Posts Tagged ‘Conrail Freedom Secondary’

On the Path of the EL’s New York 99

November 20, 2013
A lone jogger exercises on the Freedom Trail in Tallmadge on a Sunday morning in early November. To the right is the former Erie Lackawanna mainline.

A lone jogger exercises on the Freedom Trail in Tallmadge on a Sunday morning in early November. To the right is the former Erie Lackawanna mainline.

You won’t see the New England 99, Croxton 99 or the New York 99 – which the Erie Lackawanna officially nicknamed The Flying Saucer – but you can walk, run or bike on the path that those trains once took.

The Freedom Trail is a 4.2-mile hiking and biking trail that operates between Middlebury Road west of Kent and Tallmadge Circle.

Dedicated last May, the trail runs parallel with the eastbound track of the former Erie Lackawanna mainline, which is owned by the Akron METRO Regional Transit Authority.

That track is still in place, but is overgrown with trees and other vegetation. Akron METRO purchased the rail line from Conrail more than a decade ago to rail bank it for potential commuter train use.

Conrail sharply curtailed operations on the former EL within a year after Conrail began on April 1, 1976. The ex-EL route east of Akron were renamed the Freedom Secondary, because it traversed Freedom Township in Portage County.

Next year, construction is expected to begin on extending the Freedom Trail into Akron where it will eventually connect with the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in downtown Akron near the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s Northside Station.

When completed in 2015, the 8.4 mile trail will link Akron and Kent, connecting at the latter with the Portage Hike & Bike Trail. Some sections of the Portage trail parallel the former EL east of Kent on tracks that still sees freight serviced provided by the Akron Barberton Cluster Railway.

Funding for the trail came in part from a $700,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration and a $250,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Phases two and three are currently projected to cost another $5.5 million.

The trail has parking lots at Middlebury Road and Tallmadge Road.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

There is a break in the ex-EL tracks at Tallmadge Road.

There is a break in the ex-EL tracks at Tallmadge Road.

This whistle post for westbound trains is yet another reminder of the past.

This whistle post for westbound trains is yet another reminder of the past.

A caboose and passenger car repose at a restaurant and bar alongside the Freedom Trail in Tallmadge. The passenger car traveled the ex-EL tracks to get here.

A caboose and passenger car repose at a restaurant and bar alongside the Freedom Trail in Tallmadge. The passenger car traveled the ex-EL tracks to get here.