Posts Tagged ‘Brady Lake Tower’

One Early January Day at Brady Lake

January 20, 2022

It was a typical Northeast Ohio early January day in 2012, the kind that features clouds and sun that at times is more sun than clouds and then a few minutes later more clouds than sun.

Such days can make photography tricky and yet rewarding at the same time due to low sun angles that creates warm light all day when you can get sun breaking through around the clouds.

I ventured down to Towner’s Woods Park in Brady Lake, one of my favorite hang out spots because you can park next to the Cleveland Line of Norfolk Southern.

It’s not the greatest location to photograph NS operations due to the tracks lying in a cut and the trees on both side providing obstructions.

But in the winter when the leaves are off you can get some decent if not good images.

The former Erie Railroad mainline that once extended between Chicago and New York also borders the park, but being a Sunday I knew there would be no rail traffic on that line.

The ex-Erie tracks here are now owned by Portage County and used by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway, which only operates on this segment of the ex-Erie on weekdays and even then it doesn’t always go to Ravenna and thus past Brady Lake.

A snow storm had swept through a few days earlier but by now most of the snow had melted. There remained some accumulation in areas that spend most of the day in shade or had seen heavier accumulations.

I photographed a few NS trains and at one point ventured into Kent where I captured an eastbound empty CSX hopper train as I stood on the West Main Street Bridge.

But most of my photographic endeavors on this day were devoted to railroad infrastructure images in winter.

Winter is a good time to photograph Brady Lake Tower, seen in the top image above.

I say that because during much of the year leaves block a clear view of the tower from the railroad side.

You can get all the unobstructed views you want from three sides of the tower from within Towner’s Woods Park, but if you want to create a view of the tower as passing railroaders saw it you have to wait until winter.

Even then you still have to contend with tree trunks creating “noise” in your photographs.

The tower was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1928 to control a set of crossovers and the flying junction here with the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh.

The latter extended from Brady Lake to Marcy in Cleveland. It was 50-50 owned by the PRR and the New York Central but used by the latter to move freight between Cleveland and Youngstown.

East of Brady Lake the NYC used the PRR to Ravenna and then the Baltimore & Ohio to Youngstown.

The former LE&P was mostly taken out of service not long after the creation of Penn Central.

As for Brady Lake Tower, it was taken out of service on May 14, 1966, but the interlocking plant remained intact with the tower was used as an emergency block station through 1969 and possibly sometime into 1970.

Because it is located on park land its future is assured.

The ex-Erie tracks also got much of my attention. There used to be a double track mainline here but one of the tracks was lifted in the Conrail era when this line was downgraded to become the Freedom Secondary.

I thought on this day as I have thought often while walking the Portage Hike and Bike trail about what it must have been like in the late 1960s or early 1970s when Erie Lackawanna freight trains with their colorful locomotives lumbered through here.

Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and enjoy that.

But the trail is built on former Erie right of way and didn’t exist during the EL years.

The second of the four images is looking railroad eastward to a curve after the Erie tracks crossed over the Pennsy on a plate girder bridge that can be partly seen at right.

About where the tracks curve is the site of the original Cleveland & Pittsburgh right of way, which built the line between its namesake cities and today is the NS Cleveland Line.

However, in the early 20th Century the Pennsy rebuilt the line to eliminate grade crossings and shifted the tracks slightly to the south.

The Erie used the now vacated C&P right of way between Brady Lake and Ravenna.

What got my attention in this scene is the lone pole that once supported the Erie code lines that still stands but without any wires. And note the lone tree to the left that still has its leaves, albeit rust colored.

The third and fourth images are looking railroad westbound toward Kent on the other side of Ravenna Road.

There is still some snow accumulation in a shady spot. Perhaps the snow was deeper here because it had drifted. That grade crossing up ahead is Lake Rockwell Road.

I was struck by the pattern the melting snow made on the tracks, still clinging to the ties but gone on the ballast.

Most of the infrastructure that once supported the Erie and later the EL is gone.

I’ve seen a few photographs of what it used to look like here, including an image made by the late Robert Redmond of a steam train passing a semaphore signal near Ravenna Road. I’ve found the concrete base for that signal.

In my mind at least, the EL sent some ghost trains past as I walked along the adjacent trail. That and seeing the occasional photograph made during Erie or EL days is as close as I’ll ever come to experiencing what it must have been like here in days past.

Article by Craig Sanders

Brady Lake Tower Two for Tuesday

January 11, 2022

Over the years Brady Lake has been a favorite hang out of mine to watch Norfolk Southern trains on the Cleveland Line. On occasion I’ve also caught an Akron Barberton Cluster Railway train here, too.

Towner’s Woods Park is located next to the tracks and has plenty of parking. The park also features a former Pennsylvania Railroad interlocking tower, which the PRR named Brady’s Lake.

At one time, the tower controlled switches and signals for the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh line to Cleveland that diverged here.

The LE&P is nearly all gone today and there are few signs by the tower that it ever existed. Portions of it are a hike and bike trail.

