With the closing of the Erie Extension Canal in November 1872, communities along it's route were left without shipping and receiving. The population, especially in the Conneautville area was on a decline.
A citizens committee was formed to meet with other communities to determine the best method of inducing a railroad to take on the project of turning the canal towpath into rail lines. O. O. Ticknor, W. A. Rupert, John Wormald, F. M. Robinson and F. Moulthrop represented Conneautville; W. C. Sterling, Horace Hammon and J. B. McDowell represented Dicksonburg; Jos. Brown, J. A. McMurtry and J. F. Ford represented Shermansville; Dr. 0. Logan and Mott Sherman, Albion; Thos. Osborne, Jr., Wellsburg; and T. A. Hollembeak, Springboro. Meetings were held and a committee of J. C. Sturtevant and O. O. Ticknor were appointed to go to Pittsburg to consult with the officers of the Penn Central, owners of Pittsburg & Lake Erie Railroad. The plan was to invite this Co. to change their present route or add one using the Canal towpath.
It was not until June of 1878 that word was received the Railroad Co. Board had accepted the proposition and would send a Corp of engineers to make a survey of the proposed new route. The survey would start at Espyville with the Company furnishing the Engineers & instruments, the committees in the local Communities would supply the chain men and other help that may be needed, and also board the Corp., thus reducing the expenses. The expense of the survey would be borne by the Company & citizens in equitable proportions.
The route would leave the present Erie and Pittsburg road near Espyville, strike the old Canal at Shermansville, follow through Harmonsburg, Dicksonburg, Conneautville, Springboro, Albion and Cranesville to a point about one mile south of Lockport where it strikes across the country to Crosses Station on the present line. Three lines will run from the Canal to Crosses, the routes are all good ones, light grades and no heavy cuts or fills.
In 1881 a Company was formed, called the Ohio River & Lake Erie Railroad Co., who considered building a railroad on the canal towpath, but before construction could be started, property rights and franchises were sold to satisfy it's creditors. A sheriff's sale was held in 1886. The purchaser was Ms. Sarah Reed, sister of W. W. Reed, an Erie businessman and member of Congress, who had owned the Canal Right of Way. The Company was reorganized in 1887 as the Erie, Shenango & Pittsburg Railway Co.
In the Spring of 1888, another scheme was being proposed, especially by people in Erie. At that time it was suggested to have the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie road leave the old canal bed route at Springboro and branch off to Edinboro, and then go north to Erie, thus passing through a prosperous and thickly populated area. After all, it would only be six miles from Edinboro to Cambridgeboro where a connection could be made with the NYP & O, and If this route were adopted and road built, there was no doubt that the old road from Cambridgeboro to Titusville, which had been graded several years ago and then abandoned, could easily be pushed through. This proposal failed.
Needless to say, the people in our area were not very optimistic, having been disillusioned so many times.
Finally, November 15, 1888, the local newspaper reported Mr. Blair, General Manager of the Pittsburg, Shenango & Lake Erie Railroad had been in town with the news that a rail line was finally going to be pushed through using the old canal bed to a connection with the Nickel Plate Road. Steel rails had been purchased and enough oak ties were available to nearly complete the extension. It was estimated a half mile or more of rail could be, laid per day which would bring construction trains to Conneautville about the opening of the new year. The line will leave the canal bed near Lockport and veer off to the west to avoid any construction of bridges over Elk Creek and Walnut Creek. A temporary connection would be made with the Nickel Plate near Thornton's Station just west of Girard.
A meeting was held with our citizens at the office of Power Bros. and they were told the road would be put through without asking a cent from the people along it's line, but that as the company would not be In shape at present to build expensive stations, the quality of these would depend upon the assistance the people might give in that way. A station house to cost say $2,000. was thought to be about what our town ought to have and it was the opinion of those present that this amount could be secured among our people for that purpose. J. W. Crider, W. A. Hammon, and W. A. Rupert were chosen a committee to solicit subscriptions toward the fund.
General Manager Blair, went on to Springboro for a citizens meeting where Mr. W. G. Powell of Shadeland started the ball by guaranteeing that Powell Brothers would build a station at Shadeland to compare favorably with any along the line. The citizens of Springboro promised to do the same. E. E. Eighmy, J. H. Conover and C. T. Gunn were appointed a committee to solicit contributions to that end.
