|This is the original Groveport train depot built in 1868, which was later replaced with a larger depot on the same site in 1898.|
While Ohio’s vast canal system opened up the state for commerce and growth, it was the railroad that helped establish the Buckeye State as an industrial and agricultural giant.
In 1860 Ohio claimed 2,974 miles of railroad track, which ranked it first in the United States at the time. Among the rail lines that began operating in the state in the Civil War era was The Hocking Valley Railway, whose rails once reached from Toledo to Pomeroy tapping into the coal fields of southeastern Ohio. The line operated until 1930 when it was eventually absorbed into the Chesapeake and Ohio.
The first comprehensive history of this notable railroad has been captured in a new book published by the Ohio University Press, "The Hocking Valley Railway," by Edward H. Miller.
Miller is a railroad man who began working in the Hocking Division of the Chesapeake and Ohio in 1966 as a telegraph operator.
"There were still some telegraph lines on stretches of the railroad in the 1960s," remembered Miller. "It was a good job. It was quite nice to sit in the depot or on the tower and watch the trains go by."
He said he became interested in researching The Hocking Valley Railway when the former railroad’s name kept popping up in his reading.
"One hot August afternoon I was at the University of Toledo Library and just starting digging around. I’d dig a bit, find things, and then dig some more. Then I came across photos of the Hocking. I decided, why not a book?"
When asked about why railroads and trains seem to be embedded into the American psyche, Miller said, "It gets in your blood. They’re interesting. They’re big, dirty, and dangerous."
A portion of the Hocking Valley Railway extended 75 miles southeast from Columbus as its rails carried coal, freight, and passenger trains through Valley Crossing, Edwards Station, Groveport, Canal Winchester, Carroll and beyond. Miller’s book notes Groveport and Canal Winchester each met the $50,000 subscription target for their part of the railroad. Groveport citizens also furnished the right of way from Big Walnut Creek to Canal Winchester at a cost of $7,500. Tracklaying began in Columbus in November of 1867 with the rails reaching Groveport in June, 1868 and Canal Winchester soon after. These tracks are still in place today.
Included in the book are historic photos of the depots in Groveport and Canal Winchester.
"The original Winchester depot burned in 1894. It’s replacement (the depot which still stands in Canal Winchester) is unlike any other on the Hocking Valley line," said Miller, who noted most of the depots were much more plain in appearance than Canal Winchester’s.
Likewise, Groveport had two depots, the original being replaced in 1898 with a larger 18 x 70 foot structure.
Other unique features of the Hocking Valley in Canal Winchester and Groveport included the 108 car length siding and former interchange with the electric interurban line, the Scioto Valley Traction Line, in Groveport; and Canal Winchester’s track spur that ran from the main line south on High Street to the Ohio and Erie Canal.
Ironically, one rail line help hasten the end of another as the Scioto Valley Traction Line, which opened in the central Ohio area in 1904, hurt The Hocking Valley Railway because the traction line passenger fares were lower that the railroad’s, observed Miller.
"The Hocking Valley Railway," is rich with historic photos, maps, timetables, and documents that enhance the reading experience. The narrative includes information on the development of the line, wrecks that occurred, historical perspective, and descriptions of the stations and places touched by the rail line.
The book is a must read for railroad buffs as well as anyone with an interest in Ohio history.