The Lorain, Ashland, & Southern
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December 17, 1997
Railroads: Yesterday and Today
John A. Thompson, Jr.
A comprehensive guide to abandoned or active railroads, their
history and purpose, artifactual remains if any, and their status today.
Also included are some facts concerning these railroads,
locomotive rosters of some, and locations, where possible.
To all who have contributed in whatever form or
fashion, my sincere gratitude and appreciation.
All material contained in this information guide is, to the best of my knowledge, correct
at the time of this writing. It may not contain all facts pertaining to given subjects,
but is based on such facts as available. No falsehoods or fiction is intended, nor is
the compromising or infringement of any copyrighted material. All that is intended is to
take available information or material gathered from various public and private sources
and put together as an informational guide for those interested, or with just a curiosity.
Ultimately, the goal is to keep alive the storied histories of the railroads, street car,
and interurban lines that crisscrossed the countryside and served many of our states,
cities, and towns, A few artifactual remains of the above still exist today, hidden
by woods or overgrowth., while others have simply vanished or survive in various states
of disrepair. Some remains, even today, continue in service, in some cases almost
a full century after their original construction.
Whatever material is enclosed is not meant as a repetition of what is already available.
It is a summation put into my own words, with updates as more information has become
available over time.
During the course of the railroad industry’s history in the United States of
America, many were carefully thought out, planned, had courses laid out, and went
on to become major forces in the industrial revolution. Still others followed these
same initial steps, only to be left on drawing boards, or enjoying limited
success, or enduring for lengthy stays before being downgraded and eventually
left for abandonment. What has remained from these subjects is a collection
of various artifactual remains scattered across the countryside and ranging
from bridge abutments and forlorn right-of-ways to complete intact buildings
or other structures, left to whatever fate awaits them. Many of these
remains can also be found along active rails, in very operational status.
Over the course of several years, an interest has been stirred in some
individuals to go and find these left over vestiges of a time gone by for
purposes of updating outdated documentation and/or historical preservation.
The following written pages represent the efforts of some of the findings
of those individuals, with personal observations included. Many of these
findings required more than just average "digging" if you will, and even
some trodding through muddy fields. This did not, however, dampen spirits,
and, we hope the resulting findings will be helpful to even the slightly
curious, or, perhaps be carried on by future history seekers.
Feb. 1. 1998
To whom it may concern:
All materials contained herein remain the property and sole possession
of John A. Thompson, Jr. in conjunction with Railroad Research and
Historian. It may not be reproduced, copied, held in any type of
retrieval system, or used in any fashion either in whole or any part
thereof without express written permission of the above named parties.
The Lorain, Ashland, and Southern Railroad
Having its beginnings at Wellington, Ohio in 1906, this
railroad was constructed as direct competition to a similar
line also started in the same year and at the same town.
Nicknamed the "Ramsey", for its owner and builder Joseph
Ramsey, the main purpose of its construction was to provide
an outlet for steel products from the Johnson Steel
works at Lorain, Ohio. It also was a means to bring
raw materials to this same complex.
To talk a little
bit about the man behind the railroad, rumors have it
Joseph Ramsey was originally of Wellington origin.
Once in the employ of the Wabash System under a Mr.
George Gould, Ramsey was dispatched to lay out a route
for that system into the aforementioned steel works.
This was accomplished by Mr. Ramsey but for reasons
as yet unclear, the Wabash System failed to act upon
Mr. Ramsey's acquisitions. This inaction led to a
parting of company between Ramsey and Gould, and the
beginnings of the Lorain, Ashland, and Southern.
Mr. Gould did begin construction of the competing
railroad, it being the Lorain & West Virginia.
