Welcome to the original Transcontinental Railroad between New York and Chicago!
History of the “Norwalk Branch” Rail Line:
The Toledo, Norwalk and Cleveland Railroad was chartered in 1850 as a route to connect Toledo, Norwalk & Grafton and serve the rich agricultural regions of Northern Ohio. The railroad was opened in January of 1853, and in September of 1853 merged with the Junction Railroad to become the Cleveland & Toledo Railroad. In 1866 the C&T built a more direct connection from Oberlin to Elyria to join their Northern Division, and after a merger in 1869 the line through Norwalk became the east-west main line of the new Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, which constructed the beautiful double arch bridges over the Huron and Vermilion Rivers in the early 1870’s.
In 1914 the LS&MS was absorbed by the New York Central System, which in 1919 closed the Norwalk Locomotive Shops and reduced the Norwalk line to secondary branch status, with the current line through Sandusky becoming the main line. The “Norwalk Branch” became part of Penn Central in 1968, and in 1973 experienced a major washout at “The Big Dip” in Norwalk, dividing the line into two sections. The line was abandoned in 1976 upon the creation of Conrail, and over the next 25 years nature reclaimed the corridor.
In the late 1990’s the Northwest Ohio Rail Trail Association and a consortium of Park Districts purchased the former rail corridor, so that it could be developed as the North Coast Inland Trail between Toledo and Lorain. Firelands Rails to Trails, Inc. was formed in 2000 to build and manage Huron County’s portion of the NCIT, while preserving the rich history of the Norwalk Branch.
Firelands Rails to Trails, Inc. Milestones:
2000 – FRTTI Created as an all volunteer non profit organization
2005 – First trail segment opens from North West St in Norwalk to Peru Center Rd in Monroeville
2007 – Trail opens from State Route 99 in Monroeville to Sandhill Rd
2008 – First trail section in Collins area opens from Hartland Center Rd to Derussey Rd
2009 – Monroeville Depot & Donald E. Morrow Park dedicated as FRTTI headquarters
2010 – Collins area trail reaches West Collins Rd
2011 – Trail reaches eastern edge of Bellevue, Collins area trail reaches Medusa Rd, Kiwanis Huron River Overlook completed in Norwalk
2012 – “The Gap” in Monroeville completed from State Route 99 to Peru Center Rd
2013 – Trail reaches Laylin Rd east of Norwalk, Ommert Historic Farm becomes base of maintenance operations for eastern trail section
2014 – FRTTI Volunteer Trail Patrol established
2015 – Trail extended in Norwalk from North West St to Baker St, City street route through Norwalk established
2016 – Bruce L. Chapin Bridge over the Vermilion River in Wakeman retrofitted for trail use
2017 – ODOT constructs US 20 bikeway from Wakeman to Lorain County line, Monroeville Depot interior restoration completed
2018 – Buckeye Trail officially routed onto Huron County NCIT, Norwalk Double Arch Bridge east headwall repaired
2020 – Wakeman connector trail completed between Vermilion River and State Route 60