The top image was made on Nov. 4, 2005, and shows NS westbound manifest freight 15K passing the tower, which is shrouded by colorful fall foliage.

The bottom image was made on Feb. 1, 2000. The tower is easier to see with the leaves off the trees but remains somewhat obscured by tree branches and trunks.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The Mystery of Brady Lake Tower

October 11, 2016

It has been 50 years since the Brady Lake Tower operator routinely watched over the tracks from these windows.

It has been 50 years since the Brady Lake Tower operator routinely watched over the tracks from these windows.

Curiosity as much as anything motivated me to venture to the 40th anniversary celebration of Towner’s Wood Park in Portage County.

For years I’ve made the park a place to hang out and watch Norfolk Southern trains pass by on the adjacent Cleveland Line.

Looming over the park is the former Brady Lake Tower – once known as Brady’s Lake Tower – that was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The tower controlled the junction of the east end of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh with the Pennsy.

There has always been an air of mystery about Brady Lake Tower. I had never been inside of it and long wondered what there was to see. The answer turned out to be “not much.”

For the 40th anniversary event, the park district converted the bottom floor of the concrete tower into a makeshift exhibit area.

There was poster about railroads, but much of the information was about nature.

The second story of Brady Lake Tower looks like a wreck. The Park District uses it for storage of all manner of things.

There are holes in the ceiling and no trace of anything that was associated with the railroad other than the structure itself.

I wasn’t expecting to find the interlocking machine, the operator’s desk, or clipboards containing railroad bulletins and orders hanging on the wall that had been left behind.

Those have long since been removed.

There were a few reminders of the railroad on the first floor, but those were obvious only if you knew what you were looking at.

You had to use your imagination to “see” the railroad presence on the top floor.

Photographs of the interior of Brady Lake Tower are rare or nonexistent. There are some images of the exterior, including a photo made by Paul Geiger that is published on Page 100 of Volume 12 of the Pennsylvania Railroad Facilities series by Morning Sun books.

We know that the original Cleveland & Pittsburgh ran through what is now the parking lot at Tower’s Woods.

The C&P was a single-track railroad that crossed the predecessor of the Erie Railroad at grade at Brady Lake.

When the PRR rebuilt its line in the early 1900s, the tracks were shifted to their current alignment and at least a portion of the former right of way between Brady Lake and Ravenna was sold to the Erie.

The rebuilding gave the Pennsy a better grade for its ore trains and slightly shortened the distance between Hudson and Ravenna.

The Pennsy facilities book reports that Brady Lake was removed from service on May 14, 1966, but kept intact to “be placed in service by train order or general order.” By 1970, its interlocking capability had been removed.

We don’t know for certain when Brady Lake Tower was built. A PRR track diagram from 1965 has the notation “built (or rebuilt) 1928.”

The LE&P opened in 1911. Could the tower have been built then? Or was it built earlier?

I’ve heard various speculations from railroad historians on that point but my visit Saturday yielded no new hard information about the origin of Brady Lake Tower.

I enjoyed my visit to the tower. One of the speakers said the bottom floor might be converted to a light food service facility that is open part time to sell snacks and beverages.

Towner’s Woods is the most popular park in the Portage Park District network and strategically located on the Portage Hike and Bike Trail.

So Brady Lake Tower seems assured to have a long continued life.

But as for when that life began as a railroad facility, some mysteries, it seems, might never be solved.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A view from a window of the operator's bay of the Norfolk Southern tracks. The trees weren't there back when this was an active tower.

A view from a window of the operator’s bay of the Norfolk Southern tracks. The trees weren’t there back when this was an active tower.

To say the least, the second floor of Brady Lake Tower is cluttered. The view is looking toward where the operator's desk probably sat.

To say the least, the second floor of Brady Lake Tower is cluttered.
The view is looking toward where the operator’s desk probably sat.

Roger Durfee records the railroad exhibit on the first floor of Brady Lake Tower with his cell phone.

Roger Durfee records the railroad exhibit on the first floor of Brady Lake Tower with his cell phone.

Bruce Dzeda gives a presentation of the railroads that passed through Brady Lake.

Bruce Dzeda gives a presentation of the railroads that passed through Brady Lake.

Brady Lake Tower to be Open Oct. 8

September 29, 2016

The Portage Parks Council will hold an open house on Oct. 8 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s former Brady Lake Tower, which now sits in Towner’s Woods Park

PRRBruce Dzeda, author of Railroad Town: Kent the Erie Railroad, will speak during the event on the railroads that served the Brady Lake region.

The tower is not normally open to the public.

Built in 1928 and known until 1957 as Brady’s Lake Tower, the structure was a block and interlocking facility at the eastern terminus of the Lake Erie & Pittsburgh, which was used by the New York Central.

The LE&P diverged from the PRR at Brady Lake and ran westward to Marcy in Cleveland. NYC trains used trackage rights on the PRR and Baltimore & Ohio to access Youngstown.

Declining traffic on the LE&P led to Brady Lake Tower being closed in 1966, but it was kept as an emergency block station through 1970.