Monday, May 4, 2015

2015 W&LE Chapter Tour of Adena

On April 25th, a cool and overcast Saturday morning, the W&LE Chapter of the Nickel Plate Road Historical & Technical Society gathered at the side of US 250 in Harrison County Ohio. This was the first of possibly three activities planned for our Chapter this year starting with a tour of the former W&LE lines around Adena. Despite the chance for cool weather, we chose April to visit this area because much of the abandoned and unused railroad that interests us will quickly vanish from sight once the leaves come out.

Our tour guide was Denny Snyder, a former Hanna Coal Co. employee and long time resident of the area. He began our tour with some background on his time spent with the Hanna Coal Company and the history of mining coal in the land that surrounded us.

The first point of interest was conveniently right in front of our group!

Old Pine Valley Turntable as a road bridge. Georgetown, OH 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo

Apparently, when the old 75' turntable at Pine Valley yard in Dillonvale, Ohio was replaced in the 1947 with a new 105' turntable. The old structure was moved to this location, flipped over and re-purposed as a bridge over the Little Short Creek. As we looked the old turntable over, we could see where the center bolster had been cut out and marks where the rolling wheels had once been on the ends. Most people probably drive by it everyday unaware of its unique railroad history as turntable, not a bridge.

The strip of land we stood on admiring the turntable span was once the roadbed of the Adena, Cadiz & New Athens. Opened in 1917 this subsidiary of the W&LE was a short seven mile line serving various coal mines, and was later expanded another 3 miles to serve the large Hanna Coal Georgetown Preparation Plant just south of Cadiz, Ohio. Much of the AC&NA branch is now gone, abandoned in 1997 a few years after the Prep Plant closed and the enormous shovels ceased stripping coal out of the earth. Many of the short wood trestles and sections of the graveled roadbed are all that remain.

Looking west toward Adena, the AC&NA's near 2% grade is apparent as it snakes along the Little Short Creek. John Beach records the turntable bridge standing on the ground where Mallets and Berkshires once labored. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo

From there our caravan of about 9 cars traveled along the grade of the AC&NA into the town of Adena. The rails still run through Adena, now a part of the new Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, but they are long unused, covered with rust and weeds. Sections of the line north of Adena are washed out, as seen here from a trip I took to the area in back in November of 2014.

W&LE Toledo mainline washout at MP 191.5, just north of the Adena Tunnel. 11-29-2014 Chris Ellis photo

However, rumors that the new W&LE wishes to reopen the line to serve the fracking boom in the area, offer hope that the rails will be rebuilt and polished once again.

At Adena we stopped at the site of the former yard on the Toledo mainline and the wye that began the Adena Railroad and also the AC&NA branches. There we were joined by Carol Bednar, Editor of, who offered the history of the town and described it's agricultural roots before coal mining and the railroad showed up. Denny then spoke about the volume of coal that moved through this small town tucked in the valley of the Short Creek. Just a few of the quick facts reported by Denny about Adena included;

  • Between 1900-1927 17 Deep Mines and 5 Strip Mines produced 17,000 tons of coal a day.
  • By the mid 1950's 11 million tons of coal was shipped by the W&LE/NKP, 90% was mined within 20 miles of Adena.
  •  In May 1965 the N&W reported 9,600 loaded cars of coal moved, and 5,00 of those came through Adena.

The tour group enjoying some conversation after the lecture. Adena, OH 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

In previous trips I didn't venture too far from the road, but with others wandering around I did the same. Since I have a great interest in modeling this area, I took advantage of the opportunity to photograph view points or sides of buildings I knew I might not get normally.

The area around the road is featured in many of my pictures from Adena, so that's where I started. The switch that begins the Adena wye remains as it always was, buried in the road. Strangely enough at the road, the railroad crossing signs are brand new, even though the line hasn't seen a train in nearly 20 years.

