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Narrow gauge railroad featured at Watt Center in Barnesville

BARNESVILLE — Local history and train buffs will want to attend a program by noted eastern Ohio railroad historian Dave Adair of Cambridge, Ohio, who will provide a narrated slideshow 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 Ave., Barnesville (near the historic B&O Railroad Station) will host the program at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. for visitors who wish to view the center’s many historical displays.

There is an admission fee. The Watt Center is handicap 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 Railroad (BZ&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 (OR&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 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 years old.

Additional information on the Watt Center is posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

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