Narrow gauge railroad feature of Watt Center program
Local history and train buffs will want to attend a program by noted eastern Ohio railroad historian Dave Adair of Cambridge who will provide a narrated slide show of the narrow gauge railroad that once wound its way through the hills of Belmont, Monroe, Noble and Muskingum counties.
The Watt Center for History and the Arts, 511 Watt Avenue, Barnesville (near the historic B & O Railroad Station) will host the program at 7 p.m. Oct. 21. The doors will open at 6 for visitors who wish to view the center’s many historical displays. Admission for the program is $5. The Watt Center is handicapped-accessible.
On May 30, 1931, future Somerton school principal Fred Stephen and his friends met the last narrow gauge train at the Beallsville Station. When the train departed for Jerusalem, Stephen raced the train on the recently paved highway beating the engine in record time, proof that the 54-year-old railroad’s time had passed.
A project promoted by Woodsfield merchant and Banker, Col. S. L. Mooney who served as its president, the Bellaire, Zanesville and Cincinnati (B Z & C) never made it beyond Zanesville. Construction that began in Bellaire in 1876 took seven years to complete traversing steep grades and punctuated with numerous wooden trestles.
Renamed the Ohio River and Western (O R & W) in 1903, the rail line was more commonly called “Bent, Zigzag and Crooked” or “Old Rusty and Wobbly.”
The line made a profit briefly during the southeast Ohio oil boom and survived several reorganizations before being sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1912.
The Woodsfield-Zanesville western segment was abandoned in 1928 and the entire line was abandoned with the final Saturday, May 30, 1931 Memorial Day run from Bellaire to Woodsfield.
An added benefit for program attendees will be Adair’s “one of a kind” model train cars that are over 80-year-old.
Additional information on the Watt Center is posted on the organization’s Facebook page.