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Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad 5/14/2013

by Chris Guenzler

I arrived in Jefferson and checked in with Sarah Jennings who let me use her cell phone to fix a personal problem I had since Lansing. We got it taken care of thanks to Bob Alikre, Elizabeth's husband in Lynnwood, Washington.

Our train on a cold morning in Jefferson.

A Brief History

The route used by the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad is one of the few remaining portions of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern's Franklin Division. Between 1871 and 1872, the LS&MS built the line southward out of Ashtabula to Andover, Ohio, where it connected with the Jamestown & Franklin Railroad and the Mahoning Coal Railroad. The Jamestown & Franklin Railroad, was built in 1871, was leased by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern and connected to the coal and oil fields of western Pennsylvania. The route was abandoned by Conrail in the late 1980's after the closure of the last coal mine on the line.

The Mahoning Coal Railroad, built in 1872-1873, was also leased by the LS&MS and the line to the coal fields in southwestern Pennsylvania, and steel mills in Youngstown {Ohio} and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The part of the line between Andover and Brookfield {both in Ohio} was abandoned by Penn Central in the early 1970's. The rest of the Mahoning Coal Railroad line remains in operation today by Norfolk Southern.

In 1903, a double tracked low grade line was built between Plymouth {now known as Carson} and Brookfield, Ohio. This new line designed to provide a more level route for the slow and heavy coal and ore trains operating between Ashtabula and Youngstown/Pittsburgh. At the same time, Carson Yard was constructed in Plymouth for the staging of coal trains to Ashtabula Harbor and of iron ore trains to Youngstown/Pittsburgh. After the new low grade line opened, the high grade route from Plymouth to Jefferson and on south to Brookfield became a dedicated passenger train route.

In 1913, these lines became part of the New York Central. Operations remained relatively unchanged until 1950, when train volumes began to decline and fewer trains operated over the line. In 1957, this route was known as the Lake Division High Grade Subdivision. At the time, there were only two trains using the route. They were the northbound Pittsburgh Buffalo Express 272 and the southbound Buffalo Pittsburgh Express 281. Both trains operated over this route in the middle of the night. Soon, the remaining passenger trains were diverted onto the low grade line and the track south of Jefferson was abandoned. At the same time, the line to Jefferson was designated as the Jefferson Industrial Track, and remained in use by Penn Central and later Conrail, until the line was put up for abandonment by Conrail in 1984. At that time, the line was part of the Youngstown Division.

Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad Company

Working with the State of Ohio, local businessmen chartered the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad in 1984. The purpose was to save the six-mile long Conrail Jefferson Industrial Track. In 1991, the AC&J created a sister company, AC&J Scenic Line to operate passenger excursion trains. Today, the railroad hauls fertilizer, paper for corrugated boxes, and plastic pellets used in injection molding. Additionally, the AC&J trans loaded bulk commodities from rail car to truck for shipment locally. Each year, the railroad hauls approximately 1200 cars. The railroad has two locomotives in use today. They are AC&J S-2 107 sn 78016 built June 1950 as NKP 45, later FP&E 107 and AC&J S-1 7371, sn 64469, built April 1941 as US Army 7371, later Hunkey-Conkey Construction 1002.

The Train

AC&J S-1 7371.

AC&J 7133 Griggs Run.

AC&J 7136 Rush Creek.

AC&J 1022 Mill Creek.

ACVX 721. This car is painted different on each side.

AC&J 201 Power Car.

AC&J Caboose 425.

A look around Jefferson

A 1918 Caboose.

The Jefferson Depot which houses a museum.

Our train and the Jefferson Depot.

AC&J S-1 7371.

A Conrail box car.

ACJR 7099.

ACJR Open Car 100.

The line of stored cars.

Two concrete whistleposts.

A switch stand.

AC&J Caboose 518573.

AC&J Caboose 518573 and AC&J S-1 107.

AC&J S-1 107.

View of the stored engine and caboose. I hoped our train would come all the way up here. If not I will at least photograph the route back to the Jefferson Depot.

Here are three views of the route back to the Jefferson Depot.

The Jefferson Depot.

Sarah Jennings checks in one of our riders for today's trip.

Our trip

At 1 PM our train departed the Jefferson Depot.

Out into the Ohio forest our train went.

An Ohio cloudy and cold early afternoon

We crossed Perry Road.

The line has great drainage.

Another tree in bloom.

The train crossed a property access dirt road.

Ties that have been replaced.

An open area in the forest.

An old signal foundation.

The baseball diamonds along our route.

There is an airplane marker out in this opening.

There are some tall trees along our route.

A better view of the airplane marker.

Trees in bloom.

The train crossed Mill Creek.

A fallen tree.

Some kind of marker along our route.

A concrete whistlepost.

The train crossed Griggs Creek.

We were almost to Griggs Road.

The train crossed Griggs Road.

You can sure see the railroad's drainage ditch in this picture.

The train crossed Morgan Road.

There is a lake near Morgan Road.

Morgan Road.

We ran by this farm on our way north.

We went under Ohio Highway 11.

Our train pulled into the Carson Yard.

A siding took off.

A series of ponds at Carson.

Santa's Toy Shop at Carson.

Views at Carson.

Another view of Santa's Toy Shop at Carson.

Cars being off loaded at Carson. This was our turn back location and I relaxed on the trip back south.

Click here for Part 2 of this story