Rail History Retrospective

1850: Two Ohio railroad companies purchase land at High Street and what's today Nationwide Boulevard, and open the city's first "union depot."

Feb. 14, 1875: With the first depot woefully outdated, the railroad companies who serviced Columbus open a second station. It's built farther north and east to alleviate growing congestion on High Street.

1891: A study finds that trains delay pedestrians and vehicles traveling High Street an average of seven hours and 25 minutes daily. Plans begin for a third station.

1897: Union Station opens. Its design includes the High Street viaduct, the famous arcade and a large depot with covered waiting areas.

1916: The U.S. rail network reaches its peak at 254,037 miles. About 160 passenger and freight trains roll through Columbus every day.

1929: Cheaper cars and the growing highway system begin to chisel away at rail transit. Americans travel 34 billion miles by rail - and 175 billion by car.

1970: Concerned with declining rail ridership, Congress and President Richard Nixon create the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, known today as Amtrak.

Oct. 22, 1976: A group wishing to build a Downtown convention center begins to demolish Union Station's High Street arcade. Local preservationists call the event the "Friday Night Massacre."

April 28, 1977: The last train leaves Union Station.

Sept. 30, 1979: The last train leaves from "The Amshack," a depot built beneath the Fourth Street overpass. Passenger rail never returns to Columbus.

Oct. 16, 2008: President Bush signs the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, approving significant, multi-year funding for Amtrak.

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Taking the Cars, The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads, Jeff Darbee, Amtrak.com

Rail Report

You've heard people talk about passenger rail in Columbus. You haven't seen anything happen. Here are some reasons why that could change.

High gas prices: Americans drove 30 billion fewer miles between November 2007and April2008compared to the same period a year earlier, while Amtrak and commuter trains experienced increased ridership.

Increased Amtrak funding: The Rail Safety Improvement Act, signed into law Oct. 16, is the most significant funding bill in Amtrak's history. It approves $13 billion over five years and a system to give federal money to states interested in passenger rail.

A pro-rail governor: Gov. Ted Strickland's February letter asking Amtrak to look at Ohio rail was responsible for the ongoing, federally funded study of the 3C corridor.

State-level legislation: A bill in the Ohio Senate would create a committee to analyze how to build and fund public transit in the state.

New faces in Washington: Many expect Barack Obama's administration to appoint rail-friendly officials. Plus, vice-president-elect Joe Biden rides Amtrak to work.

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