ASHTABULA — In the 1830s, the Port of Ashtabula was one of the busiest ports for shipping on the Great Lakes.

When the Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Ashtabula Railroad was built in 1873, waterborne trade in coal and ore increased and hundreds of European immigrants came to Ashtabula for jobs on the docks. By the 1960s, the Port of Ashtabula was the world’s third-busiest port for iron ore, according to the World Port Source.

Today, after Norfolk Southern Railroad consolidated operations of its coal docks on Lake Erie by idling its Ashtabula coal pier in 2015, and shifting operations to Sandusky, city officials work to preserve history. 

“Norfolk Southern is dismantling property and buildings along both sides of the Ashtabula River and looks to remove the coal conveyor belt,” City Manager Jim Timonere said. “We want to have a discussion with [NS Railroad] about their future plans and if we can keep the coal conveyor belt. It’s an iconic structure that is part of the skyline in the Ashtabula Harbor.”

“We will do our best to partner with NS, but when all is said and done, it’s their property,” he said. 

City Council President John Roskovics said the manager has the full support of council.

“It’s a historical structure in our community,” Roskovics said.

Timonere said he plans to update City Council on the situation at its Feb. 1 meeting.

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