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Ohio's last commuter train - EL's Cleveland-Youngstown service

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Etheostoma Caeruleum:
I look at this itinerary and it makes me sick to think this was actually an option. Now, there is little choice except being forced to drive.

It's rather shocking that we let the Erie commuter rail line die at the height of the Energy Crisis of the mid-70s, just when urban America began turning back to mass rail transit (and right around the time Cleveland's RTA was formed from the old CTS+Shaker Rapid+smaller bus companies.


--- Quote from: Etheostoma Caeruleum on July 27, 2009, 03:35:12 PM ---I look at this itinerary and it makes me sick to think this was actually an option. Now, there is little choice except being forced to drive.

--- End quote ---

You should see what existed before that.... between this line (Erie RR), the Pennsylvania RR and the B&O RR, there were 16 trains in each direction each day between Cleveland and Pittsburgh in 1950.

Here are graphic presentations I developed of the rail passenger services Ohio had in the lifetime of my two oldest brothers (they were born in 1949 and 1951)....

How's that grab ya??

I realize these posts are from three years ago, but there are a few inaccuracies of the type that occur when people speculate about lost information.  The pictures are certainly very welcome.  I am going to comment from the top down.  First of all, air travel killed the Pullman cars, then the freeways killed the coach trains, and when the Fed stopped using RPO's, the mail revenue finished off the passenger trains.  Penn Central resorted to Philadelphia lawyer tricks like not listing the sleepers on the timetable, and then using that as an excuse not to sell tickets on them.  Then the ICC would let them abandon the sleeper service.  This gave some of the last PC trains a kind of ghost-train feeling - it was there, but not all there. 

Somewhere along the line, Cleveland became a suburb of Detroit, adapting a motorhead and MoTown culture that was not original in the city.  CKLW and Mayor Ralph Locher's infamous "Beatle Ban of 1965" didn't do much to help!  And as has been mentioned below, Ohio concentrated on roads, and for all extents and purposes seemed to hate trains.  Of course, Ohio had a lot of tracks compared to many other areas.  Very few young people that I knew in the 60's or 70's had the slightest idea of what railroads did around Cleveland.  They didn't use the rapid transit - it was "stupid" not to be cool and drive everywhere.  Even my own parents and relatives had told me that "the trains used to come into the terminal tower, but they stopped running years ago" - this in 1966!

The Erie, and later Erie-Lackawanna line from Cleveland to Youngstown was double-tracked at one time, and operated under CTC (Centralized Traffic Control), with signals in both directions.  East of Silica Sand Road in Garrettsville, the track (speed) limit was 83 mph.  I doubt that the 4-car train shown by the pond was going 70 mph in 1972.  I rode the train from '71 to '74 occasionally, and the Diesel, an EMD E-8, was limited to 48 mph at that time.  It would go into auto stop if it exceeded that for more than a short time.  The side panels had rusted out, and had been replaced with plywood insets - that's why there are no porthole windows in the engine. 

Regarding stations:  After leaving the C.U.T. eastbound, Erie trains ran reversed on the No. 1 (WB) track, which was protected by signals, until they switched to the left onto new right of way built when the Erie came in.  This followed the rapid transit r.o.w., which climbed up, and then flew over the C.U.T. and Nickel Plate (later N&W) tracks.  The Van Sweringens built 4 girder bridges for their traction empire during the period around WWI - but only the northernmost 2 were used.  There were supposed to be two express tracks inside (in the middle), and two local tracks outside.  The Erie connection used the southernmost of these 4 bridges.  The rapid transit tracks then followed the NKP on the south side of the r.o.w., while the Erie continued on SE and connected with the main coming up from Riverbed St., and the west end of the Lorain - Central (Carnegie) Viaduct - where it separated from the "Big 4" (CCC&St.L), which is now called the Clark Ave. extension - what's left of it.  Erie crossed the river, and the B&O line, and climbed the hill, crossing Broadway.  The C.U.T. connection was about a number 20 switch, allowing about 40-45 mph through it.  East of 34th St. there was a spur that ran to a ramp, where the rapid transit cars had been unloaded off of flatcars when they were delivered.  The ends of the rails were sharpened to slanted points - an unusual sight. 

Going east, there would have been a proposed joint Erie/Pennsylvania RR coach yard, had the Pennsy come into the terminal project.  Then was the roundhouse, just west of the E. 55th and McBride station.  After the station, around 89th St., the line crossed the Pennsy, with a connection branching south, to the right, to connect with the PRR, which had trackage rights down the Erie to Bessemer Ave., and the steel mill facilities.  The trains always stopped, and were manually waved through by PRR or PC tower operators. 

