Pennsylvania Railroad, Zanesville Branch


Former Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley Railroad from Morrow to Zanesville

Standard gauge line opened between 1853 and 1856

Downtown terminal: Pan Handle Station (Pearl & Butler Streets)

Dismantled between Morrow and Wilmington, in use east of Wilmington


(The following write-up is adapted from the website Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan)


R.B. Harlan, a representative from Clinton County in the Lower House of the Legislature, introduced a bill asking for a new railroad line named the Cincinnati, Wilmington and Zanesville Railroad. The charter was granted February 4, 1851. The route of the line ran from Morrow in Warren County through the counties of Clinton, Fayette, Pickaway, Fairfield, Perry, and a portion of Muskingum to Zanesville. Wilmington was added to the name in honor of the County in which the bill was introduced. The 1882 Clinton County history expressed that the line would be a great through trunk line. But the mistake, according to the history, was in connecting it to the Little Miami Railroad at Morrow and using its facilities thence to Cincinnati.

Surveys and estimates were completed from Morrow to Lancaster, a distance of 90 miles, in November 1850. Fairfield County commissioners subscribed $250,000 for the payment of which bonds were issued bearing seven percent. These bonds were sold throughout all the counties in which the line operated. The allotted funds were used for bridges, tunnels, ties and the essential part of the iron. The building contract was awarded to A. DeGraff, with Clinton County subscribing $200,000 for its construction. Actual work was commenced in December 1851, though extensive bridge building and rough terrain between Morrow and Clarksville slowed construction. Track laying began at Morrow in the latter part of March 1853 and in August the road was completed to Wilmington. On the 11th of that month a grand celebration was held. From 10,000 to 15,000 folks were present, including about 2,000 who arrived on the 11:15 a.m. train of 20 cars. On August 15, 1853, trains began running regularly between Cincinnati and Wilmington, one a day each way, the fare being set at $1.60 per trip.

Mr. Linton, a Representative of the Ohio Legislature from Fayette County, requested that the town of Washington Court House be included in the charter, but "this the gentleman from Wilmington refused to do." Judge Daniel McLain was employed as a representative of the people of Washington C.H. to go to Columbus and express their interest. He eventually succeeded in securing the preferred change. Judge McLain was elected one of the directors of the new railroad. He took a number of trips to the east, and by November 1852, over two thousand tons of Swedish made iron rail had reached New Orleans headed for Cincinnati. With the terminus of the road being at Morrow, instead of Cincinnati, the earnings of the road were insufficient to meet the expense.

The original charter of the General Assembly of 1850 approved authorization of taking a certain amount of stock in the newly formed railroad, provided a majority of the people favored the measure and would so vote at a specified general election. All approved of this measure except Perry County. Two principal routes were favored in Perry County, New Lexington or Rush Creek Valley, and the Somerset Route. Each raised about $100,000 with stipulations that the road be made on a specified line. It was not until September 1852, that a decision was made at Zanesville to locate on the New Lexington or Rush Creek Valley route. In the summer of 1854 the citizens of Perry County and New Lexington witnessed the first train from the West. For several months the train stopped at this place for the transfer of passengers and mail from railroad car to stages bound for Zanesville; the reason for this maneuver was because of the construction of a tunnel, located three miles east of New Lexington.


The road to Washington C.H. was completed November 24, 1853, and the trains started their run on that day. Regular trains began running through to Zanesville in 1856, the total mileage from Morrow being 132. Opening of this railroad established transportation between Cincinnati and all eastern seaboards, by connecting with the original Central Ohio Railroad.

The railroad began to have financial difficulties almost from the beginning. The company was unable to comply with the conditions of the mortgage, having taken out first, second and third mortgage bonds. The monies were expended in the construction and equipment of the road. On February 22, 1857, a court decision was made through a receiver in the case, to exercise authority to take possession of the road and property, and to "operate the road for the interest of all parties concerned." The road was operated under this decree until a plan of reorganization was perfected. The court ordered on June 10, 1863, that the mortgaged property be sold, with such sale to go toward all debts and liabilities. The sale was confirmed October 17, 1863, the buyer being Charles Moran of New York. Stipulations were made that the creditors and stockholders should be made "recognizable as a body corporate," and the railroad should be run under the charter.

A name change was made to the railroad on March 10, 1864, under the new title of the Cincinnati & Zanesville Railroad Company. It was still to be operated under the original franchises of the Cincinnati, Wilmington & Zanesville Railroad. Moran deeded property to the operation held by him in trust. Erasmus Gest was selected as the new president and superintendent. The newly organized company now saw daylight at the end of the tunnel. In a period of 26 months a balance of $80,000 was placed to the credit of the road and invested in rolling stock and improvements. In due time however a failure in the payment of its obligation caused its downfall. On December 1, 1869, the road with all its franchises, real estate, machine shops, depot buildings, and rolling stock was sold at auction at the door of the Cincinnati Court House, the purchaser being Thomas L. Jewett, President of the Pennsylvania Central Company. The purchase price was $1,004,000. (One source says "$1,400,000.") Jewett operated the road under his complete control until September 1, 1870, when the Cincinnati & Muskingum Valley railroad Company came into possession of it. On May 1, 1873, the road was leased by the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad Company (Pan Handle), a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad, under lease for 99 years.


Control by the Pan Handle and Pennsylvania Railroad proper lasted through the Penn Central merger. This and other lines were shuffled around to various PRR and NYC parents in the 1960s but it was eventually abandoned between Morrow and Wilmington, apparently in conjunction with the remainder of the PRR/Little Miami in the mid 1970s.


Photographs from Morrow to Wilmington


Return to Index