Mansfield's Railroads - A Few Facts Connected With Their Early History

Richland Co., Ohio


Historical Information

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Mansfield's Railroads

MANSFIELD WEEKLY NEWS:  22 December 1887, Vol. 4, No. 6


Submitted by Amy


For manufacturing and wholesale purposes, Mansfield's system of railroads places her among the most important cities of the state.  Their value to the city can scarcely be overestimated.  The system is worth more than natural gas and when that fever has subsided, Mansfield will again be the envy of her neighbors.  The first railroad built in Ohio was from Monroeville to Sandusky.  It was called the Mad River road.  The cars were drawn by horses not less than three or more than four, hitched one ahead of the other.  It was not a very great improvement over the common wagon roads.  The first road in which the people of Mansfield are interested, was the Sandusky and Mansfield.  It was built to Mansfield in 1846.  Then Mansfield was a village with scarcely two thousand inhabitants.  Nearly every family living in the little village had moved to Ohio in large covered wagons, that being the only way of moving conveniently and comfortably.  The building of this railroad caused a great deal of excitement, ad hundreds of people gathered on the banks directly west of the Old Mansfield Machine Works' building, to see the first shovelful of dirt thrown out by Dr. Bushnell and several others.  A number of short speeches were made and three cheers were given for the success of the new railroad.

A railroad built like this one would at the present time be quite a curiosity.  The rails which were made of wood were laid upon a heavy wooden foundation.  On the rails were spiked the "ribbon" which was a strip of hard wood an inch in thickness.  The thin strap-iron rail was fastened on this.  The roads were built higher from the ground than the roads are now.  In early days, the engines were named instead of being numbered.  The names of the first engines running out of Mansfield were the "Empire", "Richland", "Knox", "Bellville", "Licking" and "Mansfield.  These engines were very small, having only two drive-wheels about four feet high on each side.  The first construction engine was called the "Vigilant" and weighed about twelve tons.  These engines carried a hand-wheel, and as wood was burned in those days, the trainmen would stop at nearly every woods and saw their own wood.  The engines did not have any cow-catchers, but a long fork instead, which projected out and instead of pushing obstructions off of the track, it simply caught them and held them.  Headlights had never been thought of.  Mr. John Hoover states that on many a dark and stormy night he walked in front of the engine and carried a lantern. 

A train certainly made a very odd appearance as it went lumbering along through the wild, newly settled country, caring the birds and beasts and causing the people to pause and watch it, until it disappeared in the distance.  First of all came the curious little engine.  First after the engine was a small covered tank.  Then followed an open box car used to carry wood.  Next was a small freight car, used for the mail and baggage.  The freight cars were very small carrying only about twenty-five or thirty barrels of flour.  The trains never had more than one passenger coach, and that was very small, accommodating about thirty people.  The passengers did not have the accommodations that they have now.  There were no elegantly furnished palace sleeping and dining cars then, but simply one passenger coach, finished off neatly with straight backed stationary chairs.  Accidents were almost impossible, for one train would make one round trip in one day, leaving Sandusky in the morning and returning to Sandusky in the evening.  They ran at the rate of twelve miles an hour.  That was considered very fast running.  After this road was completed on to Newark, every town along the road had an engine named after its own town.  One engine was named "Jerry Myers" after the engineer.  To-day, without a doubt, if one of the old passenger trains with its queer looking engine and little four wheeled passenger coach were to pass through Mansfield, a larger crowd would gather on the banks to see it enter the city, than gathered there forty years ago.

The first conductor on the first train running into Mansfield was W.L. Jones of Sandusky.  John Hoover, of Mansfield, William Patterson and Sylvester Morgan, of Sandusky, were the following conductors.  After a lapse of several months there were more trains placed on the road and James and Samuel Jackson and Charles Fullington, of Newark, and John Hoover, of Mansfield, were each given a train.  Bryant Hawley was the first engineer on the "Vigilant", which was the first engine on the road.  The next engineers were Jefferson Newell, Hostler Elwell, Stephen Clark, Jerry Myers and John and Samuel Idler.  Nearly all of these men were killed while running on the road.  After placing more trains on the road, the company for the accommodation of the train men, built boarding houses at Springmill, Shelby, Plymouth, Centerton, Pontiac and Monroeville.  The train did not run on limited time, but would manage to reach one of the boarding houses the early part of the evening, never later than ten o'clock.  There they would stop for the night.  Often two trains would meet and stop during the night at the same boarding house, then each continue their separate routes early in the morning.  Centerton was generally the stopping place.  Turn-tables were used a great deal in those days, and the company built four turn-tables along the road between Sandusky and Mansfield.  Such was Mansfield's first railroad.

