The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway, erring more on the history side than anything, has been providing volunteer-operated weekend train excursions from Nelsonville for over forty years! Take the tour and find out more about us as you plan your trip!
History of the Railroad
The original railroad line we operate over was founded as the Mineral Rail Road on April 14, 1864 to build a railroad from Columbus to Athens, Ohio. In 1867, the name was changed to the Columbus & Hocking Valley Railroad. Construction then began in mid-1867–over 140 years ago! The primary purpose for building the C&HV was to transport the Hocking Valley’s salt and coal out; the famous brick industry arose to prominence not long after. The first train arrived in Canal Winchester in 1868, with regular passenger service established to Lancaster in 1869. The very first freight train from Nelsonville arrived in Columbus on August 17, 1869. As this particular train made its way from Nelsonville, there was an actual cannon on board that was fired as it approached each town along the way to let everyone know they were coming! Full service to Athens was in place by August 1870. Eventually, the C&HV grew and became the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo Railway before ultimately becoming the Hocking Valley Railway in 1899. Known as the “Buckeye Route” and “Columbus’ Railroad,” the HV was the largest independent railroad located entirely within the state of Ohio–you couldn’t cross Ohio east to west without crossing the HV at some point! The HV connected Toledo and Lake Erie with the Ohio River towns of Pomeroy and Gallipolis.
The Hocking Valley Railway was eventually merged into the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in May 1930, becoming the Hocking Division. Passenger service ended on the lines south of Columbus on December 31, 1949, and many depots ultimately torn down (the only surviving HV depots today are Prospect, Canal Winchester, Carroll, Haydenville, and Wellston). Freight service dropped off over time, with the line through Nelsonville finally coming to an end in the early 1980s.
We, operating earlier on the old Monday Creek Branch from Nelsonville to nearby Carbon Hill, did not want to be cut off from the rest of the national rail network. So, we managed to acquire a sizable chunk of the former C&O Armitage Subdivision and began operating on it around 1985. Funds were very tight then, requiring a loan to start each season, so the Monday Creek line had to be scrapped to help make ends meet. Since then, the HVSR has grown and become one of the premier tourist railroads in Ohio. Of course, everything is a work in progress, as we deal with equipment dating back as far as 1917 and track that has undergone its first major overhaul in many years.
Since we are managed and operated entirely by volunteers, we are always looking for new people to join us in our never-ending quest to restore and maintain history! From event coordinators to car hosts to track and shop maintenance, there’s something for everyone and all skill levels!