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What might had been

Posted: Tue May 05, 2020 8:13 pm
by Notch 8
Cloverdale, Ohio is a little known railroad town in Northwest, Ohio.
The Cloverleaf passed through town, just south of the ill fated Dupont bridge. The little known Findlay Fort Wayne & Western crossed the Cloverleaf here as well. The Findlay Fort Wayne & Western originated in Findlay, Ohio and terminated in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The road's primary commodity was oil from Findlay, as well as agricultural goods. This road was absorbed by the CH&D and abandoned in 1919. A short section, from Mandale to Grover Hill lasted until the early 1920's.
The FFtW&W was at one time the straightest railroad in the country, which would have great for passenger service. The Cloverleaf would not have been able to ship oil on this route, as the oil had dried up in Findlay by the teens. The tangent road interchanged with the Toledo & Ohio Central in Findlay. It connected to the Wabash and Pennsylvania Railroad in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It also had interchange with the Cincinnati Northern in Grover Hill.
My question is if the Cloverleaf had acquired the FFtW&W, rather than the CH&D, would it had managed to stave off acquisition by the Nickel Plate a few years since it would have had its own access to Fort Wayne; and quite possibly Chicago via trackage rights?

Re: What might had been

Posted: Wed May 06, 2020 11:44 am
by Hotbox
Just my 2 cents, but the F,FW,&W's fate was pretty much sealed when the oilfields in Findlay played out. The Cloverleaf was "saved" by the natural gas boom of the late 1880s It too played out.

I don't think that tying two sinking ships together would have helped much.

Ultimately not even the NKP could save the Cloverleaf.

Re: What might had been

Posted: Wed May 06, 2020 8:04 pm
by Bob Durnell
I basically agree with your first point, but I would contend that the Nickel Plate DID save the Cloverleaf, it's just that with the coming of the N&W, the Wabash made the Cloverleaf redundant. Even at that, most of it held on for what, another twenty years? The problem with FFW&W, is even DURING the gas boom, what purpose did it serve? The LE&W served Findlay and by running basically north-south in that area, could interchange traffic to every railroad that served Fort Wayne, so why build another railroad? The line is basically the Corned Beef & Cabbage without the comedy of errors.

Re: What might had been

Posted: Wed May 06, 2020 9:02 pm
by Hotbox
Bob Durnell wrote:
Wed May 06, 2020 8:04 pm
the Nickel Plate DID save the Cloverleaf, it's just that with the coming of the N&W, the Wabash made the Cloverleaf redundant.
I've grown somewhat cynical over time, to the point where (I believe) most "fallen flags" that are popularly cast as an unfortunate victim of fate, were exactly the opposite....unavoidable casualties.

Many parallel routes were built on spec, with predatory intent from square one of carving their existence out of an already functional line's operations, despite not enough business even being there to support the second, or third connector between the dots. Some challengers succeeded, some failed..ashes to ashes etc. Like when the Kid asks Josey Wales "aren't we gonna bury 'em Josey?"

If the Cloverleaf was worth keeping, I'm sure that NS would have done so. The Nickleplate acquiring the line just delayed the inevitable.

Seems like I have a faint memory of the Cloverleaf owning the Alton at about the time period where they could have picked up the F,FW,&W, and the Alton was draining them dry already.

Re: What might had been

Posted: Wed May 06, 2020 11:38 pm
by Bob Durnell
I agree with your point that some of these lines were never very viable long term, but the biggest killer was common ownership. The Cloverleaf served a real purpose for the NKP, even though it was a very flawed line. It only became truly expendable when it became owned by a company with a better option in its pocket. The exact same thing could be said for the Erie, the Panhandle Pittsburg-Chicago main or the Wabash across northern Indiana. As part of separate smaller companies, they had a purpose. As part of a much larger system with better lines, they did not. Suppose the Cloverleaf had ended up in the B&O system instead of the NKP. Chessie never had a line that ran in that corridor, so maybe it survives all the way up to the Conrail split when they got the far superior Big 4, and if you want to carry it to extremes, suppose CSX decides it has the Cloverleaf and doesn't NEED the Big 4, so they take all of the Water Level Route and leave the Big 4 to NS. If that had happened, NS might of decided the Wabash was redundant, and without the Water Level, they probably keep the Pennsy to help the NKP handle the Chicago traffic. Once you go down this "what if road" the possibilities are endless. (probably pointless too, but kind of fun to speculate about).

Re: What might had been

Posted: Wed May 06, 2020 11:53 pm
by Wayne Gest
FFW&W disappeared so early on which tells us there was so little business on it that no one saw any future in it. I don't see what an acquisition by the Cloverleaf would have made much different. An outlet to Fort Wayne which, at the time, had four other railroads running into it, three of them main lines and a NYC branch, how much interchange business do you suppose the FFW&W had in Fort Wayne.

