Taking the Farkas Challenge: Railroads Helped Make Akron the Rubber Capital of the World

Farkas Surdyk

Akron has long described itself as the nation’s rubber capital. That’s no longer true for the rubber industry has all but vanished here.

Even though the rubber plants have closed – and most of them have been razed – and the headquarters of most of the rubber companies have moved elsewhere, the rubber industry will always be a major part of Akron’s identity.

For the Farkas challenge, I have nominated this image by Marty Surdyk because it harkens back to the era when rubber factories were located all over town.

Shown is an eastbound CSX auto rack passing the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company plant in South Akron.

That this is an auto rack train is significant because at one time the vast majority of tires that U.S. automotive makers put on their automobiles at the factory had been manufactured in Akron.

By the time this photograph was made in August 1988, the rubber age in Akron was all but over.

Between the train and the Firestone plant is the remnants of South Akron Yard of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was used by Conrail at the time, but not for much longer.

To the right of the train is an open space where the Erie Railroad/Erie Lackawanna tracks used to be. Now all that is left is some ballast.

Akron is not as well known for railroads as some places, but they played a key role in the city’s industrial heritage. Akron could not have become was it was without the railroads.

Article by Craig Sanders, Photograph by Marty Surdyk

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