History of the Byesville Scenic Railway

(Please note- under construction)


The Marietta Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad   The route of the Byesville Scenic Railway was originally built as the "Marietta & Pittsburgh" Railway during 1871-1873.  The main purpose for the building of the rail line was to haul coal from the once numerous deep mines south of Cambridge. The original line was 103 miles long, originating in Marietta.  Moving northward, the line passed through the cities of Caldwell, Byesville, Cambridge, Newcomerstown, and Dover, which was the end of line.  In the late 1800's the line was eventually reorganized as the Cleveland & Marietta Railway.  The line eventually became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), which already owned a rail line from Dover north to Bayard, and another rail line from Bayard north to Cleveland.  Under PRR ownership, the line was an integral part of the direct link between Cleveland and Marietta. Despite the fact the road did join its namesake cities, it eventually would simply become known as the "Marietta Branch” of the Pennsylvania Railroad.


Coal Mining and the Marietta Branch   At one time dozens of deep coal mines existed south of Cambridge, employing thousands of miners.  In the early part of the 1900’s, these mines generated hundreds of carloads everyday for the Marietta Branch.  There were a total of twelve deep mines located along the 3.5 mile route you are traveling today.  Along the way you can still see several roadbeds of the tracks that once switched away from the mainline and went to the now abandoned mines.


Busy times on the Marietta Branch  The Marietta Branch was in its heyday during the early 1900's.  The majority of traffic on the line consisted of trainloads of coal moving north to the great lakes (and an equal amount of empty hoppers moving south for reloading at the mines).  At one time the line was so busy that a northbound coal train would leave Cambridge every 20 minutes.  Until the early 1930’s, a daily passenger train also operated over the line round trip between Cleveland and Marietta.


The Route of Today’s Excursion Train  The 3.5 mile long portion of the Marietta Branch of which the train operates today is from milepost 52.8 in downtown Byesville to milepost 49.3 in Derwent (these mileposts are measured in miles from Marietta as you would travel north on the railroad).  Today, the mileposts you see along the way (mileposts 5, 6, 7, & 8) reflect the 1970's "re-numbering" of the milepost as measured in miles from near Union Station in Cambridge.


The Longest Straight Stretch on the Marietta Branch  The 2 ½ mile long section of track you will travel from south of Byesville to Derwent was the longest straight stretch of track on the Marietta Branch.  It is said that back in the early 1900’s, this is where trains running behind schedule would make up lost time by exceeding speeds of more than 60 mph.  Points of interest along this stretch of the track include the two bridges that will carry the excursion train over Wills Creek: Number 5 bridge (built in 1898) and Number 4 bridge (built in 1907).


The NMP&T Street Car Line  A streetcar line ran directly side-by-side along the 2 ½ mile segment from Byesville to Derwent. This was the "New Midland Power & Traction Company" which ran from Cambridge to Byesville, Derwent, and Pleasant City.  The NMP&T was abandoned in the late 1920's, but the roadbed of this line is quite visible to this day. Where the streetcar line crossed Wills Creek, the foundations of the trestle bents are visible when water levels are sufficiently low.


Crossing the B&O at "N Cabin" (or "C&M Crossing")  A once very busy place along the Marietta Branch was a site called "N Cabin", which is located half-way between Derwent and Pleasant City.  Although the excursion train does not operate all the way to N Cabin at this time, it is hoped that this segment of the line will be opened for excursion service by early next year.  N Cabin is where the Marietta Branch crossed the B&O Railroad's "Eastern Ohio Branch".  A telegraph operator was situated there in a small one story structure to hand up orders to trains crossing the "diamond".  An interesting note is that this crossover was called different names by the PRR and the B&O. The crossing was referred to as "N cabin" by the PRR, but it was called "C&M Crossing" or “Albin” by the B&O (Albin was the name of the family which owned the land prior to the arrival of the railroads).


The Slow Decline of the Marietta Branch  The amount of coal (and general freight) traffic on the line began to decrease starting in the 1920's and would fall significantly up through the 1970's.  It was during this period that the nation's railroads were losing more and more business to the trucking industry.  The invention of the automobile also had an adverse effect on the line.  It was not long after mass production of the automobile began in the early 1900's that ridership on the Marietta Branch began to decrease. The revenue lost was significant enough that the PRR finally discontinued the daily passenger train between Cleveland and Marietta in 1933.  Although freight service continued on, by the 1970’s trains no longer operated south through Byesville on a daily basis, but rather on a weekly basis.


The B&O Starts Running Through Byesville 1966  In 1966, the B&O abandoned it’s Eastern Ohio Branch from C&M Crossing eastward to Buffalo, Senecaville, and Lore City.  The track west of C&M crossing to Blue Bell and Cumberland was left intact so that rail service could be maintained with Central Ohio Coal, who was still a significant customer at the time. In order for B&O trains to access the line from C&M Crossing to Cumberland, the B&O obtained trackage rights over the Marietta Branch from Cambridge to Byesville, Derwent and N Cabin.


The Abandonment of the Marietta Branch 1976  In 1968 the Pennsylvania Railroad merged with long-time rival New York Central to form the Penn Central Railroad. As it would happen, the merger was a failure and within just a few years the Penn Central was bankrupt.  In 1976, the Penn Central, along with several other struggling railroads in the eastern U.S. became part of Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail), which was created to transform the nation's troubled railroad network into a profitable business.  One immediate impact of the Conrail merger was the abandonment of thousands of miles of "low revenue" branch lines.  Unfortunately, the Marietta Branch was determined to be among the branch lines eligible for abandonment.  In May 1976 the last train would operate over the line from Marietta to Dover.  After the last train, almost the entire line was abandoned.  The only portion of track left intact was from just east of Cambridge Union Station, south to Byesville, Derwent, and N Cabin  (milepost 57.8 to 48.6).  This section of track was then sold to the B&O / Chessie System.  From that point forward, the rail line through Byesville was just considered as part of the B&O Railroad’s “Eastern Ohio Branch”.