East Adena Wye switch. Left leads to the Adena Branch, right is the mainline west to Brewster. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

Further west only one of the two bridges still stand, the missing long curved wooden trestle that began the Adena Branch was removed in the late 1990's after abandonment of the line. Next to the bridge remnants was a concrete footprint of a water stand pipe that once quenched the thirst of the hard working steam engines. We also investigated the remaining steel plate girder mainline bridge barely marked as 192.67 (mile 0 being Toledo).

BR 192.67 over the Short Creek. This 82' through plate girder bridge was built in 1906 and moved here from Navarre, OH in 1910. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

Along with Tim Moran, my son and I then ventured deeper in to the remnants of the yard to capture photos of the Bridge Maintenance building, Steelox Freight House, and snapshots of the geography for future modeling efforts.
Tim Moran explores the grassy remains of the Adena Yard. Once eight tracks wide and filled with coal, only two now stand empty. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

 I also tried to capture some before and after shots using 8x10 photographs I had on hand of some late 1950's NKP action in Adena Yard.

Now and Then. 348 SD-9 getting orders at Adena, on August 1958 in the hand held Chuck Yungkurth photo. The train order station is gone but the telephone poles, rails and the concrete post for the signal remain to mark the scene. 4-25-2-15 Chris Ellis photo.

Another highlight of the visit to Adena was finally talking to someone who actually operated trains in the area. That someone is Joe Immler, a former Nickel Plate Road employee, who was quickly able to answer a few burning questions I had about operations in the area. Joe also explained the use of the telephone at the location of the former Yard Office and showed us how you talked to the dispatcher in Brewster or other stations along the line. Fascinating stuff to me and my modeling efforts for sure!

After spending a good chunk of time at Adena, we left and headed toward Dillonvale, but along the way we stopped so Denny could show us the former location of the lesser known Long Run Branch.

The Long Run Branch split from the main at the mouth of the east end of the Long Run Tunnel and headed south along the Long Run Creek. The branch traveled a little over 2 miles along the creek to the Ramsey Mine (or Long Run Mine?) and the mining town of Ramseyville.

Here's a 1905 topographical map from that shows the long abandoned branch line. When it was abandoned I forgot to ask and didn't uncover while preparing this article.

U.S. Geographical Survey, St. Clairsville, Ohio 1905 1:62500 Topographical Quadrangle Map

Denny explained how at the turn of the century the railroads often reached areas before the roads did, especially in little hollers like the one where we stood.  I also forgot to take any pictures of this location but here's a view from Google Maps marked with where the railroad ran. Left went to the Ramsey Mine and right headed north down the valley to the connection to the main at Long Run Tunnel.

The red line marks the location of the former Long Run Branch. Google Maps

We left the long Run Branch and traveled past the old location of the Dun Glen Mine and the small community built for it's workers. A photo of this mine can be seen in Nickel Plate Color Photography Volume 3 on page 114 mistakenly identified as a mine on the AC&NA branch.

Turning our caravan into Dillonvale we first visited the New York Central Depot on the former Lake Erie, Alliance & Wheeling line through town. During 1901 the LEA&W extended their line south from Bergholz, OH to Dillonvale to serve the coal mines in the area. It's odd to think of the "Water Level Route" NYC having rails in this part of Ohio but they also had a line go all the way to Charleston, West Virgina.

New York Central's LEA&W Depot, Dillonvale, OH 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

During our stop here my son Brendan who was already having a great time considering there were really no "live" train stuff to see, was given a very educational class on railroad jobs and life by Joe Immler. Thanks again, Joe, he really enjoyed it! I even learned a lot listing in on you two.

W&LE Chapter President Joe Immler imparting some of his railroading knowledge on to a self proclaimed future W&LE engineer, Brendan Ellis. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

Leaving the NYC Depot, we moved a few streets over and parked next to the remnants of the Pine Valley Yard. Once the terminal for all the mine and mill runs in the area for the W&LE and later the NKP. Like the Adena Yard, Pine Valley has been reduced to a few weedy tracks with a few forlorn structures still standing. However due to the natural gas and oil drilling that has taken SE Ohio by storm, the old mainline track in Pine valley has seen some action recently as an unloading track for fracking sand.

