Friday, October 16th, 2009
Nickel Plate passenger train service through Celina ceased 50 years ago today
By William Kincaid
Fifty years ago today, the last passenger train serving Celina, train number 9 of the Nickel Plate Road, passed through the city for a final time.
New Knoxville native Daniel Meckstroth, 66, who now lives in New Carlisle, has been a member of Nickel Plate Historical and Technical Society since 1978 and has contributed numerous articles to its quarterly magazine.
"I had the fortune to work as a locomotive fireman on the former Nickel Plate, as it was called the Norfolk and Western by the late 1960s," Meckstroth said. "I have never forgotten those years and have a passion for railroads, especially the Nickel Plate."
Meckstroth wants local people to join the society and learn more about the railroad.
"We want to keep the legacy of that alive," he said, pointing out many who worked for or were involved with the railroad are dying.
The Sandusky Division of the New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Company, also known as Nickel Plate Road, came through Celina and offered four passenger trains a day until 1951 and two trains until its last trip on Oct. 16, 1959, according to Meckstroth.
"Rails were laid to Celina on June 25, 1878, and an excursion train ran to the town on July 4 of that year," Meckstroth said.
Four days later on July 8, 1878, regular passenger service began from Lima to Celina and back again.
In addition to freight trains carrying food through Celina to eastern markets, Meckstroth said passenger trains served as the main form of transportation for Celina, Coldwater and Fort Recovery.
"It was considered one of the best run and efficiently managed railroads in the country," he said.
Also, Meckstroth said mail was carried to and from Celina by train until March 12, 1950.
But after WWII and the ascent of government funded highways, Meckstroth said railroad passenger service began to decline rapidly.
"The fight continued until the mid 1950s and the straw that broke the camel's back was construction of the interstate highway system, which enabled Americans fast and direct access to their destinations," he said.
Nickel Plates' passenger train service - which Meckstroth said held its own until the 1950s - was never the company's primary revenue source.
"Local communities fought attempts to delete the service as some still used the trains and it was their only source of transportation," Meckstroth said.
The Ohio Public Utilities Commission approved closing the line, and passenger service soon ended after 81 years, he said.
On Oct. 17, 1959, The Daily Standard featured a story on the front page about the ending of an era of passenger service.
"After tonight's arrival in Coldwater, the only service through Mercer County will be the freight trains," the article stated.
For more information about the Nickel Plate Historical and Technical Society, go to http://nkphts.org/home.html.