1954–Willshire Water Tank Doomed by Progress

Progress…make way for changes.

A few months ago I wrote about the old train depot in Willshire, Ohio.

Willshire’s Nickel Plate Depot, unknown date.

Near the depot was a railroad water tower that supplied water for the steam engines.

The depot and the railroad’s water tower were located on the north end of town, south of the current grain elevator, east of US route 33 and about half way to the old railroad bridge that crosses the St. Marys River there. Both the depot and the water tower are gone but the old railroad bridge across the St. Marys River is still standing. Below, a couple photos I took of the old bridge last winter:

Railroad bridge crossing St. Marys River, Willshire, Ohio, 2019.

Railroad bridge crossing St. Marys River, Willshire, Ohio, 2019.

Railroad bridge crossing St. Marys River, Willshire, Ohio, 2019.

Below is a photo of 2 bridges over the St. Marys River at Willshire, on a circa 1910 postcard. One of the bridges may be the railroad bridge:

Photo postcard, c1910, St. Marys River, Willshire, Ohio.

Below is a 1954 newspaper article about the removal of Nickel Plate’s water tower from Willshire. This, at the time when the railroads were phasing out steam engines and replacing them with diesel engines.

1954, Removing Willshire’s RR water tank.

The caption under the photo:

These three Willshire men, who have served the Nickel Plate Railroad for many years, posed for their picture in front of the water tower which will soon disappear from the banks of the St. Marys at Willshire. Left to right they are C.H. Debolt, Oatus Strickler, and J.E. Weyer.

The news article:

WILLSHIRE—Any day now the old railroad tower at Willshire is due to disappear. The Nickel Plate Railroad has ordered it torn down. “We don’t need it any more,” say the officials.

It’s a case of progress and revolution in transportation. Last spring the Nickel Plate, on its Toledo to St. Louis division, began using diesel-powered locomotives which drink oil and scoff at water. No water, no water tank. That’s the story.

Gathered around the tank the other day were three Nickel Plate men, two of whom have been with the railroad even longer than the tank itself. C.H. Debolt, 81, retired in 1947 after serving the line 50 years as telegraph operator and station agent. His last station was in Willshire.

Oatus Strickler, 77, was with the railroad 30 years and before his retirement worked last for eight years at Craigville, Ind., as section foreman.

Still with the Nickel Plate is J.E. Wyer, 67, now in charge of the maintenance crew working between Ohio City and Pleasant Mills. He began his railroad job when he was 20 and has been at it ever since.

All of these three men, Willshire residents, admit they will hate to see the old water tower disappear but are glad that the railroad industry has been making such important strides in recent years with new and better equipment.

The Willshire water tank, erected about 1917, replaced an earlier tower. A steam pump then took water from the St. Marys River for use in the thirsty steam engines. There were many of these engines in those days because approximately 24 trains, including six carrying passengers, went over the line daily through Willshire.

About 1930 the steam pump for the tank was abandoned for one with an electric motor.

The tank was originally erected by the Cloverleaf Railroad which was taken over by the Nickel Plate in the early 1920s. The railroad hauled a great deal of livestock. Willshire itself was quite a livestock center in the early part of the century and still does a creditable business with producers of the area.

Progress means change. The railroad water tower, depot, and rail service are all now part of Willshire’s past.

Thanks to Farrel and Sharon for sharing this interesting newspaper clip.


    • Jeff byer on April 19, 2022 at 3:14 pm
    • Reply

    Love it !

    1. Thanks!

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