The Erie line curved to the right, or south, as the Cleveland Short Line tunneled underneath this area, and the very deep cut and tunnels could be seen if one was seated on the north-east side of the car.  Then it turned east again.  The 93rd St. station was abandoned after the Lee-Miles "Shaker Heights Suburban Station" was opened, around the time of dieselization.  The trains always blocked traffic at Lee Rd. when they stopped there. 

Next was North Randall, home of the Randall Park horse racing track, and later, the Randall Park mall.  At one time there was a large ground storage area where the railroad piled up coal in the winter time, and moved it down to the docks when Lake Erie thawed out, and the lake boats started running again.  After this was Solon, where the Wheeling and Lake Erie branch to Chagrin Falls crossed.  I don't recall the E-L having a signal protecting the crossing, but the W&LE (N&W by then) had a searchlight signal showing lunar white at the crossing for their traffic. 

Aurora was next, and after that was a long siding, and the Carlon plant, that generated some traffic. After this was Mantua, home of the Potato Festival.  There was a feed mill there, and in the old days, they used to kick (get it rolling with the engine, then brake quickly and uncouple) the freight cars up the trestle, with the conductor riding the brake, to stop it at the right place.  The loco was too heavy for the trestle, so they kicked the car(s) up. 

Next came Jeddoe, at the Route 700 crossing - there's a bike trail there now, going east.  This was a whistle stop, and there were cars waiting there for the train in the dark morning hours.  It was actually closer to Hiram.  Between Mantua and Jeddoe was a very long passing siding, with spring switches at each end, so the trains could just run through them.  Going into the siding, the train ran straight through, and coming out, it veered left - both ends stepped over the same way, for maximum speed.  Back down along the track a ways, to the left side if going toward Mantua, there is a small waterfall, just off the r.o.w. on private farm land.  Hiram students sometimes picnicked there in days gone by, but some south side Clevelanders bought the farm, and got pretty unpleasant about anyone going to see the waterfall by the mid 70's.  There was a double reverse curve where the line crossed the Eastern Continental Divide, where the water either goes north to Lake Erie, or south to the Ohio River, and in steam days they ran through this at 50 mph.  Once, a colored (sic) Pullman porter had asked if he might ride in the engine just one time, which was allowed,and when he saw the view out from the cab, going through those curves where he couldn't even see the track ahead, rollicking along at 50 per, he swore he'd never ask for a ride again! 

The curve through the Garrettsville station had a high super-elevation to it, and the steps were quite slanted towards the ground when it stopped there.  After the 6:23 P.M. stop, a through freight would usually run through with three EMD SD-45's on the head end - it was stirring to see them haul the tonnage through there at nearly 50 mph.  Some evenings a way freight would come through with an Alco RS-2, which also sometimes pulled No. 27 and 28 when the E-8 was in the shop.  I once was fortunate enough to see the E-8 and a business car fly through there on a Sunday evening, heading for Cleveland - a rare sight!  There was also a siding in G-ville, for passenger cars, for football specials, probably, and some fairly extensive freight tracks.  (New Concord, Ohio, home of Muskingum College, also had a passenger siding on the B&O line to Columbus, likely for the same reason.)

Coming into Garrettsville, just before the bridge over Rt. 82, there was a house, and all four sides of the house could be seen as the train came through the curves west of the highway overpass.  That bridge is now gone, but the house is probably still there.  There was a bridge that crossed Highway 82 as the tracks headed east out of G-ville, but that has been removed.

Mahoning and Phalanx were unnoticeable by then, but Phalanx at one time had a curving turnaround track that connected with the Akron main, so freights could run from Cleveland back to Akron, Marion, and west.  Also at one time, the New York Central line from Dillonvale, across from Wheeling, W Va. came up from Warren and crossed the Akron-Greensburg-Meadville line, and curved to the west, joining the Mahoning Division with trackage rights to Cleveland.  At Leavittsburg, a set of high-speed double-slip switches diverted traffic either to the cut-off to Meadville (night passenger trains used this route), or through the "back door" to Youngstown, and the whole Pittsburgh, Washington or Philadelphia route, via the P&LE past Youngstown, and the B&O past  Pittsburgh.  Warren had a nice station, and contrary to some comments, there were several people who boarded there in the early 70's.  Finally, the trains ran past the Brier Hill yards and shops (the Pennsy line ran further behind it, but parallel - the was the Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Ashtabula, later considered for a high-speed test track that never materialized) and then to the Youngstown station, referred to as Phelps Street.  That is where that picture was taken - I remember the parking garage seen in the background. 

