ELHS Members Enjoy Marion Meeting

The setting sun on September 24, 2010, backlights AC Tower and the Marion Union Station, site of the 2010 ELHS annual convention. (Photographs by Richard Jacobs)

The 39th anniversary annual meeting of the Erie Lackawanna Historical Society (ELHS) was held in Marion, Ohio, on September 24-25, 2010. The ELHS is the organization that preserves the history of the Erie Lackawanna (EL) Railway and its predecessor roads, the Erie Railroad and the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western (DL&W).

The two roads, competitors on the New York to Buffalo route, merged in October 1960, forming the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad. The hyphen was dropped in 1963 when the road was renamed the Erie Lackawanna Railway. The EL was short-lived, only lasting until the formation of Conrail in 1976. It would have been 50 years old this year.

Thirty nine years ago in July 1971, a group of dedicated EL railfans in Marion formed the Erie Railfan Society. This organization became the ELHS in 1981. The ELHS held its annual meeting in Marion in 1991, when I joined. I had been photographing the EL for the last six years of its existence (1970-1976) and had been a regular visitor to Marion during that time. A second annual meeting was held in Marion in 2001.

This year’s meeting was sponsored by the Marion Union Station Association (MUSA), with Rich Behrendt and Pete White acting as meeting organizers and hosts. White is a former tower operator of AC (Atlantic Crossing) Tower, which formerly controlled all rail traffic through Marion.

The tower has been preserved and relocated to MUSA’s property across the rails from its original location. It was obtained from Conrail in 1995 and moved to its current location in 1999.

The working model board inside the tower reflects the track and signal installation that was in place prior to 1976.

EL bay window caboose C306 occupies the area next to the tower. Marion Union Station has been superbly preserved and the adjacent buildings of the complex house a fine meeting room, and an expansive HO model railroad layout. The station is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at other times by appointment.

Friday (September 24) was registration day followed by railfanning in the area. The ELHS slide presentations in the evening lasted until 11 p.m.

The restored AC tower was open for viewing and operation. The original signal interlocking machine can be operated to set indicated track routes and signals on the display board. You can do everything but actually move the switches and set the signals on the nearby tracks. That is done by the CSX IE dispatcher in Indianapolis.

Throughout the day, sales tables, manned by ELHS members, were open in the station. They featured books, calendars, DVDs, videos and other EL memorabilia.

Saturday was quite full of activities. At 10:30 a,m.,  Pete White presented a history of Marion Union Station and AC Tower. At 1 p.m. Preston Cook presented a black and white photographs presentation of the building, expansion and operation of the Marion diesel shops. Cook was stationed in Marion by the Electro Motive Division of General Motors as a technical advisor to help ready new locomotives for operation.

Cook was followed by ELHS historian Larry DeYoung, who presented slides from past ELHS meetings in Ohio. Dave Oroszi followed that with a slide show of the Dayton branch. The Dayton branch was part of the original mainline built by the Atlantic & Great Western in 1864  and leased by the Erie in 1874.

Gale E. Martin of the Marion County Historical Society then presented a short history of Marion and the railroads’ impact on the city.

From 5 to 8 p.m. the annual ELHS banquet was held in the Harding House Hotel, a few blocks from the Marion depot. After the banquet, we returned to the Marion station’s former waiting room. Door prizes of EL memorabilia were raffled off to the members.

Preston Cook then presented a PowerPoint program on the Marion diesel shop operations. Mike Schafer of White River Publications and editor of Passenger Train Journal, followed with an extensive slide program of the Erie Lackawanna from Chicago to Hoboken. Following his presentation, several members showed EL slides, including Pete Scheckermann, Richard Jacobs and Joe Slanser.

No programs were scheduled for Sunday but several members who stayed overnight enjoyed the day photographing trains. A photographic highlight was the presence of maroon EL bay window caboose C347 in the local CSX yard. The caboose had been painted in EL colors with CSX’s permission, by the Union Tank Car Corporation shop, which occupies the former EL diesel shop. It has the EL diamond, but the reporting marks are NYC 21114, probably as a result of the Conrail breakup. The caboose is assigned to the CSX Marion yard.

It was finally time to depart Marion. I certainly suggest visiting the Marion Union Station complex whenever you are nearby. With three double-tracked mainlines passing in front of and next to the Marion Union Depot, there is plenty of railfanning activity available. The Shovel Inn next to the station provides fine meals every day. There is a local gas station just a block away. The restoration of the property, and the friendly folks of MUSA, as well as the number of trains passing by will make it worth your while.

Article by Richard Jacobs

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One Response to “ELHS Members Enjoy Marion Meeting”

  1. Don Hill Says:

    My dad was an engineer on the Erie RR. I would like any information or at least where I can get it.

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