New York Central [Penn Central]
March 28, 1971
Now here is a very uninteresting shot of a very interesting bit of railroad. Originally built as a three-foot narrow gauge line, it was intended to connect Painesville, Ohio (on Lake Erie) with Wheeling, West Virginia (on the Ohio River). After the usual trials and tribulations (and a variety of name changes) it ultimately emerged as the Lake Erie, Alliance & Wheeling Railroad running from a connection with the Erie's Cleveland & Mahoning at Phalanx, Ohio and ending up in coalfields and a connection with the Wheeling & Lake Erie at Dillonvale, along the way also crossing the Erie's mainline at Braceville and passing through Newton Falls. It was acquired by the New York Central in 1905, which it did not physically connect with. For more information on this little-known bit of the New York Central see George W. Hilton's American Narrow Gauge Railroads (Stanford University Press, 1990).
USGS maps as late as 1948 show a diamond crossing at Braceville, but later maps show only an easbound connection onto the Erie for northbound trains and a westbound connection for southbound ones; the connection at Phalanx would only allow northbound trains to head west on the Cleveland & Mahoning. It's just a guess, but I suspect that this line was used at times by the Erie to route eastbound trains on the Chicago line to the Cleveland & Mahoning line, and west from there to Cleveland (and vice versa). In any case the line from Braceville to Phalanx was abandoned by the New York Central in 1962, between Braceville and Newton Falls (by Penn Central) in 1969, and most of the remainder in following years. However, in 1971 the line was still there, as seen in this view from Ohio State Route 5 looking south. The bridge in the distance crosses the Mahoning River West Branch.
Many years ago I was told by a longtime resident of Warren that a "doodlebug" (probably a gas-electric of some kind) used to serve the northern end of this line, though I've found no hard evidence of this. A January, 1930 copy of the Official Guide does show one train a day each way between Dillonville and Phalanx, Ohio; by 1943 the line was marked "freight only."
This page posted 7/1/2018. Text and photo ©2018 Lamont Downs.