New York Central Lines

From Railroad Depots of Northwest Ohio by Mark J. Camp

The New York Central Railroad Company formed in 1853 through the consolidation of several New York railroads stretching between Albany and Buffalo. The system continued to grow in the late 1800s, adding lines across Ohio, including five that served northwest Ohio—the Big Four, Cincinnati Northern, Lake Shore and Michigan Southern, Michigan Central, and the Toledo and Ohio Central. The earliest railroads built through northwest Ohio—the Erie and Kalamazoo and the Mad River and Lake Erie—eventually became part of the system. The E&K opened from Toledo to Adrian, Michigan, in 1836; horses powered the pioneer line until 1837. The E&K became part of the,Michigan Southern Railroad in 1849. The Northern Indiana Railroad opened a line directly west from Toledo in a straight. path, or “air-line,” to the Indiana line near Edgerton in 1852. In 1855, the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroads combined to become the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad. The Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway formed from the consolidations of the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad (Chicago to Toledo), Lake Shore Railway (Toledo to Erie, Pennsylvania), and Buffalo and Erie Railroad during the summer of 1869. The Lake Shore Railway was a consolidation of several former lines between Toledo and Ashtabula, including the Toledo Norwalk and Cleveland and Junction Railroads in northwest Ohio. The LS&MS also controlled the Detroit, Monroe and Toledo Railway, which reached Toledo from Michigan, and the Chicago and Canada Southern, which terminated at Fayette. The Chicago and Canada Southern was projected from Grosse Ile, Michigan, and Ontario across the northwest corner of Ohio, including Montpelier and Edon, and on to Chicago, but track never advanced beyond Fayette. The line opened in 1873 and fell under LS&MS control by 1879. A related line, the Toledo, Canada Southern and Detroit Railway, reached Toledo from Michigan, opening in 1873. The Michigan Central took over in 1883.

The year 1839 marked the opening of Mad River and Lake Erie track from Sandusky to Bellevue. The line reached Republic by 1839, Tiffin by 1841, and Dayton by spring of 1848. A short branch from Carey to Findlay was in operation by 1846. The line pulled up track from Sandusky to Tiffin by way of Bellevue and Republic in favor of a route through Clyde in the 1850s. The MR&LE went through a number of reorganizations, eventually becoming part of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, commonly known as the Big Four, in 1890. The Big Four also controlled the Cincinnati Northern beginning in 1902, a line built from Franklin to the Michigan border north of Alvordton by predecessors in the early 1880s. The first stretch opened in northwest Ohio from Paulding to Ohio City (then Enterprise) as part of the Cincinnati, Van Wert and Michigan Railroad in 1882. The line opened to the Michigan border around 1888.

The Ohio Central Railroad, originally projected by predecessors to connect the Hocking Valley coalfields and the Ohio River with Lake Erie in 1869, opened between Toledo and Middleport in 1882. After a merger with a West Virginia line, the Ohio Central became the Toledo and Ohio Central Railroad in 1885. The Toledo and Indianapolis Railway laid track from .Toledo to Findlay in 1883; reorganized and built to Dunkirk by 1889; and reorganized again as the Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati, reaching Kenton in 1892. The T&OC took over the TC&C in 1893, completing the line to Columbus and a connection with the old Ohio Central mainline. The New York Central acquired the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern and Michigan Central in 1914, the T&OC in 1922, and the Big Four in 1930.

All these NYC lines inherited depot designs from their predecessors. Only a few depots were built after the NYC takeover, the most obvious being Central Union Terminal in Toledo. Although all the lines had standard depot plans, little repetition of design is evident in northwest Ohio, except along the LS&MS. LS&MS depots remain at Bellevue, Bryan, Delta, Elmore, Fremont, Monroeville, Norwalk, Oak Harbor, Pettisville, Rocky Ridge, Stryker, and Wauseon. The LS&MS also had a tendency to convert predecessor line depots to freight houses when building new passenger depots, for example. CCC&StL depots still stand at Green Springs and Tiffin, but all Cincinnati Northern structures are gone in northwest Ohio. T&OC depots from Hatton, Pernberville, Portage, Stony Ridge, and Sugar Ridge remain.


The NYC became the Penn Central in 1967 and Conrail in 1983. Former northwest Ohio NYC lines are now part of CSXT, NS, or newly organized shortlines.

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