The CSX New Castle Subdivision is a key link in CSXT's Chicago-Baltimore mainline. At the west end in Greenwich OH we can find the new connection with the ex-Conrail (nee Big Four) Indianapolis Line, now known as the CSXT Greenwich Subdivision, which funnels CSXT's traffic to/from Chicago and New York City. At the east end we find New Castle PA, where the mainline continues east toward Pittsburgh as the ex-PL&E Pittsburgh Subdivision. Located in northeast and north central Ohio, as well as a smidgen of Western Pennsylvania, the New Castle Subdivision runs through some beautiful countryside as well as old heavy industrial areas...the buckle of the Rust Belt, as it were.
IN THE BEGINNING...God and Man created the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which was chartered in 1827 to run from the namesake town of Baltimore, Maryland to somewhere on the Ohio River (certain details could wait until 1835, when the destination was resolved to be Wheeling, Virginia). Once reached, the Ohio River would provide grain shipments to be transloaded onto freight trains heading back east for export out of the Port of Baltimore.
Okay, so it didn't quite work out that way. By the time that the B&O reached its intended goal at Wheeling in 1852, a full 10 years since it had reached Cumberland, the target had splintered and shifted some 475 miles further northwest to the lakeshore town of Chicago, 575 miles due west to St. Louis, and northeast to Pittsburgh, requiring seperate rail lines that the railroad was ill equipped and financed to build entirely on her own.
The original B&O line to Wheeling from Cumberland was originally the sole railroad line at Grafton, heading northwest toward Wheeling, bypassing Pittsburgh on the way to the West. This provided the anchor for the original B&O route to Chicago, which wouldn't be reached by the B&O until 1873. A second B&O line to the West from Grafton (in the form of the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, later known at the B&O Parkersburg Branch) went due west to Parkersburg VA, and ultimatly became the anchor of B&O's St. Louis-Cincinnati-Baltimore mainline. Pittsburgh itself was finally reached in 1873 by proxy line Connelsville & Pittsburgh RR, including the ever-popular Sand Patch grade, running north and west from Cumberland.
This is a portion of a map of the B&O in 1891. As you can see, there is yet no through route from Pittsburgh to Chicago that taps the Akron/Youngstown industrial center, nor is there yet B&O rail between Akron and Chicago Junction (now known as Willard OH). Through traffic from Baltimore and Philadelphia to Chicago had to go by way of the fabled and torturious West End from Cumberland MD to Grafton WV.
Map kindly provided by The 1891 Grain Dealers and Shippers Gazetteer © 1999-2002 Pam Rietsch
What The B&O now needed was a direct link between Pittsburgh and Chicago that also tapped the industry-rich Youngstown/Akron/Cleveland region. To achieve this, the railroad cobbled together an amalgomation of the Pittsburgh & Western RR (P&W) between New Castle PA and Akron OH with brand new B&O right-of-way between Akron and Chicago Junction OH that was called the Akron & Chicago Junction RR (A&CJ).
The P&W was absorbed into the B&O at the beginning of the 20th century after starting as a seperate entity that connected Pittsburgh with Akron and with Lake Erie at Fairport OH. In 1890 it caught the fancy of B&O officials who were looking to lease and/or purchase their way west to Chicago from Pittsburgh, who then integrated it with their own mainline from Cumberland. Simultaneous with this action, the B&O began building the A&CJ from Akron to Chicago Junction.
The portion of the New Castle SD that was originally P&W runs from New Castle PA to Youngstown OH. West of Youngstown is rail that B&O eventually built to Cuyahoga Falls OH in order to bypass the original P&W route which followed the West Branch of the Mahoning River. West of Akron is rail that the B&O built to connect Akron with a location they called Chicago Junction then, and that we call Willard today.
The Akron & Chicago Junction RR was built by and for the B&O in 1890-91 between Akron and Chicago Junction. It is the only stretch on rail of today's New Castle Subdivision that the B&O built brand-new without buying into an exisiting railroad.
