Taking the Farkas Challenge: A Frame of Reference Image of the Railroads of Akron

B&O passenger 3

If the image above looks familiar, it should. A cropped version of this photograph has appeared at the top of the Akron Railroad Club blog since the site was launched in March 2009.

It was made by the late Binford Eubank and I am nominating it as his contribution to the Farkas challenge of a favorite photograph of railfanning in Akron.

The image shows a westbound Baltimore & Ohio passenger train departing in June 1965. The station in the background belongs to the Erie Lackawanna.

In many ways this is the quintessential Akron railroad scene for most members of the ARRC.

If you were born following World War II, you came of age in the 1960s and whatever the railroad structure was at that time is your frame of reference for Akron and its railroads for all time.

That means that you always have known the city’s dominant railroad as the B&O. The second-most dominant carrier was the Erie Lackawanna, which used to be the Erie Railroad, but that was during a time when you were too young to remember much.

Just as you were becoming intimately familiar with those railroads, they changed. The B&O morphed into the Chessie System although, technically, it was still the B&O on paper and the letters “B” and “O” appeared on the sides of locomotive cabs.

The Erie Lackawanna became part of Conrail, which worked steadily to erase it.

And the passengers trains serving Akron went away. That depot shown in Ben’s photo was razed and the site is now a bank branch.

Even if you came of age in the 1970s, this scene is still your frame of reference because your parents and their friends spoke of railroad operations during the era when this image was made. It is how you came to understand the railroads.

Change has a way of forcing people into being pragmatic and accepting that things are not the way they used to be.

Yet scenes such as this one are the foundation upon which understandings of the history of a city’s railroads are based, rooted in statements of facts prefaced with the phrase “used to be” as in that used to be the old B&O. The Erie Lackawanna used to run there. There used to be passenger trains here.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Binford Eubank

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3 Responses to “Taking the Farkas Challenge: A Frame of Reference Image of the Railroads of Akron”

  1. Bob Says:

    When I click on the image and see it full size, I see so much extra detail. The baggage cart on the EL platform might be filled with bags of mail. The grassy lawn between the driveway and tracks was a favorite place for Mike Ondecker and me to stand and in my case to take pictures. Industrial Akron makes up much of the background. The baggage carts, etc. on the B&O side hint at a busier time.
    Thanks for posting this.

    • csanders429 Says:

      Bob is correct about there being a lot of rich details in that photograph and I thought about the industrial background as I was writing the article that goes with it. There is also the old Erie freight house standing in the background and the Akron Beacon Journal building is recognizable. Yes, all of that hints at a busier time, at least from a railroad perspective. It also illustrates another time, which is why I think it is a good photograph for the Farkas challenge series as well as a headliner for the Akron Railroad Club blog.

  2. Paul Woodring Says:

    I agree with what has been said about the photo. My comment would be that age and experience can vastly change your outlook on whether to take a particular image, or to keep one already taken. In my younger days as a new photographer, I either would never have taken that photo, or certainly never shown it to anyone else because I would have missed having the locomotive of the passenger train in it.

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