Taking the Farkas Challenge: An Historic Month in the Twilight of Passenger Trains Era in Akron

Farkas Beach

Being invited to visit the home of John Beach to view his slides is akin to attending a private dinner party at the home of Iron Chef Michael Symon. You are in a treat you will long remember.

John has dutifully and skillfully chronicled the Northeast Ohio railroad scene in color slides since the 1950s. When he dips into his collection you are going to feel that you’ve gone back in time.

Much of his work has been done around his hometown of Massillon, but he got up to Akron at times.

In January 1970, the Erie Lackawanna was about to discontinue its last intercity passenger train, the Chicago-Hoboken, New Jersey, Lake Cities.

John and his son Dave, an outstanding photographer in his own right, got out on a cold day to shoot the Lake Cities a few days before it made its last runs.

But John also photographed a Baltimore & Ohio train that also was days away from making its last trip west of Akron.

Shown is the westbound Diplomat at Akron Union Depot in what is my nomination on John’s behalf for the Farkas challenge.

This image has made at a historic time with the EL about to exit the intercity passenger business and the B&O curtailing its service to what would prove to be its final pre-Amtrak offering.

By the end of the month, Akron would have just one passenger train to Chicago, the B&O’s famed Capitol Limited. But on this day it had three.

In 16 months Akron won’t have any intercity passenger service at all, a situation that would not be remedied for another 20 years.

Train stations have historically been the front door to places large and small in America.

Akron fought a decades-long campaign to get a new station, which opened in April 1950. It was a fine facility, but would be used for just over 20 years.

The consist of B&O train No. 7 reflects the twilight era of railroad-operated intercity passenger service.

Just one E8A is needed to pull a train that has three head-end cars and three passenger cars. Chances are the on-off count today was not very high.

Before the end of the month No. 7 and its counterpart No. 8, the Gateway, will be operating between Akron and Washington as the Shenandoah.

Also in the image is another Akron landmark that has appeared in countless photographs of Akron railroads.

The twin spires of St. Bernard Catholic Church soar over Akron from its home at Broadway Street and University Avenue.

St Bernard has been the one constant in all of those railroad photographs made in downtown Akron. Railroad companies have come and gone, but the church has always been there as though acting as a silent witness to the changes going on around it over time .

Photograph by John Beach, Article by Craig Sanders

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One Response to “Taking the Farkas Challenge: An Historic Month in the Twilight of Passenger Trains Era in Akron”

  1. Bob Says:

    John’s photo beautifully captures the last years of the B&O passenger trains in Akron. From The “Akron” sign on the left to the wind blowing the snow off the roof of the cars to the walk bridge over the tracks, these details make the image come alive. The roads might be snow-covered and slippery, but the train would get through to its destination.
    Thanks for posting this.

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