Unfortunately, during a financial panic in 1906-1907,
he lost all of his railroad holdings. The Lorain &
West Virginia was eventually completed by the very
investors Gould had secured financial backing from,
only now it was without his influence. Without a
strong financial backing himself, moreover, without
a lot of cooperation, Ramsey constructed his railroad
northward to Lorain, virtually on a parallel path
to the L&WV. Newspaper accounts of the era even tell
of fistfights and acts of deliberate sabotage among
track gangs in order to keep one or the other of
the railroads from reaching their eventual goal of
Along the way of the LA&S, other small
sources of revenue from local business in Oberlin and
Wellington were secured, but nothing could match the
lucrative outlook the steel plant offered. A small
sandstone quarry near South Amherst, Ohio also saw
service from the LA&S. In addition, passenger service,
something not offered on the L&WV, also provided
small amounts of revenue. However, the steel plant
was planned to be the railroad's mainstay. Due to
the fact that from the beginning of the plant's
operations, other more stable and influential
railroads were already chosen to serve it, and the
result was that the hoped for major revenue never
really materialized for the Lorain, Ashland, and
Southern. Other factors, such as less than perfect
engineering and construction methods, also may have
led to its eventual downfall. It was also thought
that Ramsey may have built his railroad with designs
of turning it over to one of the other major carriers
of time, such as the Erie or the Pennsylvania System.
Neither of these rail lines had any direct connections
to the steel plant at Lorain, but, both had direct
connections to the LA&S. The Ashland and Western, a
one time private enterprise, starting at Ashland and
connecting to the Pennsylvania at Custaloga, could
provide a means for the Pennsylvania to reach the
steel plant via it's rails, which Ramsey himself
connected to when he built the LA&S from Wellington
south to Ashland. The Erie already had a mainline
in place at Ashland, so, to them it was simply a
matter of laying a connection to the LA&S from
their mainline. Either railroad would have then had
direct route to the steel plant, with much better
financial and stable backgrounds. For whatever
reasons present at time, neither the Erie or
Pennsylvania ever acted upon these options,
though Ramsey eventually did sell half interest
of the LA&S to both.
An oddity of the LA&S,
which may remain a mystery after all is said
and done, is that the northern portion of it from
Wellington to Lorain never saw any rail traffic
from its construction in 1906 to the time the
middle portion from Wellington to Ashland was
built in 1915. Only after 1915 did regular rail
service begin on the LA&S. Even after regular
service began, the LA&S still managed only a
marginal profit. The passenger service offered,
though every effort was made to accomodate,
did not generate a great deal of revenue. To be
fair, passenger service on any railroad was only
marginally profitable, not just for the LA&S.
As was noted previously, the sought after steel
plant traffic never materialized and other business
along the railroad while providing some profit, did
not sufficiently provide for it. The railroad
operated for a sum total of ten years, from 1915
to 1925. It was said to be making a profit at its
ending, but again for reasons as yet unclear or
undisclosed, was abruptly abandoned in its final
After Ramsey sold half interest to the
Pennsylvania and Erie in his Lorain, Ashland
and Southern, he kind of disappeared from any
further railroad related endeavors. It is rumored
he once again surfaced as President of the Wabash
System, under new ownership. This information
cannot be either confirmed or denied, as proof
has yet to be uncovered. One thing we do know;
for as much as the railroad lived a short life,
full of turmoil and confusion, some of its history
still remains a mystery to this day. It still
survives to those who are diligent enough to
press on and reveal its secrets one by one. As
with all things though, nothing or no one lasts
forever and the day may come when no more
information is available simply because those
who may have knowledge are simply gone. For
now, the many remains of the Lorain, Ashland
and Southern that can still be detected
throughout the countryside and the cities and
counties it passed through will continue
to be researched to their fullest. Hopefully,
they will continue to provide a source of
information or study to be passed on to other
Part of the original trackage from the LA&S still
remains in service in and around Ashland by the
Ashland Railway, itself being a creation from the
former Erie which went bankrupt and out of existence
In 1976. Gone too are the Ashland and Wooster, and
the Pennsylvania, the first being abandoned in the
LA&S Proceedings in 1925 and the latter being
now a part of the Conrail system. Some other
remaining portions of the LA&S include bridge
abutments on either side of 28th street in Lorain,
rail still imbedded in city streets in Lorain,
portions of right-of-way all along its path,
and even bridge abutments and portions of a
bridge north of Wellington, in Amherst township
and across the Black River, respectfully.
One final note on still existing artifacts or
remains of the Lorain, Ashland, And Southern:
Also in Ashland, you can still see an interchange
track that tied the Erie and LA&S together for a
time. Again, as to why the Erie never accessed
this interchange track to gain entry to the
steel plant at Lorain remains a mystery. Also,
for future reference or in the event no one gets
to investigate this any too soon, there is
rumored to be a bridge remaining on the old
railroad near Savannah, Ohio. As to why it
remains while all other bridges on the rail
line were removed still needs to be ascertained.
