Old 04-20-2006, 11:12 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Columbus, Ohio
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Default The Hunt for Moxahala (part II)

Even if I'm not in train-chasing/exploring/adventuring mode, I always enjoy a nice drive to see the scenery. This trip was sort of like that. As I headed away from town, it didn't take long to notice the land begin to change. By the time I reached Pickerington, a newly developed suburb southeast of Columbus, I already noticed slight undulations in the ground. Though still generally flat, it was interesting watching the hills develop.


I took state route 256 east outside of Pickerington, and before long I was in the country. I got somewhat of a late start on the day, and the sun was shining brightly overhead as it tends to do around noontime. SR 256 follows the line in this first segment outside of town for the most part, so I was happily cruising along at 55-60 simply enjoying the ride. The first town encountered is Baltimore. It's larger than you may think, but still small compared to what I'm used to in the city. The line runs along the north side of town and runs directly east-west at this point.


Next up is the small community of Thurston. Half to two-thirds the size of Baltimore, you can drive through it in less than 2 minutes. Here the line turns to the southeast. Even though Thurston is small, it does have a grain elevator and also sports a passing siding. Thurston incidentally was where the original Toledo and Ohio Central line split. Though both lines originally terminated in Toledo, the existing active line continues east back to Columbus and then north on to Toledo (via the CSX), while the other (now abandoned portion) continued north out of Thurston through Bucyrus and Fostoria.


After Thurston, I decided to ditch the state route and tried to follow the line as closely as possible using the county and township roads. Instantly on these lesser traveled roads, I noticed the terrain become hillier. I was able to keep the track in view, but it was slow going as I had to map check at every stop and turn to make sure that I was heading in the right direction.

While heading in a general southeasterly direction, I came across US 22 at West Rushville. I wound up getting turned around and headed west on 22, but I straightened the ship around and was back on course for Bremen, the next large town on the map. Meanwhile, all this time the radio was silent. Nothing to even hint a train was coming.

Once I reached Bremen, the terrain was now becoming hilly. The track and most of the major state routes follow the valleys, but the views of the surrounding countryside are nice due to the gradual slopes. This area was very scenic, with lots of well maintained hillsides and farms. Nice landscape photo ops abound. Still no trains, though.


At Bremen the line takes an abrupt turn to the east. The NYC shared the stretch between Bremen and New Lexington with a former and now abandoned PRR line. Both railroads crossed the B&O (also abandoned) at none other than Junction City. I can only imagine what a different and busy place this area must have been back in the day. Though Junction City is still a well kept town, there isn't much evidence that it was once the center of three Class 1 railroads.

Once I reached New Lexington, I was getting kind of hungry. Lucky for me the town was large enough to have many fast food establishments from which to choose. New Lexington on the whole is a very nice town, one that I wouldn't mind living in if I worked in the area. It's basically a town in, on, and around a large hill. Uptown is actually the downtown commercial district that I suppose where the original city was founded, with residential area taking up the hill sides and the newest development is relegated to the bottom where the Secondary passes through. (Did I mention still no trains? Keep reading it will change eventually)

After I ate, I thought I would try to locate the first tunnel, the New Lexington, which I heard interestingly enough actually runs beneath the Perry County Airport. After a false start exiting town, I finally found the correct route I intended and was on my way. Before I knew it, the county road began to crumble which was more than my little boat could take. I carefully continued on as I waived past 4x4s and other motorists more brave and confident of the terrain as I poked along at less than 20 mph. I found a couple good photo opportunities for a later date at a one lane bridge.



The heavily pocked gravel road twisted up and around for a while when along came a tall barbed-wire fence visible up above that paralleled the roadway. This must be the airport, but I couldn't confirm anything since it was at a higher elevation. It started to look like finding the short New Lexington tunnel would have to wait until next time.

Next was trying to find the Moxahala tunnel. Once I was back on paved roads, I made it to the town of Moxahala, which is pretty much a row of homes in a valley backed up along the right of way. When I arrived I wasn't sure where the tunnel was at first. After I made many checks of all my maps and made a couple loops around on the county roads, I determined that it would be a hike to reach the portal, so I delayed finding it so I could continue following the line south. (Still no trains, by the way)

Continuing southward, the line parallels SR 13 through the scenic Wayne National Forest. At this point the road twists and turns, but does open up on occasion so I was able to reach speeds close to 60 mph. I managed to see the passing siding at Corning from the road, as well as a new coal facility south of Glouster. I continued merrily along my way south through small town after small town; Rendville, Jacksonville, and Trimble to name a few. I even found the time to stop at Hatfield for a shot of a truss hidden in the trees. It wasn't until I reached Chauncey that I got my first sign of train life on the radio.


It seems that a track inspector was looking for permission for some time to work the right of way around Chauncey though the dispatcher advised that he had one at Hobson that was going to head north. This resulted in a waiting game for me, since he told the inspector that he would alert him as to when he needed to clear but he had at least an hour before then. In the meantime, I thought I would have enough time to try to head down to Hobson and meet the train, but not before driving around Chauncey and finding this charred structure:


I kicked it up a notch and drove with a little more urgency, though still safely. Once I reached Athens, the largest town in the region and home to Ohio University, I filled up the car for $32.00, and picked up US 33. I consistently kept speeds up around 60 mph, though the Secondary was never in sight. The scenery was nice again, but you really get the feeling that you're "on top of the world" and not in the valleys as was the case a few times before. Once I reached state route 7, I was at the Ohio River which continues down to Kanauga and Gallipolis where the line crosses over into West Virginia at the Kanawha River. Though I didn't make it that far, I continued looking for Hobson yard. There hadn't been any chatter on the radio since I heard it earlier at Chauncey, so I wasn't sure if the train was heading north or was still getting ready to depart. Hobson yard is not easy to find, and it really isn't what I expected once I found it. It consisted of a new looking yard office and maybe two or three tracks. It was tucked away off the main roads with `No Trespassing' signs, so I made a quick glance and determined that the train must have already departed, though I still wasn't 100% sure.By now it was four o'clock and I started back north to see if I could find the Moxahala tunnel and maybe meet the train there. As I continued on my way, nothing indicated that the train departed. One thing I noticed about the line is that there are no signals that I could find. Since I'm not sure how railroad operations work, I thought the silence on the radio was due to the fact that the crew did not have to call out any signal indications if in fact, there were none.

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