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Photo of the Month - December 2007

The T&OC's* West Columbus Yard


200dpi jpg (49K) w col from BJ

A Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad freight is leaving West Columbus yard headed toward Toledo.  It is about to cross Grandview Avenue, a road the locals thought was tied up way too much by trains switching the yard.  The small building on the left was the yard office and crew sign in.  The building on the right with the large opening was the coal dump for a small power plant.  The roundhouse is behind the coal dump. Each roundhouse stall has its own smoke stack sticking up through the haze.  A cold winter day with a lot of steam locomotives working and sitting in the round house can create all this smoke and haze.  The picture was taken from BJ tower which controlled the west approach to West Columbus yard.  The photo was probably taken in the late 1930's or early 1940's.  (Bruce Warner Collection) 

        West Columbus yard was orientated east -west along the north side of McKinley Avenue between Glenwood and Grandview Avenues.  The yard was built with a depression or bowl in the center.  Switch crews would make up trains from both ends of the yard and as they kicked cars lose they would roll toward that center bowl.  Very handy for the switch crew but not so  good for the road crew trying to start a heavy freight out of the bowl.  If they released their brakes and backed to bunch up the slack, the cars, instead of bunching up like they were suppose to do, would roll back down the bowl. 

        Railroads in Ohio were not allowed to use helper engines on the back of trains, but what the T&OC switcher would do is sit behind the train with its brakes on so the train couldn't  roll back.  That way the head end could bunch the slack than start the train by taking the slack out which made it easer to start a very heavy train. The technique has the effect of each car starting in its own individual instant of time rather than all the cars starting at once. If you were on the caboose and you heard the slack running out you knew you needed to brace yourself for a rough start. It was pretty easy to get battered in a caboose by the rough slack action especially during emergency stops. 

        The West Columbus yard is now gone replaced by the new C.O.T.A. bus garage. At least the locals traveling Grandview Avenue don't have to wait while those switch engines kicked cars toward the bowl. 

        Thanks to Bruce Warner, who worked BJ tower as an operator in days past, for help with December's Photo of the Month.       


* While the Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad was taken over by the New York Central in 1938 to the employees (and fans) it was always the T&OC.