Fracking sand gives Pine Valley Yard a beach like feel. The old Yard Office is slowly being overgrown by trees. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

The biggest surprise for me at Pine Valley was that the old Yard Office was still standing. I had long assumed it was gone after not seeing it in any Google Maps or Google Street views. As it turns out the growth of trees and a leaf stuck to the Google car camera conspired against me to hide the building from my view. Seeing the old brick building was especially thrilling after I had just built a temporary foamcore version of it for my layout planning. Many pictures were taken here by me for sure!

Not far from the Yard Office were the rusted remains of two switches that fed the small yard for cabooses and car repairs. One of the switches looked like it might work, and seeing this my son Brendan proclaimed "I'll throw the switch!" and ran over to do so. To Tim Moran and my surprise the points actually moved all the way and lined the route for the nonexistent yard tracks. Never doubt the optimistic child!

Brendan Ellis as Tim Moran put it "bending the iron" at Pine Valley. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

Nearby where the yard tracks would have traveled from those switches, were some of the old Maintenance of Way and Car Repair buildings. Most interesting of the four structures were the re-purposed W&LE Baggage Car and an old W&LE X-29 Boxcar.

Tim Moran and Gary Busby inspect the ex W&LE 0145 Baggage Car built in 1904. 4-25-2015 Chris Ellis photo.

According to Denny the Baggage Car is supposedly the W&LE 0145, built in 1904 by the AC&F in Wilmington, Delaware. The Nickel Plate would later ground the car at Pine Valley to serve as a car repair tool shed. Here some 60 years later the car is in some serious disrepair.

Interior of the W&LE 0145. Spooky! 4-25-2-15 Chris Ellis photo.

Just a bit east of the baggage car was another reused car, an ex-W&LE X-29 steel boxcar. In the information Denny supplied us, these were the first all steel boxcars owned by the W&LE. Constructed in 1925 by Standard Steel Car Co., these were copies of the Pennsylvania RR's own popular X-29 boxcars. At some point in time like the baggage car, it was grounded and given a new door and smokestack to serve a new life as a shed for the car repair forces at Pine Valley.

Ex-W&LE X-29 Boxcar (number unknown) used as a Repair Shed at Pine Valley Yard. 4-25-2015

After almost 5 hours touring the abandoned and forgotten relics of the old Wheeling & Lake Erie and Nickel Plate Road, it was finally time for lunch. Our hungry group headed to Bill's in Yorkville along the Ohio River. Along the way we got to see the wye at Warrenton (now used to load tankers with fracking liquids) and the old Tin Mill in Yorkville once served by the W&LE/NKP. Finally at Bill's we settled down with some great food and stories, a perfect way to end our tour.

2015 W&LE Chapter Adena Tour
LEFT to Right:
Dennis Snyder (kneeling), Bob Vensel, Russ Shilling, Alan Nagy,
John Snyder (seated), Brendan Ellis, Tim Moran, Chris Ellis,
Joe Immler, John Beach, Mike Spinelli & Chuck Petscher.
(Gary Busby, photographer)

Thanks to Denny Snyder for organizing the 2015 W&LE Chapter Adena Tour and to everyone for making the drive to attend! See you all hopefully in the fall for a tour of the Carrollton Branch.


  1. Sounds like a great time. Wish I could have been there as that was my old "stomping grounds." But the big question is this; did your host point out "The Guv's House" on the way to the yard in Tiltonsville/Yorkville??!? If not, you missed one of the highlights of the tour! :)

  2. Sadly the Guv's Mansion was not pointed out on our drive to Yorkville. An obvious error by our tour guide, sure to be corrected on our next trip with you there hopefully!

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