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  • Cathryn Stanley

From Quiet Village to Boomtown: Holloway’s Railroad History


Holloway, originally named Dunvale, owed its rapid growth to the railroad industry. In 1883 Monroe Dunn sold several acres to Isaac Holloway. The name was then chosen for the post office and became the town’s name.


Holloway was the hub for the railroad. The roundhouse and shops were built there in 1901 because railroad officials thought the run from Urichsville to Bridgeport was too long. The Cleveland, Lorain, and Wheeling railroad extended from Lorain to the north and from Bellaire to the south, a total of 161 miles. Within two years, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad obtained controlling interest. Millions of tons of coal, mined in Belmont County, were shipped annually and the small village of 150 became a railroad center with a population of 1,000. The railroad followed the line of Wheeling Creek through Belmont County. The B& O Railroad also contributed to the development of Bridgeport and Bellaire.


In 1901 Holloway became incorporated. The first mayor was store owner John Barkley. In 1903, when the land was surveyed and the building of the roundhouse and shops commenced, many families moved to Holloway and a building boom began. The B&O Railroad later built a row of houses, known as B&O Row, for their supervisors. With those families came the need for supplies, so several new stores also sprang up, along with saloons, poolrooms, gambling joints, barber shops, and restaurants. What was once a quiet village was now a railroad center and boom town.


At the west end of Holloway were a number of railroad structures including a small reservoir, water tank, wye (a triangle of railroad track used for turning locomotives), and a two-stall engine house. The engine house was later torn down when shops were built at the east end of town by the B&O Railroad. An average of 220 men were employed at the locomotive shop. The B&O machine shop employed about 25 men whose job it was to erect and fit trains.


The B& O railroad yard included 20 tracks – an eastbound main on the south side and a westbound main on the north side. All freight trains begin and end in the freight yards. The yard office, switch shanty, and scale office were at the east end of the freight yard. Each car’s weight was measured at the scale office. East of the yard was a four-track Hump. The inbound trains stopped there and the cars were sorted by the hump engine that pushed the cars off the hump and across the scales to the proper track in the classification yards. At its peak, there were 16-18 “Hump Riders” or brakemen. They controlled the speed of the cars and used a hand brake to stop them at the correct place. This was a time consuming process as the brakemen had to walk back to the hump shanty from the classification yard. Later a motor car was used to bring them back. Holloway also had a caboose track. The conductor and the brakeman rode in the caboose where they had their office and kept records and supplies.


There was also a boiler gang of about 18 men who had the noisy and hot job of working on the steam locomotive boilers. Two blacksmiths worked out of a small shop. A two-story rest house was located near the entrance to the roundhouse. The top of the building could sleep 70-100 men and the bottom contained a barber shop, poolroom, and roundhouse office. In the early days, a one-night stay at the rest house was 10 cents. The beanery was the where a railroad man could get a meal.


The roundhouse, built in a semicircle with 22 tracks running into 22 stalls, housed an 80-foot turntable in the center. The turntable could transfer engines to and from any stall in the building and was later enlarged to 115 feet. There was also an engine room, store room, oil room, coal dock, sand house, railroad car shop, depot, stock yard, engine inspection pit, and cinder pit.


Supporting all this and benefitting Holloway residents was a reservoir and water treatment plant and a hospital. The reservoir was located at the east end of the yards and covered 11 acres. It was built to supply water for the shops and workers used it for swimming, boating, and fishing. The hospital, on the west side of town, was used as the office of the town doctor. The company also sent doctors from Wheeling to examine employees.


Passenger trains connected at Bridgeport, Martins Ferry, and Bellaire. Most of the residents of Holloway were railroaders and had passes for their families to ride the passenger trains free. The last scheduled B&O passenger train through Holloway was on September 29, 1951.


A baseball diamond, where workers would play, was located at the east end of town. Holloway School was built in 1911 with the first graduating class in 1913. The last graduating class was 1959. The school team was called the Railroaders. The Puskarich brothers owned the property when a devastating fire destroyed the school. They granted this property to the “Holloway Old Timers” organization. Today the property and buildings serve the community. An annual Old Timers event is held on Labor Day weekend. On display on the property is a restored railroad caboose, flat car and the school.


Sadly, the age of the steam engine came to a close with the advent of diesel engines. The B&O machine shop closed in 1958 and along with the round house, burned down in 1962. The fire also damaged the turntable and it was never restored.


Learn more about the history of the railroad in Holloway when Dave Adair gives a presentation this Saturday, May 8 at 3 pm at the Belmont County Heritage Museum. The event is free and open to the public.

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