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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CHESAPEAKE & OHIO RAILROAD

CHESAPEAKE & OHIO RAILROAD

The CHESAPEAKE & OHIO RAILROAD, controlled by entrepreneurs ORIS P. AND MANTIS J. VAN SWERINGEN at one time, was created by an act of the Virginia legislature on 18 Feb. 1826. The charter provided a capital of $300,000 and empowered the new road to lay tracks through Louisa County, VA. In a few years, the tracks extended from Hanover Jct. to Louisa Courthouse and became known as the Louisa Railroad. By 1868 the Louisa had become the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, with tracks running from Richmond, VA, to the Ohio River, a distance of nearly 405 miles. In the 20th century, the C&O continued to grow through new construction and mergers, most notably with the Pere Marquette and the Western Maryland railroads, which allowed it to reach Buffalo, Chicago, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Newport News by 1960. A major source of the railroad's income for many years was hauling coal from the coal fields of Virginia and West Virginia to ports along the Potomac River and industries in the Midwest. Although the Chesapeake & Ohio never had tracks in Cleveland until its merger with the BALTIMORE & OHIO, it was linked to Cleveland by some of the men who controlled the railroad. During the 1920s, the C&O was owned by the Van Sweringens, who had entered the railroad business by acquiring control of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (see NICKEL PLATE ROAD) in 1916. They soon added the C&O, Erie, Missouri Pacific, and Pere Marquette roads on their way to creating a hugh rail transportation system with Cleveland as the hub. The Van Sweringens lost their railroad empire in the Depression, but the Terminal Tower, which was to be their headquarters, was built, and the C&O established its corporate offices there. CYRUS EATON became C&O's chairman of the board in 1954, serving nearly 20 years as chairman. In the 1950s as many as 265 officers and employees worked in its Terminal Tower headquarters. The C&O acquired the Baltimore and Ohio in 1963, and was renamed the Chessie System in 1972. The merged railroad became part of the CSX CORP. in 1980.


Finding aid for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company Correspondence. WRHS.