Because You Asked . . . .    

Trestle over Big Walnut Creek Collapses in 1878


Railroad Costs Villages Money and Lives

Four years after the railroad opened, the trestle over the Big Walnut Creek east of Sunbury toppled under a train. It was quickly rebuilt but the new trestle collapsed in 1912. That had to be rebuilt.

The late Essa Willison told of being awakened during the night in the early 1900s by the pounding of posts into Vernon Street where it crossed the railroad and connected to Letts Avenue.  The railroad closed the street so they would not have to stop there and have a trainman walk the train over the crossing in compliance with a new state law.  Thus the subway over Columbus Street was built.  However while dynamiting the hill out for Columbus Street, a large rock hit the house at 466 S. Old 3C Road, destroying much of the front of the house.  The village had to build the subway, extend Letts Avenue to connect to Columbus Street and fix the house now owned by Roger Fravel.

The Director of Highways also ordered a subway built on Granville Street.  Due to the terrain, the road was very steep going under the subway.  Finally in 1928 a new subway was built and the road from the corner of Cherry and Vernon Street to the corner of Cherry and Morning Streets then up the hill to 210 Granville Street, where John Whitney lives, was dug out to make the grade easier for cars and trucks.

In 1909, the train plowed through a hear of William Barton's cows on his farm where Barleycorn homes are west of South Columbus Street in Sunbury.  Several cows were killed.  Charles Pierson's car was hit at Condit station and one was killed.  In 1913 a section hand working on the railroad was stabbed to death. 

In 1933 an unknown trapper discovered a broken rail, flagged down the train, thus preventing a wreck.  in 1937 a man was hit at the edge of the trestle.  Morgan Ruffner, Galena School superintendent, was killed when the train hit his car at the crossing early in January 1939.

Trains burned coal to heat the water to make the steam.  For seven months in 1946 there was no train service due to the coal miner's strike. Many grass fires were started from sparks as the trains chugged along.  In the late 1940s, my family road a passenger train to Orrville, Ohio, for lunch.  The only thing near the train station was a greasy spoon restaurant.  The train ride was sooty but we children thought it was great.

I remember my father, Bill Whitney, bringing the train crews to our house for holiday dinners so they would not have to eat on the trains which were stopped but the engines kept running to make it easier to build up steam to start the train the next day.  One day he brought a man who claimed he was King of the Hoboes home for dinner.  We thought it was very exciting to eat dinner with a king.  My mother just rolled her eyes.  In 1958 when we were in New York City in the Bowery, his picture was on the front of the newspaper under the headline, King of the Hoboes.  Not everyone in town was pleased with the hoboes who rode the rails under the trains or stole rides in the freight cars. They marked homes where they could get a meal for doing chores.  My family has many fond memories of these homeless men.  There was an old cabin near the railroad which had once been used as the Republican Club but later became know as hobo haven.

A train jumped the track at the overpass near Nestles in 1952.  Someone had thrown the switch which would send the train to the Nestles' siding.  The speed of the train did not allow it to make the turn.  Fortunately no one was seriously hurt.

Galena railroad station closed in 1932.  Sunbury station was only open half a day but low passenger rates boosted train travel  in 1936.  In 1955 a new railroad station was built just east of the original station.  While it was being built, ten crewmen lived in a house car, complete with kitchen in Westerville.  The station was manned by W.S. Tallman, who retired in 1963 with 52 years of service with the Pennsylvanian Railroad.

In 1984 the railroad closed.  The property was purchased by individuals.  A bike and walking path is now open from Columbus Street to the Big Walnut Middle School.

. . . .And Now You Know
by Polly Horn

rr1878Wreck.jpg (137534 bytes)

1878 Train Wreck
Collapses Trestle 

RRafter1878wreck.jpg (361507 bytes)


Derailed in 1952

Crane Putting Train on Track

RR-Crane.jpg (113629 bytes)

Subway On 

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(04/06/2009 )