The Orrville Railroad Heritage Committee was founded by a small group of railroad enthusiasts in 1978 to promote the preservation of our Ohio railroad heritage in Orrville, Ohio, a town that owes its very existence and development to the railroad industry.
In 1981, membership was opened to the general public and there are currently about 200 paid members in the organization. Membership is open to anyone interested in preserving the railroad heritage of the area.
Also in 1981, the first Depot Days were held, an annual event that continues today as Orrville Railroad Day.
The committee purchased and restored the former 1868 Pennsylvania Railroad Union Station in 1982. The station is a well-known historical landmark. The signal tower was also purchased in 1982 and was moved across the tracks to its current location adjacent to the station.
Also in 1982, the committee started operating passenger excursions using both steam and diesel locomotives. There have been over 130 excursions carrying over 90,000 passengers. These trips have been powered by such famous steam locomotives as Nickel Plate 765, Chesapeake & Ohio 2765, Norfolk and Western 611 and 1218, Ohio Central 1551, 1293 and 6325 and various diesel locomotives of Conrail, Norfolk Southern, Ohio Central, and Wheeling & Lake Erie.
In 1989, the society acquired the Pennsylvania Railroad type N5C cabin car from Conrail and relocated it to its current site adjacent to the depot and tower. This acquisition added to the core cluster of buildings and equipment which house ORHS headquarters and serve as an educational center.
In 1992, the committee adopted its current name of the Orrville Railroad Heritage Society. The change was adopted to more accurately reflect the growth of the organization since its beginning.
To support the excursions, ORHS has purchased several classic passenger cars and a diesel locomotive. Currently a number of equipment pieces have been or are being restored by volunteer members of the ORHS. The equipment consists of passenger coaches, a concession car and box car/shop cars.
ORHS is organized as a non-profit 501(c)(3) historical, educational organization.
ORHS has over the years sponsored Operation Lifesaver activities at their Depot Days, the Wayne County Fair, and on special trains in cooperation with neighboring school districts. ORHS also sponsors a Safety Poster Contest for young people in local 4-H clubs to help promote “Rail/Highway Safety Awareness” before they become automobile drivers. ORHS is currently active with the Ohio Legislature testifying as to the need for grade crossing safety curriculum in the schools. Operation Lifesaver activity is pursued and sorely needed to promote railroad crossing safety because thousands of people are seriously injured, and hundreds are killed each year in nearly 6,000 rail/highway grade crossing crashes.
More information about Operation Lifesaver can be accessed through our Links page.
All Aboard, the official newsletter of ORHS, is published quarterly for members and friends. All Aboard helps to keep the local community and supporters informed about the progress of the organization which they helped to form.