EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. Information for the current series on Findlay’s Belt Line Railroad was provided by the late Don Smith.
By R.L. HEMINGER
The gradual disappearance of manufacturing plants along the Findlay Belt Line Railroad spelled the doom of the line which had been constructed in the early 1890s to serve the many new factories that were attracted here by the discovery of natural gas.
The Belt Line began operations in 1892, after four or five years of plans, following the coming of the great Karg gas well in January, 1886.
Operations continued well into the early part of the new century, but the volume of business was falling off as some plants had to quit business due to failure of the supply gas, which had been originally proclaimed as “inexhaustible.”
The Belt Line owners evidently thought there was good prospect of the road continuing with new plants taking the place of those that were closing up for they built a new bridge around 1905 across the Blanchard River to replace the temporary span constructed in 1892.
“Many cars are run over the line each day, especially during the sugar beet season,” wrote the Morning Republican on Dec. 13, 1912.
IN 1913, THE BELT LINE RAILROAD began to be involved in litigation with regard to its right-of-way on the south bank of the Blanchard River between East Main Cross Street and the waterway. Thomas C. Linger, president of the Ohio Hay and Grain Co., brought suit against the railroad in ejectment. He told the court he had a deed to the land and that there was rental due him from the road. Common Pleas Judge William F. Duncan ruled in favor of Mr. Linger and said a jury should be impaneled to assess the sum due him. The jury, when called, gave him a verdict for $1,071.
This was followed by other similar court actions by Mr. Linger over the next decade or so, involving right-of-way and claims for rent.
The Belt Line was steadily losing business in the decade and early years of the 20th century and its operations were nearing the end. Tracks began to be taken up and this continued through the ensuing decade. On July 31, 1930, the Morning Republican said:
“The tracks of the old Belt Line road between Cherry and Center streets have been removed prior to the proposed grading of the street which runs parallel with the tracks. Plans are underway to remove the old Belt tracks from Walnut street to the Blanchard Street.”
Between Clinton Court and Walnut Street, the bed of the Belt Line can still be observed. Today it is a thoroughfare known as Factory Street, running alongside the Conrail tracks.
On Dec. 29, 1931, an application was filed at Washington for authority to abandon the Big Four Railroad between Findlay and Vanlue, as well as the Belt Line connection between the Big Four and the Nickel Plate (originally the Lake Erie and Western, and now the Norfolk-Southern.) The application was filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission. “Public convenience and necessity no longer justifies operation of the lines,” said the petition.
THE OHIO PUBLIC UTILITIES Commission held a hearing at Columbus March 22 on the abandonment matter.
Both the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Ohio Public Utilities Commission granted the applications.
The directors of the Belt Line gave notice March 8, 1935, that they had by unanimous consent of the stockholders decided to dissolve and wind up its affairs.
On April 19, 1935, the Morning Republican ran the obituary notice of the Belt Line:
“The Belt Line railway, constructed nearly a half century ago, has now ceased to serve its purpose and has gone completely out of existence,” said the newspaper.
Next Week: Some Footnotes on Belt Line History.