Archive for December, 2009

University Plans to Raze Akron Union Depot

December 24, 2009

This is what the remnants of Akron Union Depot looked like in late 2009. But the days of the platform canopy and the former station building are numbered. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

The University of Akron is planning to raze the former Akron Union Depot to make way for a new law school building. The university trustees agreed on December 16 to begin design work on the new law school facility, which is expected to cost $23.6 million.

Now known as the Buckingham Building, the former station houses the university’s Pan-African Center for Community Studies, Office of Multicultural Development, the Strive Toward Excellence Program and classrooms.

Demolition of the depot, which was dedicated on April 28, 1950, would begin in 18 to 24 months. The university must still raise the funds needed for the new building and the city of Akron must pay for a realignment of Wolf Ledges Parkway, which is also part of the law school building proposal.

The former depot has 120,000 square feet and university officials told the trustees that the building is inefficient and outdated. The station concourse used to connect to a bus station as well as contain stairways leading down to track level. The concourse now connects to UA’s West Hall and the bus station is gone.

The Buckingham Building is the last steam and streamliner era railroad station left in Akron. Two predecessor union stations were torn down shortly after the railroads ceased using them. Also gone is are two stations used by the Valley Line Railway (later the Baltimore & Ohio), two stations built by the Erie Railroad and the former Northern Ohio Railway station (later Akron, Canton & Youngstown).

Still standing is the terminal used by the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company and the modular station used by Amtrak until it ceased serving Akron in 2005. The former is now owned by Summit County while the latter remains vacant. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad station in Akron was built on the site of the former B&O Valley Line station at Howard Street.

In a related development, Akron Railroad Club member Steve McMullen reported that CSX crews have been dismantling the remnants of signals bridges and signal stands in downtown Akron. As of Monday (December 21, 2009), only the eastbound home signal bridge for the former JO interlocking was still standing.

McMullen reported that crews are poised to remove the last platform canopy of Akron Union Depot. One platform still remains from the station and it is unclear if it, too, will be removed.

The B&O was the primary user of the third Akron Union Depot. Although the Erie used the second Union Depot, it elected to build its own station rather than use the third union depot. The Pennsylvania Railroad used the Union Depot until removing its last passenger train to Akron, the Akronite, on April 26, 1958.

B&O passenger trains continued to call at Akron Union Depot until the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, when the service was discontinued. Amtrak began serving Akron on November 12, 1990. Amtrak never used the Union Depot per se, but its trains did stop at the east end of the station’s sole remaining platform, which was renovated for Amtrak use.

The former signal bridge lies on the ground on December 15, 2009. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

It had been years since this signal bridge had working signal heads. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

An eastbound CSX freight passes through the Exchange Street signals in 2006. The unused signal stands seen here were removed by CSX work crews in December 2009. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

49 Hear Grant Describe AC&Y’s Beginnings

December 6, 2009

H. Roger Grant described the development of the Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad at the Akron Railroad Club banquet on Saturday (December 5, 2009). Grant is a history professor and author of more than 20 books on railroad history. (Photograph by Richard Jacobs)

Many wags have quipped that the Akron, Canton & Youngstown Railroad never served two of its namesake cities, but instead ran west out of Akron to the “teaming” metropolis of Delphos in western Ohio.

H. Roger Grant, the Kathryn and Calhoun Lemon professor of history at Clemson University, told a crowd of 49 Akron Railroad Club members and guests on Saturday that the AC&Y did indeed have plans to build to Canton and Youngstown, but the 1920 decision to acquire the Pittsburgh, Akron & Western effectively ended them. It was the PA&W that had linked Akron and western Ohio years earlier.

Grant spoke at the annual ARRC banquet, which was held at the Martin University Center of the University of Akron. Until joining the Clemson faculty in 1996, Grant taught at UA and is a life member of the ARRC.

During the banquet, the officers for 2010 were installed by member Paul Woodring. The officers are Craig Sanders, president; J. Gary Dillon, vice president; Timothy Krogg, secretary; Edward Ribinskas, treasurer; and Marty Surdyk, bulletin editor.

Grant’s research into the development of the AC&Y occurred while he was working on a book about the building of several railroads during the twilight era of Midwest railroad development. That book, titled Twilight Rails: Railroad Building in the Midwest, is being published by the University of MInnesota Press and is expected to be released in spring 2010.

