Local author writes 58th book about Bellefontaine railroad terminal


By Eamon Baird

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FLETCHER — Author Scott Trostel recently finished his 58th book titled “Bellefontaine, Ohio: The Rise and Fall of a Big Four Terminal,” which details the cultural and economic impacts of the railroad industry on the small Ohio town.

Trostel, who currently lives in Fletcher, grew up in Piqua and can remember how he became interested in trains as a child in the early 1960s.

“As a kid, my dad bought a train for Christmas, and that was that. I was fascinated by the heavy machinery of the railroad, and then, of course, we lived just two short blocks from the railroad,” Trostel said.

Trostel continued an interest in railroads while he worked on rail car repair for Hobart Brothers for 11 years. There, he began writing about railroads.

Some of his early works included “The Lima Route,” “Bradford the Railroad Town: A Railroad Town History of Bradford, Ohio,” and “The Lincoln Funeral Train: The Final Journey and National Funeral for Abraham Lincoln.”

Simon “Si” Herring introduced the idea of writing a book about the Bellefontaine Terminal to Trostel 30 years ago. After researching, Trostel started writing the book the same day Herring passed away. This book is dedicated to Herring’s memory.

The book chronicles the origins of the railroad and the terminal in Bellefontaine was affected by the railroad industry starting in the 1840s, which initially helped the economy even though the geography might have been suspect.

“Here’s a village of a few hundred people and is the highest point in Ohio. All the railroads had to go uphill in order to get into Bellefontaine. But it gave people something to do,” Trostel said.

The first train ran out of Bellefontaine in 1852; it started a movement to connect Cleveland to a new railroad at the Ohio and Indiana State lines.

Trostel’s book detailed the industrial importance of the Bellefontaine terminal:

“By 1920, the terminal saw the passing of approximately 175 trains daily. A second yard was built in 1912 and a third in 1917 to handle all the traffic. The movement of cattle and hogs led to the construction of major stockyards, and for refrigerated shipments of produce and meats, there were icing platforms for refrigerated box cars in the days before mechanical refrigeration.”

The book also talked about how hotels, restaurants, and saloons were built in Bellefontaine to accommodate the rise in population and travelers in the area. The increase in growth saw the need to establish a railway Y.M.C.A. for the young men working on the railroad.

Railroad work was dangerous, and many men died or were seriously injured. Trostel mentioned that the men would sometimes be carried into the railroad office and have limbs amputated.

“They had surgeons on the railroad, and people were hurt and killed with regularity. Finally, the clergy and the surgeons got together and said, ‘We’ve got to have a place to operate on these people; we’ve got to have a hospital.’ Today, the hospital was known as Lima Memorial,” Trostel said.

A fire in 1943 at one of the Terminal’s roundhouses marked the beginning of the end of the terminal, and all operations were eventually shut down by 1983.

In recent years, Trostel has dealt with a series of hardships. Trostel suffered a stroke five years ago, and his wife and editor, Cheryl, passed away in 2020. Despite this, Trostel continues writing and producing cover art for all his books.

This is the third book Trostel has finished since his stroke, and his next book will be on the Lima Locomotive Works, which he hopes to finish in the next two years.

“I still have a little difficulty bringing my thoughts up in order, but it’s a whole lot better than it has been,” Trostel said.

“Bellefontaine, Ohio: The Rise and Fall of a Big Four Terminal” is available at the Logan County History Center Book Shop or their website https://www.loganhistory.org/gift-shop under the books section.

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