Express, Railroad Revealed, North Pole Express, and nine other special event rides.

Over 50,000 passengers rode the Lebanon-based train in 2007, which is an 11 percent increase over the previous year. According to the company, most passengers come from a 100 mile radius of Lebanon, although some families travel hundreds of miles for special events.

"It’s good for our businesses and restaurants," said Ebert. "We have a few things to work out, such as parking, but it would be at very little cost to the village."

Canal Winchester Development Director Chris Strayer said the village’s historic train depot would serve as a hub for the company’s central Ohio operations.

"As they were looking at possible expansion, they thought our station and downtown would be perfect," remarked Strayer, who emphasized discussions are in a very preliminary phase. "They would like to see joint marketing efforts with our downtown. Cincinnati Railway still has to talk with Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, who operates on a spur line at this time from Nelsonville. This idea is in its earliest stages and no decisions have been made."

Other Canal Winchester news

•Demolition on the former Marathon service station on Waterloo Street is scheduled to begin Nov. 10.

•Council is moving ahead with the first phase of renovation of the interurban station. A $97,050 contract with Quality Masonry for exterior work on the century-old structure was approved following a rules suspension.

"The village went out earlier this year," said Councilman Bruce Jarvis. "The focus was on the exterior of the building. There were three bidders in the initial round and the bids were all over the place. Issues were addressed by pulling in the scope and there were three responses, which were fairly close together. Quality Masonry will do the work on the building. It’s pretty much everything you can see on the outside of the building."

•Thirteen-year-old Walker Albaghli, along with 38 fellow skateboarders, petitioned council to consider creating a skatepark in Westchester Park.
In his letter, Albaghli note the middle of the park is empty and the area is within easy access for skaters living in different areas of the village. Albaghli felt Westchester would be a safer option than establishing a facility in Hanner’s Park along Groveport Road due to traffic and access concerns.

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