Silent Monuments to the Valley’s Industrial Heritage

This bridge over the Cuyahoga River once led to the Jaite Paper Mill, but has not been used since the middle 1980s.

This bridge over the Cuyahoga River once led to the Jaite Paper Mill, but has not been used since the middle 1980s.

I’ve long known that there was a paper mill in Jaite that was served by a spur off the Baltimore & Ohio’s Valley Line between Cleveland and Akron.

Maps at such online sites as Google, Mapquest and Bing still show the rail spur diverging from the Valley Line, which is now owned by the National Park Service and used by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

But I always thought that those maps were in error and that the rail spur had been removed years ago. It turns out that I was mistaken and not the maps.

While doing research for my CVSR book, I was able to determine where the paper mill had been located. I thought it had been west of the Cuyahoga River, but it was east of the river and southeast of Jaite.

I also discovered that the spur to the paper mill, which had been established in 1909 and closed in 1984, crossed the Cuyahoga on a through truss bridge.

That this bridge existed at all was news to me. I’d never seen a photograph of it and no railfan I know who is a native of Northeast Ohio has ever talked about it.

In reviewing satellite images, I discovered the bridge and most of the railroad spur still exist. I wanted to find them and the best time to do that is during the winter when there is less vegetation to deal with.

Saturday, Jan. 21 turned out to be an ideal day for railroad archeology in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

There was no snow on the ground, no precipitation was likely to fall and the temperatures rose into the lower 60s.

After having lunch with fellow Akron Railroad Club member Peter Bowler at the Winking Lizard in Peninsula, we drove to Jaite, parked in the lot of the CVNP headquarters and began walking southward along the CVSR tracks.

The switch for the paper mill spur has been removed, but its location was easy to find because there are still long cross ties that once held the diverging rails.

The spur has been cut a short distance from the Valley Line and it was apparent that it is used as a trail by fisherman and bird watchers.

As we made our way through the brush along the spur, we talked about how this location would make a good place for a nighttime ghost walk.

The spur is a virtual continuous curve and I could hear in my mind the shrieking and squealing of flanges combined with the low rumble of a Geep’s prime mover as it moved boxcars in and out of the paper mill.

Given the layout of the spur switch, the paper mill must have been worked by a northbound B&O local that backed cars in and pulled them out.

In short order we reached the bridge that carried  the single-track spur over the Cuyahoga.

I’ve always had a fondness for the visual aesthetics of through truss bridges.

Online background information about the bridge indicates that it was built between 1907 and 1909 and known as B&O Bridge No. 451/1.

The spur has not been used since the paper mill closed and the switch connecting it to the Valley line was removed in 2002, probably during a track rehabilitation project.

I’m not a bridge expert or structural engineer, but I could see that although the bridge appears to be in good condition, much work would need to be done to enable rail operations over it again.

Of course there is little to no likelihood that that is going to come about.

The paper mill spur and the bridge are silent monuments to the industrial past of the Cuyahoga Valley.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Still spanning the Cuyahoga River decades after the last train rolled over it.

Still spanning the Cuyahoga River decades after the last train rolled over it.

No way would I walk across this bridge to the other side although I'm sure some people have done so.

No way would I walk across this bridge to the other side although I’m sure some people have done so.

Come spring the vegetation covering the rails on the bridge will turn green again.

Come spring the vegetation covering the rails on the bridge will turn green again.

Nature-made tunnel

Nature-made tunnel

Some rail has started to disintegrate.

Some rail has started to disintegrate.

Rails amid the weeds and trees.

Rails amid the weeds and trees.

The vegetation covering the spur is quite high in some places.

The vegetation covering the spur is quite high in some places.

Today, the Jaite Paper Mill spur is used as a trail by some.

Today, the Jaite Paper Mill spur is used as a trail by some.

Where they cut the rails of the Jaite Paper Mill spur.

Where they cut the rails of the Jaite Paper Mill spur.

Long ties mark the spot where the switch for the Jaite Paper Mill spur was located on the B&O Valley Line.

Long ties mark the spot where the switch for the Jaite Paper Mill spur was located on the B&O Valley Line.

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2 Responses to “Silent Monuments to the Valley’s Industrial Heritage”

  1. Bob Says:

    What a fascinating forgotten treasure!
    Thanks for posting this.
    Bob

  2. Denny Says:

    I’ve been there on several occasions over the years & photographed it as well, being a rail fan here in NE Ohio. It really is a neat part of history. Also neat, is if you keep following the spur, it leads to the paper mill itself, with several pieces of heavy paper rolling machines still on the property, rusting away, which I’ve also photographed.
    – Denny, Lakewood

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