The Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad Company was chartered by the State of Ohio in January 1832 to connect west central Ohio with northern Ohio and Lake Erie. It was the first company to be incorporated for railroad purposes in the state. Construction started in Sandusky in 1835. By June 1849, the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad was completed to Springfield. Through a series of mergers, the railroad became known as the Big Four Railroad in 1890. It came under control of the New York Central Railroad in 1905. As the railroad industry consolidated, ownership transferred from New York Central to Penn Central and then to Conrail. In 1994, the West Central Ohio Port Authority, a special purpose district established by the boards of county commissioners of Champaign, Clark, and Fayette counties, acquired the railroad track to ensure that freight service would continue.