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Photo of the Month - June 2008

1956 Worthington, Ohio


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Santa Fe #5018 is northbound through Worthington on the Pennsy's Sandusky Branch headed for the Sandusky docks on Lake Erie.  The Cleveland - Columbus NYC tracks are behind the engine in the distance.  The camera was pointed south.  Photo by Dave Bunge

        Worthington was railfan heaven in 1956 with Santa Fe 5011's and PRR J1's on Pennsy freight trains; PRR H10's on the local; and about 10 passenger trains a day on the NYC.  Very occasionally you might even see a PRR I1 as well.  When you got tired of watching the steam locomotives go by you could walk over to the Ohio Railway Museum and check out their collection of streetcars and interurbans.

        This is an excellent overall view of the rail facilities in Worthington.  The next photo gives more detail to the scene.



1 - The Potter Lumber Company buildings that sat between NYC and PRR tracks. At one time the Big Four (NYC) had a depot on the east side of this large building.  It was gone by the 1950s.  The Potter Lumber Co. did have a siding off the NYC and receive their lumber shipments by rail.

2 - The Worthington tower which controlled the PRR/NYC crossing.  From Grogan Yard, just south of the Ohio State Fair grounds to the Worthington tower the PRR and NYC tracks are closely paralleled with the PRR located on the eastside.  At Worthington the PRR crosses the NYC and separates from the NYC as seen in this photo.  Just north of the photographer the PRR curves back toward the NYC and they again closely parallel each other until just south of Delaware.

In front of the left corner of the tower the NYC signals can be seen.  The NYC is single tracked with a passing siding that starts just north of the tower and extends north about a mile.

3 - The white building under the "three" is the old Worthington PRR passenger station.  It once had an overhanging roof and bay window.  By the 1950's the roof had been replaced without the overhang and a door large enough to allow a section gang speeder to fit inside replaced the bay window.  In the 1950s the building was the  section house for the local track gang.

The very little building in front of white section house/station was the outhouse.

4 - The line is pointing to the Worthington Coal and Supply Co. office building which sat overlooking State Route 161.  The coal yard shown in the photo was owned and managed by Gorden and George Silcott, father and son.  When the coal business declined in the early 1960s George Silcott used the property for his locomotive sales and reconditioning business.  It is still there now owned and operated by George Silcott, Jr.

5 - The old PRR Freight House.  In the 1950's it was leased to the Worthington Foods Company which was just to the right off the photo.  The smaller building connected to this side of the old freight house was a garage used to house coal trucks for the coal yard.

6 - The line is pointing to the Ohio Railway Museum main line.  At one time this was the mainline for the Columbus Delaware & Marion Electric Co. interurban line.  The ORM car barn is behind the photographer.

7 - This is the Pennsy team track.  The "seven" is over the coal pit with the coal conveyer sticking out of the pit. The box cars could have been bringing flour for the Worthington Foods Co.  One business in Worthington would receive an occasional tank car.  (The photographer is standing on one of those tank cars.)  The team track was also used to set out bad order cars when necessary.  It was served by the local which was normally an H10 2-8-0 steam locomotive in 1956. 

        I lived about a hundred yards from the tracks shown in the  picture.  I have strong memories of the sounds of the trains going by.  Northbound there is a grade from Grogan Yard to the south and Lewis Center to the north.  Most coal drags used a helper engine, normally a J1 2-10-4, on the front of the train.

        Even two engines could have a struggle with those 10,000 ton coal trains.  While they were allowed 35 mph a heavy coal train would often be going 20-25 mph especially if they had to stop and wait for a NYC train to clear the crossing.

        At night when all was quiet I could first hear a northbound train whistling for Morse Rd. which was a grade crossing in the mid 1950s.  Morse Rd. was about two miles away from our house.  Once it whistled for Lincoln Ave. now about one mile away I could start to hear the two engines working.  If they were working particularly hard or had to stop for the crossing  you would occasionally hear one engine lost its grip and spin its wheels.  Once one spun out there was a good chance the other one would also slip.  When they both regained their footing the train would be going even slower.  If the train stopped for the crossing you would hear it whistle off with four long blasts just before starting to call in the rear flagman.

        Our house had a four foot wide picture window facing the tracks and once the engines got across from our house that window would vibrate and any hope of hearing the TV was gone. Until the engines passed our house the locomotive sounds predominated.  Once past you could better hear the coal cars.  The track had many low rail joints which would set the cars rocking and you could hear the metal rattling and groaning.  Some cars would develop flat spots on their wheels which would give a loud pounding sound each time they rotated past the flat spot.  You would next hear the lead engine whistling for Schrock Rd  about a half mile north of our house.  At night while laying in bed I would try to see just how long I could still hear the last whisper of sound as the caboose and last few coal cars went over yet another low joint.