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History of the Tionesta Valley Railroad lives on

Photos courtesy of Chapman Environmental Learning Center One of the saw mills that once operated near where the Environmental Learning Center now sits at Chapman State Park,

Believe it or not, there was a time when the people of this country were physically connected to one another in ways that would be nearly impossible to imagine in this day and age.

Long before cell phones, internet, and even the landline telephone, the United States railroad industry was an amazing feat of engineering that contributed to rapid industrial growth, and as the 19th century wore on, railroad building mania swept the country not just on a national scale, but locally as well.

On Friday, a group of nature-lovers, local history buffs, and railroad enthusiasts gathered at Chapman State Park to learn about its connection with the Tionesta Valley Railroad.

During the 1880s, the excitement over newly discovered oil reserves and the booming timber industry led to a desire to link areas of Warren County and Forest County to make transporting timber easier than horse-drawn wagons.

Photo by Robert W Richardson Tionesta Valley Railway 1904, Brooks Mogul 2-6-0 arrives at Sheffield Junction.

Not far from where the Environmental Learning Center now sits at Chapman State Park, saw mills worked the forest resources for decades. To this day, evidence of the old wagon trails that were later converted into the Tionesta Valley R. R., Horton Crary & Co’s narrow gauge that connected the saw mill to the main rail line that ran from Warren, through Clarendon to Sheffield.

Originally only designed as a three-foot gauge logging railroad, the Sheffield and Tionesta Railroad later accepted and discharged passengers and freight at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot.

The Sheffield and Tionesta Railroad ceased function in 1943.

The Depot & Office Building of the former Tionesta Valley Railway has remained in sheffield ever since. Once a long standing, yet derelict structure, a series of events unfolded to put it in just the right hands.

James Bacon from Warren Ohio bought series of books on the history of Pennsylvania railroads in the 1970s. One of the books was on the history of the Tionesta Valley Railroad.

Times Observer Photo by Dave Ferry jim Bacon points to a map of the Tionesta Valley Railroad inside the old Depot station and Office building. A group with Chapman State Park’s Education Coordinator Jen Moore with Carly Moore listen in.

“In the book, it just happened to mention that the Depot was still standing in Sheffield.” Bacon said. “So the next time I was over this way, I found Sheffield.”

As the years went on, Bacon learned of the Sheffield Depot Heritage Museum’s restoration efforts. Always keeping his eye on the Tionesta Valley Railway, one day he happened upon a For Sale sign.

“By that time (the building) had been secured,” Bacon said. “the windows were boarded up, it was obvious they were trying to keep people out of it.”

He sat on the phone number on the for sale sign for a little while because he didn’t have the money to spend.

“Eventually I decided to sell my passenger car,” a full-size car that he operated on excursions all over the eastern United States in the 80’s.

Photos courtesy of Chapman Environmental Learning Center A piece of the old saw mill located at Chapman State Park by Jen Moore, Education Coordinator.

The day he sold the car his cell phone started ringing. It was the owner of the TVRR Depot to tell him she had another interested buyer and that the time is now.

Bacon purchased the Depot in 2016 and has ever since been restoring it to a fine museum with photos of the TVRR’s heyday.

Photo courtesy of Warren County Historical Society Morison run Overpass, early 1900s, built by George Cobham P&E Railroad above, log train below

Image composite by Dave Ferry with photos courtesy of Warren County Historical Society This image combines the Tionesta Valley Railroad Depot with photos of Sheffield from the time it was in service. Chapman State Park Education Coordinator Jen Moore with Carly Moore organized a tour of the depot museum with its new owner, Jim Bacon of Warren, Ohio.