Railfanning in Wellington

Railroads have been part of Wellington for generations and there is still much to see here!  The main attraction is CP-37, which is the junction of CSX's busy line to Chicago and the Wheeling & Lake Erie's Hartland Subdivision.  With nearly five dozen trains per day between these two railroads there is always plenty of action.  The Wellington Upground Reservoir (accessible from Jones Road or Erie Street) is a popular location for those wanting to see the action on CSX.  Some W&LE action can also be seen from here, though it may require a short hike when a train is approaching (usually foretold via radio permission to cross CSX).  There are also numerous grade crossings to view from.  The crossing on West Herrick Avenue is next to a municipal parking lot, making it a convenient base.

The Lake Shore Railway Association operates a tourist rail line on a portion of the former Lorain & West Virginia on the west side of town.  Check their website for details on trip schedules.  Some equipment is visible from their crossings on State Route 18, but trespassing on their property is strictly forbidden.

 

Wellington's Rail History

Railroads have been an integral part of Wellington's history since the first train arrived here in 1851.  That was the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Rail Road Company, which had been chartered in 1836 to build between its three namesake cities.  The "CCC" merged with the Bellefontaine Railroad in 1868 to form the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railway.  This company was merged with several others in 1889 to form the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad.  The CCC&StL was commonly referred to here and elsewhere along the line as the "Big Four Route."  Even today, the lines are frequently referred to as "The Big Four."  CCC&StL came under the control of The New York Central System, which was controlled by the Vanderbilt family, in 1906 but was largely operated as a separate company until NYC's merger in 1968 with Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central Corporation.  This line then became part of Conrail in 1976 when the US Congress approved the creation of Consolidated Rail Corporation to keep freight rail in the Northeast and eastern Midwest from disappearing.  When Conrail was bought out and split up in 1998 this line became part of CSX Transportation.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway built their line through Wellington in 1880 when they were connecting Huron to Massillon.  In 1949, W&LE was leased to Nickel Plate Road (NKP), which merged with Norfolk & Western in 1964.  In 1982, N&W merged with Southern Railway to form Norfolk Southern.  Through all of this, Wheeling and Lake Erie existed on paper as an independent railroad wholely owned by each of these companies.  But in 1989, NS dissolved the company as part of a broad plan to simplify their corporate structure and to rationalize their routes.  This rationalization formally occurred in 1990 and at that time NS sold off many branch lines and secondary main lines that were purchased by startup shortline railroads.  One of these startups was a new company named Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway and they purchased much of the original W&LE track, which is now part of an 850 mile regional rail network.

In 1907, two other railroads were built in Wellington: Lorain, Ashland & Southern; and Lorain & West Virginia.  L&WV was built by Wheeling & Lake Erie from the west side of town to the steel mill in Lorain.  This was operated a through railroad until a massive flood in 1969 washed out part of the line.  Service was maintained for several more years from both endpoints.  LA&S was built by Joseph Ramsey as part of a larger line that connected the steel mill in Lorain to the Pennsylvania Railroad south of Ashland at a point called Custaloga.  This company was never financially successful and was finally scrapped in the 1940s.