One of the earliest railroads that ran through Bellevue in 1839 was the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad, and the first engineer of the “Sandusky”, Thomas Hogg.


The Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad was first chartered railroad in the State of Ohio and west of the Allegheny Mountains. On September 17, 1835 ground was broken at Sandusky for the line by General William Henry Harrison and Joseph Vance, Governor of Ohio.

On December 2, 1837, the Mad River and Lake Erie obtained their first engine, the Sandusky which arrived via the lake schooner and Erie Canal. It was the first locomotive built by Thomas Roger of Patterson, New Jersey. This engine was originally built for the New Jersey Railroad and Transportation Company to a gauge of 4′ 10″.

The Sandusky powered the first passenger train from Sandusky to Bellevue, which was a distance of sixteen miles. The train consisted of the locomotive, a small passenger car with no center aisle, and a freight car about 20 feet in length. Since the passenger car had no center aisle, the conductor collected the fares from an outside footboard. The freight car had four wheels and was open so in bad weather, a tarpaulin-covered the content. The first crew for the run was Thomas Hogg, Engineer, John Paull, Fireman, and Charles Higgings, Conductor.

The Mad River and Lake Erie railroad was doing business at 4 1/2 cents a mile for passengers and 25 cents a ton per mile for freight.

By 1839, the road was completed to Republic, Ohio with the first train arriving at the East side of the Sandusky River in Tiffin, Ohio in 1842. The crew on this train was Conrad Poppenburg, Engineer, Ernest Kirrian, Fireman, and Paul Klauer, Train Hand.

Finally, by June 1849, 134 1/2 miles of track was completed with the road reaching the southern terminus in Springfield, Ohio. The cost of this project was $1,754,263.

The company constructed a road from Sandusky to Dayton, Ohio with a branch to Findlay, Ohio, and operated its road from January 1851, until February 23, 1858. The company abandoned its line between Sandusky and Tiffin, Ohio, via Bellevue and Republic, and under contract from December 1, 1854 to February 23, 1858, operated the road of The Sandusky City and Indiana Railroad Company between those two points, via Clyde, Ohio. The company also operated under contract form its completion until February 23, 1858, the line of The Springfield and Columbus Railroad Company, extending from Springfield to London, Ohio. On February 23, 1858, a decree of the Erie County Common Pleas Court was filed with the Secretary of State of Ohio changing the name of the company to The Sandusky Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad Company.

The name of the corporation changed to Sandusky & Cincinnati Railroad in May 1866. In October of the same year, the company leased its road for 99 years, renewable forever, but by mutual agreement to Cincinnati, Dayton & Eastern Railroad. In 1868, the lease of the Sandusky & Cincinnati Railroad was surrendered to The Sandusky Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad Company. By decree of the Erie County Common Pleas Court, the corporate name changed to Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland Railroad – Pioneer Line of Ohio . In July 1870, it became the Columbus, Springfield & Cincinnati Railroad when the Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland Railroad reached an agreement on a lease for 99 years. The Columbus, Springfield & Cincinnati was the successor to Springfield & Columbus Railroad again.

From 1877 to 1880 the Line was in receivership. The Indiana, Bloomington & Western Railroad signed a perpetual lease of Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland Railroad . A receiver for the IB&W was appointed July 1, 1886 and the road name was changed to Ohio, Indiana & Western Railroad . When the ownership reverted to the previous owners of the termination of the IB&W receivership, it became Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland Railroad again.

On November 1, 1890, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway , commonly known as the “Big Four” acquired Cincinnati, Sandusky & Cleveland Railroad and the Columbus, Springfield and Cincinnati Railroad .

In 1930, the New York Central System leased the Big Four . In 1938, the last passenger train ran on the line from Bellefontaine to San dusky via Tiffin. The New York Central merged with Pennsylvania Lines to form PenCentral Railroad on February 1, 1968. On April 1, 1976, the PenCentral merged with other eastern bankrupt railroad to form Conrail (Consolidated Railway Corporation).

In 1999, Conrail was divided between Norfolk Southern Railroad and CSX Transportation.


It is said that the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Company (N.Y.C.&ST.L.) was probably the only railroad in the United States built for cash in advance of the issue of stocks and bonds. The subscribers to the founding syndicate agreed to furnish the money in ten percent calls as fast as required. It was February 1881, that a party of aggressive men met in the office of George I. Seney, President of the Metropolitan National Bank of New York City. Among those in attendance was Columbus R. Cummings of Chicago, the first NKP president, Walston H. Brown, Calvin S. Brice, General San Thomas, and John G. Kennaday, who formed what was known to be the financial world as the Seney Syndicate. Later, others who participated included General D.W. Caldwell, Dan P. Ellis, and Hon. William Flemming.