Before the banquet, Grant autographed copies of his latest book, Visionary Railroader: Jervis Langdon Jr. and the Transportation Revolution, which was published in 2008 by Indiana University Press.

If the AC&Y failed to reach Canton and Youngstown, it did succeed in becoming one of the most successful, if not the most sucessful, twilight era railroad. Many of the twilight railroads that Grant studied for his book no longer exist.

The AC&Y had planned to build through Youngstown to Sharon, Pennsylvania. Both Youngstown and Sharon offered the prospect of access to a rich industrial area. The line between Akron and Sharon would have gone though Mogodore, Suffield, Randolph and Canfield. The Canton branch would have diverged at Suffield.

Like most twilight era railroads, the AC&Y faced many obstacles, including opposition from existing railroads, most notably the Baltimore & Ohio and Erie railroads, and foot dragging by public officials. Unlike railroads built earlier, the AC&Y and other twilight era railroads generally did not benefit from land grants and subsidies. The AC&Y, in fact, received none of these.

The AC&Y would only build between Akron and Mogodore, but in doing so it found a wealth of freight traffic in east Akron. Until the coming of the AC&Y, the east Akron market had been dominated by the B&O.

Initially, the B&O, Erie, Pennsylvania and the Akron Barberton Belt resisted or hindered interchanging traffic with the AC&Y.

Grant said that the B&O charged 50 cents per car more for interchange traffic than it charged other railroads. The PRR and ABB refused to build an interchange track with the AC&Y and the Erie would not expedioustly forward AC&Y interchange traffic. The only railroad that was cooperative with the AC&Y was the Wheeling & Lake Erie, which interchanged with the AC&Y at Mogadore.

The AC&Y persevered, though, and lasted through 1964, when it was absorbed by the Norfolk & Western Railway. Today the former AC&Y is abandoned west of Carey, Ohio, but the route between there and Mogodore is a key link in the moden Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway.

To view of gallery of photographs of the banquet, click on the link below.

Fostoria Rail Park in the Design Phase

December 4, 2009

Fostoria city officials have completed a preliminary drawing of the Fostoria Iron Triangle Rail Park.

“We’re on the right track and all on board for the project,” Fostoria Mayor John Davoli told The Review Times of Fostoria.

A public hearing on the plan was held in November at which railroad enthusiasts presented suggestions for the park’s design.

“The rail fans ended up giving us a lot of great information,” said city engineer Dan Thornton, noting that fans wanted a change in the planned platform.

“They told us they would like the platform back a little further. We thought they would like to be as close to the track as possible, but more distance is better for them, which is good news for safety, too,” said Thornton.

The park will have an open-air visitor center with rest rooms and concessions, a park shelter which may be located from Portage Park, lawn space for exhibitions and a model railroad garden, a viewing platform and a relocated depot for future use as a railroad museum.

Fostoria city officials will meet next week with the Ohio Rail Development Commission to discuss rail safety issues. “We’ll kick off the final design at that point. We’re just waiting for that meeting to happen,” said Thornton.

The final design will be reviewed by the Ohio Department of Transportation and the project will then be opened for bidding, probably late summer 2010.

Fostoria received a $815,760 grant money to transform the former 5-acre Boneyard into a railroad park. The grant will fund 80 percent of the $1 million project. The city’s cost of the project is $163,152.

The city also received a $300,000 grant to clean up the rail park site. City workers began clearing debris from the site last month.

Fostoria is one of the most popular railfanning locations in Ohio. Two CSX lines (both former Baltimore & Ohio) and a Norfolk Southern route (former Nickel Plate Road) cross here.



More Akron Railroad Heritage Comes Down

December 2, 2009

Akron Railroad Club member Steve McMullen reports that another vestige of the Erie and the Baltimore & Ohio railroads has been removed from downtown Akron.

CSX work crews have removed the cantilever signal structures and the signal bridges formerly used by both railroads in downtown Akron in the vicinity of the former Union Depot site.

None of these structures has held signals for several years. Conrail removed much of the former Erie tracks in downtown Akron in the early 1980s. The Erie alonge with the jointly operated B&O/Pennsylvania railroad tracks ran parallel through downtown Akron, crossing at JO Tower. The crossing was located just beneath the Mill Street bridge.

Still standing, for now, is the remnant of an umbrella shed on the sole remaining platform of the third Akron Union Depot. The depot, which opened in 1950, is now owned by the University of Akron.