The history of the Ohio State Limited passenger rail that connected to NYC

The Ohio State Limited, a now-defunct passenger rail, offered people in Columbus, Ohio a convenient way to travel to New York City in the early 1950s.

CBUStoday Ohio State Limited

The Ohio State Limited making a stop in Springfield, Ohio in February 1965. | Photo via Wikicommons

It takes nearly nine hours to drive to New York City from Columbus, but in the early 1950s, two rails made this long commute every day.

This was the Ohio State Limited, a passenger rail that connected Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland to the Big Apple from 1924 until 1967. Each journey began in Cincinnati Union Terminal and ended in Grand Central Station, taking 16+ hours to cross 880+ miles.

Today, we are re-riding through the rails of history to recall what happened to the Ohio State Limited.

Origin story

The Ohio State Limited was something like a Frankenstein creation, combining smaller rails from across the region to form the “Big Four Route.” It comprised Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. These were later acquired by NYC Railroad near the 1930s, which led to the connection.

CBUStoday Ohio State Limited map

A travel map for the Ohio State Limited when it was fully operational. | Map by Mackensen/Wikicommons

Hey day

By the mid-1950s, nine NYC-bound trains were stopping in Columbus each day. This also included a luxury line, No. 15 + No. 16, which reportedly traveled between Columbus, Cincinnati, New York City, and Boston.

Don’t forget about amenities, too. Due to the long rides, the trains offered dining services, beds, and a lounge room.

CBUStoday Ohio State Limited 2

The Ohio State Limited departing from the Dayton Union Station in September 1967. | Photo via Wikicommons

Final days

Spoiler alert: The Ohio State Limited has been defunct for decades. But how did that happen?

In 1967, NYC Railroad merged with Pennsylvania Railroads to form Penn Central Transportation. Penn Central’s new goal was short-haul services. This spelled the end for a CBUS rail to NYC, but local travels continued on despite a drastic drop in rider enthusiasm (amenities were also worsening, according to reports).

Four years later, Penn Central went bankrupt, which led to the creation of Amtrak. Amtrak, which is responsible for long-distance rail travel, ultimately ended the last of the OSL services in May 1971, which at that point had largely become one train traveling between Cincinnati and Cleveland.