Sleuthing to Solve a Historical Mystery

Historical artifacts don’t always come with much explanation of their past. Such was the case with this train bulletin board that is mounted on a wall of the Midwest Railway Preservation Society roundhouse in Cleveland.

There are some clues about its past starting with the name of the railroad. When created in October 1960, the Erie Lackawanna used a hyphen, but that was soon dropped.

It can clearly be seen that someone painted over the original name of the railroad with “Erie-Lackawanna.

Given the shaky condition of the EL throughout its lifetime, I can understand how no one cared to change it once the hypen was dropped in 1963.

I can also understand why one bothered to paint over the numbers of trains that no longer operated. The EL was in the passenger business for nearly a decade and took a certain pride in it, but the period was marked by retrenchment until its last intercity train, the Chicago-Hoboken, New Jersey Lake Cities completed its final trips in early January 1970.

So where did this train bulletin come from? Given that the trains shown operated between Chicago and New York that suggests it came out of a former Erie Railroad station.

The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western had New York-Chicago through cars that interchanged with the Nickel Plate Road in Buffalo, New York, but I doubted this artifact came from a former Lackawanna station.

A check of the train numbers in the Official Guide of the Railways substantiated that. The Lackawanna did not have a Train No. 1 on the eve of the merger.

In the EL era, Nos. 1 and 2 were the Erie-Lackawanna Limited (nee Erie Limited), and later the Phoebe Snow, a former Lackawanna train.

Nos. 5 and 6 were The Lake Cities, which had a Buffalo section numbered 35 and 36.

No 8 was the Atlantic Express whereas No. 7 was the Pacific Express. These were mail and express trains that also carried passengers.

Train No. 80, though, baffled me because the only No. 80 I could find in Official Guide schedules for the Erie Lackawanna was a commuter train that originated in Port Jervis, New York, and operated to Hoboken.

Could it have once operated to Chicago? Going back into the early 1950s schedules of the Erie, I determined that No. 80 was a Sunday-only section of the Atlantic Express.

The number for another westbound train has been obliterated, but it probably was No. 9, a Saturday-only section of the Pacific Express.

Despite this artifact being displayed in Cleveland I ruled out it having come from Cleveland or anywhere on the former Erie line between Cleveland and Youngstown.

That line once had a substantial passenger business, but those trains in the EL era carried 600 series numbers and did not operate between Chicago and New York.

There are times shown for some of the train, but those were not helpful. Eastbound No. 2 didn’t have a scheduled 43-minute layover anywhere along its route.

It did pause in Binghamton, New York, for 23 minutes, but not at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.

I checked the times shown here for various stations, but that did not lead me to a particular station. That suggests someone added these times for show.

Buttressing that belief is the fact that Nos. 7 and 8 ceased to carry passengers in July 1965.

There was never a time when the EL had trains 2, 5, 6 and 7 operating when Nos. 1, 8 and 80 did not operate.

There was one more clue to pursue. The board used the letters “P” and “A,” to the right of the column “due,” which probably means p.m. and a.m.

Barely visible for Train No. 5 is the numeral “10” followed by “A,” presumably meaning a.m.

In late 1965 The Lake Cities was due into Akron at 10:10 a.m.

The Pacific Express when it still carried passengers was scheduled to arrive in Akron just before 8 p.m.

The only other train for which there is an “A” or “P” is the eastbound Lake Cities, which was due into Akron at 6:42 p.m.

I detected a faint trace of the letter “A” for the westbound Phoebe Snow, which was scheduled into Akron at 1:25 a.m.

This led me to conclude that this just might have been the train bulletin board at the Erie station in Akron.

Or was it? In checking the schedules more carefully I discovered that on the eve of the Erie and Lackawanna merger No. 5 was scheduled into Youngstown around 10 a.m.

As late as 1963 No. 5 was scheduled to arrive in Kent just after 10 a.m.

The best I can therefore conclude is that this bulletin board probably came out of a station somewhere in Northeast Ohio.

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