Railroad Evolution

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Railroads Serving Columbus 1850-21st Century

         In 1850 the Columbus & Xenia Railroad arrived in Columbus, the first of sixteen steam railroads that would serve Ohio’s capital city. The last of the sixteen, the Chesapeake & Ohio Northern, would be completed in 1930. During most of the Twentieth Century the sixteen would be grouped into five Class I Railroads.
         Starting in 1960 railroads in the U.S. were in financial stress and suffering from years of neglected maintenance. Railroads in Columbus were no exception and in some cases they were among the worse of the neglected and stressed lines. Columbus would be impacted by the creation and later bankruptcy of Penn Central and the creation and success of Conrail. In the 1980’s the deregulation of the railroad industry and the division of Conrail left Norfolk Southern and CSXT serving Central Ohio. In addition there were two regional railroads – the Indiana & Ohio and the Genesee & Wyoming - and one short line – the Camp Chase Industrial railroad.
         What happened to those original sixteen lines after 160 plus years of churn in the railroad industry? Four lines were abandoned. The rolls of the surviving twelve were altered. In some cases once major lines became secondary and minor lines became major.
         The Columbus, Ohio Railroad Evolution, a series of time charts, uses 1950 as the starting point to show how each of the sixteen first became one of the five class I railroads and then what happened next. (Selectable on the top left.)
         The history of the pre-1950 years has been condensed marking only the significant transitions. The corporate history was often more complicated and more involved than what has been presented here.
         Undoubtedly there are errors, please let me know about the mistakes with an email to columbusrr@att.net. – Alex Campbell