Taking the Farkas Challenge: For One Moment Going Home to the Erie Lackawanna in Akron

ns1074akron05

Since picking up a camera in the 1970s, Roger Durfee has made thousands of photographs of railroad operations in Akron.

Singling out 50 of his top images would be challenge enough but imagine having to choose the top photo.

Roger hasn’t yet taken the Farkas challenge of naming his favorite or best image of railroading in Akron, so I am taking the liberty of nominating one on his behalf.

It was made last December and it is one of those images that tells a story about past and present at the same time. More often than not with railroading, those stories focus on loss  but sometimes there is redemption even if it is a token effort.

The photograph shows Norfolk Southern No. 1074, the Lackawanna heritage unit, on the point of a westbound CSX train passing the site of the former Erie Lackawanna and Erie Railroad yard in downtown Akron.

The EL locomotive livery was based largely on that of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western, which merged with the Erie in October 1960 to create the EL.

The EL wasn’t the only railroad in Akron nor was it the busiest. Yet it played a major role in meeting the city’s transportation needs throughout its nearly 16-year existence as had its predecessor the Erie.

There are few traces left in Akron of either EL or the Erie. In fact, NS 1074 is not even riding over former Erie or EL tracks. It is on the former Baltimore & Ohio.

The site of the former Erie/EL yard in Akron how houses an Akron Metro transfer station and wide expanses of what was once railroad property are a grass field. The road to the left of the train is where the EL/Erie mainline once ran.

For one moment last year the memories of the EL in Akron were brought back to life with the passage of this CSX train. The train represented Akron of the present where more often than not CSX trains just pass through town without stopping. NS 1974 is a nod to the past of what railroading in Akron used to be.

That alone would be enough to favor this photograph for Roger’s contribution to the Farkas challenge, but there is another reason to select this image.

The EL wasn’t just another railroad to Roger. He has written extensively about how his passion for the EL, which he was just getting to know when it was taken away.

Some EL employees befriended Roger when they saw him hanging around and he has credited that with playing a role in motivating him to seek out a railroad career.

At this point, I’ll let Roger speak for himself about this image. He wrote in the post that accompanied the photograph when it was posted last year to the ARRC blog: “I’d like to think maybe the ghosts of the EL were pacing this train as it rolled west, mere inches from where the EL once was.

“Regardless, it brought a bittersweet smile to my face. For one fleeting moment I was close to home. Truth be told, that photo probably had more meaning to me than any other one I’ve taken this year.”

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Roger Durfee

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