Chicago Junction was along the proxy B&O mainline from Wheeling to Newark (in the form of the Central Ohio RR) and Newark to Sandusky (known as the Sandusky, Mansfield, and Newark RR). Here they connected with the "new" mainline (circa 1873) built by the B&O westward from Chicago Junction OH to Chicago IL, which was called Baltimore & Ohio & Chicago RR. Chicago Junction was therefore an important location on the B&O's Cumberland-Chicago mainline before the introduction of the lines connecting it with Akron, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh.
The first train from Chicago Junction to Pittsburgh departed on August 15, 1891, formally opening the B&O connection between Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Akron, and Chicago.
Chicago Junction was re-named Willard in 1917 in honor of Daniel Willard, the President of the B&O. Willard OH was the traditional end of the New Castle SD, although in the post-Conrail reorganization the end has been truncated at Greenwich OH.
The Pittsburgh & Lake Erie RR and the Pennsylvania RR had the enviable river valley running through the mountainous territory north and west of Pittsburgh, leaving the B&O's P&W line a hilly, curvy second sister to both of them. All three converged at New Castle PA. The PRR was a bitter rival to the B&O, while P&LE was a New York Central holding. So it was P&LE that B&O approached seeking trackage rights to send its passenger and priority traffic in 1934, bypassing the P&W between Pittsburgh and New Castle (which is today known as the P&W Subdivision). This arrangement continued past the Penn Central era as P&LE escaped the bankrupcy by arguing its independence from the fallen giant. CSX purchased the P&LE in the early 1990's, and the bulk of it is today known as the Pittsburgh Subdivision, with a tiny portion of it grafted onto the New Castle Subdivision just south of New Castle PA.
The New Castle Subdivision, our Sweet Lady Newcastle, is part of CSXT's important through-route between Chicago/St. Louis/Cincinnati/Detroit and the Mid-Atlantic region. She also generates a significant amount of traffic on her own. Because of her varied topography, busy traffic patterns, and interesting operations in numerous locations (Youngstown, Akron/Cuyahoga Falls, Warwick, Sterling, and Greenwich), we find ourselves favoring her company.
This is the B&O Akron Subdivision in 1964. Much has changed in 73 years. Here we see that Akron has been connected to Chicago Junction, that the original mainline from Wheeling to Chicago Junction (now Willard) is now branch status, and that the original P&W route from Ohio Junction at Youngstown to both Newton Falls and Fairport remains. It also appears that the CL&W is still bringing coal up from West Virginia directly to the Lorain Docks.
Map kindly provided by Don Narris' fine Ohio Railroad Page © 1997-2002 Don Narris
The CSXT New Castle Subdivision, as well as the CL&W and Cleveland Subdivisions, are all controlled by the AT desk at Jacksonville, Florida on radio channel AAR 14.
The Greenwich Subdivision is controlled by the IF desk on the ex-CR channel AAR 46. The Pittsburgh, Mon, and P&W Subdivisions are controlled by the AS desk on AAR 14.
The Willard Terminal Sub is Controlled by the AT Desk Monday thru Friday Second & Third Trick only, by the BD Desk Monday thru Friday First Trick only, and by the AT Desk all tricks on Saturday & Sunday.
The Willard Train Director does not control movement over the mainline. He instead directs traffic into and out of the yard. He controls movement throughout the yard and he must give a train permission W/B by 3rd Street into the yard limits and E/B by Daniels Rd. into the yard limits. He also has control over many of the power operated switches at the east end of the W/B Receiving Yard and certain switches at each end of the Departure Yard. He will assist trains in securing permission from Jacksonville to depart, but he does not control any signals for, switches on, or movement over the main tracks.
Schlerf, Gary W., B&O Lines in Northeastern Ohio,
article from The Sentinel Volume 19, numbers 1 & 2,
published by the Baltimore & Ohio Historical Society (1997).
Matt Reese's Northern West Virginia Railroads Website (the standard
by which I judge all other railfan websites)
Allen Brougham's priceless online resource Bullsheet.com
City of Willard, Ohio Website
City of Akron, Ohio Website
Skiblonski, V.E., email dated 6.8.02 detailing radio informtion
Skiblonski, V.E., email dated 6.9.02 detailing Warren OH Local operations
Skiblonski, V.E., email dated 7.28.02 detailing Mon coal to New York
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