Perhaps it was too remote to get equipment
in to demolish it, or perhaps it was just
simply left to stand as a reminder. To whomever
carries on the search, or to "ghost railfans"
whomever they may be, my best wishes and good hunting.
* The previously mentioned Conrail, once the
Pennsylvania and later Penn Central at Custaloga,
is now itself the subject of acquisition by CSX
Corporation and Norfolk Southern. Custaloga,
the meeting place of the LA&S and Pennsylvania,
has for all intents and purposes, disappeared
from any map with but a few traces of
right-of-way to mark the railroad's path of the LA&S.
Additional artifactual information
On recent travels to area around Savannah, Ohio, have found at least
1/4 to 1/2 mile stretch of former LA&S right-of-way to be intact, less any
rail or ties. Cinder ballast was very present, as were at least four
sandstone culverts over various small waterways. Recent information still
sustains possibility of surviving "bridge", in area north of culverts.
Remains of a bridge crossing of the Black River north of Peck-Wadsworth Road
and adjacent to Lorain and West Virginia bridge crossing of same river
still exist, however, in very poor condition. Peck-Wadsworth Road just north
of Wellington, Ohio.
Still visible at "Custaloga" is right-of-way from wye track where LA&S
connected to Pennsylvania.
Additional notes: Lorain, Ashland & Southern
near Savannah, Ohio
Former grain elevator from railroad in this area still exists on
county road just east of town. It is currently undergoing renovation
into a private residence. There is definite evidence of multiple
sets of rails in the area as well as cinder ballast. North of
County road 620, former LA&S right-of-way can be seen in wooded
areas between 620 and U.S. route 224, west of Nova, Ohio.
From map of Oberlin, Ohio, have confirmed a connection between
LA&S and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Norwalk Division where
the two railroads crossed each other, west of route 58 and the
passenger depot of the former NYC Norwalk Division.
Updates to Lorain, Ashland, & Southern:
Since the initial story was written about this particular railroad
new information has come into the light about it which it is felt
needs to be added to really let the story be known.
On a recent trip to an area known as Custaloga on the railroad more
evidence was revealed as proof that it once did exist in this area.
The evidence consisted of railroad crossties still buried in the
ground (this would date back to around the late 1800's to early
1900's) on the northern side of the present day Conrail tracks,
plus remains of water tower bases. Also present were remains of signal tower
bases and traces of the "wye" from the connection to the then
Pennsylvania Railroad, which ran east and west through the area.
Also, there is evidence that an additional wye was constructed
north of the Pennsy connection to facilitate the turning of the
LA&S engines as they were not allowed to utilize Pennsy
tracks to accomplish this maneuver. The Pennsy wye was north
to south while the LA&S wye was east and west. Note: The area
known as Custaloga
LA&S connection to the Pennsylvania
Railroad can be detected on the 1908 Ohio Railroad Commission map
attached to this story. Although structures did exist at this location for
purpose of service to the railroads, none remains today, only
debris. The "Custaloga" name has, for all intents and
into the annuls of time, important only to those
with the interest of
The railroad itself can still be detected in the DeLorme Ohio Atlas
and Gazetteer. Former feed mills can still be found at Jeromesville and
Funk both of which are shown on this publication. Both feed mills
were served by the Lorain, Ashland, & Southern.
One further note: Custaloga was the name given to a farm that was
located south of the Pennsy/LA&S connection wye. It was a
family given name which the railroad adopted as a means of location
on its timetables, a common practice.
For research purposes, “Custaloga” farm is under a new name, and is
east of Big Prarie, Ohio.
Friday, December 4, 1998
Trip to Jeromesville, Ohio on this day revealed pilings in a creek
bed (Jerome Fork) from the bridge crossing of the former Ashland
& Western, later merged into LA&S. Original construction (recorded
history) dates this bridge site to 1899, more than 100 years. *Note:
construction began earlier than 1899 on bridge, which attests to the
Saturday, January 23, 1999
A friend of mine from Ashland says that he has made contact with a person near
Savannah, Ohio who claims that some rail and ties still exist on her property
from the old railroad. I know this is not ground-breaking news, but, it is
interesting since the railroad was abandoned in 1925 and supposedly all rail
was removed for scrap during 1942.
Related Photos and maps
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