In 1964, the Cleveland Press ran a special train on the Erie-Lackawanna to the last weekend of the New York World's Fair, and it departed at about 11:00 P.M. from track 13.   I remember that it had a blue and silver Nickel Plate Road sleeper on the back end.  It ran into Hoboken, not Jersey City.

Just some things about the Cleveland Union Terminal, that were mentioned by some.  The "Steam Concourse" started with tracks 11 and 12 under Prospect Ave.  The ceiling was very low there.  The NYC Mercury used to depart for Detroit from track 11.  Where the ceiling opened up under the skylight, were tracks 13 and 14.  No. 27 and 28 arrived and departed from track 14.  Tracks 14 and 15 had a crossover switch to the sleeper car lead that connected directly to tracks 11-13.  This way, any train could be pulled from or to the coach yard, and from or to any of the tracks 11-15 from the track closest to the rapid transit tracks, in just one back and forth movement.

The next three sets, 15-16, 17-18 and 19-20, were under the main concourse.  It seems likely that the Nickel Plate mostly used Track 15.  Tracks 21-22 were really under Huron Road, as the steps went down under the mural, and then turned left or right.  The New York Central installed an escalator from tracks 17-18, if I remember it right.  There were scissor crossovers between tracks 12-13, 16-17, and 20-21, for switching diners in the middle of trains.  They were by the stairs at track level.  Track 23 was the running track, and also had a platform between it and track 22.  There was a blackboard type sign that said "Pullman Line:  Line 1  Line 2"  where the sleepers were lined up for their respective trains, in the correct order.  The rapid transit tracks have been moved over, but one of the support posts still says "15" on it to indicate where track 15 was.  There was a stub track that was crossed by a double slip going to track 16, with an immense concrete bumper at the end, a small building, and an oil tank, probably for filling the oil-fired steam heaters on the electric "depot motors" as they were called.  This could hold both the east throat motors.  Another motor was at the east end of the coach yard.  The west throat was the same, except there were two stub tracks under the Post Office, with one motor on each one, although they were long enough for some mail cars or sleepers, too.  There was another depot motor at the west end of the coach yard.  There were then 9 coach yard tracks, two of which were still under Huron Road, and the rest were outside.  There was an automatic car washer on about coach yard track 5, and there were platforms between each track, but they were narrower than the station platforms.  Also at the extreme west end were two more stub tracks that led into a wheel lathe house, and a brake shop.  There were also shops and repair facilities inside a HUGE room behind the mural, that had its own metal stairway so the station master could get to track level quickly.

The Cuyahoga Viaduct had two rapid transit tracks going west, on the northern side, towards the lake, and three "Steam Tracks" to the south.  The first two were the mains, and the southernmost one was spaced a little further over, and was the coach yard lead, although it could also serve as a third main for departures and arrivals.  The viaduct was easily strong enough to handle three full trains of heavyweight cars, as well as any type of locomotive the Central ever ran, including Hudsons (4-6-4) and Niagaras (4-8-4).  The Nickel Plate also ran freight trains over it in the early 50's when their steel trestle was under repair.  The American Freedom Train ran over it in May of '68, pulled by a Berkshire (2-8-4).

At one time the E-L dropped the coaches and ran the engine back out to 55th street, but later, they pulled forward, and then backed the train over a different track to go back to 55th street.  Why this was done is a mystery, but I saw it pulling out of the west end, and then backing up, when it was down to three, or two cars.

So much bridge removal and earthmoving has been done on the east approach that it is unlikely trains could return.  Probably paving would have to be jackhammered out, and the roadbed lowered to get trains back in under the silly yuppie restaurant they installed.  But the viaduct could easily handle modern trains, which are much lighter.  Except the R/T has mucked up the r.o.w. with rush hour storage tracks.  There is much to be said about the R/T track arrangement in the Ontario Street subway, but that belongs on another thread.

It sure was a beautiful and functional station until it was modernized, but it had become dingy and dangerous by the 80's, and PC police were unfriendly on top of it all!

Etheostoma Caeruleum:
^ Thanks for posting all that. Very interesting. I wonder if trains had the luxury of the promotional/marketing efforts/monies that is spent on auto, trucking, popular train travel would become in Ohio even in this day and age of anti-rail attitudes that has been fostered for many years... Hmmm......


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