The Hocking Valley Railway was once Ohio’s longest intrastate rail line, filled with a seemingly endless string of coal trains. Although coal was the main business, the railroad also carried iron and salt. Despite the fact that the Hocking Valley was such a large railroad, with a huge economic and social impact, very little is known about it.
The Hocking Valley Railway traces the journey of a company that began in 1867 as the Columbus & Hocking Valley, built to haul coal from Athens to Columbus. Extensions of the line and consolidation of several branches ultimately created the Columbus, Hocking Valley & Toledo. This was a 345-mile railway, extending from the Lake Erie port of Toledo through Columbus and on to the Ohio River port of Pomeroy. The history of the Hocking Valley, like that of other railroads, is one of boom times and depression. By the 1920s, the Hocking coalfields were largely depleted, and the mass of track south of Columbus became a backwater, while the Toledo Division boomed.
The corporate name has been gone for more than three-quarters of a century, but the Hocking Valley lives on as an integral part of railroad successor CSX. The Hocking Valley Railway, complete with 150 photographs and illustrations, also documents a historic transformation in midwestern transportation from slow canalboats to fast passenger trains. Historians and railroad enthusiasts will find much to savor in the story of this ever-changing company and the managers who ran it.