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Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad

After the passage of the Staggers Act, allowing railroads to abandon their unprofitable branches, local businessmen all over the state of Ohio alarmed at the prospect of loosing rail service approached the state for help. A program known as "Rails for Ohio" was developed to help keep businesses from leaving the state because their rail service was being terminated. ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) administered these funds which were to be used to purchase branch lines that were to be abandoned unless there was an operator interested in taking over their operation. This program is now handled by the ORDC (Ohio Rail Development Commission). The ORDC was conceived in 1994 and promotes the continuation of rail service; creates an awareness of and development of rail service within the state for both freight and passengers.

Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad materials

Ohio shortline

Located in the northeastern corner of Ohio, only a dozen miles from Lake Erie, the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Railroad is a six mile shortline offering both freight and tourist passenger service. Chartered in 1984 by local business interests to preserve the "Jefferson Industrial Track", the AC&JR today provides bulk commodity shipping and transloading services in Jefferson, Ohio -- home of the road's office, historic depot, and tourist operation. The six mile trackage is a surviving segment of a former Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway division connecting Jefferson to points north and south. Later, the line would come under the control of the New York Central, but by the late 1950s trackage south of Jefferson had been removed. Under Conrail, the line was slated for abandonment in the early 1980s, until local interests and the State of Ohio secured the property for shortline use. Tourist operations under the name Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson Scenic Line began in 1991. The AC&JR interchanges with the Norfolk Southern at its small Carson staging yard, just south of Interstate 90.

See also our action photos and video in our Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson tourist collection

Alco Safari

Since moving north of the Potomac to western Pennsylvania, I've been enjoying getting to know the railroads of a region other than the Deep South I know so well. Shortlines are my game, and there are plenty to fall in love with in the states below the Great Lakes. Already the Ashtabula, Carson & Jefferson has captured my imagination, for how could anyone not love a shortline that still turns a nickel on freight, hauls tourists on the weekends, and handles both cargo with all-Alco power? My research on the little line turned up evidence of two Alco S-2's in service, but during my first visit to Jefferson to scout out the road I could only find one switcher in sight -- the 107, neatly parked under the overhang of a former loading dock. The 518 was nowhere to be found. Not a month later, my father was visiting me and one afternoon he got the itch to go riding in the car. Where to go? I knew where ... Back to Jefferson to find the "other" Alco. I searched high and low to no avail, finally deciding that the red, white, and blue unit was either locked up in the metal engine house in town or had been removed from the property before I could shoot it. Just as we were leaving town, I took one last turn down a back street to cross the tracks one last time. There she was ... tucked down at the end of the main, surrounded by woods. Inspection confirmed my hunch: Her hauling days are over. She's for parts now, much of them already gone. Quite literally, 518 has come to the end of the line.

November 2009 update from railfan friend Nathan Clark:

Regarding the apparent fate of AC&J ALCo S2 #518, ex-CEI, nee-EL 518, neee ERIE 518, as a fellow fan of ALCo switcers and short line RRs, Ralph, I thought you might like to now know the good news about her future! As dire as things certainly looked for her when you and your father saw her at the end of track back in June, things are not as bad as they seemed in your comments. While it is true that her hauling days are over, and she has been a supply for parts (and many of them are gone), #518 has not really come to "the end of the line". In fact, she is in the process of being moved -- in pieces -- to a new home in Meadville. There, she will be fully reassembled and cosmetically restored by the French Creek Valley Railroad Historical Society to her original Erie Railroad livery and displayed with EL bay-window caboose #C356 in the park alongside U.S. Rte. 322. Since happy endings for vintage locomotives are something for which we can be thankful, I thought the news in the attached FCVRRHS meeting minutes would be apropos for the weekend following Thanksgiving Day!

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