In 1880, a survey was made from St. Louis to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to connect with the Lake Erie & Western Railroad, of which Mr. Brice was President. The survey was purchased by the Syndicate and two new surveys made, one from Chicago to Fort Wayne, the other from Fort Wayne to Cleveland, originally intended as an eastern terminus of the road. It was finally determined to temporarily abandon the St. Louis branch and instead build from Cleveland to Buffalo.

In 1881, there was a bitter competition between northern Ohio cities for the service of the new railroad. The Norwalk, Ohio Chronicle on two different occasions referred to the railroad as the “nickel-plated” railroad. The nickname, “Nickel Plate Road” stuck and was subsequently adopted by the N.Y.C.&ST.L.

Early in April 1881, Major Henry L. Merill, an experienced railroad builder, assumed charge of construction. Contracts were let for 45,000 tons of steel rails at $65.00 per ton. Right of way was secured as fast as the surveys were made. The first rails were laid between Arcadia and McComb, Ohio, and the road was practically finished by September 1882. The first train was run over the road October 22, 1882.

The Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, later a part of the New York Central System, quickly realized the value of the Nickel Plate Road as a competitor, purchased the road and held controlling interest in it until July 1916. The Van Sweringen brothers were looking for ways to expand their real estate business in Cleveland and bought the Nickel Plate to acquire a right-of-way for a new traction line. The Vans soon found how nice railroading was and in a matter of a few years became very powerful railroad barons.

On July 1, 1922, the Nickel Plate Road was operating 523 miles of track between Chicago and Buffalo. On this date the NKP secured control of the properties formerly operated, managed, and controlled by the Lake Erie & Western Railroad Co. The LE&W added 707 miles of track reaching from Sandusky, Ohio to Peoria, Illinois, with two branches in Indiana.

On July 15, 1922, another 453 miles were added to the system by affiliation with the cloverleaf (TStL&W RR) reaching from Toledo, Ohio to St. Louis, Missouri. Thus, the Nickel Plate became a 1683-mile system of trackage serving the industrial, agricultural, and distributing region between the Mississippi River on the west, the Great Lakes on the north, and the Niagara Frontier on the east, with close traffic arrangements and service to the New England States and the Atlantic Seaboard reached through connecting lines.

In 1949, the Nickel Plate leased the long sought Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway, which it had controlled for a number of years (and also ran through Bellevue). The Wheeling gave the Nickel Plate a financially stable railroad that was a consistent money maker. With the addition of the W&LE, the stage was set for Nickel Plate’s spectacular operational and financial performance of the 1950’s.

On October 16, 1964, the Nickel Plate Road merged with the Norfolk & Western Railway, subsequently to become the Norfolk Southern Corporation.


Although technology has reduced the work force needed to operate the railroad, more tons of freight are moving through this small town by rail than ever before. In 1983, Norfolk & Western merged with the Southern Railway to become Norfolk Southern Corporation. This merger allowed the museum to operate steam-powered excursions in the region to raise funds for the museum.

On June 1, 1999, Norfolk Southern acquired roughly 60% of the assets of Conrail. This had a profound effect in increasing rail traffic levels in Bellevue. In November of 2014, an expansion project was completed at Bellevue yard costing $160 million. This made the newly named “Moorman Yard”, the largest on the NS system and the 2nd largest in the United States. The Bellevue facilities remain a vital part of the railroad’s operation.

The Coach Yards

In 1851, the Toledo, Norwalk, and Cleveland Railroad was built through Bellevue with the intent to connect the 3 named cities. By 1855, the line was completed and it proved to be a more successful railroad then the financially troubled Mad River & Lake Erie, the only other railroad in town at that time. After the MR&LE was abandoned in the late 1850s, the TN&C was the only rail service the town of Bellevue had until the Nickel Plate Road and the Wheeling & Lake Erie would come to town in 1882. The TN&C would change names and ownership many times throughout its history. The line became owned and operated by the Cleveland & Toledo Railroad, Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, New York Central, and Penn Central. In 1976, at the same time Penn Central was being included in the formation of Conrail, this line was abandoned through Bellevue.

Most of the right of way has become a bike trail in our surrounding area, however, between Southwest St. and Kilbourne St. in Bellevue, this right away is still in place and now serves as our Mad River Coach Yard. The coach yard was totally rebuilt in 2013 after nearly 40 years of little to no maintenance. It’s used for storage of excess equipment, storage of privately owned equipment, a venue for special events, and recently for caboose rides on special occasions.