Progress was slow, weather had not been cooperative but February 5th 1891, General Manager, Blair was back in town bringing a plot map of the new station and grounds. The initial survey had been accepted and it was to be built at the north end of Main Street. There was ample room for sidings and a warehouse. The land was unoccupied and the majority of the owners would probably donate it upon their subscriptions toward building a depot. In Springboro, the depot location was selected between Pearl and Union Streets on the site of Brown's saw mill and south of the road leading to the E. & P. depot.
By February 12th, 1891 the track layers had reached the south line of our borough and by quitting time on Saturday, the construction train stood at the north end of Main St., one square north of the Presbyterian Church. To celebrate, a large number of our citizens headed by the Coronet Band escorted the workmen through the business portion of the town and back to the Conneautville Hotel where an excellent supper was held. Among the celebrants was W. S. Crozier who was present nearly 50 years before, to celebrate the opening of the Erie Extension Canal.
The train and workmen would arrive in Springboro the following Saturday and the people from town and vicinity were prepared. A "railroad dinner" had been prepared consisting of oysters, boiled ham, Springboro baked beans, hot coffee, biscuits, pie and cake served in Wilson's Hall. Nearly 150 people were served and after this fine dinner good Havana cigars were handed around with matches to light them.
The telegraph line followed behind and arrived in Conneautville in early March. A temporary section house to be used until a station could be built, was placed In position at the rear of the Presbyterian Church. Station Agent Ticknor moved in within an hour and was ready for business. The first freight shipment arrived with a load of coal for Moulthrop & Sons while Mr. L. C. Graves of Springboro received a car the same day.
The line was not yet ready for passenger service. Gravel for ballasting had been found on the Fetterman farm south of town, but nearly a mile from the rail line. Wingers, three miles south of town was thought to be better and it was beside the tracks. A steam shovel was put to work at Winger's and two work trains were headquartered at Conneautville and one hundred extra men were wanted to work on the road. The Winger gravel bank did not pan out proving to be largely blue clay. The steam shovel was moved to a bank on the Shoemaker farm about seven miles south of town. The first passenger coach ever run into our borough brought Mr. Blair and other officials to inspect the gravel bank south of town. It was determined between Greenville and the Nickel Plate R.R. there would be nineteen stations of the P. S. & L. E. extension. They were Osgood, Adamsville, Hartstown, Shermansville, M. & I. Junction, Harmonsburg, Dicksonburg, Conneautville, Springboro, Shadeland, Pennside, Keepsville, Albion, Cranesville, Conneaut Junction, Lockport, Coldspring, Girard and Nickel Plate Junction.
The steam shovel is again moved, this time to Cranesville where there is a large bank of excellent gravel. There is a large force of men and gravel is being hauled south. Track was laid during the winter and the ground is soft, requiring a large amount of leveling. A visit from the Contractor and Chief Carpenter tell us the final plans for the station were adopted. It would be 20' x 50', larger than the original plan, brick and the cost is $3,000 with one fourth due when the work is begun.
The first passenger train was put on April 27, 1891, to run from Osgood to Springboro and return. This was greeted by enthusiastic citizens at every stop with 22 of our people making the trip to Springboro and return.
On June 11th, 1891, it was reported the P. S. & L. E. Railroad has leased the Meadville & Linesville Railroad for a period of Ninety-nine years taking possession the following week.
An item in the June 20th, 1901 paper states Bessemer Co. purchased a site from E. R. Saxton, where they plan to build a pump station for the water tank at this place. The Co. went south of town to secure pure water from Conneaut Creek, by going above any sewage. The water will be pumped from the creek through pipes laid alongside the track to the tank.
By the Spring of 1902 two new tracks had been laid between Springboro and Conneautville. This required a large force of men and giving employment to all laborers in this vicinity. The Co. offered the borough the cinder ballast of the old track to be used on Main St., the only stipulation being that the work of grading be commenced at the station. The borough authorities lost no time in accepting the offer.
The Bessemer & Lake Erie R.R. became a main artery in transporting iron ore from Lake Erie where it came into Conneaut, Ohio Harbor by boat, was transferred to railroad cars for shipment to Pittsburgh, and returning north with coal. At the peak we are advised that trains would pass through Conneautville as often as one every 15 minutes. There were several passenger trains each day and this was the principal means of travel. With the advent of autos and trucks the passenger and freight business decreased until on March 5, 1955, the last Passenger train made its run to Erie and back, thus ending an era during which much progress had been seen.
This article is included in the CVAHS Newsletter, Issue 31, Vol. 16
1Source: Sesqui-Centennial book, 1964
Conneautville newspapers 1877 - 1902