There’s a right-wing extremist movement in the United States called the “sovereign citizen” movement. I won’t go into their whole set of beliefs here but one consequence of their ideology is that they love creating counterfeit entities. They create bogus courts, bogus juries, bogus states, bogus governments, bogus colonies, bogus law enforcement agencies, bogus post offices—you name it, they can create their own counterfeit versions of it. About a dozen years ago, some sovereign citizens created a fake Indian tribe that they dubbed the “Little Shell Pembina Band of North America.”
You didn’t actually need to have native blood to joint his group; for $40, they’d “adopt” you. They were generous that way. They would sell fake tribal license plates, fake drivers’ licenses, and other similar documents. On the back of the Little Shell “identification card,” they listed all the wonderful rights and privileges that members had, including the right to explore the North American continent, immunity from military service, immunity from taxes, and so forth. But my favorite is this: “Every Indian is entitled to purchase a railway ticket at half price.” Now just think about this for a second. You are making up, out of whole cloth, any sort of immunity or privilege or right that your mind could possibly imagine. The sky’s the limit, right? But the person who created this card used up one of his precious magic privilege slots with half-price train tickets! You gotta think, that was one train-loving right-wing extremist, you betcha.
I couldn’t help thinking of this locomotophile sovereign citizen as I encountered a fascinating site while driving back home to Columbus from East Liverpool.
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image. Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken.]
It was May 2014 and I had taken a lengthy excursion to northeastern Ohio Appalachia, driving all the way to the Ohio River at East Liverpool before turning around and starting to head home by a different route. The day was a very long day, with plenty of light, and I had not yet exhausted my desire to look for things to photograph.
A little northwest of East Liverpool is the village of Lisbon, Ohio (population 2,821, salute!). It has suffered population loss, but not as much as some other towns and villages in the region. It is an attractive village, with some nice old buildings. Above is a VFW hall in Lisbon, the old building housing it being kept up better than many other VFW buildings elsewhere.
One of the interesting things about old buildings is how often they are repurposed and changed—with the scars of transition often visible afterwards. This fine old building is an excellent example. It sported windows once that are now bricked in, while there is a door on the second floor opening up into thin air. In the 1950s, this may have housed an Army-Navy (surplus) store, but I am not 100% sure. I am also not sure what is going on with the building right now. With the “open” sign and the curtains, it looks like there is some sort of business there, but there is no sign—nor does a search on the address seem to turn up any business. So I am rather curious. Next time I am in Lisbon I will have to look at it more closely.
This part of northeastern Ohio has a lot of low, rolling hills and some very nice farmland. Here’s an attractive farmstead in a beautiful setting.
We can make the scene a bit more timeless by zooming out so that you can’t see details like the satellite dish. Black and white imagery also propels it further back in time.
One of the great things about Ohio, though, is that it has farms and fields, woods and hills, cities and towns, but nestled in among all of these things are a wealth of little surprises. I unexpectedly encountered a delightful surprise. I chanced onto what can only be called a “lost graveyard” of old railcars—engines, passenger cars, freight cars. Outside the tiny village of Minerva, an old railroad village in northeastern Ohio, is Ohi-Rail’s Minerva Yard, which contains a vast collection of old rail cars and engines of all types, just sitting on the tracks, gradually rusting away.
I had never really encountered anything like this before. Railyards, sure, tons of them, but all of them essentially “working” railyards with all the cars being modern and currently in use. This was something altogether different.
Engines, cabooses, passenger cars from different eras; it looked like a railroad enthusiast’s dream.
I have never been a “train” person, but this is the sort of thing that could change one’s mind. The clouds cooperated with these photos, adding a bit of sky drama to the colorful cars.
This engine boasts that from the “Nickel Plate Road.” This was the product of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad Company, formed in the 1880s to connecta line between western New York and northeastern Ohio. The rail line became known as the Nickel Plate Road (because the rails were nickel-plated). By 1922, the Nickel Plate Road spanned over 500 miles between Buffalo and Chicago, soon growing by acquisition to nearly 1,700 miles. By the 1960s, however, the Nickel Plate itself had been acquired. This engine, NPR 84 (also AOSX 84) is, I believe, an American Locomotive Company (ALCO) S2 diesel-electric engine. This type of train engine was built from 1940-1950. Modified versions continued to be built until 1957 or so.
Here’s an old passenger car. I’ve got to return to this site and explore it some more.
Minverva itself is a village in northeastern Ohio (population 3,720, salute!) where Stark, Columbiana and Carroll counties meet. It had its population peak in 1970 at 4,359. It is an attractive village. Here is its American Legion hall (contrast with the VFW above).
Down the road from Minerva is Malvern, Ohio, an even smaller village of 1,189 (salute!). It has had a fairly stable population since 1930. Driving through it, I came across this odd-looking “half-building.” What seems strange to me is that there does not seem to be enough space for there to have been an “other half” at some point—not unless the road adjacent to the building used to be narrower.
In my tour of northeast Ohio villages, Waynesburg, Ohio, may well be my favorite, and that is almost totally due to this sign (although, to be fair, it has other interesting buildings and sights). What a ballsy sign—first, that Waynesburg, Ohio, is the spaghetti capitol of the world, and second, that this is entirely due to one restaurant: Cibo’s. I just love it. The Spaghetti Capitol of the world is a tiny hamlet of only 923 inhabitants (salute!). Back in 1960, it had nearly 1,500 residents, so it has suffered serious population loss.
So did I actually eat at Cibo’s Restaurant? Sadly, no, but I plan to go back and do so, because how could I not? Besides, I love spaghetti. Cibo’s occupies a building that was an old movie theater; it was converted into Cibo’s in the 1970s. You can see its website here. Unearthed Ohio says check it out.
More representative terrain: low, rolling hills. Farmland, pastureland. Sheepses, as Gollum might say.
Outside of Beach City, Ohio (not a city, no beaches), there is a little airstrip and I saw this old C-47 there, a World War II era transport and passenger plane.
I don’t usually think of swamps and hills going together—most of Ohio’s historical swampland was in flat northeastern Ohio (mostly drained now)—but eastern Ohio does have its swampy areas as well.
Swampland always fascinates me because it is so foreign to my upbringing—west Texas is fairly short on marshlands! One thing I don’t understand about swamps in Ohio (and perhaps elsewhere) are all the dead tree trunks sticking up out of them. Why no live trees?
You have to admit they can be beautiful, though.
By this time I was getting into what is commonly known as “Amish country” in Ohio—Holmes County and the surrounding area. Actually, Amish and Mennonites can be found all across Ohio, though there is a very large concentration here. Above is an Amish farm, though the architectural style is not the most common I see.
Here we see two Amish houses. The one on the right has an architectural style similar to the one in the previous photograph. The house on the left is the more common type of Amish architecture that I see. Notice how immaculate the place is? That’s the rule, rather than the exception.
In contrast, the properties of non-Amish neighbors are much more likely to sport all sorts of junk and detritus, as in this example, where sheep graze among various vehicular relics.
Nice job, Mark. My grandfather was an engineer on the Nickel Plate.