By Rick Palsgrove, Groveport Editor
As workers made improvements to Groveport’s Brook Alley they recently dug up a bit of the town’s history.
They unearthed old wooden railroad ties, as well as some spikes, that were buried a foot or two under the alley pavement. These railroad ties were once part of a railroad track spur embedded in the alley that extended from the railroad line on the north end of town. The tracks ran down Brook Alley and connected to the former Claycraft brick plant that once operated on the southern edge of Groveport along the Ohio and Erie Canal. The railroad spur’s bed is also still slightly visible in the grass north of Grove Street where it curves off the existing railroad tracks and then down Brook Alley.
The tracks in Brook Alley were in place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and most likely removed once the brick plant ceased operations in the 1920s.
Imagine walking down the street in those days and seeing a big locomotive chugging through the center of town down Brook Alley as it crossed Main Street!
The soil south of Groveport was ripe with high quality clay for the making of bricks. William Mason first opened a brick and tile yard in the 19th century along the Ohio and Erie Canal near College Street. The brick plant was later operated by the Claycraft company. Many homes and businesses in Groveport, Madison Township, and Columbus are made from Groveport brick. The brick plant provided a lot of jobs for Groveport residents.
For a large part of its history, the brick plant shipped its brick and tile on canal boats. But, as the canal faded in the late 19th century and the railroad became the more prominent form of transportation, the railroad spur was built on Brook Alley to connect the brick plant to the main railroad line so the brick and tile could be shipped by freight train.
There was a fire at the brick plant in 1911, but repairs were made and the company continued to operate before it closed for good in the 1920s.
The railroad line on the north edge of town opened in Groveport in 1868 connecting the town with Columbus and southeast Ohio as well as points beyond.
In the 1860s, the original plan called for running a railroad route from Columbus to Asbury to Canal Winchester to Lancaster and Nelsonville. Groveport leaders realized that if the railroad bypassed their town it would a devastating impact on the village’s economy. Groveport businessman Michael Corbett lead the way to attracting the railroad to come through Groveport instead. Corbett donated some his land for the railroad right of way through town and the village raised $25,000 in stock subscriptions plus an additional $7,500 to secure the railroad route through Groveport.
The railroad proved to be a boon to Groveport providing important freight and passenger service for many years. Trains still pass through Groveport, but no longer stop in town.
The old wooden railroad ties in Brook Alley that were recently dug up by workers are weathered, a bit rotted, and beat up. But they served their purpose in helping Groveport become what it is today.