Posts Tagged ‘Balltimore & Ohio Railroad’

When Anna Mae Was a Cook on the B&O

November 26, 2014

Anna Mae Ramatanes (1908-2000) was the stepmother of the late Akron Railroad Club member Eli Rantanes. This article is reprinted from the November ARRC Bulletin.

When you are sitting at a crossing, impatient to be on your way, the railroad holds little romance or appeal. You just wish this mass of dirty, noisy metal would pass a lot more quickly.

There were days when the rails were a popular mode of travel and the transport of materials and products, but the invention of airplanes and automobiles have taken their toll.

Anna Mae Ramatanes shared some of her experiences as a young woman, wife and mother, while working on the Baltimore & Ohio, more recently known as the Chessie System and CSX.

In some circles, live steam is an engine that’s actually powered by steam. This is thought of as an oddity in the day of diesel.

Live steam in Anna Mae’s time meant steam locomotives on a 1-to-1scale.

At an age when some girls were finishing high school, she married, had a small son, and started working on the railroad as a cook.

Her husband was a foreman of a railroad construction crew that built bridges and water tanks.

He was wise enough to know that these crews would travel and work best with good food. So what better way to feed them well and have his little family with him, than to hire his wife as camp cook.

Early each Monday from their home in Lodi, the train would take them to various construction sites along the pike.

Warren was the first camp where Anna Mae worked. There was a lot going on in the steel mills in Youngstown. The railroads were hitting their peak years.

With the absence of prepackaged foods, a typical day for the cook meant a 4 a.m. rising and firing up the stove to feed 18 to 20 hungry men.

Lunch and supper were repeats of the breakfast scene. Eggs, mush, oatmeal, biscuits and cups of hot coffee passed through Anna Mae’s pots and pans in countless numbers.

The “boys” were helpful in any way they could to make her hard work a little easier. They would help put in wood or coal for heat and cooking.

It wasn’t the greatest place for a toddler to play in. They lived in a box car during the week and it wasn’t filled with the luxuries of home. Toys were few.

In the summer heat, the temptation of ice cream hid the danger of crossing tracks close to some heavy construction equipment.

Shortly after Anna Mae and her small son had passed by, some of the construction fell. None of the workers were seriously injured.

For three years this cheerful, strong, smart and lovely young woman continued as a cook on the B&O.

The approach of her second child meant retirement for her although her husband thought that she should have stayed on. But she had more important tasks to complete.

Anna Mae later made her home in Clinton (Warwick), a railroad town that in its peak years saw 120 trains pass though its area.

I was taught by my daddy that it is rude to ask or tell a lady’s age. However, I must say that Anna Mae Ramatanes wore hers very well.

Article by Alethea Rantanes

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University Plans to Raze Akron Union Depot

December 24, 2009

This is what the remnants of Akron Union Depot looked like in late 2009. But the days of the platform canopy and the former station building are numbered. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

The University of Akron is planning to raze the former Akron Union Depot to make way for a new law school building. The university trustees agreed on December 16 to begin design work on the new law school facility, which is expected to cost $23.6 million.

Now known as the Buckingham Building, the former station houses the university’s Pan-African Center for Community Studies, Office of Multicultural Development, the Strive Toward Excellence Program and classrooms.

Demolition of the depot, which was dedicated on April 28, 1950, would begin in 18 to 24 months. The university must still raise the funds needed for the new building and the city of Akron must pay for a realignment of Wolf Ledges Parkway, which is also part of the law school building proposal.

The former depot has 120,000 square feet and university officials told the trustees that the building is inefficient and outdated. The station concourse used to connect to a bus station as well as contain stairways leading down to track level. The concourse now connects to UA’s West Hall and the bus station is gone.

The Buckingham Building is the last steam and streamliner era railroad station left in Akron. Two predecessor union stations were torn down shortly after the railroads ceased using them. Also gone is are two stations used by the Valley Line Railway (later the Baltimore & Ohio), two stations built by the Erie Railroad and the former Northern Ohio Railway station (later Akron, Canton & Youngstown).

Still standing is the terminal used by the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company and the modular station used by Amtrak until it ceased serving Akron in 2005. The former is now owned by Summit County while the latter remains vacant. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad station in Akron was built on the site of the former B&O Valley Line station at Howard Street.

In a related development, Akron Railroad Club member Steve McMullen reported that CSX crews have been dismantling the remnants of signals bridges and signal stands in downtown Akron. As of Monday (December 21, 2009), only the eastbound home signal bridge for the former JO interlocking was still standing.

McMullen reported that crews are poised to remove the last platform canopy of Akron Union Depot. One platform still remains from the station and it is unclear if it, too, will be removed.

The B&O was the primary user of the third Akron Union Depot. Although the Erie used the second Union Depot, it elected to build its own station rather than use the third union depot. The Pennsylvania Railroad used the Union Depot until removing its last passenger train to Akron, the Akronite, on April 26, 1958.

B&O passenger trains continued to call at Akron Union Depot until the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, when the service was discontinued. Amtrak began serving Akron on November 12, 1990. Amtrak never used the Union Depot per se, but its trains did stop at the east end of the station’s sole remaining platform, which was renovated for Amtrak use.

The former signal bridge lies on the ground on December 15, 2009. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

It had been years since this signal bridge had working signal heads. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)

An eastbound CSX freight passes through the Exchange Street signals in 2006. The unused signal stands seen here were removed by CSX work crews in December 2009. (Photograph by Steve McMullen)