The first road projected from Mansfield to Newark, was the Lake Erie & Columbus road.  Before this road was completed the two railroads were consolidated, and the consolidated road was named the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark railroad, which is now a part of the Baltimore & Ohio.

The third road built was the Pittsburg & Fort Wayne railroad, or the Pennsylvania & Ohio road as far as Crestline, and from Crestline to Fort Wayne, the Indiana & Ohio railroad, built in 1850.  This is now the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago railroad.

The Atlantic & Great Western, more commonly called the Broad Gauge road, was early considered one of the best roads running through Mansfield as it is a through line connecting the six feet, they intended to connect New York and St. Louis if their plans proved successful.  The early part of the road was chartered March 10, 1851, as the Franklin and Western railroad company.  The name was changed to the Atlantic and Great Western in September, 1854.  After the name had been changed and they were building the road on through the state, something transpired that caused the stoppage of the work for several years.  Then the work was rapidly pushed on through Salamanca, Warren, Ravenna, Akron, Mansfield, Galion, reaching Dayton, a distance of 104 miles in June, 1864.  After many years of talk, they have succeeded in cutting the road down to the ordinary width from New York to St. Louis.  In the year 1880, January 6, the road was sold and the name changed to New York, Pennsylvania & Ohio railroad.

The last road built from Mansfield was the Mansfield, Coldwater & Lake Michigan road.  On May 20, 1870 its certificate of incorporation was filed with the secretary of state.  The road as projected was to extend in Ohio, from Mansfield, 123 miles in length, to a point on the Michigan and Ohio state line, eighteen miles from the northwest corner of the state.  From that point the road was to extend on to Coldwater and the lake from which it was named.  This road was consolidated May 19, 1871, with the Ohio & Michigan road, the consolidated companies taking the name of Mansfield, Coldwater & Lake Michigan Railroad Company.  Its capital stock was $4,000,000.  The road was to extend from Mansfield via Tiffin to Allegan, Mich., a distance of 223 miles.  The main object was to connect Mansfield with the rich northern country which lacked railroad facilities.  Of all the roads in which Mansfield citizens were interested this road alone, proved a loss to its projectors.  The Coldwater road is now in the hands of the Pennsylvania company and litigation is being prepared at this time, by which it is hoped the original projectors may realize something for their money and efforts.  Ex-Governor Foster and citizens of this city are taking a lively interest in the case.

The first grain depot that was built in this city is at the present time the Niman foundry.  This grain depot was built in 1845 by Mr. Jacob Emminger, deceased, father of our worthy citizen, James H. Emminger.  The second grain depot built is now the flouring mill of Gilbert, Waugh & Co.  An immense grain trade sprung up in Mansfield during the fall of 1846 and four or five succeeding years.  There were wagons from all parts of the country which would often blockade the street for hours while waiting to be unloaded.  The grain cars used then were small box cars covered with canvas.  They would hold about 100 bushels of grain.  The first freight taken out of Mansfield was pork packed in barrels.  This was before the road was projected into the village and therefore it was hauled in drays out to the end of the road, near where the water works building now stands.  The first freight taken out of Mansfield was loaded by Mr. John Hoover.

Such is the story.  And now let us stand for a moment at the depot and watch the powerful steam king rushing into the city at the rate of fifty miles an hour, then pause and let our thoughts go back forty or fifty years.  What a strange vision it inspires.  There comes before us the time-worn weather-beaten stage coach clattering along over the dusty roads through the wilderness then out on the plains to disappear.  We see next the odd little train with one passenger coach and perhaps half a dozen passengers come creeping along scarcely faster than the stage coach.  We realize as the vision fades away that we have been a witness to a most striking example of the progress of civilization.  But this is not all, for here in our busy little city we have cars, not drawn by worn-out horses nor steam, but by that most wonderful of all power - electricity.  Let our imaginations span the next half century.  Who can tell the secret mysteries it may unfold?

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