Steam train excursions end amid rising insurance

SUGARCREEK, Ohio (AP) - Increasing liability insurance costs and sluggish tourism have led to the end of steam-powered train excursions in the Amish country of northeast Ohio.
The No. 6325 steam engine left the Sugarcreek train station on Memorial Day weekend on its last run through the community, taking passengers from the Dennison Depot to the Strawberry Festival in Newark.
The Ohio Central Railroad, which operated the service, will keep its Bicentennial Train excursion commitment on June 21 from Newark to Dennison, but will use a diesel engine.
"It's not the end of our railroad," said Michael J. Connor, executive vice president of the Ohio Central Railroad. "It's just the end of this service."
The Ohio Central Railroad System includes nine small railways that ferry freight among a number of cities including Canal Fulton, Cadiz, Youngstown and Columbus.
Ohio Central's situation is not unique, said Ron Jedlicka of the Ohio Rail Tourism Association. Other groups that offer train rides to tourists are struggling, he said.
His group, the Buckeye Lake Trolley, which offers weekend train rides around the Buckeye Lake area outside of Newark, had its liability insurance doubled.
Jedlicka said the loss of Sugarcreek's rail service left the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky as the only place in Ohio with regular rides aboard a steam-powered train.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)