B&O Trains Continue to Run Through Byesville 1976-1986  After Conrail abandoned, B&O trains continued to operate over the line from Cambridge to Cumberland via Byesville. The trains primarily consisted of carloads of ammonium nitrate (an explosive used in mining) for Central Ohio Coal.  During this time, 2-3 trains per week on the line were common.  One significant event in the early 1980’s was the rebuilding of the track from south of Cambridge, through Byesville, south to N cabin.  New ties and ballast were put down, and the old jointed rail was replaced with continuous welded rail.  Because the continuous welded rail has no joints, you do not hear the “clickety-clack” of the wheels while riding on the train.


The End of Rail Service to Cumberland 1986-1993  In 1986, regular rail service to Cumberland ended when bulk transfer silos were built at Woodlawn Avenue in Cambridge.  Here the ammonium nitrate was unloaded from train and transferred by truck to Central Ohio Coal.  This meant the end of regular rail service to Cumberland via Byesville.  From that point forward, rail service to Cumberland via Byesville was infrequent and rail movements over the line were considered as “extras”.  During this time weeks or months would pass before another train would travel the line.  These infrequent movements usually consisted of oversized equipment for Central Ohio Coal.  On several occasions trains of ballast or leased cars/locomotives for the Muskingum Electric Railway were moved over the line.  Also during this time, the Chessie System Railroad merged with the Seaboard System, forming CSX.  As CSX grew, low-revenue branch lines such as the line from Cambridge to Cumberland became less important.  Maintenance of the track was deferred, and the line began to deteriorate.  The last train to Cumberland via Byesville was a small diesel switcher engine for Muskingum Electric Railway in October 1993.


A handful of trains to Derwent via Byesville 1994-1998  Although no more trains would run to Cumberland, a handful of trains operated through Byesville to Derwent during the period from 1993 to 1998.  In Derwent, BSI manufactured and shipped by rail several large pressure vessels that were too large to move by truck.  These shipments would be the last on the  rail line before the flood of 1998, which devastated the track south of Byesville.  The flood completely washed away the roadbed from under the track in many spots, moving the track out of alignment and leaving it dangling several feet in the air.  It would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild the line before it would be ready for rail service.


The CIC takes over 1999-2000  Due to the considerable cost of rebuilding the line, CSX petitioned to completely abandon the track from Byesville to Cumberland in 1999.  In order to maintain rail service with BSI in Derwent, the Cambridge-Guernsey Community Improvement Corp. (CIC) stepped in and purchased the line from Main Street in Byesville south to Derwent in 2000.  Reconstruction of the line from Byesville to Derwent began in the Winter of 2001 and the track was once again ready for service by the end of the year.


Trains return to Byesville in 2003  2003 was an exciting year for the village of Byesville.  Throughout the winter and spring of that year, local leaders negotiated with the Buckeye Central Scenic Railroad to loan their train for use in Byesville.  That June the BCSR excursion train arrived in Byesville just in time for the Jonathon Bye Days festival. It had been 70 years since a passenger train has last operated through Byesville, and hundreds of people came to ride the train. 


The Byesville Scenic Railway  In 2006 the Byesville Scenic Railway was formed to resume operations of the Byesville excursion train.  The mission of the Byesville Scenic Railway is as follows:  To preserve, restore, maintain and operate historic and vintage railway equipment and to provide scenic train rides featuring a living history of the local coal mines. To promote, create and maintain a railroad and coal mining museum and display site for the education and entertainment of the general public, to assist in the economic development of the area and to operate same as a non-profit organization.  In June of 2006 the Byesville Scenic Railway acquired its own GE 80 tonner locomotive and two passenger cars for exclusive use in Byesville.  Since then, thousands of riders have enjoyed our 1 hour round trip excursions.  We have hosted many tour groups and school charters and have featured many special events and excursions such as:


    Coal Miners Festival and Steam Weekend with Ohio Central steam locomotive  No.1293

    Wine Tasting Excursions

    Halloween  Excursions

    Veterans Day Excursions

    Spirit of Christmas Excursions


Since 2006 we have also made many improvements to our rail infrastructure.  We have installed thousands of crossties to ensure a safe and smooth, enjoyable ride.  In the Fall of 2007, we built a siding for our train at our station in Byesville, allowing for switching of cars and passage of potential freight movements over the line.  As of November 2009, we have expanded our original excursion route by 1.5 miles.  We now travel beyond the State Route 821 crossing to our "Milepost 10", near old "Banner Mine" (NW of Pleasant City, OH) over refurbished rails of the old B&O Eastern Ohio Branch.


The future of the Byesville Scenic Railway  The Byesville Scenic Railway is now working to re-open the remaining 7 1/2 miles of the old B&O Eastern Ohio Branch from the milepost 10 (near Pleasant City) southwest to Cumberland.  Once this section of track is re-opened, the route of our passenger excursion will be 25 miles round trip.  After our expansion to Cumberland, someday our excursion train could possibly operate a few miles further southwest near the huge wild animal preserve known as The Wilds to enjoy one of their safari tour adventures.


We would like to thank you for your interest in the Byesville Scenic Railway.  We hope you will come ride with us soon!


Copyright  ©  2006-2010 Byesville Scenic Railway