Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio

Date added: October 13, 2022 Categories: Ohio Train Station

In December, 1900, the station was dedicated and became the division headquarters for the Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis Railroad, commonly called the Big Four. The three divisions were Galion, Springfield, and Indianapolis. The Galion building housed the engineering corps, the division superintendent, the trainmaster, and the clerks and stenographers. All trains stopped in Galion to change crews, including the New York to St. Louis trains, for which Galion was the only stop between Cleveland and Columbus. The peak passenger usage probably was during and soon after World War I, when 32 trains a day stopped, including mail trains. Railway express was servicing as many as 20 trains a day into the early 1950's, when 21 men were employed there.

The Erie-Lackawanna Railroad also had a passenger station in Galion, and limousine service was provided between the two stations to make connection between the two railroads. Railway express parcels from the Erie depot were also handled through the Big Four Depot.

In 1929, the New York Central acquired the Big Four and the division headquarters was moved from Galion to Bellefontaine, Ohio. The ticket office remained until it was moved to a building in the Galion yards in about 1964, several years before passenger service was discontinued. The last railroad offices were closed and the Big Four Depot was vacated in about 1969.

As a division headquarters, the building was larger, more elaborate, and possibly more decorated than most small-town stations. It thus makes a striking example of railroad architecture at the turn of the century. The stonemasonry was done by Homer Longstreth, the father of a recent mayor of Galion. The stone is sandstone, likely from the quarries near Amherst, Ohio, which supplied stone for many Big Four bridges.

Since Galion was a stop for all trains, it became a "whistle stop" for campaigning presidential candidates. Among those who made speeches from train platforms at the Galion station were Al Smith in 1928, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, and Eisenhower and Nixon in 1952.

Building Description

This two-and-a-half-story building covers about 5000 square feet on the first floor. The first-story exterior walls are rock-faced cut sandstone. Window and doorway arches are smooth-faced sandstone. The second story has bands of various types of wood siding. The lowest band is bevel siding, the second band is shiplap, the third is shingle, and the fourth is shiplap. The building has a multiple bellcast hip roof which is crossed by a gable roof and is penetrated by three triangular dormers and one hipped dormer. The roof is asphalt shingle.

The northeast wing of the building is one-and-a-half stories, the first of which was the baggage and mail room. The projecting eaves of this wing are supported by brackets, as are various places around the building where the second story overhangs the first. About 25 feet northeast from the northeast wing is the one-story railway express building that was built in about 1920.

A 15-foot wide canopy adjoins the building along the track side and extends about 115 feet beyond to the northeast. Originally, the canopy extended about 200 feet beyond the building to the southwest as well, but this section was destroyed by a freight train wreck in 1947. The canopy is supported by a single line of 17 round cast iron columns.

The passenger lobby is entered through double doors from either the southeast, that is track side, or from the northwest side. The lobby was remodeled in 1948, at which time the ceiling was lowered, new restrooms were partitioned, and curved glass block entries were added to provide a pair of interior doors at each entrance. A single-door entrance on the southeast side leads to the office area behind the ticket windows and to the stairway to the second floor. The second-floor offices open off a central hall and were partially repartitioned in the 1948 remodeling. Apparently, the third floor was partitioned during or soon after original construction, but was used only for storage. The walls, ceilings, and angled perimeters of the third-floor rooms are covered with the same wood paneling. All three floors have wood flooring with the exception of the ceramic tile restroom floors and the vinyl asbestos tile lobby floor. The baggage and mail room has a doorway in each of its three exposed walls. There is no doorway from the baggage room into the rest of the building. A small central basement houses a boiler from which rises an interior chimney.

Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio Southwest and southeast facades (1974)
Southwest and southeast facades (1974)

Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio Aerial view looking southeast. Harding Way, the main street of downtown, appears across the upper part of the photograph. The depot is in the upper left corner. (1964)
Aerial view looking southeast. Harding Way, the main street of downtown, appears across the upper part of the photograph. The depot is in the upper left corner. (1964)

Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio Aerial view looking east. Harding Way appears vertically at the right side of photo (1964)
Aerial view looking east. Harding Way appears vertically at the right side of photo (1964)

Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio Aerial view looking east. This shows the triangular lot bounded by Church St., Washington St., and the railroad tracks. To the left of the depot is the newer railway express building. Above the depot, between the tracks is a waiting building, also of later date. (1964)
Aerial view looking east. This shows the triangular lot bounded by Church St., Washington St., and the railroad tracks. To the left of the depot is the newer railway express building. Above the depot, between the tracks is a waiting building, also of later date. (1964)

Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio Looking south at the northwest and northeast facades of the building. This shows the one-and-a-half-story baggage and mail wing of the building. (1974)
Looking south at the northwest and northeast facades of the building. This shows the one-and-a-half-story baggage and mail wing of the building. (1974)

Big Four Depot - Penn Central Railroad Station, Galion Ohio Looking east at the southwest and northwest facades of the building. (1974)
Looking east at the southwest and northwest facades of the building. (1974)