The railroads that disappeared early on have always intrigued me, I believe the Findlay, Fort Wayne, and Western was described in John Rehor's Nickel Plate Story as a railroad that should have never been built. He may have said the same thing about the railroad that eventually became the Northern Ohio, and then the Akron, Canton, and Youngstown, although that line long outlasted the FFW&W, and a big share of it survives today. (Carey, OH to Akron). I will have to dig out my book and see if I've got that correct.

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 1:35 am
by Hotbox
I've always heard that there was a curve up by Delphos with ridiculous sharp curvature that would cost more to fix than the entire line was worth.(because of it's proximity to other lines).
Personally, I think the Wabash 4th district would have been a far bigger deal, if the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal project had not failed when it did. There is a real "what might have been" undertaking

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 1:44 am
by Hotbox
As an aside, I also believe that some railroads only got built because fools willing to pay for them were found. Lineside communities willing to out bid their neighbors for the privilege of being online.

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 12:45 pm
by Bob Durnell
Back in that era, towns of EVERY size were desperate to be on a rail route or face having their town whither away. How many towns of any size in Indiana NEVER had rail service? The other thing to remember is that in a era before good roads and motor vehicles, many rail lines were promoted as little more than farm to market roads, a vital need at the time, but one that pretty much evaporated by 1920. Also remember that railroad stocks were the Dot.com boom of their era, and there were thousands of promoters of all stripes trying to get ahead of the curve of the next big thing and tons of investors trying to get in on the action. Some of the plans were solid, some were honest but misguided, and some were as crooked as the rail lines they did (or sometimes didn't) build. BUT, when you look at how so many of these pioneer railroads were patchwork quilted into larger regional systems, it would have been impossible to predict which roads would evolve into major trunk lines and important secondary feeders and which wouldn't. Who would have guessed that the LE&W between Fort Wayne and New Castle would go from a modest through line to a weedy almost derelict branch line and then evolve into a major linchpin of the nation's fourth largest railroad? Who would guess that one of my favorites, the Eel River would go from backwater farm to market road to a key link in a major transcontinental scheme and then back to weedy branch line to nowhere all in the span of twenty years? Who would have guessed that in the prism of World War I, the pre-VanSweringen Nickel Plate Chicago line would one day be a first class and one of the busier single track main line in the nation for a time, while the roughly parallel mighty Pennsy PFW&C would some some day be a 40 MPH single track almost siding-less back water regional line that was staring abandonment square in the face?

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 3:12 pm
by Wayne Gest
There's a short section of the Cloverleaf still served by the CF&E, which includes this curve. This gives a person an idea of the degree of curve, a remnant of the narrow gauge it once was.
https://www.west2k.com/ohpix/delphosnkpold.jpg

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 5:56 pm
by Hotbox
Boy, it would be interesting to see once of those Wabash 86' box cars go around that!
How did 3 axle diesels do on that curve?

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 8:06 pm
by zuluwiz
The Cincinnati Northern did not go through Grover Hill. The CN crossing with the F,FtW,+W would have been in Haviland, a few miles west.

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 8:11 pm
by Bob Durnell
Wayne Gest wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 3:12 pm
There's a short section of the Cloverleaf still served by the CF&E, which includes this curve. This gives a person an idea of the degree of curve, a remnant of the narrow gauge it once was.
https://www.west2k.com/ohpix/delphosnkpold.jpg
That curve doesn't really look that bad on Google Earth. Any chance that when the line was severed as a through route and hooked to the Pennsy that the curve was reconfigured?

Re: What might had been

Posted: Thu May 07, 2020 8:18 pm
by Bob Durnell
Hotbox wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 5:56 pm
Boy, it would be interesting to see once of those Wabash 86' box cars go around that!
How did 3 axle diesels do on that curve?
Did six axle diesels EVER run on the Cloverleaf? The only six axle units the NKP had worked in Wheeling territory, and I don't think I have ever seen anything other than geeps on it during the N&W-NS era. I believe that in the steam era, the line was restricted to nothing bigger than Mikes, and maybe light Mikes at that. I don't know if the heavies were ever allowed. Good question about the 86 footers. Did they ever have any reason to BE on the Cloverleaf?

Re: What might had been

Posted: Fri May 08, 2020 10:21 am
by Hotbox
Bob Durnell wrote:
Thu May 07, 2020 8:18 pm
Good question about the 86 footers. Did they ever have any reason to BE on the Cloverleaf?
Perhaps that curve , along with a few weight limitations here and there, is what made the decision to move most bridge traffic over to the Wabash?