All Aboard to Mount Vernon
Welcome to Mount Vernon, voted as one of Ohio’s best hometowns by Ohio Magazine in 2017-2018. The Kokosing Gap Trail and the Kokosing River are just two attractions to our hometown. Both provide picturesque views for a day of enjoyment of cycling, hiking, or kayaking and now geocaching. Our GeoTrail will welcomes you and we hope you enjoy learning of the town and its rich railroad history. Once the corridor of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the rail-trail now connects the towns of Mount Vernon, Gambier, Howard, and Danville.
As you discover the Kokosing Gap Trail, imagine the busy rail line of the Penn Central and the many businesses that opened as the railway began to thrive. Listen for the sight and sounds of a train whistle and envision the dense woodlands that once populated the area. Let’s travel through time to September 1, 1873, when the first train on this railroad ran through Mount Vernon. The views from this cache will take you back in time. Did you walk down the Mount Vernon Pennsylvania Railroad Truss Bridge or also known as the Kokosing River Bridge? This bridge is one of three in Mount Vernon dating back to the late 1800’s and spanning 230′ across the State Scenic River. Check out River View Park across the river and enjoy the view.
Across from the river you will notice another train depot. This site was the original “Freight Depot” on the CA&C rail line.
Mount Vernon increasingly became a “railroad town” after the Pennsylvania opened a railroad shop in 1883 to build and repair rail cars and locomotives. The shop normally employed about 200 men, and it was located 400′ feet from the freight depot on the Howard Street where the cache was located. At times the shop serviced five or six locomotives at a time. In 1923 a fire destroyed the complex and the operations were never rebuilt but moved to Columbus, Orrville, and Akron.
The peak of the railroad era in Knox County came in the last two decades of the 19th Century when trains furnished most of the passenger transportation for journeys beyond the horse and buggy. By 1916-1917 there were 18 passenger trains which ran daily through Knox County on the Pennsylvania and B&O which were the two main rail lines. Both railroads built attractive depots in Mount Vernon one of which you have seen and the other is on the west side of town. Travel on passenger trains was relatively fast, inexpensive, and dependable as you could travel to Columbus, Cleveland, or Chicago and the Depots became major activity centers.
In 1949 soon after a diesel engine started on the railway, the train engine derailed and tumbled over the embankment near the Pennsylvania depot just west of South Main Street in Mount Vernon.
As automobiles became more widespread through the next decade and highways were being built, the railroads began to decline. By 1930, the number and usage of passenger trains had changed to the point where they carried mostly mail and express. By 1948 the Pennsylvania was down to two passenger trains daily and on December 15, 1950, removed its last passenger train.
The Pennsylvania at one time administered the use of a single coach to carry mail, express, and a few passengers and were known as “doodlebugs”. One doodlebug disaster occurred on the Pennsylvania Railroad on July 21, 1940, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. A Pennsylvania Railroad, gasoline-powered “doodlebug” rail-car collided head-on with a freight train, the impact and resulting fire caused the deaths of all but three of the 46 onboard. The coordinates of the Doodlebug Disaster Memorial are 41.14526°N 81.47328°W 2641 Front St. (in Riverfront Park) Cuyahoga Falls.
Today we celebrate the rail line as part of a 326-mile multi-use trail called the Ohio to Erie which spans from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Knox County is proud to be a part of this trail system which includes our Heart of Ohio Trail, Kokosing Gap Trail, and Mohican Valley Trail.